What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel but when we feel utterly awful, our pain fervent too, preparing and even eating the right foods can bring its own challenges. The Herculean effort it takes to push yourself through the pain of cooking, only to then lessen the enjoyment of eating that food as you are so flared-up from preparing it, can mean eating far less healthily than would help both how we feel and our symptoms too.
Improve Your Mood with Food
It’s hard to help yourself when you are depressed. Depression by its nature makes it impossible to do they very things that would help lessen or even lift that depression. Combined with chronic pain, it becomes even more challenging.
Yet even making a few small changes to your diet can have measurable effects on your moods. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, ensuring you drink plenty of water. I’ll go deeper in a post of its own on you can eat well in spite of pain and limitations, for now though follow these tips to optimise your body’s natural ability to improve your mood and lessen depression by increasing your body’s own natural anti-depressants.
Nutritional Reasons that May Be Making Depression Worse
Deficiencies in certain nutrients, particularly are clearly associated with depression. A deficiency in most of the B vitamins is linked to some sort of decline in mental or emotional state: depression, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, apathy, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, sleep disturbances or loss of appetite. Vitamins B3, B6, C, biotin, zinc and folic acid are also all needed for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin to take place.
- Blood sugar imbalances – Eat small regular meals of natural, unprocessed foods, including protein and fibre at each one, never going for more than four hours without food by eating healthy snacks such as seeds and fruit. Also avoid excessive sugar and stimulants.
- Deficiencies of nutrients – Make sure you consume enough vitamin B3, B6, folate, B12, C, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- Deficiencies of tryptophan – Found in bananas, cottage cheese, turkey, fish, avocados and wheatgerm.
- Deficiencies of tyrosine – Found in almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy, eggs, fish, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and soya.
- Excessive dieting – Diets don’t work psychologically or physically; the low levels of fat cause depression and alter brain chemistry, while the weight-loss is temporary. Replace dieting with a balanced, healthy eating plan instead.
- Dehydration – If you’re not drinking enough water, your body cannot transport nutrients as efficiently. Try to drink at least 1½ litres a day.
Follow these tips to increase your body’s natural anti-depressants:
- Don’t skip meals – Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, causing a drop in blood sugar and depletion so aim to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
- Minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates – You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as crisps, pasta or chips but these foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. It is much healthier and far finer for your mood to always include a little protein with each meal, even if it’s just by adding a few nuts. Adding protein slows down the glycemic index and thus the release of sugars, leaving you fuller for longer, and less likely to feel a dip in your mood.
- Eat tryptophan-rich foods – Ensure your diet is full of the mood-boosting tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin. To increase your levels of tryptophan, and thus serotonin, you should try to include some tryptophan-rich foods in your daily diet. Other tryptophan-rich foods include: Milk, tofu, salmon, spirulina, miso and broccoli.
- Eat Yogurt or take a probiotic – As a third of the body’s serotonin is actually in the gut, adding yogurt to your regular diet for the gut-friendly bacteria has a positive effect on your body’s natural ability to regulate your mood.
- Focus on complex carbohydrates – Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal and whole grain breads can boost serotonin levels without a crash.
- Ensure you eat unrefined carbohydrate-rich foods with every meal – Also make sure that you have some unrefined, wholesome, carbohydrate-rich foods (such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, quinoa, bulger wheat etc.) with every meal. This is because eating high carb foods causes the pancreas to release insulin into the blood, which then clears away the other amino acids (protein building blocks) that compete with tryptophan. Amino acids, like tryptophan, are very competitive so its always best to eat good carbs with each tryptophan-rich meal for your body to absorb enough of this mood-altering amino acid.
- Boost your B vitamins – Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger and worsen depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.
- Get your good fats – Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed, always opt for pole-caught fish as this is the least damaging to marine populations.
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