What Effect Does Food and Diet Have on the Mind?

Can what a person eats have a profound effect on their mental state? On their personality even? Though there’s been no direct proof that it does, it’s safe to say that diet has an effect on a person’s outward appearance, as well as his/her stomach and intestines. I believe that it also has an indirect but extremely powerful effect on all the organs of the body, including the brain. It’s no secret that foods high in sugar cause the pancreas to secrete more insulin, and that constant swings in blood sugar can lead to fatigue, depression and mental confusion, as well a host of physical maladies including (but not limited to) diabetes and hypoglycemia. By the same token, it’s also likely that foods high in hormones and antibiotics (like non-organic meat and dairy products) can force a person onto the hormonal rollercoaster and depress his or her immune system, leading to more frequent illnesses with symptoms that include fatique and depression. It’s also perfectly within the realm of reality that certain chemicals (i.e. poisons) in nearly all prepackaged foods – which are toxic to anyone’s body anyway and will either be eliminated or stored in the body if no detox pathways are open – can have intense mental and physical effects on a person with certain unique sensitivities and/or allergies, but the extent of these effects will always vary from person to person.

There’s also plenty of folks with sensitivites to certain chemicals present in natural foods, i.e. a person with a sensitivity to salycilic acid will have trouble eating most fruit and many vegetables. The key is to determine what foods you are sensitive to, either through a carefully planned allergen diet or blood testing (which is effective but not cheap, or you can try a Myallerytest kit), and to learn to listen to your body when you ingest certain edibles or liquids. It’s important to do this as early in life as possible, since many food sensitivites “disguise” themselves by causing us to crave those substances even more; as a result, many of us binge on our addictions daily without realizing we’re actually sensitive or even mildly allergic to them, and the cycle continues, our moods and personality suffering more and more without us understanding why. With time the cycle becomes more and more difficult to break, and with the disruption in our body’s natural cleansing capabilities due to the high amount of dangerous foods we’re eating, the poisons and free radicals these foods produce may not be able to escape our bodies and can form into tumors or cause degenerative organ diseases, particularly liver and gallbladder disease.

In my particular case, I binged on mostly sugary delicacies like pie, cake, ice cream – all the usual blood sugar bullies, though I also had a taste for just about anything non-natural and loaded with preservatives; I squirted everything that wasn’t sweet with catsup or mustard, loved frozen pizzas and french fries, drank soda, and in general never touched a raw fruit or vegetable, much less take a sip of plain water. I was always pale and bloated, with heavy dark circles under my eyes and suffered with cystic acne; emotionally I was a wreck and had mood swings, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and absolutely no self esteem. I became increasingly withdrawn throughout my adolescence and early adulthood as a result, over time preferring less and less to be around other people due to my confidence issues, until I was eventually severely social phobic and could hardly bear to leave the house to pick up a pack of cigarettes, another nasty habit I developed in response to my depression and isolation. I wallowed in self pity, yet at the same time I began to subconsciously view myself as somehow superior to other people, which was a coping mechanism for the fact that I had no friends, had never been able to hold down a job, and had essentially become a humorless, aloof individual with incredibly poor social skills.

Outwardly I seemed like the textbook schizoid, with no interest in connecting with anyone else and always in my own distant world… and indeed I had come to relish being alone, truly disliking company and preferring to stay shut up in apartment. It’s no wonder, since my social skills had become so poor that almost every personal interaction I experienced with another person (even just going through the checkout lane) was painful, confusing or a combination of both. I had never been very good at interpreting social cues and took myself a bit seriously, which occasionally ostracized me from other kids as a child, but the problem had become so much worse as an adult; I read hidden, unpleasant meanings in everything anyone said and suffered constant delusions involving other people, which further increased my desire for social separation. But I believe the problem was really avoidant personality disorder as opposed to schizoid, because although I preferred isolation and sported a cold demeanor to others, it was for protective reasons, and I knew that my behavior was not normal and deep within desired a change. I wanted to experience interpersonal relationships but was unable, and any relationship I did forge was brief and ultimately destroyed by myself, so I developed an unapproachable shell to shield myself from other people entirely.

Hard to believe as it may seem, I was only able to alleviate these personality symptoms (and other physical issues) when I started paying attention to what I was putting into my body, in particular the diet I was subjecting it to. When I learned about the power of juice fasting and organic diet and put the techniques I was learning into effect, I very gradually came out of my self-imposed shadows and saw the fatigue and depression slowly lift. I had developed non-food addictions like smoking and various drugs in my early adult years and continued to puff on tobacco for the first week of my first juice fast; around the seventh or eighth day of juicing I spontaneously lost the desire for cigarettes and would become mildly sickened by the smell, and I had also lost the desire for drugs and poisonous food. As my bloating and acne went away, I began to feel more and more comfortable with my appearance and even came to like myself – something I had never truly been able to do and was a very new and exciting experience for me. Leaving the house became less and less of a traumatic chore, and I was able to relax more around others and make eye contact.

Though I have remained an introvert at heart, I am free of all the excess paranoia and confusion I used to deal with when around people and have managed to create and maintain some positive new relationships with others. I’ve recaptured my oddball sense of humor I had as a kid and can joke and relate to people better now than I ever could as an adult, and I feel that as I have maintained a healthy raw vegan diet and alternated it with occasional juice fasts I am continuing to grow emotionally, and perhaps one day could even be capable of a romantic relationship. I’m just not putting the same toxins from cooked, denatured and nutrionless food in my body as I once was, and every single organ – in particular my liver and brain – has benefited. Even something as difficult to change as personality, which many people would assume can only be done through professional therapy and medications, can be altered over time based on what you’re putting into yourself. Bad food can be an indirect cause of mental problems due to the poisons it produces within the body which degrade the brain, but for each person with a bad diet the manifestation of symptoms will be different based on his or her own genetics.

I’ve also supplemented my healthy diet with probiotics like lactobacillus and bifidobacterim. Probiotics are good bacteria that resides within a healthy person’s gut and helps them to properly digest food, but antibiotics (which are ruthlessly prescribed these days for everything under the sun) destroys this beneficial bacteria and allows bad bacteria like candida to proliferate through the stomach and intestines, producing its own poison throughout the body and hindering the digestive process further. Most people don’t realize that the health of their stomach has an indirect but powerful effect on the functioning of their brain and mental processes, so in a general sense bad digestion often results in bad thinking. Some of the best brands of probiotic supplements include Accuflora, Enzymatic and Culturelle.

Yogurt, kefir and other cultured foods like kim chee also contain probiotics, but it’s important that cultured dairy products bought for consumption be organic (and thus free from steroids and antibiotics) and low in sugar (since sugar feeds and strengthens the bad stomach bacteria already present in the gut); though I am personally raw vegan, I highly recommend high-quality organic yogurt brands like Stonyfield Farms, or you can even make your own yogurt at home with some top-notch but inexpensive probiotic starter like Yogourmet and/or a yogurt maker. Whether you choose to be vegan or incorporate some dairy in your diet, it’s a good ide