Can Diet Diminish Depression? Helping Your Body Help Your Mind
You know the story, an apple a day’s supposed to keep the doctor away. But can a healthy diet also help keep depression at bay, too? Some researchers see a connection.
And that’s important, because sometimes depression’s treated as though it’s “all in your head.”
As it turns out, it may well be in your body, too.
And, if that’s the case for you, then it’s worth investigating. So let’s take a quick look…
The reason this is on my mind at the moment is because a health condition I manage myself has been flaring up a bit lately. It’s brought more pain, more fatigue and more challenge with a sense of sadness and depression that comes along with all the rest of it. And there are many illness processes which specifically list depression and/or anxiety as a symptom like this (not to mention that living with just about any illness over time might be enough to get you down sometimes).
So I’ve really been reminded that our physical and emotional selves are linked.
And although psychological therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and others, can be crucial in helping break a depressive thought cycle, sometimes there may also be a physical connection, too. It’s worth looking into both areas.
So, if you’re living with depression, it may well be worth going to see your doctor for a general – and thorough – health check-up. To see if your body might be implicated in all of this somehow, too. So that, if it is, you can help your body to help you on the road to recovery.
But this mind-body connection isn’t only there in illness. Because your body’s always a part of you, in sickness and in health (which probably comes as no surprise).
Your body literally, physically wraps itself around your thought processes; it creates the very channels your neural pathways fire along; it concocts the soup of chemicals your brain is bathed in.
It’s intimately implicated in how you sense and make sense of your world.
And though the body’s an astoundingly resilient creature, it still only has the ingredients you give it to work with.
So, if you’re tempted by habit or “convenience” or the constant low-level advertising pressure to eat lots of stodge or sugar or both, then that’s what your body has to build you out of. And if there are any vital nutrients missing from that diet, then it’ll just make do as well as it can.
So what kind of building blocks have you been giving it lately?
Some mental health researchers think all of this matters – a lot. Some feel that the quality of food you eat could be linked to the mental health problems you might face in the years ahead. Others point to common deficiencies in our current western diet, like Omega-3s (which are “related to a number of biological processes that have been found to be associated with depression“). And some highlight the dietary substances you can avoid to potentially ease depression and/or its symptoms, including:
- avoiding a lot of alcohol
- avoiding caffeine
- avoiding excess sugar.
All of this can seem like a lot to digest at first glance. But it can be worth the effort if you’re living with depression.
And maybe it doesn’t have to be too hard, either. Maybe it’s as simple as getting a physical check-up and then, in consultation with your medical practitioner, making a couple of healthy adjustments to what you eat over time. Simply looking after your body to help it look after your mind.
*Please note: this blog post in no way attempts to give medical or dietary advice. Always consult your personal medical practitioner/s for specifics on how to best manage your physical and mental health.
Photo and text copyright: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Can Diet Diminish Depression? Helping Your Body Help Your Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 4, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapist-within/2011/10/diet-help-deal-with-depression-therapy-health-natural/