Food allergies and depression

Are allergies linked to anxiety and depression?

Researchers from Germany and Switzerland have recently investigated the possible associations between conditions relating to mental health, such as depression and anxiety, and the presence of different types of allergy. Their findings, they say, should prompt scientists to pay more attention to these links.

Share on PinterestNew research identifies an association between generalized anxiety and the presence of seasonal allergies.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the ,” leading to healthcare costs in excess of $18 billion each year.

Moreover, the CDC note that more than 50 million people in the U.S. have an allergy. Across Europe, about 150 million people have an allergy, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Some research has suggested that certain allergic conditions can affect a person’s mental health. For instance, one study that Medical News Today covered last year found that having asthma, allergic rhinitis, or atopic dermatitis (eczema) could increase a person’s risk of developing a mental illness.

Now, researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany have collaborated with investigators from other German and Swiss institutions to investigate this association further. The team recruited 1,782 participants and aimed to find out if there were any links between mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and different types of allergy.

The study participants were between the ages of 39 and 88 years, with 61 years being the average age, and they all lived in the Augsburg area of Germany.

For their study, the findings of which appear in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, the researchers only took into account cases of self-reported type 1 allergies.

These are allergies that cause an immediate reaction following exposure to the allergen, and they can result in symptoms of varying severity. They range from eczema and hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, to conjunctivitis and anaphylaxis.

Seasonal allergies tied to anxiety

In the study, the investigators differentiated between participants according to their type of allergy (or lack thereof), splitting them into four distinct groups:

  1. allergy-free
  2. with seasonal allergies, such as those relating to pollen
  3. with perennial (year-long) allergies, such as allergies to animal hair
  4. with other allergies, including allergies to foods and insect stings

Within the entire cohort, 27.4% of the individuals reported having an allergy. More specifically, 7.7% of participants said that they had a perennial allergy, 6.1% had a seasonal allergy, and 13.6% reported having another type of allergy.

After asking the participants additional questions about their mental health — focusing on markers of depression, generalized anxiety disorders, and stress — the researchers concluded that individuals who lived with generalized anxiety also tended to have seasonal allergies.

This association was not present in people with perennial allergies. However, the study showed that individuals with year-long allergies were more likely to have depression instead.

It remains unclear why there is a positive association between anxiety and seasonal allergies but not between this mental health condition and perennial allergies. The researchers are also unsure why the latter more often link to depression.

In the future, the researchers note, scientists should conduct further studies to find out which way the association lies — whether specific allergies increase the risk of certain mental health problems or vice versa — and why it exists in the first place.

Study limitations and aims for the future

While the research did take into account some potentially modifying factors, such as age, biological sex, smoking status, and the existence of any hereditary predispositions to allergic reactions, the researchers acknowledge that the cohort may not have been representative of diverse age brackets.

“We have a relatively high average age of 61 years, so younger people are rather underrepresented here,” notes first author Katharina Harter, who works at TUM.

“The findings are also based on personal reports rather than official allergy diagnoses,” Harter continues. “But, we have blood samples from all participants and intend to scientifically verify this point.”

Despite these limitations, the study authors emphasize that their findings finally confirm that there is some kind of relationship between seasonal allergies and the experience of anxiety and that doctors need to pay more attention to their patients when they point out such associations.

“There are studies that focus on the psychological components of skin diseases or allergic asthma. For the first time, we are now able to show a connection with seasonal allergies.”

Katharina Harter

Food Intolerance and Depression

When good food feels bad . . .

Eating good food is supposed to make you feel better – right? Not necessarily, if you have a food intolerance.

