Living with stuttering is frustrating.
On some days, saying your own name feels like a challenge. On other days, sharing with the support group seems like a walk in the park.
When living with stuttering, people begin to accept its unpredictable nature and roll with it. Very few people stop and think about what may have influenced a good or bad day of stuttering.
Those who do consider the factors find themselves in a sea of fads and misinformation.
You may have already seen several blogs and articles stating the link between diet and stuttering. There’s quite a bit on gluten-free food and placebo diets and their effects on speech disfluencies in children.
However, it is difficult to find scientific proof backing up these claims.
Minerals and Stuttering: What’s there to Be Anxious About?
There isn’t a significant volume of research on the relationship between diet and stuttering. Back in 2017, Hum, Rietveld, Wiedijk, and Lieshout published a pilot study on the possible relationship between the two. The team believed that there are empirical and theoretical reasons to consider how copper metabolism in the brain may influence stuttering.
Their online survey found that there is no discernible effect of copper or thiamine on the frequency and severity of stuttering of the participants. There was modest evidence to support the link between thiamine and copper consumption via food and self-perceived anxiety.
Anxiety or stress does not cause stuttering. Hence, there is no reason to believe that an excess of minerals and amino acids in the diet can cause stuttering in children or adults. Additionally, you can relieve your anxiety by indulging in mindfulness meditation and yoga, both of which have proven to be excellent for treating stuttering.
Gut Bacteria and Stuttering: A Potentially New Dimension in Stuttering Treatment
There is no direct evidence that supports the claim that diet impacts stuttering. However, we have to consider that stuttering is a multifactorial disorder.
A number of neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain impact stuttering including dopamine.
This shows that dopamine is one of the key factors that influence childhood-onset fluency disorders like stuttering.
Groundbreaking research by Dinan, Butler and Cryan on gut bacteria highlights their ability to influence the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Psychobiotics or the study of micro-organisms with the ability to influence behavior may pave a new path for the treatment of several disorders including stuttering.
It is indeed possible to increase or decrease the levels of “good” gut bacteria by controlling the food one consumes. Who knows - following a particular diet to increase the population of helpful bacteria and reduce the secretion of dopamine in the brain may soon be one way to control one’s stuttering.
However, at this moment, the research is still at a nascent phase, and taking control over stuttering via dietary modifications is still a hypothesis, albeit, a highly realistic one.
What Food Should You Avoid To Prevent Worse Stutters?
There is evidence to establish that if you consume a food you are allergic to, it can make your stutters worse. However, there may not be a direct relationship.
Allergens that irritate the airway can cause breathing difficulty and distress in the person. It may mimic or even cause anxiety. It can further cause gastrointestinal distress. All of these factors can make already existing stuttering much worse.
Similarly, consuming food that you are intolerant to can make you feel bloated (For example, drinking milk or milk products if you are lactose intolerant). Excessive bloating creates pressure on your diaphragm, trachea, and larynx. It can prevent you from breathing deeply and comfortably. Shallow and fast breaths can cause one's stuttering to worsen.
Patients with gastrointestinal acid reflux have reported feeling breathless and compression around their throats. If you eat food that may cause digestive issues, especially, severe acid reflux, it may be responsible for particularly and unusually stubborn blocks in the mornings and post-meal meetings.
I Stutter - Which Food Should I Eat?
As the research on psychobiotics progresses, we may find out what food groups or diets are good or bad for stuttering. Until then, there is no way to confirm if gluten-free food, casein-free diet, and no-carbohydrate diets have any direct or indirect influence on the persistence and intensity of stuttering.
Having said that, it is very important that we eat from all the food groups. No matter what type of diet you are following, you should ensure that you are consuming all the necessary nutrients including essential proteins, good fats, fiber, and enough carbohydrates.
There is a lack of evidence to clearly establish or completely deny the relationship between a particular type of food and stuttering. So apart from practicing your speech exercises regularly, eat what keeps you happy (but in moderation) and healthy!
Unless you have a deficiency disease or a disorder, you should consider having a balanced diet daily.