Best Foods for Depression and Anxiety
Sadness is a normal response to many life events. But when this emotional state persists after the triggers have been removed, it should be reassessed, and could be clinical depression.
4.7% of the UK population suffers depression, 4.7% suffer anxiety and 9.7% of the population suffers a combination of both.
The biological drivers of depression are unique to each individual, but there is generally some level of hormone and neurotransmitter imbalance.
There is also a genetic predisposition to suffer mood disorders which can increase the likelihood of a person suffering from depression.
The traditional view in Chinese medicine is that the liver is the organ which regulates emotions and the primary organ involved with depression and hormone regulation.
As with every health issue, the key is to look at gut health.
Your digestive system has its own nervous system, the enteric nervous system, which could function separately to the brain and produces around 90% of your body’s serotonin.
Studies have demonstrated that anxiety and depression are linked with gastrointestinal symptoms and a correlation in adults who had stomach aches as children ending up more likely to suffer anxiety as adults.
Stress and cortisol release impedes the digestive process and causes an inflammatory response. Stomach acid production reduces with stress, which then means protein is more difficult to digest and inflammation occurs.
It is the inflammatory response that has a knock on effect on other areas, including nutrient absorption or hormone production and quality.
Inflammation in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for mood, memory and learning, interferes with the production of neurotransmitters and neurons.
There are certain gut bacteria linked with low energy, cognitive and mood changes.
Studies have also demonstrated links between gut health and autism, so the spectrum of neurological disorders is broad.
Current medical treatment strategies include psychological support, counselling and anti-depressant medication, however there’s so much you can do nutritionally to balance mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Herbs such as St. John’s Wort, which is just as effective for mild and moderate depression as Prozac.
There are notable behavioural effects of certain vitamin deficiencies, including insomnia, irritability and depression when folic acid levels are deficient, or psychotic states, memory loss and depression when vitamin B12 levels are deficient.
So what do you need to eat to improve your mood and reduce anxiety symptoms?
Best Foods for Depression and Anxiety
– A balanced diet and a rainbow of fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants and nutrients such as B vitamins, tryptophan, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C. All are required for the production and protection of neurotransmitters and their ability to communicate with each other.
– Green leafy vegetables: There are lots of nutrients which contribute to a balanced mood and have concomitant anti-depressant effects alongside anti-depressant medication, including B vitamins (especially B6, B12 and folic acid), which also work to reduce homocysteine levels, which can reduce cardiovascular risk too.
– Other foods containing B vitamins, zinc and selenium include lean meats, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish, eggs and legumes.
– Oily fish is high in omega 3 essential fatty acids. Low levels of omega 3 essential fats are linked with depression as the phospholipid layer in the cell membrane is not formed effectively, which affects neurotransmitter function and quality.
– Tryptophan-containing foods such as turkey, banana, legumes, sesame seeds and fish. Tryptophan is a precursor required for our bodies to make serotonin.
– Balance your blood sugar by choosing whole grains (also high in B vitamins) rather than refined, white processed carbohydrate and always pair fruit and sugary foods with nuts or something containing protein or fat to slow down sugar release.
– Foods to avoid include refined carbohydrates, hormones in meat, caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is a brain stimulant and may worsen symptoms of anxiety while alcohol is a brain depressant and causes blood sugar and cortisol fluctuations.
– Intolerant or allergic foods should also be eliminated as they may cause allergic toxaemia, of which symptoms include: depression, fatigue, muscle aches and anxiety.
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