Four or five years ago I quit gluten, and with it went a great deal of emotional pain I didn’t even know I had. A doctor recommended quitting both gluten and dairy for three months to see if it would help resolve some digestive issues. After four days a veil was lifted. I felt as though I’d popped an anti-depressant. Depression and irritability and anxiety that I was only vaguely aware of — it was seemingly just life and the human experience — dissolved and I felt … blissful. I was resilient. I handled stressors with an even mood. The subtle backdrop of rough, chaotic, unpleasant feelings and overreactions was gone.
Over the next couple of years I kept a food diary and did a whole lot of experimentation to figure out what was causing what. I falsely implicated many foods along the way because I had eaten something else that wasn’t at the time under suspicion. The food diary was important because a lot of the effects of food sensitivities are delayed, by a day or even three. In the busyness of our lives, without a quick, direct cause and effect, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint this stuff.
Where I’ve landed is here: I avoid wheat, rice, sliced deli meats, and colored candy (e.g., M&Ms). I’m going low on dairy right now, too. There may be some other things I should avoid but I haven’t done any direct experimentation in a while.
When I’m eating only things I can tolerate, I feel so good — smooth mood, resilient, non-picking-of-fights-with-beloved-partner. When I eat something I react to, argh, uck.
This topic of food sensitivities is relevant to my alcohol abuse in that it’s pretty obvious to me why I self-medicated. The depression or anxiety or irritability (or what I call feeling jangled) is deeply, powerfully unpleasant to me and a couple of beers (before the experience started to suck) were an excellent way to dispel the emotional discomfort. Unfortunately, discovering the food sensitivities and gaining some control over my moods did not mean no more alcohol problem. By the time I figured out how to sidestep the moods I felt driven to self-medicate, my alcohol habit was formed. It had momentum of its own. It’s also possible that my alcohol consumption exacerbated the food sensitivities by damaging the lining of my gut. (There’s a lot of talk in cyberspace about “leaky gut syndrome” that I haven’t taken the time to really explore but that I think is pretty relevant to my gut’s story.)
In my opinion anyone who experiences any sort of mental/emotional disruption or difficulties (depression, anxiety, etc.), or who struggles with addiction, should cut gluten and dairy (and there are other common culprits) out of their diets for a month and see what happens. For a significant number of those people, the clouds and chaos are going to clear — greatly simplifying the path to health and balance.
Running out of time now, but I want also to write about some very positive aspects of my food experiences for my walk away from alcohol. Soon.
Have a good one!