Anxiety adversely affected by gluten
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
A lady came to my clinic with anxiety that didn’t appear to be related to any specific event, but it became worse when she was stressed. After some screenings and medical blood tests, we discovered that she had a low grade (sub-optimal) underactive thyroid. Medically she didn’t need treatment, but she was far from feeling her ‘normal’ self.
In similar situations, I often found that diet can make a huge contribution to healing, because there are certain nutritional needs to maintain the health of the thyroid. Also it is quite common to have intolerances to certain foods such as those containing gluten and dairy.
I suggested she commence a Hypothyroid diet, which comprises foods rich in selenium, zinc, B6, B12, tyrosine, iodine, magnesium (but low in goitrogenic greens such as broccoli and kale) and to remove gluten and dairy products.
I also suggested she go off alcohol and caffeine to allow her body to have a mini-cleanse to support her adrenal glands, as stress on the adrenals can affect all other hormones.
Interestingly, she had a ‘green smoothie’ daily as she heard they were ‘good for you’, which they certainly can be, but if you have a thyroid condition or sub-optimal thyroid, it can make things worse.
So we stopped the green smoothies and implemented the thyroid diet. Within two weeks she felt much calmer and had more energy, which meant that she could do more exercise – another factor to help anxiety and thyroid conditions. Exercise can improve serotonin levels, so this was a bonus for her too (serotonin is your happy and calm neurotransmitter).
Later when ‘re-challenging’ foods (going back and testing foods previously omitted from her diet) we found that her main issue was a reaction to gluten, even though she thought she had no previous symptoms of gluten reactivity. The gluten was affecting her immune system and hormones, while alcohol and coffee were giving her anxiety (not always immediately, so it was hard to pick initially).