Thursday 4 April 2024

Food for thought

food and depression

I have recently dealt with the worst period of my life. And whilst it's a long way from over; it has caused me to consider where I am in regards to my depression.

Somehow I found the energy to continue: a clear enough mind to deal with problems, and a positive inner voice when I needed it. 

There were many days that I didn't have the above. But I was never so down that I couldn't turn things around after a little time had passed.

A very good support network was essential to this. But was there something else involved? 

I tried to remember when I first noticed an improvement. It was around this post.

When I read a few posts before this one I can appreciate there may have been changes happening for a while leading up to it.

The most obvious change was my dialogue with people around me.

As I thought about it I realised that there could have been something else - my diet.

I became a vegan in the middle of 2021; don't click away. Hear me out.

I changed my lifestyle primarily because of the harm done to animals by providing the products used in our society. Then because of the affect the industry has on the environment. As I read more I came to realise the detrimental impact they could have on me.

While there is no single magic bullet food that can cure depression, a healthy diet can be an important part of an overall treatment plan.

Foods that may help with depression:

  • Fruits and vegetables: These are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that are essential for brain health.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains help to regulate blood sugar levels, which can improve mood.
  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, and avocados, are important for brain function. Fish can contain saturated fat plus toxins absorbed from the smaller fish they eat. The industry isn't sustainable and is a big polluter.
  • Protein helps to produce neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that carry messages in the brain.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial for gut health. Some studies have shown that probiotics may also improve mood. Rather than drinking these I'd suggest you eat fermented foods. A plant based high in fibre will also aid this. Some examples are:  
  1. Sauerkraut: This fermented cabbage is a good source of probiotics, but choose unpasteurized varieties to ensure that the live bacteria are still present.  
  2. Miso: A fermented soybean paste that is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Miso is a good source of probiotics and also contains prebiotics, which are fibers that help to feed the good bacteria in your gut.  
  3. Tempeh: A fermented soybean cake that is a good source of plant-based protein and probiotics. 
  4. Kimchi: A fermented Korean dish made from vegetables, typically napa cabbage and radish. Kimchi is a good source of probiotics and vitamin C.  
  5. Kombucha: A fermented tea drink that is becoming increasingly popular. Kombucha is a good source of probiotics and may also offer other health benefits, such as improved digestion and boosted immunity.

Foods that may worsen depression:

  • Ultra processed foods: often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates. They can lead to inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression. I've cut these out of my diet. 
  • Sugary drinks: Sugary drinks can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, which can lead to mood swings and irritability. This includes fruit juices, touted as healthy; they aren't.
  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine can increase anxiety and make it difficult to sleep, which can worsen depression symptoms. I do drink coffee, but no more than three cups and rarely after midday.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant that can worsen symptoms of depression. This was easy for me.  When out with friends it's just water. I haven't missed it. When I have drunk a beer, it reaffirms my choice. What is the point of booze?

This isn't about me saying you should become vegan. But I would ask that you look beyond the media headlines. Investigate what I have written, and make up your own mind.

The benefits, as I understand them, are many and affect not just animals, but the planet we live on as well as personal health.

I know this is largely anecdotal, and is to an extent how I perceive the effects. And it has taken some adjustment but I think it's been worth it.