Part 1 of 3: A series on food, gut health and mental health by Guest Author, Sue Westwind

Posted on November 19, 2012


Sue Westwind

The subject of food and how we eat can provoke anxiety, guilt, secrecy, defiance and other reactions when we feel put on the defensive. It seems the barrage is non-stop: we are constantly preached at about this or that healthy path, and exhorted to willpower or personal responsibility. But what if there’s more to this than our individual efforts alone?

Despite the constant bombardment about what to eat and what not to eat, one thing remains in the shadows. That is the influence of the gut on the brain.  Often referred to as the “second brain,” look to the intestine to produce 95% of serotonin while the brain makes the other 5%.  Also, 90% of the immune system is in the gut, working against toxins, bugs and irritants that can affect the nervous-system.

Those of us courting a full, loving life free of the meddling of psychiatry should heed what our tummy tells us. Even if you have no overt symptoms of belly distress, but you struggle with agony of the mind, check out the gut-brain connection.

Due to processed foods, bad intestinal bacteria gone wild and chemical cocktails masquerading as medication, our gut linings are leaky. All manner of toxins and undigested food particles that don’t belong there reach the blood system and eventually the brain. They like to sequester in fat, and don’t really give a damn if we feel bad enough to contemplate suicide. The brain is a fatty organ; it holds onto these chemical insults, the way the mental health professionals often accuse some of us of “holding onto our pain.” If they only knew.

I first ran into this theory when our daughter was diagnosed with autism thirteen years ago. Talk about a whole new world: told to get rid of gluten (wheat, rye, barley and others) and dairy products, cutting the sugar, food dyes, and excitotoxins like MSG…it  gave her back to us. I finally woke up and tried these things on my own “treatment-resistant” depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and killer migraines. It was a turning point in my life and mind’s ability to function. I wrote a book about it ( to issue a wake-up call to the mental health system, and explored what it might mean to abolish so-called “mental” illness.

All because of food.

Let’s look critically at the popular phrase, “you are what you eat.” Literally, of course it’s true. But it’s less than factual to saddle people with the sole responsibility for their food addictions.

David Kessler, former head of the FDA under George Bush, details in The End of Overeating (Rodale Books, 2010) just what lengths the food industry goes to in order to hook you. Billions of dollars in behind-the-scenes conferences and consultants to “research” new products for one purpose only: to make them irresistible, or increase their “crave-ability.”

Kessler focuses on the various combinations of sugar, fat, and salt, and assures us that industrial foods’ final offerings contains no real food. Dr. Mark Hyman, author The Blood Sugar Solution, asks: do you know anyone who can’t stop binging on broccoli or apples? No, but cookies, chips and soda can become addictive drugs. (Huffington Post, 10/16/10) Sugary and bad-fat foods stimulate the brain just like heroin, opium or morphine. It has to do with dopamine stimulation, just as with those hard-core addictive drugs.

But what has this got to do with chronic emotional distress, the kind that garners labels and drugs upon more drugs?

NEXT POST:  Gliadin, casein, and yeast–oh my! Sue reviews the research that stretches back to 1966 and gathers finds some unlikely culprits today.

You can read more about Sue’s journey with gut health and creating mental health and her path to learning to live well at the website for her book Lunacy Lost here. 

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As always – if you are taking psychotropic drugs NEVER EVER just “go off them”. To do so can be life threatening. For more information and resources on how to safely reduce or withdraw from Psychotropic drugs please visit the resources page here and view the powerpoint presentation here. 

It is assumed that anyone reading this blog is capable of taking in information, assessing it and asserting their own will to choose to take action or not. I am not a health care professional and I assume no responsibility for the actions taken by others. The information provided on this web site is for informational purposes only.