Wheat—A Real “Downer”
One mechanism that can help explain the mysterious connection between wheat and mental health problems is the fact that wheat inhibits production of serotonin.
Neurotransmitters like serotonin can be found not just in your brain, but also in your gut. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain!
Therefore, it actually makes perfect sense to nourish your gut flora with probiotic foods and supplements to maintain optimal serotonin function, as it can have a profound impact on your mood, psychological health, and behavior. This conclusion is supported by a recent animal study, which found that the absence or presence of beneficial gut microorganisms during infancy permanently alters gene expression—specifically genes and signaling pathways involved in learning, memory, and motor control.
This suggests that gut bacteria is closely tied to early brain development and subsequent behavior!
These behavioral changes could be reversed as long as the mice were exposed to normal microorganisms early in life. But once the germ-free mice had reached adulthood, colonizing them with beneficial bacteria did not influence their behavior. According to Dr. Rochellys Diaz Heijtz, lead author of that study:
“The data suggests that there is a critical period early in life when gut microorganisms affect the brain and change the behavior in later life.”
The implications could be profound when you consider how many processed wheat products are consumed today, and from a very early age. Not only may our addiction to grains be fueling gastrointestinal diseases like celiac disease, along with wheat allergies, obesity, and diabetes; it may also contribute to deteriorating mental health, as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
It’s definitely worth considering, especially if you’re currently suffering with depression or any other psychiatric ailments.
Aside from that, ALL types of grains clearly contribute to insulin and leptin resistance, which are the primary underlying causes for most, if not all, chronic diseases—from diabetes to cancer. That alone is reason enough to restrict your intake of grains. But wheat may be of particular concern, for all the reasons discussed above.