If you’ve been feeling flat, you may be pleased to hear that certain foods and nutrients can help to lift your mood and calm your spirits. Depression and anxiety are extremely common conditions that nearly everyone experiences to some degree in their life.

Depression is an illness where symptoms such as sadness, sleep problems, a sense of purposelessness, loss of motivation, loss of interest in pleasurable activities and appetite changes significantly impact on day to day life.

Many different factors increase your risk for depression, including family or personal history of depression, stress, trauma, a lack of social support, nutrient deficiencies, chronic illness and drug or alcohol abuse. You may not realise that dietary factors have a significant bearing on whether you become depressed, and how severe the depression becomes.

One thing is certain; junk food diets promote and worsen depression. Junk food raises the risk of all sorts of health problems, and your brain is really just another part of your body. Researchers in Britain analysed depression and diet in more than 3,000 middle aged office workers for five years. They discovered that people who ate a junk food diet that was high in sweet desserts, heavily processed cereals, fried food, processed meat, candy and chocolates were more likely to report symptoms of depression.

On the other hand, people who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish were less likely to report suffering depression. These confirm other research findings that healthy diets help reduce the risk of conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Junk food is nutrient depleted, and this raises the risk of depression, but depressed people are less likely to eat healthy food, so it can become a vicious cycle.

How to help your brain with protein

Protein refers to large molecules made up of chains of amino acids. Therefore amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Good sources of protein include eggs, poultry, seafood, red meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds and whey protein powder like Synd-X Slimming Protein powder. Legumes and grains do contain some protein; however they contain far more carbohydrate.

Eating protein regularly is very important for good blood sugar control. If you eat some protein for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it should help to reduce your risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Low blood sugar can cause mood swings and it predisposes you to anxiety or depression. Eating sugar can promote large swings in your blood sugar level, and this is one reason that junk food is linked with depression. If unstable blood sugar is a problem for you, you would also benefit from Glicemic Balance capsules.

Your brain is very reliant on several amino acids in order to manufacture neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are commonly referred to as brain hormones because they enable communication between different regions of the brain, and they significantly impact your mood, emotions and cognitive functions.

Tryptophan is an amino acid needed for the production of serotonin. You have probably heard serotonin referred to as the happy hormone. Serotonin is a compound in the brain that promotes feelings of relaxation, happiness, security and confidence.

A serotonin deficiency can result in depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety and a tendency to overeat, especially carbohydrates like sugar. Feeling stressed can deplete your brain of serotonin, and levels decline as we age. Eggs, salmon, turkey, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are all good sources of tryptophan.

An important amino acid for the brain is tyrosine. Tyrosine is required for the manufacture of the brain chemicals dopamine and noradrenaline (norepinephrine).  These neurotransmitters are required for concentration, alertness, memory and a happy, stable mood. They may also help you to handle stress more easily and feel less overwhelmed by problems and hassles.

Tyrosine is also required for the manufacture of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones help to control your metabolic rate, but they also play a critical role in mood. Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid gland) is a common cause of depression. What you may not know is that even a slightly under functioning thyroid gland can flatten your mood, reduce your motivation and your ability to concentrate. Tyrosine is found in fish, turkey, chicken, avocados, almonds and a few other foods. Some people require larger amounts of this amino acid, particularly if they are experiencing significant stress. In those cases, a supplement can help significantly.

Researchers have known for some time that people with intestinal problems are more prone to suffering a mood disorder. Your intestines contain almost as many nerves as your brain. This is why the gut is often referred to as “the second brain”. Consuming adequate protein is very important for brain health, but you must be absorbing the protein well too.

Food intolerance, leaky gut syndrome, digestive enzyme deficiencies and overgrowth of bad microbes can all negatively impact mood and emotions. Restoring gut health needs to be individualized for each patient, however, removing food sensitivities and healing the gut lining is of critical importance. Gluten, wheat, dairy products, corn, soy, nuts and eggs are the most common offenders. You may want to try eliminating these foods from your diet for a month to see what effect that has on you, or you may want to be guided by a healthcare practitioner. Glutamine is wonderfully healing to the gut lining and helps repair leaky gut. Glutamine can also help to reduce sugar cravings.

The health of your brain is profoundly affected by the quality of your diet and your overall state of health. If you are suffering from a mood disorder, looking at your diet is a great place to start. For more information, see Dr Cabot’s book ‘Help for Depression & Anxiety’.

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Akbaraly TN, et al. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2009;195:408.

Jacka FN, et al. The association between habitual diet quality and the common mental disorders in community-dwelling adults: The Hordaland Health Study. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2011;73:483.
Crawford GB, et al. Depressive symptoms and self-reported fast-food intake in midlife women. Preventive Medicine. 2011;52:254.