Gluten Free Diets: Do They Increase The Risk Of Anxiety?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the lining of the gut. The main trigger for the immune reaction appears to be a protein in wheat, called gluten. The disease is fairly common and can develop at any age, with around 1 % of the population affected. In some areas such as part of Africa, coeliac disease rates approach 6 %. The current treatment for the disease is the avoidance of gluten. There is a link between coeliac disease and mood disorders and studies have compared coeliac sufferers on a gluten free diet with control subjects to assess the risk of mood disorders. In study, female subjects consuming a gluten free diet had a higher risk of developing anxiety compared to control subjects. However, the risk of depression was not elevated in the same study. The cause for the association is not understood, but there may be underlying stress accompanying the disease which increases the risk of developing aberrant mood patterns, with anxious behaviour more likely in those with something to worry about. 

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Häuser, W., Janke, K. H., Klump, B., Gregor, M. and Hinz, A. 2010. Anxiety and depression in adult patients with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG. 16(22): 2780
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Headaches and Nutrition

A number of studies have investigated the dietary triggers for headaches. Estimates vary, but dietary triggers have been identified for the generation of migraine headaches in between 10 and 64 % of cases. The duration of the trigger event varies between food, with some occurring almost immediately and some taking perhaps 12 hours to manifest. Foods that might be able to trigger migraines include alcohol such as wine and beer, chocolate, caffeine, dairy products including aged cheese, food preservatives especially nitrites and nitrates, monosodium glutamate and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. As with all nutrition, the picture is complicated because the food that triggers the migraine might be different for individuals, and therefore the cases need to be investigated separately to identify individual foods for specific individuals. However, dehydration is perhaps the most overlooked nutritional cause of headaches, and in many cases relief can be sought by simply rehydrating the individual. 

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Arvola, T. and Holmberg-Marttila, D. 1999. Benefits and risks of elimination diets. Annals of Medicine. 31(4): 293-298
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Elimination Diets and Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease that involves an immune reaction to the gastrointestinal tract lining. This leads to inflammation and can result in pain, and sometimes this involves the production of blood in the gut, which is eliminated in the faeces. The cause of Crohn’s disease is not fully understood but it is thought to have both genetic and environmental components. Food allergies may play a role in the disorder, and there has been some success with the elimination of certain foods from individual’s diets. In one study 42 patients were observed to see if an elimination diet was beneficial. Of the subjects, 48 % were identified as having food insensitivities whereas 19 % did not. Seventeen subjects with identified food sensitivities had an open rechallenge, and this resulted in the recurrence of symptoms in 10 of the patients. Food sensitivities were identified in three patients on double blind challenge. Therefore food sensitivities may play a significant role in the development of some cases of Crohn’s disease. 

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Pearson, M., Teahon, K., Levi, A. J. and Bjarnason, I. 1993. Food intolerance and Crohn’s disease. Gut. 34(6): 783-787
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Parsley Polyphenols for Anxiety

Parsley (Petroselinum sativum) is a common spice in cooking. The plant belongs to the Apiaceae (Umbellifer) family of plants and is therefore a relative of the carrot and parsnip. The plant is believed to have originated in the mediteranean area, but is now cultivated worldwide. Studies suggest that parsley has a number of medicinal properties including antioxidant, analgesic, spasmolytic, antidiabetic, immunomodulating, and gastrointestinal effects. Parsley contains a number of phytochemicals that are believed to give it particular medicinal benefits against mood disorders. These include polyphenols (apigenin, quercetin, luteolin, and kaempferol), vitamins, carotenoids, coumarin, and tannins. Studies have investigated the effects of parsley polyphenols on models of mood disorders in mice. Animals administered parsley polyphenols and exposed to experimental stress showed significantly less anxious and depressive-like behaviour compared to controls, and also had significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants in their tissues. 

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Es-Safi, I., Mechchate, H., Amaghnouje, A., Al Kamaly, O. M., Jawhari, F. Z., Imtara, H., Grafov, A. and Bousta, D. 2021. The Potential of Parsley Polyphenols and Their Antioxidant Capacity to Help in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety: An In Vivo Subacute Study. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 26(7): 2009
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Clove Oil (Syzygium aromaticum): Dental Health

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is a herb that is often used in cuisine for its unique taste. Cloves also have a number of interesting nutritional properties that may also explain some of their use as traditional medicines. A number of studies have shown that various parts of the clove plant can have physiological effects in humans and animals that include bacteriostatic, bactericidal, anti-viral, antimycotic, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anaesthetic and analgesic properties. These properties may explain the traditional use of cloves in dental hygiene, and in particul;ar the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and bactericidal effects may improve dental health by preventing bacterial growth. Cloves have also traditionally been used as anaesthetics and may have a use as temporary filling because of their physical properties and their abilities to prevent the growth of damaging microorganisms. Consuming cloves as part of a healthy diet might therefore confer significant dental health improvements. 

