Did you know that officially, 3 million people in the UK (1 in 20) are depressed? And 3 times more women suffer than men. These people take 20 million antidepressants every week, take 80 million days off work each year because of it, and cost the country between £3 and £5 billion. Ireland’s statistics are probably very similar to the UK’s. Depression isn’t a disease that some people have and some people haven’t got. We are all somewhere along a sliding scale that ranges from generally happy to completely depressed.
Some people find that by making few small changes to their diet their moods can dramatically improve. What better time to make a few small changes than over Lent. Cutting out sugar for 40 days may make a huge difference to how you see both the world and you in it.
Inadequate nutrition can affect your mood in many ways: Bloods sugar imbalances Surviving on a stimulant roller coaster of caffeine, chocolate, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes and fizzy drinks makes you feel great and full of energy for a short time. That is, until the sugar released from these foods is removed from the blood and you fall into an energy or mood ‘slump’, by which time you need more of these foods to pick you up again. Avoiding these foods as much as possible will be initially very hard, but ultimately very rewarding as you suddenly have the energy for the whole day and not just from coffee time to lunchtime. Eating lots of vegetables, brown bread, porridge, nuts, seeds, brown rice and some meat, eggs, fish and cheese will help you have sustained energy and a stable mind for the whole day. Nutrient deficiencies
Many nutrients involved in good happy brain chemistry are depleted in lots of the foods that the majority of the population eat. Vitamins such as B3, B6, B12, C and folic acid and minerals such as zinc and magnesium as well as the inevitable essential fatty acids are crucial to keep you in good happy working order. Make sure to eat foods as fresh and as organic as possible. Once a vegetable is picked from the garden it starts to lose nutrients immediately. The sooner you eat them from the time of harvesting the more nutritious they are. Don’t overcook your vegetables. If you do, the only thing nutritious then will be the water they were cooked in. Be sure to eat a varied diet. Many nutrients are in some foods and not in others.
You need to have a little of all the nutrients to work best. (Eating Weetabix for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner is not a varied diet! This is a ‘wheat’ diet!) Deficiency of tryptophan and tyrosine Proteins are made up of amino acids. Two amino acids that are involved in happy brain chemistry are tryptophan and tyrosine. Tryptophan gets converted into serotonin, which influences your mood. Tyrosine gets converted in your body into adrenalin and noradrenalin, which influences your motivation. Tyrosine can be found in chicken, turkey, pork, beef, fish, beans, dairy, cheese, oats, corn, potatoes, spinach, nuts and seeds. Please see last weeks article for tryptophan sources. Allergies and Sensitivities ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison’.
Some days you feel good, some you don’t. Some foods suit you, some don’t. Often it may be connected to what you eat but the riddle isn’t always easy to decipher. Allergies can affect any system of the body and can cause a whole range of different symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, agitation, aggression, nervousness, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, learning disabilities…and more. Two of the most common food allergies associated with depression are sugar and wheat (pasta, cakes, biscuits, muesli, bran flakes, sandwiches, pancakes, wraps, bread).
Why not cut these foods out entirely for 4-5 days and see if your spirits are lifted. Make sure to check labels carefully as these 2 foods find their way into a lot of products! Other possible common allergens are dairy, eggs, oranges, peanuts and chocolate.
Often the more you crave the food the more intolerant you are to it. If you cut out a problem food, the first change people often notice is a change in their mood – for the better. It may be worth giving it a go – if only to give you a bit of get up and go!