Food for the Brain

About Depression

approximately 1 in 4 people in the United Kingdom will experience a mental health trouble each class. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a coarse mental health trouble ( such as depression ) in any given week. Depression is rated by the World Health Organisation as the leading induce of disease burden amongst high income countries. Of course, mood can fluctuate and an person ’ randomness feel of their temper is unique and dependent on a variety of factors, including external factors ( like the site they are in or have been in ) and inner factors such as physiological processes like fluctuations in hormones, neurotransmitters and food handiness. It is consequently clear that there is no unmarried mechanism that can account for all the clinical variations in depression demonstration .
recent research has focused on modifiable factors to support overall brain health and mood, adenine well as ‘ risk factors ’ involved in the development of depression. ‘ Nutritional psychiatry ’ is an emerging area of research, which seeks to establish the character of nutrition in mental health conditions, and how specific nutrients may be applicable and supportive .

Symptoms of Depression 

It is normal to have changes in climate, particularly in reaction to emotionally challenging events in our lives. Depression however, is typically characterised by feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration, loss of energy, fatigue, thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death, passing or increase of appetite and weight, a disturbed sleep blueprint, slowing down ( both physically and mentally ), or agitation ( restlessness or anxiety ). Symptoms can range in badness, but to be considered a clinical depression, these symptoms must occur most of the time for at least two weeks .

What Causes Depression?

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of depression. There might be biochemical or psychological issues that predispose an individual to depression. There might be a trigger such as a nerve-racking event, major trauma, a mourning, loss of a job, or break up of a relationship. If you are experiencing low temper you should see your repair, who can rule out checkup causes and discuss the best ways to support you .

Integrative Support for Depression

It is crucial to consider nutrition with regards to depression, with regards to substantive build blocks – macronutrients ( carbohydrates, proteins and fats ) and micronutrients ( e.g vitamins and minerals ) that the body requires to make neurotransmitters and hormones responsible for a balance mood. exercise is besides identical important because regular drill can exert a positive effect on climate, specially if it is done outdoors in a green environment. tied a mindful walk in the parking lot or a amble by the river is thought to be beneficial .
It can be unmanageable to find the motivation, appetite or energy to eat when you feel gloomy. Depression and loneliness have been identified as key hazard factors for malnutrition, particularly amongst aged populations. furthermore, depressive symptoms are besides associated with making unhealthy food choices such as food high in sugars and decreased assortment and choice in the diet. One analyze found that poor nutritional choices, reduced daily function and emotional changes all exacerbate each early, and can therefore become a evil motorbike ( 1 ). Receiving subscribe from a doctor, and other healthcare professional, adenine well as a qualify psychologist, therapist and nutrition master, may be supportive and helpful .
Foods and Nutrients

Increase Essential Fats

Omega 3 fatso acids are essential fatso acids that the body needs for brain affair and cell growth, because unlike some other substances, they can not be manufactured within the human body. Therefore it is essential that they are taken through the diet. The richest dietary beginning of omega-3 fatty acid fats are from greasy fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, herring, and trout. There are two samara types of omega-3 fatty acid fats, eicosapentaenoic acerb ( EPA ) and docosahexaenoic acid ( DHA ). EPA and DHA can besides be taken in auxiliary kind. Research has shown that the more fish the population of a area eats, the lower their incidence of low ( 2 ) ( 3 ) ( 4 ) .
many studies have found a beneficial consequence of increased intake of PUFAs ( peculiarly EPA ) on symptoms of depressive disorder. A holocene report found that omega-3 fatty acid PUFA supplement showed beneficial effects in people with very austere depressive symptoms ( 5 ) A meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials looking at omega-3 fatty acid PUFA inhalation in participants with depression and depressive symptoms demonstrated significant clinical improvements in temper following supplementation with EPA and DHA ( 6 ) .
More holocene research into depressive disorder has indicated that there are alterations in the immune system with proinflammatory chemicals in both the plasma and cerebrospinal fluent in the soundbox influencing the progression and asperity of depressive disorders. There is compelling tell that omega-3 fatty acid PUFAs, in particular EPA, suppress proinflammatory and promote anti-inflammatory pathways in the body ( 7 )
Vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acid :
Seaweed and algae are authoritative sources of omega-3 fatty acid for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as they are one of the few plant groups that contain DHA and EPA. Chlorella and spirulina can be added to smoothies or mix with water. Nori is a type of seaweed found in sushi .
Seeds contain a type of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatso acid called alpha linoleic acidic ( ALA ). Flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds are bang-up sources of ALA and can be ground and sprinkled into porridge or in soups and smoothies. The body is able to convert ALA into EPA and DHA, however it should be noted that this conversion process is not always efficient .
key Actions :
Eat newly buttery pisces at least 2-3 times per week. The best sources are mackerel, seabass, oysters, herring/kipper, sardines, anchovies, salmon and trout. Supplementing with a high potency, ethical and sustainably sourced fish vegetable oil can besides be beneficial, but always consult a doctor before starting a new accessory regimen. vegetarian and vegan supplements containing plant nautical alga can besides provide EPA and DHA .
side effects
very occasionally, when starting omega-3 fatty acid fish petroleum supplementation, some people may experience slightly loose bowels or a fish aftertaste in the mouth after taking the supplement .

