Can your diet cause depression?

Apr 8, 2021 | Holistic Nutrition | 0 comments

St. John Wort

Depression is a whole body dis-ease that affects your emotional mood, thoughts, sleep patterns, and diet. Moreover, major depression’s impact on the overall health and wellness is second only to that of heart disease. Emotional mood changes due to depression:

  • Do you feel low and sad with no explainable cause?
  • Do you find it hard to enjoy activities that you once took great pleasure in?
  • Do you feel irritable and tend to lose control of your temper?
  • Do you feel hopelessness and helplessness?
  • Is it hard to motivate yourself to get up and do?

Changes in thinking pattern due to depression:

  • Do you have a hard time focusing?
  • Do you have short term memory problems?
  • Do you feel stuck in a negative cyclic thinking pattern?
  • Do you feel shame, guilt, and low self esteem?

Changes in behaviour due to depression:

  • Do you prefer to withdraw and avoid other people’s company?
  • Do you lose control of  your temper easily ?
  • Is your libido diminished?
  • Do you experience a dramatic change in your appetite, either eating more or less?
  • Do you experience a dramatic change in your sleeping pattern, either having hard time falling and staying asleep or sleeping most of the day?
  • Do you feel constant fatigue?

Did you answer with yes to many of these questions? Do you recognize yourself as a person that lives with depression? There is a steep rise in the number of people who live with depression in America (even before the onset of COVID 19). Research done by Blue Cross Blue Shield found a rise 0f 33% in diagnosis of major depression in America between 2013 to 2016. This alarming rise in people that are diagnosed with major depression becomes more dramatic if you consider the number of people who fall under the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV but still suffer from symptoms of mild depression. So we are looking at much higher rates.  At the same time, the obesity rate in the USA rose from 30.5% in 1999 to 42.4% in 2018.  While the root causes of depression are numerous, herbalist David Winston counts 12 types of depression, healthy digestion and nutrient dense diet are a no brainer when it comes to preventing and treating mood disorders.  Researchers found three ways through which your diet might cause or prevent depressive disorder:

  1. Nutrient deficiencies. A cross sectional research that was done in Australia found that women that ate a traditional Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fruits, lamb, fish and whole grain) had 35% less likelihood to experience depression than women who ate Western  diet (more fried, refined, and processed foods)
  2. Microbiome imbalances. Healthy, diverse gut ecology has two types of affect on your mood. 
    • First, your gut bacteria produce about 10% of the serotonin in your body. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.
    • Second, healthy gut ecology promotes the production of T regulatory cells. These cells inhibit inflammation in the body. Research shows that in developing countries where the exposure to microbes is increased infectious diseases are more prevalent. But the acute inflammation resolves fast. In modern countries where absence of microbial diversity and numbers in the gut are more common, people tend to live with chronic low grade inflammation that is linked to depression.
  3. Disruption to dopamine cycle through sugar consumption. People with mild depression were found to consume more sucrose compared to the general population.

In fact research shows that eliminating sugar and caffeine from one’s diet has resulted in improvement in unexplained depression symptoms within 1 week.    The western diet is pro inflammatory and disruptive for both the ecology of the digestive tract and dopamine balance in the brain. Eating a nutrient dense diet might help you prevent depression or support you on your journey toward health. St John’s Wort is one of the herbs that comes to mind when it comes to depression due to GI tract conditions.  The Bee Well Inner Circle is going to dedicate the next month to understanding the mechanisms through which food might cause depression and design the appropriate dietary recommendations for prevention. 


Blue cross Blue Shields, major-depression-the-impact-overall-health

Christensen  L,  Somers  S.  Comparison  of  nutrient  intake  among  depressed    and    nondepressed    individuals.    Int    J    Eat    Disord. 1996;20:105–109

Gilliland K, Bullock W. Caffeine: a potential drug of abuse. Adv Alcohol Subst Abuse. 1983;3:53–73

Graham A. W. Rook, Charles L. Raison, and C. A. Lowry Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health [2012] pp. 14–17doi:10.1093/emph/eos005Childhood microbialexperience,immunoregulation,inflammation and adultsusceptibility topsychosocial stressors anddepression in rich andpoor countries

Jacka FN, Pasco JA, Mykletun A, et al. Association of Western and tra-ditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. Am J Psychiatry. 2010;167:305–311.

Schneider, Craig MD,. Lovett ,Erica, MD. Depression. Chapter 4 in Rakel, David, MD Integrative Medicine. 

This document is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. I am not providing medical, psychological, or nutrition therapy advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your own medical practitioner. Always seek the advice of your own medical practitioner and/or mental health provider about your specific health situation.

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