Emotional disorders are in the news daily. Violence is on the rise, gun use is rampant, and mental health services are harder to obtain. We wonder if mental health is related to violence – of course it is – and it is also related to diet. Depression is one of the mental health conditions that has a direct connection to diet. Symptoms may vary from feelings of minor sadness to sheer misery and dejection. When sadness persists and impairs daily life, it may be an indication of a depressive disorder. Depression brings together a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, which together constitute a syndrome.
The most common symptoms of depression are feelings of acute sense of loss, inexplicable sadness, loss of energy and loss of interest. One can feel tired and lack interest in the world. Sleep disturbance is common. Usually one can wake depressed and unable to return to sleep. Other disturbed sleep patterns include difficulty falling asleep, nightmares or repeated waking. Often, emotions of guilt, oppressive feelings and self-absorption can arise. Cases of severe depression may also be characterized by low body temperature, low blood pressure, hot flushes and shivering.
Dietary habits which are irregular or unbalanced cause digestive problems and lead to mobilization of fats. Excessive intake of carbohydrates such as cereals, white foods like rice, bread, and suger, with inadequate intake of vegetables and fruits in the diet may result in indigestion. Poor digestion produces gas in the digestive tract, causing compression over the diaphragm in the region of the heart and lungs. This in turn, reduces the supply of oxygen to the tissues, which raises the carbon dioxide levels, causing general depression. This amazing pattern has been shown to affect mood by impairing the body’s natural mechanisms to clear “used air” in the form of carbon dioxide and depress mood.
Diet has a significant impact on the mental health of a person. Even a single nutritional deficiency can cause depression in some people. Nutritional changes can be used to bolster the body, support “feel good” brain chemicals like serotonin and tryptophan and improve mood. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Eat foods rich in B vitamins such as whole grains, green vegetables, eggs and fish. If feeling depressed, limit or eliminate caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee, and limit or eliminate the depressant effect from alcohol. Other food products like chocolate, cola, all white flour products, sugar, food colorings, chemical additives, white rice and strong condiments should be limited.
Eat fresh fruits for snacks and with meals.
Add protein to your diet: Incorporate protein into your diet. Protein helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. By slowing the digestive process, lean protein will improve your mood through balanced blood sugar. Great sources of protein include chicken and fish. Plant based protein sources are found in nuts, beans, tofu, and lentils. Fatty fishes, such as Salmon, are high in Omega-3s. Shown in many well designed scientific studies to improve mood, experts recommend consuming fatty fish (4 oz. of salmon) two or three times per week. Other great sources of Omega-3s include walnuts, flax seeds, sardines, and canned salmon.
Most healthy persons do not need supplements or multi-vitamins. Round out your diet with a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, choosing bright colors. When hungry, snack on fruits and vegetables freely, and don’t worry about quantities. The high fiber, vitamin and mineral filled foods are perfect appetite suppressants, providing satisfaction for not a lot of calories – what nutritionists call “high satiety foods.”
The Effects of Alcohol on Depression: How does alcohol contribute to depressive disorders? Research has shown that alcohol intake exacerbates depression. Even moderate alcohol intake can impair your mood, so limit drinking when you are feeling the blues. Chronic abuse of alcohol is often associated with depression-like symptoms, which can reduce the ability to solve problems, which in turn can lead to anxiety. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to poor work performance, relationship difficulties & financial difficulties. This can produce stressors that worsen anxiety.
For more fine tuning of your diet and to check if a personalized dietary recommendation can help, contact me for a complementary consultation.