Increase intake of B vitamins

There are eight unlike B Vitamins, which play a vital function in many processes in the body, including supporting enzymes to do their jobs, breaking down amino acids, transporting oxygen and nutrients around the body and releasing energy from carbohydrates .
People with either low blood levels of the B-vitamin vitamin bc, or high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine ( a polarity of inadequate B6, B12 or folic acid consumption and / or assimilation ) have been found to be more likely to experience depleted mood and depression ( 8 ). Furthermore, individuals who are B12 deficient ( at risk groups include aged, those on low-quality vegan diets, or those on medications to reduce stomach acerb called Proton-Pump Inhibitors ( PPIS ) like omeprazole or lansoprazole. Taking folic acid on its own can mask the symptoms of B12 lack, but the implicit in heart damage caused by B12 lack anemia can persist .
Consuming the full moon compass of B vitamins is important for clearance of homocysteine ( 9 ) .
B vitamins besides act as helpers in the geological formation of neurotransmitters related to the regulation of mood, including dopamine and serotonin .
Deficiencies in one or a number of B vitamins is a gamble factor for low mood. B vitamin supplement may offer an alternative or extra treatment to standard care aimed at optimising temper via intonation of the neurotransmitter function and improving homocysteine levels. Low vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels and increased homocysteine levels have besides been found to play a function in the development of depression in children and adolescents ( 10 ) .
A taxonomic follow-up and meta-analysis ( 11 ) was undertaken to examine and quantify the effects of B vitamin supplement on temper in both goodly and ‘ at-risk ’ of depression populations ( those who had alimentary deficiencies or reporting depleted temper ). Participants in the studies were supplemented with a complete B vitamin supplement every day for at least four weeks. Eleven of the 18 studies reported a incontrovertible consequence for B vitamins over a placebo for overall temper or a facet of climate. Of the eight studies in ‘ at-risk ’ cohorts, five found a significant benefit to mood .

Food Sources of B Vitamins

Some good sources of B Vitamins are :

  • Whole grains 
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs and dairy products 
  • Legumes
  • ​Seeds and nuts 
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Supplementing with a good quality multivitamin containing B vitamins can besides be helpful. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any new supplements .
side effects
It is authoritative to take folic acid in addition to B12, as the nutrients work synergistically together and taking folic acidic on its own can mask lack of Vitamin B12. sublingual forms ( placed under the tongue to dissolve into the bloodstream ) are better captive, particularly in the aged .

Key Action:

Check your homocysteine: your homocysteine level is an index of your B vitamin needs. You can test your homocysteine levels ( please contact us at information @ for a list of partners who provide homocysteine testing ). B Vitamin supplement may help to reduce homocysteine levels, but this should be done under the supervision of your doctor of the church and a qualify register nutriment practitioner or dietician .
Eat B vitamin rich whole foods: whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Folic acid is peculiarly fat in park vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, while B12 is merely found in animal foods – kernel, fish, eggs and dairy produce. A beneficial starting point is besides to supplement a multivitamin providing optimum levels of B vitamins or as specific B vitamin complex .

Amino Acids and Serotonin 

Amino acids are considered the building blocks of proteins. Nine of the 20 amino acids are essential – meaning the body can not make these and we must get them from our diet. These are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. We need tryptophan to make energy and the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin supports mood and melatonin helps us to sleep. In holy order to convert tryptophan to serotonin and melatonin we must besides have adequate amounts of other nutritional cofactors including vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc, cast-iron and vitamin bc.

