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Do diets help alleviate symptoms of depression?

Do diets help alleviate symptoms of depression?

Depression affects millions of people worldwide, making life difficult for them. Therapy and medication may be effective for depression in some people but not in others. If it is not, what can be done? Can dieting help when other approaches fail? Stay with Haelthy to know more

Effect of diet on mood

According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 3.8% of the population affected, including 5.0% among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60 years. It means approximately 280 million people in the world are suffering from depression. Defining depression correctly is important since it differs from mood fluctuations and short-term emotional responses to everyday challenges. An inability to cope with depression is a serious health problem, especially if it is recurrent or severe. In addition to causing great personal suffering, depression can affect an individual’s work, school, and family life negatively.

In short, depression paralyzes one’s life and, unfortunately, at worst, can lead to suicide. Death by suicide ranks fourth among 15-29 year-olds. Well, now that we understand the importance of the topic, it’s time to see how diet can help in fighting depression. It goes without saying that peoples’ lifestyles can change significantly when they go on a special diet, and furthermore, a conscious or unconscious attitudinal shift can be seen.

The impact of a diet on mood is direct, especially with nutrient-rich foods, reducing mood swings and an improved ability to focus. The amount and quality of the food one eats, not to mention eating times, in addition to increasing or decreasing metabolism, affect mental health and nerve cell function. Let’s now take a look at how to go about making the right changes in our diet; that is by eating healthy food, which in turn helps in the prevention of diseases.

Diet may play a crucial role, but how?

Several studies have been carried out suggesting that choosing a healthier diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains may help alleviate symptoms of depression.

In April 2022, researchers of the University of Technology in Sydney found that switching to a Mediterranean diet improved symptoms of depression in men aged 18–25. Nevertheless, the mechanism by which diet quality affects mental health remains unclear.

Another study published in Nature Communications in December 2022 investigated the link between gut microbiota and depression symptoms. Depression symptoms appear to be linked to 13 types of bacteria in particular, according to one of the studies. Researchers hypothesize that the gut’s bacterial makeup may be linked to depression symptoms because these bacteria activate different brain signals.

This is exactly where diet comes into play. Based on this assumption, by making specific dietary changes, we may be able to influence the abundance of certain bacterial species in the gut and, by extension, the communication between the stomach and the brain, improving depression symptoms.

As a result, consuming lots of fiber, whole grains, and fruits keeps your gut microbiota happy, especially those producing short-chain fatty acids and butyrate, which maintains intestinal epithelial integrity. Dietary changes can alter your gut microbiome, according to some researchers, and gut bacteria also respond to diet. Some bacteria synthesize certain substances, so having too much or not enough of them can also disrupt the balance  in our bodies. There is a condition known as Dysbiosis, which can negatively affect physical and mental health; beneficial bacteria are usually minimized, whereas other harmful bacteria increase in number.


To fight depression, improve your diet

It is important to emphasize that this research and other similar research acknowledge depression as a complex condition with a variety of causes, but suggest dietary interventions can facilitate  mental health improvement effectively. In addition, healthy eating is free from side effects, unlike many antidepressant medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). further research has shown that magnesium supplementation may help reduce the symptoms of depression, and antioxidants may fight against oxidative stress that may play a role in depression. Overall, based on the research we have mentioned, the following are recommended :

The first step, naturally is to avoid unhealthy foods and drinks containing added sugars, which have repeatedly been found to be a health risk factor.

  • The second step is to take measures to improve the bacterial diversity in the gut, by adding prebiotic foods, such as yogurt and leafy greens, to your daily routine.
  • And as a third step, increase your intake of foods containing Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as oily fish; anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad and tuna,  canola and soybean oils, which have an anti-inflammatory effect and they may help relieve the symptoms of depression.

Diet and lifestyle are equally important

Due to the increase in the prevalence of depression, the question is : Is it possible for diets and dieting  to succeed where other methods have failed, and if so, how? The phrase, ‘ you are what you eat’  stresses the importance of eating good food in order to be healthy and fit. It is very likely that we may turn to more unhealthy food when we’re in low spirits or even depressed.

So, what came first, the diet or the depression? Thankfully, researchers have addressed this question. In a study, researchers found that a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet for example) significantly reduced the risk of  depression. It stands to reason that eating well will aid in weight loss, improved mental health, and a more positive outlook on life in general. Consult a medical professional if you’re having trouble.

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