The Connection Between Food and Depression

You may know that filling your diet with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil is good for your heart, but you may not know that these foods are also good for your brain. 

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects 300 million people worldwide and is a leading cause of disability. Based on very new and exciting research, what you eat and don’t eat may support your recovery from depression or even prevent the mood disorder altogether.

At Revîv Functional Psychiatry & Functional Wellness, we take an integrative approach to care and consider nutrition an important part of your treatment plan. Our caring and compassionate psychiatrist, Dr. Hina Sidhu, wants to share with you the connection between food and depression, so you can better understand why it’s such an important part of what we do.

The research: diet and depression

While much is known about the effects of diet on your physical health, researchers have only just started to understand the effects of diet on mental health. That being said, like your physical health, there is strong evidence that diet choices may play a significant role in the development of mental health conditions like depression.

A July 2017 meta-analysis study published in Psychiatry Research investigated the association between diet choices and risk of depression. The study, which included data from 21 studies from around the world, found that a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and low-fat dairy foods reduced risk of depression. The researchers also found that a diet filled with red meat, processed foods, refined grains, butter, and high-fat dairy foods, the typical Western-style diet, increased risk of depression.

There is also evidence that diet choices may help prevent major depression in those with early symptoms of the mood disorder, according to a June 2015 study published in Psychiatry Services. This study compared traditional primary care intervention with one-on-one healthy eating counseling on the prevention of major depression in a group of 247 participants suffering from the early signs of the disorder. The researchers found that both the traditional interventions and diet coaching (which included nutrition education on healthy eating guidelines, weekly menus, and grocery lists) were equally effective at reducing the onset of major depression. 

The connection: food and mood

How does food affect mood? It all comes back to neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals in your brain that assist with nerve signaling. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter closely associated with depression due to the role it plays in regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and pain. While you may think serotonin is only found in your brain, 95% of the neurotransmitter is actually produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with hundreds of millions of neurons. It’s often called your “second brain.”

The health and function of the neurons in your gut, as well as production of the neurotransmitters, are highly dependent on the billions of good bacteria found in your digestive tract. These good bacteria protect you from toxic substances, reduce inflammation, support nutrient absorption, and activate the neural pathways that travel between your gut and your brain. 

What you eat affects the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria. The good bacteria thrive on healthy plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, also supply your gut with good bacteria. 

What to eat for depression

For your depression, Dr. Sidhu recommends you incorporate more whole foods into your diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and lean sources of protein, as well as fermented foods. She also recommends you do your best to limit refined grains, foods with added sugar, processed meats, and butter. 

When it comes to depression, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. At Revîv Functional Psychiatry & Functional Wellness, we offer many treatment options that not only focus on your mood, but also on your overall health and well-being. 

For comprehensive care of your depression from a kind and compassionate team, call Revîv Functional Psychiatry & Functional Wellness or use the online booking feature to schedule a consultation.  

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