What is food intolerance?
Most of us know that processed foods, food additives and refined carbohydrates and sugars are bad for us, but we don’t expect healthy foods like whole grains, dairy foods, eggs and vegetables to hurt us. And even though those foods are good for nearly everyone, for someone with food intolerance, even these good foods can feel bad.
Food intolerance can occur with any food: foods you eat all the time, or foods you seldom eat. With food intolerance, your immune system sees the food as a foreign invader and decides to produce antibodies to it. These IgG antibodies form a complex with the food allergen. These complexes get deposited in different areas of the body, cause inflammation and damage the local tissues. The body tries to eliminate these complexes, but if there are too many it can’t keep up, and the stage is set for illness to develop. The best way to prevent or improve symptoms and illnesses associated with food intolerance is to test and identify the offending foods and remove them from the diet.
Food intolerance differs from immediate onset IgE food allergies in that IgE reactions happen minutes to hours after a food is eaten, whereas IgG reactions take hours or days to develop. Emotional disorders like anxiety and depression have been linked to IgG food intolerance.

Food Intolerance and Mental Health
One of the first studies looking at the link between food allergy and mental health was conducted in Germany. In this double-blind placebo-controlled trial, thirty patients suffering from confusion, poor concentration, depression and anxiety were given either their allergenic or their non-allergenic foods, in such small quantities that they didn’t know they were eating them. The study showed that the food allergens alone provoked severe depression, nervousness, feelings of anger, loss of motivation, and severe mental blankness. Not surprisingly, the foods that caused most severe mental reactions were the common food allergens milk, wheat, cane sugar and eggs.
This type of study reinforces the fact that when problem foods are identified and eliminated, many of the symptoms and conditions disappear or diminish.
Another controlled trial looked at food allergies and sensitivity to naturally occurring salicylates in 96 patients diagnosed as suffering from alcohol dependency, major depressive disorders, or schizophrenia. The mental health patients were compared to 62 control subjects selected from adult hospital staff members. This study showed that patients with diagnosed depression had the most allergies:

  • 80 percent were allergic to barley.
  • All were allergic to egg white.
  • Over half the alcoholics tested were found to be allergic to egg white, milk, rye, and barley.
  • 80 percent of schizophrenics were found to be allergic to both milk and eggs.
  • Only 9 percent of the control group were found to suffer from any allergies.

These studies illustrate how food intolerance can trigger a multitude of mental, emotional and physical symptoms. The IgG reactions to specific foods can trigger inflammation and neurochemical changes in the brain that lead to debilitating symptoms. What’s more, food intolerances are very specific to the individual, as are the symptoms they create, so any treatment decision can only be made by food intolerance testing.

When tested in a clinical laboratory that properly maintains a consistently high degree of quality control, food intolerance testing may be an effective tool in helping treat mood disorders. Following a food allergen-free diet can sometimes relieve symptoms of depression, insomnia, daytime drowsiness, anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactivity, irritability, outbursts of anger, and on occasion, even schizophrenia.

Fatigue, Anxiety or Depression? Get a Food Allergy Test

A food allergy test is usually a last resort when battling with a nondescript list of symptoms or a mystery diagnosis. The field of food allergies is still emerging, with new conditions being attributed to it all the time. Every person is different, and thus reacts differently. People who have the same symptoms may have a different allergy, and those with the same allergy may have vastly different symptoms. When you think of a food allergy, what comes to mind? Hives? Swelling? Itchy throat and cough? These are all common symptoms of the most prevalent type of food allergy. As we will discuss later, there are many different types of reactions that affect our bodies in subtle ways that we may not initially associate with allergies. Medicine is starting to see a link with allergies, food allergies in particular, with effects on the central nervous system. This intricate, interwoven web is showing us connections to fatigue/chronic fatigue, behavioral problems, psychiatric problems, depression, and anxiety/panic attacks.

