Diet and Mental Health

                                       Diet and Depression

brainfoodpicYou eat good, you feel good. In this lesson we are going to learn about mental health (in this case- Depression), and how eating healthy may benefit your brain. Let’s get started!

Let’s learn a little bit about Depression. What is Depression?

Have you ever felt sad? Really Sad? Usually it goes away after a couple days or maybe a week. Depression is a sadness that effects every part of your life. It’s not just a feeling, but a disorder of the brain (so saying “feel better” might not work for someone who is depressed). Approximately 1 in 10 people in the United States has reported depression (CDC2011), this number is even higher among women of whom 1 in 5 have reported suffering from depression. For these people, depression is something they have to live and struggle with.

What kind of depression is there? Well, there are several forms:

Major Depression: severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes. (NIMH-Depression)

Persistent Depressive Disorder: depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years. (NIMH- Depression)

There are even some unique forms of depression that can come from particular circumstances:

Psychotic depression: which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). (NIMH-Depression)

Postpartum depression: which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.   (NIMH-Depression)

Seasonal Affective Disorder: which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy. (NIMH-Depression)

Do I or someone I know have depression? What are the symptoms?

  • Anxiousness, persistent sadness, or an empty feeling
  • Loss of interest in hobbies that you once loved
  • Low energy, fatigue
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Over eating or loss of appetite
  • Feeling hopeless, having difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.

Now let’s talk about eating healthy foods and its effect on the brain.

A poor diet may result in some of the symptoms of depression. When eating un-healthy foods, your body has trouble digesting them- resulting in stress, drowsiness, low energy. What you eat may affect how you feel, so it’s important to eat right. Jodi Corbett, a 47 year old woman who lives in Catonsville, struggled with depression. She then decided to change her eating style. In her case she stopped eating gluten and in just a couple months she lost weight . . . and her depression. Now this might not work for everyone, but its good reminder that what you eat can be related to your mood.

““Diet quality” refers to the kinds of foods that people eat, how often they eat them and how much of them they eat. In several studies, including a 2011 analysis of more than 5,000 Norwegians, Berk and his collaborators have found lower rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder among those who consumed a traditional diet of meat and vegetables than among people who followed a modern Western diet heavy with processed and fast foods or even a health-food diet of tofu and salads.” – Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine

In the particular case of depression and diet, there is still more research to be done. Rif El-Mallakh, a professor of psychiatry (at the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine) says: “It’s unclear how diet relates to mental health. There seems to be a clear link, but it’s an association — it doesn’t tell you cause and effect,” he said. “We don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg.””

Another cool case was a recent study (Nutritional Neurosci 2015; 18:137-144). For 23 months the study between diet and overall mood state was tested on 84 adult humans with metabolic syndrome. Carefully monitored, the participants consumed their daily servings of cereals, vegetables, fruits, dairy/meat (as well as their daily amount of cholesterol and sodium). Different foods equaled a different diet. What they found out was that a poor diet that was high in saturated fats and caloric levels lead to depression. The participants with a healthier diet reported a better mood overall. That’s amazing! (Information provided by Psychology Today)

These studies show that food does affect your mental state, and with more research scientists and nutritionists will prove how healthy food will do a lot more. We know exercise makes a person feel better, healthy food does too! So eat healthy, be healthy! Your body and your brain will thank you for it.sandfacefoodpic

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