How Diet Affects Your Mental Health
Your heart is always beating; it never gets a break. You know another organ that never rests? Your brain. Not only does the brain tell the heart to beat every beat, it tells the lungs when to take every breath. Thank goodness most of what the brain does is out of our consciousness! On top of controlling everything in our bodies that we don’t have to think about, it takes care of everything we do think about. It’s enough to make us crazy sometimes! The brain uses about 20% of your daily calories and since it controls everything in our bodies it needs the best care we can give it.
What is depression?
Depression is a serious, and surprisingly common, medical condition that negatively affects how you act, feel, and think. It brings about continued feelings of sadness and apathy as well as a loss of interest in activities. If left untreated, the physical and emotional problems that develop adversely affect the sufferers’ daily functions, relationships, and routines.
People who are depressed have higher levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein. Inflammatory illnesses, even asthma and allergies, are also known to be associated with greater risk of major depression. While depression can be caused by a stressful event, depression is also hereditary meaning it has a genetic component. Major stressful events and genetics we can treat with counseling and medication but depression is also affected by inflammation which can be reduced by feeding our brain the best nutrients we can give it so it can do its best work.
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The best diet for depression
In a study of the diets of 43,000 women over 12 years it was found that those who ate an inflammatory diet (more meat, soda pop, and refined grains) became depressed suggesting that there is a link between chronic inflammation and depression.
Test how inflammation is affecting your mood by eating ‘clean’ for two weeks. That means no processed foods or junk foods, including sugar and oil. Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Include some fermented foods like kombucha or pickles. See how you feel after two weeks and then start adding back in some of your favourites to see how you feel. Some people notice that dairy foods trigger inflammation and depression, others find they feel worse after certain grains, alcohol, or something else entirely.
Improving your diet is only a part of taking care of your mental health. Do not abandon any current medication you have been prescribed to treat depression without first discussing it with your physician. Your heart will thank you.
Dr. James Kneller treats atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions. He is an internationally recognized authority on cardiovascular health and personal development.