Why You Should Consider a Food Allergy Test

Allergies are, very simply, an abnormal, unwanted reaction to a stimulus. Our body detects the allergen particle, or antigen, and responds in a hypersensitive fashion, getting the immune system involved. They way our immune system deals with the allergen particle is by using antibodies (Ig). Our immune system has 5 classes of antibodies, four of which are seen in food allergies. IgE is associated with the “true,” Type I reactions we talked about above- immediate, histamine-mediated, and sometimes leading to anaphylactic shock. But what about the other three antibodies? These type of reactions begin the inflammatory response much later, usually as a delayed response, and affect the tissues in a different fashion, manifesting in symptoms that we may not recognize. They can damage tissues on a cellular level, or deposit reactive complexes into various tissues throughout the body, affecting hormone secretion, endocrine function, and cellular signaling. These are what cause reactions that usually fly under the radar, or get diagnosed as other things.

Diagnose Your Symptoms With a Food Allergy Test

Many conditions that may be caused by, linked to, or triggered by food allergies are:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches/ migraines
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Irritability

In various different studies, in those who have been tested, a majority of people who suffer from anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia, are susceptible to at least one food allergy. The results also show improvement in their condition when the allergen is eliminated.

Get a Food Allergy Test at Arrowhead Health Centers

Food allergies are much more widespread than previously believed. Even if your throat doesn’t swell when you eat certain foods, or if you don’t get hives, you may still be suffering from a food allergy. If you experience any of the symptoms listed, and even if you don’t, don’t wait to get a food allergy test. Knowing what you’re allergic to, and eliminating it from your diet may improve your quality of life in so many ways. Arrowhead Health Centers is the Phoenix allergy expert! We offer food allergy testing, along with many other diagnostic services, in-house. We have locations all over the Valley, and our dedicated family practice providers are standing by to show you how to live life allergy free. We make it convenient to get testing and treatment all in one place. If you suffer from fatigue or anxiety, of if you’d like more information on food allergies, call us at (623) 777-5587.

Low-fat milk, yogurt may reduce depression risk

Many of us opt for low-fat over full-fat dairy products to help keep our waistlines in check. New research, however, suggests that low-fat dairy may benefit mental health, too.

Share on PinterestResearchers suggest that a higher intake of low-fat milk and yogurt may reduce the risk of developing symptoms of depression.

In a study of more than 1,000 adults from Japan, researchers found that those who consumed a higher amount of low-fat milk and yogurt were less likely to develop symptoms of depression, compared with those who consumed lower amounts of these dairy products.

Study co-author Prof. Ryoichi Nagatomi, of Tohoku University in Japan, and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Depression – also referred to as major depressive disorder – is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015, around 16.1 million adults in the U.S. had experienced at least one episode of major depression during the previous 12 months.

While symptoms of depression vary from person to person, they may include persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or helplessness, irritability, fatigue, problems sleeping, and thoughts of death or suicide.

Prof. Nagatomi and colleagues note that previous studies have associated dairy intake with depression, though whether the effect is positive or negative has been inconclusive.

For their study, the researchers set out to investigate how the consumption of certain low-fat and high-fat dairy products individually impact the risk of developing symptoms of depression.

Low-fat dairy intake linked to lower prevalence of depressive symptoms

The research included 1,159 adults from Japan aged between 19 and 83 years, the majority of whom were women.

Participants disclosed how often they consumed low-fat and whole-fat milk and yogurt in a dietary questionnaire. The intake of cheese, butter, and other dairy products was not reported.

Symptoms of depression were assessed using the 20-item self-rating depression scale.

The team identified depressive symptoms among 31.2 percent of men and 31.7 percent of women.

Compared with adults who reported no consumption of low-fat dairy products, those who consumed low-fat milk and yogurt between one and four times weekly were less likely to have symptoms of depression.

These results remained after accounting for a number of possible confounding factors, such as age, sex, overall diet and lifestyle, and health status.

Commenting on what their findings show, the researchers say:

“The current results indicate that a higher frequency of low-fat dairy consumption may be associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms.”

No link was identified between the consumption of whole-fat dairy products and depression. The researchers hypothesize that this may be because the trans-fatty acids in whole-fat milk – which are associated with depression – were offset by an amino acid in milk, called tryptophan.

The team concludes that further studies are needed to pinpoint the mechanisms underlying the link between low-fat dairy intake and a lower risk of depression.

