Dairy is anxiety producing? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 12:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Anyone ever heard this, or have any experience with it?



I wrote the following this morning to document our experiences with the vegan diet.  It's LONG, but hopefully it might be helpful to someone.




My husband Tre and I recently "went" vegan (well, mostly) for...10 weeks...I think? We went in it to lose weight and get healthier. By day 3 of the diet, I was starting to get tired of it and wanted to quit. (During those first 3 days, it's probably important to note that I had not gone 100% vegan, but Tre had. I would still put creamer in my coffee and even ice cream at night, to "finish it off.") For some reason, the thought of going completely without milk and cheese for long periods of time made me uneasy and slightly panicked. I asked Tre, feeling a little desperate for his answer to be yes, if he wanted to stop and go back to "just trying to eat healthy..." which hadn't been working for us lately for a variety of reasons. Tre stayed firm in his assertion that we needed to continue with the vegan diet. "We started it...let's just commit to the 4 weeks," he insisted. I felt almost relieved because he was taking control and taking the choice away from me. I didn't have to exert my own willpower anymore.
During the next few weeks, Tre was a little more vegan than I was. Any deviations of his were minor, rare, and unintentional. For example, during our one Lion's Club luncheon we noted that the veggies had probably been cooked in some butter, and our weekly Chili's bean burgers were made using egg whites. My deviations were a bit looser and occured more often, and mainly included my coffee creamer at Starbucks (although I had blocks of days in which I used coconut creamer and was 100% dairy free).
After only about a week, I found that cutting most animal products out of my diet resulted in my having better days emotionally and mentally. My anxiety was not as profound; in fact, I seem to recall that I would go days with little to no anxiety. The mild bouts I'd have were minimal and manageable...ignorable. During week 4 or 5, I experienced a moderate increase in anxiety, and I worried that I was preparing to slip into one of my bipolar depressions. That scare only lasted about 3 days I believe, and then most of that anxiety lifted.
Overall during those weeks of near veganism, I noticed many other health benefits. For instance, I realized that my food allergies had greatly improved. Since childhood, I couldn't eat a banana or apple without developing itchy ears and throat. I had learned by adulthood that I should expect some temporary discomfort (about 15 minutes) after eating avocado, almonds, apples and bananas. Cutting out most dairy resulted in my newfound ability to enjoy an apple without having to wiggle my ears around afterward to relieve the discomfort. I was amazed that this long-standing annoyance that I had basically resigned myself to for life, was (practically) gone. I was perplexed and somewhat liberated.
Physically, I felt good and it was getting better every day. My muscles weren't aching and alive with anxiety...they felt strong. My workouts at the gym became easier. I didn't feel like I was "fighting my food" whenever I was on the treadmill. I could better appreciate the conditioning that exercise did for my muscles and the exhilaration I felt afterward, and I looked forward to going to the gym. I was steadily losing 2 lbs per week.
My skin cleared up. I've always struggled with mild breakouts on my face which I would just deal with. My balance improved. I didn't feel nearly as much brain fog and dizziness as I usually do. My ADHD symptoms became much milder.
We both felt so good by week 3, that we knew we'd continue beyond our original goal of 4 weeks.
Around week 8 maybe, Tre and I had both lost a significant amount of weight and, kind of reluctantly and half-heartedly decided that, mainly because of social eating issues, we could begin making occasional exceptions to the vegan diet. So we started eating dairy here and there. It started with cheese pizza at a birthday party...then we started getting cheese enchiladas and cheese and bean burritos at mexican restaurants. The occasional once or twice a week infraction morphed rather quickly into a daily lunch splurge, and then a twice daily indulgence.
Looking back, what we were doing was systematically eliminating fruits and vegetables and replacing them with dairy and simple carbs. We went from having lunches at home (triscuits and raw veggies with hummus...leftover vegan dinners, vegan soups and stir-trys) to ooey-gooey cheesy carby junk lunches.
It only took 2 full weeks of the increased dairy for us to realize that our health was beginning to suffer. My anxiety came back with a vengeance. My muscles had locked up and were aching again, and mentally I had bouts of instability. My stress levels skyrocketed. My weight loss stalled. My food allergies returned. My face became slightly more puffy than it had been. I felt tired more often, and highly irratable.
I really didn't want to confront the reality that dairy was the main cause of my ongoing health and mental problems. I had lost weight...developed some healthier habits, and I wanted to be content with that even in the midst of a threatened bipolar episode. All for some cheese.
Tre noticed the same denial processes in himself, and after discussing it, we came to understand that the dairy has somewhat of an addictive effect on both of us. Tre's physical and mental state suffered in strikingly similar ways to my own. We didn't gain weight, but we saw that the path we were headed down would most likely result in total relapse of the issues we'd struggled with for years (weight struggles, severe mood swings and relationship issues, etc.)
The day after talking all this out, I did a quick internet search for dairy as a cause for anxiety, and I found a good bit of information suggesting that there is indeed a link. That was yesterday, and we reverted back to the vegan diet, short of my coffee creamer. So after about 9 a.m. yesterday morning, I didn't have any dairy. When I woke up this morning, I noticed I was feeling pretty good, and I wondered if it could be the dairy absitinence. Then we went to Starbucks and got my usual vanilla coffee with cream, and I noticed within about 2 minutes of taking my first sip, that my anxiety was starting to "turn on." I paid close attention for the next few minutes to how my body responded to the dairy as I drank it. I started to feel slightly hotter...so slight and gradual that normally I wouldn't even notice it perhaps. That heat brought on the achy anxiety. Now of course, the caffeine plays a part in this reaction. But it important to note that when I've replaced my dairy creamer with coconut creamer, I noticed I do not suffer these symptoms with my coffee.
I am now convinced that there is a connection. I have quite enough anecdotal evidence and I'm ready to take the plunge into long term veganism. I think dairy causes internal inflamation in my body. I feel like it is a "dirty" food and my body responds so much better to clean food.

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#2 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 12:42 PM
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It is quite possible you have a dairy intolerance and by cutting out dairy, via going vegan, you gut is beginning to heal. There is actually research that shows fermented diary and probiotics modulates brain activity and is helpful.






Four-week intake of an FMPP by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation





Gut microbiota: Intestinal bacteria influence brain activity in healthy humans




If you feel better without dairy then obviously continue not eating it, but consuming fermented veggies will likely be beneficial.






Stephen M. Collins & Premsyl Bercik

In the past few years, the link between the gut microbiota and human health and disease has become apparent. A recent study by Tillisch and colleagues1 using functional MRI (fMRI) provides the first demonstration that ingestion of probiotic bacteria alters brain function in humans 


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#3 of 6 Old 05-07-2013, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Very interesting, thanks!

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#4 of 6 Old 07-13-2013, 04:37 PM
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We had a similar experience with our son who suffers from extreme anxiety. We went vegan for 8 months to help my DH's blood pressure come down naturally. We noticed months into it that our DS's moods had been stable - in fact we couldn't remember the last time he'd had a tantrum. I met a woman at our church who's family was also vegan. She said they did it to help their teenage daughter's depression. Any time they go off the diet, it comes back. 


Most of the info out there for veganism focuses more on the physical health benefits but I think there are clearly mental health benefits as well. I appreciate you sharing your story! 

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#5 of 6 Old 08-12-2013, 09:21 PM
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This article talks about how women who eat less than the recommended amount of red meat are twice as likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

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#6 of 6 Old 09-22-2013, 08:54 AM
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I have been vegan since Jan but my anxiety is at it's same level as it was then.

Don't imagine the worst incidents in your emotional life -- keep a positive attitude.
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