Despite depression being thought of as a strictly emotional or biochemical disorder an unhealthy diet can play a role in depression and mood swings. Patterns that may aggravate our moods include skipping meals, poor appetite, and cravings for sweets.
Carbohydrate rich foods trigger the production of serotonin and tryptophan which are chemicals that the brain produces that promote a feeling of well-being. However the type of carbohydrate you consume can influence your mood. Refined carbohydrates, primarily sugar and sugary foods, tend to provide immediate, but temporary relief. Once the benefit is gone, you may go looking for more foods to bring up your mood and energy level. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, cereals, breads, pastas, and fruits and vegetables, are more likely to supply a moderate, but lasting effect on brain chemistry, mood, and energy level.
For example look at chocolate. Many people crave chocolate when they feel down. This can be attributed to certain alkaloids that have been isolated in chocolate that may raise brain serotonin levels. Some researchers now speculate that chocoholics may actually have a real biological basis with serotonin deficiency being one factor.
The B-Complex Vitamins
We know that B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They are considered essential vitamins. This means the body cannot make them, so we depend on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins can be destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people in Ireland may be deficient in these.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine): The brain uses this vitamin to help convert blood sugar into fuel and without it the brain rapidly runs out of energy. This can lead to fatigue, depression and irritability. Too many refined carbohydrates, such as simple sugars can drain the body’s B1 supply.
Good sources of vitamin B1 include rye flour, liver and wholegrains
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Symptoms of deficiency are fatigue, chronic stress, and depression.
Good sources include mushrooms, eggs, and fish, liver
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): This vitamin aids in the processing of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It is needed in the manufacture of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. An inadequate intake of vitamin B6 may produce subtle changes in mood. Some research indicates that people who are depressed have low levels of vitamin B6.
Good sources include; bananas, oats, potatoes, brown rice, pork and eggs
Vitamin B12 is important to red blood cell formation, deficiency leads to an oxygen-transport problem known as pernicious anemia. This disorder can cause mood swings, irritability and in extreme cases confusion and shortage of breath. However deficiencies do take a long time to develop, since the body stores a three- to five-year supply in the liver. Deficiencies tend to more common in elderly patients
Good sources include; meat, dairy produce, eggs, seaweed and fish
Folic acid deficiency can cause mood changes and depression. Folic acid deficiency is a relatively common vitamin deficiency mainly as the best source are green vegetables which are poorly consumed.
The best sources include green vegetables, ovaltine and dairy
Recent research has also indicated the importance of essential fatty acids omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in helping protect against depression and helping those already suffering from depression. Good sources include oily fish, nuts and seeds, functional foods like omega milk and omega-3 spreads
Negative nutrients for depression include sugary foods which can aggravate mood swings, alcohol which is a natural depressant and caffeine which can deplete your stores of B vitamins.
Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may play a role in mental wellbeing.
Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood, better memory, more energy and feelings of calmness.
Eating regular meals and nutritious afternoon snacks may improve cognitive performance.
Focus on a well-balanced diet, including plenty of leafy greens for folic acid, and bananas, avocado, chicken, greens, and whole grains for B6.
Eliminate caffeine-containing foods and beverages as much as possible.
Replace sweets with different varieties of fruit.
Drink plenty of water — 6-8 glasses per day.