Learn how the probiotic bacteria found in yogurt could help to treat depression.

Could Depression Be an Allergic Reaction?

Most people are still locked into the theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain ? a shortage of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin that deliver messages from one neuron to another. That explanation works well for public consumption because it’s simple and it makes for great pharmaceutical commercials.

But depression is a whole lot more complicated than that.

For starters, there’s faulty brain wiring. On functional MRIs, depressed brains display lower activity levels in the frontal lobes, responsible for cognitive processes, and higher levels of activity in the amygdala region of the brain (fear central). Depression can be associated with the loss of volume in parts of the brain, namely the hippocampus, which belongs to the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain). The more severe the depression, the greater the loss of brain volume. The endocrine system plays a significant role in mood disturbances. Some studies on depression have indicated a default in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the region that manages the body’s response to stress. Chronic activation of the HPA is no good, as anyone with thyroid or pituitary issues will tell you.

And there’s another theory has been lurking in the background for quite awhile, but is finally gaining the trust and attention of the public: that depression is an allergic reaction to inflammation.

The first time I read this ? in the bestseller The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman, MD, ? I had trouble believing it. At that point, I had spent eight years researching and writing about depression, closely following the studies published by Johns Hopkins Medical School, because their Mood Disorders Center (and my skilled psychiatrist) saved me from severe, suicidal depression.

However, I continued to be bothered by the fact that one-third of people with major depression don’t respond to antidepressants, even after trying multiple options. Two years after my initial remission from depression, in 2006, I fell into that category myself. And I didn’t seem to respond all that dramatically to sessions of psychotherapy either. Or mindfulness programs.

So a year and a half ago, I began to entertain the idea that some types of depressions could very well be caused by inflammation, and therefore might require remedies other than medication, psychotherapy, and mindfulness.

A piece by Caroline Williams in The Guardian cites the growing number of studies that suggest depression is, in fact, a result of inflammation. One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that both depression and mania are associated with pro-inflammatory states. A spike in cytokines, proteins that are pumped into our blood stream when our immune system is fighting off a foreign agent, happens when people are depressed. The process looks the same as when a person is fighting an infection of any kind. A study published in Biological Psychiatry reported that brain images of volunteers injected with a typhoid vaccine, which produces robust inflammation, showed changes in the prefrontal regions of the brain that affect motivation and concentration.

Williams builds the case: “There are other clues, too: people with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis tend to suffer more than average with depression; cancer patients given a drug called interferon alpha, which boosts their inflammatory response to help fight the cancer, often become depressed as a side-effect.”

But what is causing the inflammation?

Researchers name a host of possibilities ranging from infections, such as the flu, to diets high in sugar and trans fats, to bullying and loneliness. In my case, the suspect is painfully obvious: carbohydrates composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen … a.k.a the legal white powder that is a hidden ingredient in most of our foods.

Dr. Hyman, also author of The Blood Sugar Solution, writes: “By far the most important factor in brain aging and inflammation in America is sugar. The sheer flood of sweet things and processed refined foods into our bodies is a tidal wave that leaves destruction everywhere we look … The insulin triggered by this flood of sugar sets into motion an entire inflammatory parade.”

Sugar and foods like potatoes and pasta, Hyman asserts, turn on the “cellular switches” that increase cytokines, just like when we have the flu or a urinary tract infection. “There is no scientific controversy here,” he writes. “The evidence is in. Sugar causes inflammation. The insulin-resistant fat cells you pack on when you eat too much sugar produce nasty inflammatory messengers (cytokines) … spreading their damage to the brain.”

I thought he was exaggerating the evil powers of the Oreo until I stopped eating sugar (plus anything made with white flour) cold turkey one day last year. I went months without it, but thought I deserved a piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. It took a few hours to get into my system, but once the cytokines were swimming in my blood stream, all I could think about for the next 48 hours was the quickest exit out of this life.


