To coin a phrase from the UK Inland Revenue advertising........”To have depression, is very depressing”.  It is also very debilitating, with symptoms of loss of energy and fatigue, poor concentration, physical and mental slowing down and anxiety. I had all these symptoms over a period of forty years, and they increased in intensity during the twenty-year period from 1960. During this time, I was married and had two children. It was a difficult time, as the depression affected my working life, although I was able to hold down a job as a dispenser in retail pharmacy, my accuracy at dispensing was not compromised, but promotion eluded me. During the early 70’s, I opened my own drug store in the City of London it was a struggle to order goods, keep the books, and I was under constant stress to maintain the status quo. 

By this time, I was under medication from my G.P., which did not have any effect. He also recommended group therapy, which I attended on a weekly basis. This was a total waste of time, as I realised that I was not like the people who attended each session, especially as I learned that some of them had been going for four years, and still had the same problems.  By this time I was becoming suicidal, as I could not cope with the idea that I would have to wake up each morning with all the symptoms, and fight my way through each and every day.

I then decided to take stock of the situation and realised that there must be a hidden agenda and a cause for my depression. I started going to the library (no internet in those days) to look for some thing that could help me. One of the books I found was “Not all in the Mind” by Dr. Richard Mackarness.  From this book, I discovered the world of food allergy and food intolerance that Dr. Mackarness had encountered on his trip to America in 1958 when he stayed with Dr.Ted Randolph at his clinic in Chicago. He learnt that Dr.Albert Rowe in the 1920’s and 30’s, designed what he called the elimination diet, this was further improved by Dr. Randolph who introduced the five day fast at the beginning of an investigation. On returning to the UK, Dr. Mackarness tested this method in his general practice for several years.

However, the case that caught my attention was a patient who was violent, self harming, abusing her children and with strong feelings of guilt. She had been treated with ECT and a wide variety of medications in high doses, which did not produce any improvement. The doctors were considering brain surgery. Dr Mackarness suggested that food intolerance could be the problem. He then set up an experiment under controlled conditions where he starved the patient for five days and then she was given test doses of specified foods. It was shown that certain foods (one of which was pork) made her violent, and if she kept off those foods, her condition improved drastically. So much so, that she was sent home with no medication at all, and remained well, as long as she kept to the safe foods.

Was this the cause of my own problems? My mother had been diagnosed with manic depression, which was never resolved, even though she was treated with ECT and was on continuous medication, and she died of a cerebral haemorrhage. Could she have had the same problem? Why didn’t my GP ever mention that food could have been the source of my depression?

I then decided to eliminate wheat and dairy products from my diet, to see what would happen. This was a tough decision as my favourite foods were bread, weetabix, cow’s milk, cheese, ice cream and biscuits. However, I persisted, and I remember waking up one morning, three weeks later, with a clear head, and not feeling tired.. I was normal!!!!!!.  It was an incredible feeling.

To make up for the foods I had eliminated, I was eating a lot of eggs and chocolate. The symptoms returned, so they were out. Eventually, I found that oats and rye affected me, also beer – anything with grain. My alcoholic refreshments were limited to the grape, champagne, brandy and red wine....not bad, I suppose.  However, my intake of fruit and vegetables increased, I could eat fish and meat. I stopped tea and coffee, and kept to fruit juice and herb and fruit teas. Rice cakes replaced bread.

Today, there are plenty of wheat-free, gluten-free and dairy-free foods, soya and goat’s milk, cheese and yoghurt. However, for thirty plus years, I have lived an active life without wheat and dairy products. At age eighty, I am still active.I have my own teeth, and I am not on any allopathic medication. I eat organic foods (without pesticides, hormones, herbicides, and additives).

In the area of mental health, it is sad that the medical profession has chosen to ignore food intolerance, even though it has been proven (especially by the work of Dr. Mackarness) that food can be a contributory factor. In my opinion, the two indications to food intolerance and mental health is:-  1) the food that you love the most and crave for, is the one that is doing the most harm and,  2) if long term medication is not producing a cure, then there is probably another agenda. Elimination diets can be carried out in tandem with medication to see what happens.

In January 2006, the Mental Health Foundation launched their campaign “Feeding Minds The impact of food on mental health”. They asked me if I would tell my story to the media and I was on BBC1 TV, BBC Five Live and LBC, plus other newspaper follow-ups.

“My Story” and other articles have been published in the U.K. newsletter of the “Action Against Allergy” organisation which was founded by Dr.Mackarness, who in his later life retired to Australia. 
My mission is to spread the word, especially as there is an increase in mental problems amongst the younger generation whose diet needs to be addressed, rather than blanket medication - Brian from the UK