FOOD AND MOOD


While many people are aware of the link between stress and mood, did you know what you eat also has a direct impact on mental wellbeing?

  • Nutritional psychiatry is the study of the role of nutrition in mental health, and is becoming increasingly recognised as an essential part of mental health


  • Serotonin is known as the happy hormone' and higher levels are associated with improved mood and lower anxiety Traditional medication (SSRIs) work by blocking the re-uptake of serotonin, thereby increasing levels in the brain.While they can definitely be lifesaving for some people, there is huge concern that they are being overprescribed, and like any medication they have risks and benefits


  • Since 95% of your serotonin is made in your gut, it makes so much sense that improving gut health via diet, can improve mood


  • Multiple large population studies have shown significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety in people who eat a whole food mostly plant based Mediterranean style diet (between 35-50% reduction in rates) (1)


  • The SMILES trial was a groundbreaking RCT trial done in Melbourne, which randomized people with severe depression to either standard treatment (psychological support), or dietary changes for 12 weeks (2) 32% of people in the diet group had resolution of their symptoms, compared to 8% in the control group This is a similar improvement rate to what is commonly seen with medication (6) They also did a cost analysis and found that the diet followed in the treatment group actually SAVED people money compared to their previous Western style diet (approx $26 aud/week) The more people followed the dietary advice, the more their symptoms improved The dietary interventions also saved the health system an average of over $800 per person, and had a societal saving of over $2000 pp (3)


  • While it can feel overwhelming to make changes if your mood is low, sometimes just changing one thing at a time for a fixed point of time can help Ie rather than overhauling your whole diet, just try start cutting out added sugar for 2 weeks and eating an extra serving of two of fruit and veges each day As you start to feel better, changes feel more achievable, and you can slowly alter your diet more and more More info on the trials and the diet used in the link below (it's basically a modified whole food Mediterranean style diet) (4)


  • Please note - if you are experiencing severe mental distress, are suicidal, or do not feel safe then please do NOT delay seeing your doctor. Sometimes both conventional treatment and lifestyle therapies are needed, and there is nothing wrong with combining both I also do not advise stopping antidepressant medication you are already on, without talking to your doctor. They can advise whether this is safe to do, and give advice on how to wean off The aim is always to help people feel better and improve their health, and for some people this includes medication, either short or long term


  • I always suggest getting baseline blood tests to check iron, thyroid function, and folate levels as well, as these deficiencies can cause mental health issues. Vitamin d and zinc can also be useful to check, but are not funded, so please discuss with your doctor the need for these There is some evidence that omega 3 and b vitamin supplements can help, they are safe and affordable to trial if you wanted to (5)

(1)https://www.health.harvard.edu/.../diet-and-depression...

https://www.health.harvard.edu/.../nutritional-psychiatry...

(2)https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/.../s12916-017-0791-y

(3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5963026/

(4)https://foodandmoodcentre.com.au/smiles-trial/

(5)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hup.2246

(6)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/

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