Depression and low moods seems to be quite a focus in the news at the moment. whether it’s people suffering with low moods, stress in the workplace causing depression or actual clinic depression. Discuss it with others and ‘depression’ seems like a negative word – ‘it’s not depression I’m just having a down day’. What ever it is it, I am not surprised that with the increase in depression comes the increase in a poor diet resulting in diabetes and obesity.
Major depression is the No.1 psychological disorder in the western world . At the rate of increase, it will be the 2nd most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease. Also, when it comes to gender, unfortunately ladies we are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men . Which makes me think; how common are digestive problems in women compared to men?
Depression – Can food affect your mood?
Figures in June 2016 from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. More than 1.9 billion adults (39%) (18 years and older) were overweight. Of these over 600 million (13%) were obese .
Now I am not saying that what we eat is the cause of depression. There is not one single cause with depression. Brain chemistry, hormones, genetics and personal risk factors could all play a role , however from my experience diet is key.
I suffered with depression throughout most of my 20’s. I was going from counsellor to counsellor and on and off anti-depressants. As you can imagine, in my 20’s I was out socialising, drinking, eating what I wanted, having late nights & generally ‘burning the candle at both ends’. If you have ever experienced depression then you know where I am coming from when I say that it’s debilitating. You feel so lonely, trapped, isolated and everyone around you can’t understand why you are low – ‘you have a great life’, ‘oh just look on the positive’, ‘just cheer up now’, the list goes on.
Now I know it was not a coincidence that when I started taking care of myself, eating properly, exercising, getting better sleeping patterns that I started to come out of my debilitating low moods.
Depressed or low moods cause a reduction in dopamine and serotonin (the happy chemicals). When your serotonin is low you feel it in your brain and in your gut. This could possibly be why falling in love gives us butterflies or why depression has an incredible effect on how our stomach feels like causing diarrhoea, bloating and other IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) like symptoms. The gut and the brain are quite strongly linked and it has now been proven. Knowing this information, do you think that what we eat could have an affect on our moods?
This connection can be looked at both ways:
Brain – Gut
Low levels of serotonin are well known to increase cravings for the foods that give us a short-term boost in dopamine and serotonin, which are mainly carbohydrates and sugars. We eat sugar to satisfy our cravings, dopamine and serotonin levels increase then soon after they drop and we begin experiencing another craving, normally much stronger.
Feeling anxious or low in mood can cause our digestion to be effected resulting in upset stomachs etc.
Gut – Brain
When we are eating a heavily processed diet full of sugar and additives that we can’t even pronounce the name of, drinking alcohol and soda, not exercising or exercising too much then our brain will be effected. Much like in my 20’s when I was suffering from depression. My body was heavily inflamed and angry resulting in a negative effect on my brain.
The gut-brain connection is so strong that doctors are even prescribing anti-depressants for people with resistant IBS symptoms. 
What can we do?
Don’t go straight for the ice cream tub, chocolate or glass of wine, this will be counter productive as we have just learnt.
Try adding in some of these naturally mood boosting foods. I have listed my top 3 below:
- Brazil nuts – One of the best sources of the mineral selenium, and studies have shown that people who are low in it have increased rates ofdepression, irritability, anxiety and tiredness.
- Oily Fish – People who are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids may be more susceptible to depression and low mood, according to research, as these fatty acids make up a large percentage of our brain tissue. “About 60% of the dry weight of the brain is fat, with about 30% of that in the form of omega 3,” says Dr Eva Cyhlarova, head of research at the Mental Health Foundation. Eating salmon, mackerel and sardines regularly will keep your brain healthy and improves your mood by keeping brain cells flexible, so the brain’s messaging chemicals – neurotransmitters – can work more effectively .
- Bananas – Those who know me will understand my love of bananas. Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan as well as vitamins A, B6 and C, fibre, potassium, phosphorous, iron and carbohydrate. Mood-boosting carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, while vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into the mood-lifting hormone serotonin. This helps to boost your mood and also aids sleep .
Take care of your diet to improve your mental state. I challenge you to try it for 7 days straight: remove processed foods, alcohol, additives, anything with ingredients in that your can’t pronounce, drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day, eat 7-8 portions of fruit and veg everyday and get a regular sleep pattern then see how your mood changes. I am 100% sure you will feel a benefit. If you want to talk to me more about your lifestyle and ways to improve your digestion then get in touch. I would love to speak to you.
Does what you eat affect your mood?
How does your diet affect the way you feel? let us know by leaving a comment in the box below!
I focus specifically on restoring gut health as a means to restore overall health. I am obsessed with helping my clients understand foods that work for their body, restoring their energy levels, stop food cravings, flatten their stomachs and crave exercising.
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