The Diet Depression Connection

CSNN National Page > The Diet Depression Connection

Prepared by: Dr. Valerie Franc, ND

Are You 1 in 2?

Mental health issues are on the rise. Whether you are looking at anxiety rates in teens or depression and suicide in adults; mental illness and substance abuse affects more people than ever. Currently an estimated one in three Canadians will experience a mental illness or substance use disorder in their lifetime. That means that by the time we reach the age of 40, one in two Canadians either have, or have had, a mental illness. With suicide rates among Indigenous youth ranking among the highest in the world, Canada is at a crisis point. While hardship, trauma and family violence are contributing factors, nutrition and lifestyle can have a significant impact on mental health and quality of life.

Be a Fat Head

Recently, scientists found that a diet lacking in omega-3s may contribute to higher rates of major depressive disorder. Studies show that eating wild caught fatty fish (such as anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring) regularly helps stave off depression, as they are a rich source of these essential fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3s include; flaxseed, walnuts and marine algae oil

Listen To Your Gut

There is a profound gut brain connection. Not only our food, but the biodiversity of our gut microflora plays a profound role in maintaining optimal mental health. A new study out of McMaster University showed improved depression scores with the addition of the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging also confirmed that the improvement was associated with changes in multiple brain areas involved in mood control.

The Power of Proteins

Ethically raised turkey, eggs, wild caught fish and organic chickpeas and lentils are just some of the foods that contain an amino acid called tryptophan.  This powerful protein helps produce serotonin and therefore promotes healthy sleep patterns and a stable mood. Another side benefit is that consuming proteins can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which therefore help prevent low moods.

Take A Daily Dose of D

Low levels of vitamin D have long been associated with depression and seasonal affective disorder. As the sun can be a great source, during the winter and when using daily sunscreen, deficiencies in this essential nutrient can easily occur. Since low levels have also been associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease and cancer, filling up on vitamin D rich foods is a must at this time of the year. Some good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks and wild caught fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.

Weighing in On the Matter

When it comes to mental well being and behaviour our weight matters too. Studies confirm that people who are depressed are more likely to become obese. Currently this is believed to be a result of increased inflammation along with the changes to hormones and immunity that accompany depression. As depression can lead some individuals to self medicate with alcohol, which adds empty calories and depletes the body of much needed vitamins (particularly B1 and folate), weight gain can be further exacerbated. Fortunately exercise raises endorphins and serotonin, so going out for a long walk or even trying some yoga can help improve mood and prevent packing on the pounds.