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Pulikottil, S. J. and Nath, S. 2015. Potential of clove of Syzygium aromaticum in development of a therapeutic agent for periodontal disease: A review. South African Dental Journal. 70(3): 108-115
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Lavender and Cloves: Effects on Memory

Lavender and cloves are aromatherapy oils that have an application in the role of mood and memory. The odorants from the oil are able to affect physiological systems because the oils contain volatile compounds that can be absorbed through the nasal cavity. Experimental data shows that both lavender and cloves essential aromatherapy oil is effective at affecting a number of specific and well defined aspects of mood and memory. For example, in one study, lavender oil was shown to negatively affect arithmetic ability, and cloves showed similar trends for this effect. This is surprising as memory of mathematical problems may perhaps not expect to be affected by an odorant. One suggestion is that the odorants were able to increase the calm within the brain and decrease excitatory circuits that may therefore decrease cognitive performance in certain parameters. However, in the same study, lavender was shown to significantly improve reaction times, which is also perhaps a somewhat surprising effect.  

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Ludvigson, H. W. and Rottman, T. R. 1989. Effects of ambient odors of lavender and cloves on cognition, memory, affect and mood. Chemical senses. 14(4): 525-536
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The Effects of Ginger on Appetite and Thermogeneis

Ginger is a popular spice in cooking because of its unique flavour. However, as well as its culinary uses, ginger also has nutritional value as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Studies have investigated the physiological effects of ginger consumption in order to assess the thermic and satiety effects it has. For example, in one study researchers administered a ginger drink to a group of subjects along with a meal and then measured the thermic effect of the meal. Although the ginger was not able to increase the metabolism of the individuals, it was able to increase the thermic effect of the meal they consumed. In addition the ginger was able to reduce the hunger of the individuals. The thermic effect of food has shown to be associated with the degree of satiety, and so by raising the thermic effect of food, ginger may be able to regulate appetite. This may suggest that ginger is a useful food to include in a weight loss diet as during times of energy restriction, the thermic effect of food can fall significantly. 

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Mansoura, M. S., Nia, Y. M., Robertsb, A. L., Kellemanb, M., RoyChoudhuryc, A. and St-Ongea, M. P. 2012. Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: A pilot study. Metabolism. 61(10): 1347–1352
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The Neurobiology of Anxiety

Fear is a normal biological response that is programmed into all animals and humans. In some animals and humans the circuitry for the fear reaction is more heightened than others, and conditioning can be used to remove or decrease the sensitivity of it. Imbalances in the brain can result from long term activation of the fear circuits, and this can lead to the development of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. The stress of modern life is likely one of the main drivers of the increasing incidence of mood disorders seen within Western populations, and many individuals may be in a state of continual fear. Areas of the brain that might be negatively affected by the chronic application of fear include the amygdala, the frontal cortex, the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens. Within these systems a number of neurotransmitters are modified from their normal concentrations including dopamine, histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, GABA, adrenaline and nitric oxide. 

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Shaban-Pour, M., Ghermezian, A., Behvarmanesh, A., Moghtadaei, M., Ashabi, G., Sadat-Shirazi, M. S., Shahani, M., Kheradmandi, M. and Zarrindast, M. R. 2021. Introduction to Neurocircuitry and Neurobiology of Anxiety. Archives of Advances in Biosciences. 12(1): 45-51
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Selenium and Vitamin C: The Stress Connection

A number of nutrients are associated with protection from chronic stress. The basis for this differs between nutrients, but one category of anti-stress nutrients may function through an antioxidant mechanism. Both selenium and vitamin C are important nutrients required for correct antioxidant function in humans, and evidence supports a role for both in the protection from stress. Animal studies have investigated the effects of selenium and vitamin C in experimental models of stress. When animals are stressed they react with a release of cortisol, and this protects them from the stress by adjusting physiological parameters to meet the challenge. However, as the stress continues it overcomes the ability to cope and the cortisol level falls as the mechanism to respond to stress becomes depleted. Selenium and vitamin C both rejuvenate this stress response and allow the animals to continue to produce cortisol to meet the challenge of the stress. Therefore selenium and vitamin C may be considered anti-stress nutrients. 

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Al-Jawad, Z. A. and Al-Fahham, A. A. 2021. The Effect of Ascorbic Acid and Selenium intake on serum Cortisol in Rats Under Restraint Stress. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology. 15(1): 1681
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Nutritional Protein Quality of Legumes

Legumes are an important source of protein. Chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, preen peas, green beans, broad beans and many other forms of legumes can contribute significantly to human protein needs. Pulses are the seeds of leguminous plants, and generally they are a good source of protein, but are low in methionine. Therefore pulses are not able to supply the protein requirements for humans in isolation, and some other source of protein is required. Soy is claimed to be able to supply the protein requirements of humans as the methionine content of soybeans is higher than other pulses. However, soy still has much lower levels of methionine compared to meat, although it does provide more than mycoprotein. Therefore pulses supply a good source of protein when consumed as part of a healthy diet, but in reality would be a poor source of protein if consumed as the sole nutritional source of amino acids. However, as this latter scenario is unlikely, legumes must be considered an important protein source for humans.  

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Iqbal, A., Khalil, I. A., Ateeq, N. and Khan, M. S. 2006. Nutritional quality of important food legumes. Food chemistry. 97(2): 331-335
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