On Memorial Day weekend, I slipped again. My daughter couldn’t eat her entire Nutty Buddy — those irresistible vanilla ice-cream cones dipped in chocolate and peanuts. With my favorite dessert sitting right in front of me, I begin to think, “Maybe I didn’t react to the pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Maybe it was something else.” Satan then whispered into my ear, “How can something so luscious make you so sad?”

I had nine bites.

I counted them.

I also had baked beans (sugar), coleslaw (sugar), and eight breaded chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A (sugar).

And then I endured four days of intense death thoughts, wondering if I prayed hard enough maybe God would kindly exchange my body and soul with a child in heaven who wasn’t meant to die. I started doing death math again, figuring if the median age of death for my ancestors is 82, then I had approximately 37.5 more years to hang in there. I compared life to a marathon: I only had 12 more miles to run!

“This is crazy!” I thought to myself.

But I’m hardly alone.

Once my brain stopped obsessing about death, I posted my holiday experiment in my depression communities, and Group Beyond Blue, and on my Facebook page, and was taken aback by the enlightened responses of fellow members.

“I experience suicidal depression whenever I eat sugar or any other simple carb,” one woman explained. “I do many things to manage my depression, but this is the most important piece of my plan. I haven’t eaten any sugar or other problem carbs for many years now. I have absolutely no interest in desserts. The cost is way too large.”

“I can barely function if I eat dairy,” another wrote. “Especially cheese. The first 24 hours after I eat it, I feel drunk. But a few days later, I can barely think straight, and my depression goes through the roof. I feel guilt and shame over things that are long past and forgiven. I even have a hard time talking, forming sentences, etc. It usually takes five days to completely clear out of my system.”

All of this is incredibly fascinating to me because this kind of science could eventually provide relief to the considerable chunk of people that don’t respond to antidepressants. Williams explains that a few clinical trials so far have found that adding anti-inflammatory medicines to antidepressants improves symptoms and increases the proportion of people who respond to treatment. She says there is also some evidence that omega-3s and curcumin might have similar effects.

Some experts like Turhan Canli, PhD, are going so far as to try to brand depression as an infectious (but not contagious) disease.

That might take awhile.

In the meantime, I’m staying away from the Nutty Buddy.

It certainly isn’t my buddy.

Join the discussion “Depression Is a Reaction to Inflammation” on, the new depression community.

Low-fat dairy linked to lower tendency towards depression

Dairy consumption has long been linked to a wide range of physical health benefits, but its effect on emotional health has remained unclear. Now, a new study published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology reveals that people who consume low-fat dairy products may be less prone to depression

Professor Ryoichi Nagatomi of Tohoku University and colleagues in Japan and China investigated the association between whole and low-fat dairy consumption and depressive symptoms such as exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, helplessness and hopelessness. This is the first study to consider different components of dairy products (whole fat and low fat) and the occurrence of depression.

The study involved 1,159 Japanese adults between the ages of 19 and 83. There were 897 men and 262 women, of which 31.2% and 31.7% respectively, were depressed.

The researchers asked the participants in a questionnaire how often they consumed whole- or low-fat milk or yogurt. Depressive symptoms were evaluated using the self-rating depression scale, which consists of 20 questions and is a tool to distinguish people with and without depression.

The result showed that people who consumed low-fat dairy products between one and four times a week are less depressed. The correlation remained even after considering other critical factors such as age, sex, health status, nutrition status and life style.

The study found no association between whole-fat milk consumption and depressive symptoms. The researchers speculate that this is because trans-fatty acid contained in whole fat milk, which is associated with depression, cancelled out the anti-depressive effect of another milk component, tryptophan.

The researchers note that since this was a cross-sectional study that analyzed a population at a single point in time, it could not explain what actually caused such outcomes. Other dairy products, such as cheese and butter, were not included in the study. It is also unclear whether milk or yogurt had a stronger influence. Further studies are necessary to confirm and clarify the causality of the findings.

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