If we are under a lot of stress, either psychologically or physically tryptophan can be converted to quinolinic acid rather of serotonin. Quinolinic acidic is a neurotoxin which has been found to correlate with increase depressive symptoms in some individuals. Studies have found a connect between lower levels of tryptophan ( and higher levels of quinolinic acidic ) in some groups of people with depression ( 12 ) .
Key Actions: 
Increase protein rich foods to increase amino acids
tryptophan can be found in many protein-rich foods such as kernel, poultry ( particularly joker ), fish, beans, eggs, lentils, nuts and seeds. Having a share ( e.g a handful ) of protein with each meal is important for giving the body what it needs to carry out many full of life functions in the soundbox. Protein powders can be a convenient and comfortable to take generator of amino acids. Look for protein powders that are free from artificial sweeteners. artificial sweeteners like aspartame are found in many diet drinks and sugar-free sweets. aspartame can block the geological formation of serotonin and cause headaches, poor people sleep and low climate .
In order for your body to get the most out of the tryptophan it gets it requires carbohydrates to help tryptophan get into the brain where it can be used. Eating a complex carbohydrate at the same time as protein can be helpful .
Balance Blood Sugar Levels 
There is a lead link between mood and lineage sugar balance wheel. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose and your mind runs on glucose. Sugar is made from sucralose which is glucose and fructose. Sugar breaks down very promptly in the torso and we can experience acute rises in the amount of glucose in the lineage. The more uneven your blood boodle supply the more odd your mood can be. With blood boodle ups and downs we can feel tired, cranky, have dizziness, insomnia, excessive perspiration ( specially at nox ), hapless concentration and forgetfulness, excessive hunger, low moods, digestive disturbances and blur vision .
Refined sugar and refined carbohydrates ( meaning ashen bread, pasta, rice, sweets and most refined foods ) are besides linked with low because eating lots of boodle besides depletes levels of B vitamins. several studies have found that a higher consumption of higher glycemic exponent ( GI ) foods ( higher refined sugar subject ) is associated with a higher risk of depression ( 13 ) .
Sugar besides diverts the provision of another alimentary involved in climate – chromium. This mineral is critical for keeping your lineage carbohydrate level stable because it is involved in the modulation of insulin, which clears glucose from the blood .
Key Actions:
Balance your plate
The best way to keep your lineage sugar flat more stable is to eat what is called a low Glycemic Load ( GL ) diet, which means avoiding refined boodle and refined carbohydrates, and rather following a deviate diet including greens leafy vegetables, solid grains, nuts, seeds, and berries. Including sources of protein, for example list meats, fish, wimp, nuts and seeds, and substantive fats, such as those found in greasy pisces, walnuts and avocados, with each meal may help to balance blood sugar, whilst keeping you feeling wide for longer .

Increase intake of chromium

chromium is full of life for keeping your blood sugar level stable because it is required for the functioning of insulin, which clears glucose from the blood. dependable food sources of chromium include broccoli, joker, liver-colored, solid grains, seafood and green beans. chromium can besides be taken in a addendum shape called chromium picolinate, although this should be done under the supervision of a doctor, peculiarly if diabetes medications are being taken ( i.e metformin ) .


Magnesium plays an all-important function in a wide-range of processes in the body, correct down to the cellular flat, and magnesium lack is linked in the development of assorted systemic diseases, including depression and anxiety. After zinc, magnesium is the second base most normally insufficient mineral. Chronic stress and high amounts of sugar besides consume magnesium levels in the torso. A higher inhalation of dietary magnesium seems to be associated with lower natural depression symptoms. One survey found patients with major depression experienced an improvement in their symptoms after being subjected to 125 to 300mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime ( 14 ). The day by day recommended consumption of magnesium for adults is 300mg a sidereal day for men ( 19 to 64 years ) and 270mg a day for women ( 19 to 64 years ) .
Key Actions 
Increase magnesium-rich foods 
Foods high gear in magnesium include almonds, bananas, bootleg beans, broccoli, brown rice, cashews, linseed, green leafy vegetables ( spinach ), nuts, oatmeal, seeds ( pumpkin, sesame, sunflowers ) soybeans, gratifying corn, bean curd, and whole grains. magnesium supplements can be added aboard food sources, and Magnesium can besides be administered via Epsom bathe salts and Magnesium sprays .
Side effects: higher dosages of Magnesium ( 400mg > ) may cause diarrhea .

Vitamin D

Known as the ‘ sunlight vitamin ’, around 90 % of our vitamin D is synthesised in our skin by the military action of sunlight. Vitamin D lack is increasingly being recognised as a common problem around the earth and may be implicated in depression, peculiarly if you feel worse in winter .
You are most at risk for vitamin D insufficiency if you are aged ( since your ability to make it in the peel reduces with historic period ), colored ( you require up to 6 times more fair weather than a light-skinned person to make the same total of vitamin D ), corpulence ( your vitamin D stores may be tucked away within your adipose tissue tissue ), or you tend to shy away from the sun – covering up and using sun-block .
Key Action:
Get your vitamin D levels tested: ask your GP or qualified nutrition practitioner for a vitamin D test .
Get sensible sunshine exposure: Get some reasonable sun exposure, without sun-block, but do not allow yourself to become sunburn .

Foods and Inflammation

Some foods are associated with mood problems. For model, in a huge population study, Coeliac Disease ( a severe intolerance to gluten – the protein found in wheat, rye and barley ) was associated with an 80 % increased risk for low. It is thought that Coeliac Disease is vastly underdiagnosed in the UK. Some symptoms of Coeliac Disease are fluctuating digestive symptoms including diarrhea, constipation or bloat, and otherwise unexplained anemia. A doctor can test for Coeliac disease, but it is important to continue consuming gluten until after the test, as differently this may impact results. however, it should be noted that it is possible to have mood symptoms relating to gluten pulmonary tuberculosis, tied without a diagnosis of Coeliac Disease, as some individuals are very sensitive to gluten. Therefore a gluten elimination diet may inactive be appropriate. In all instances, a gluten elimination diet should be conducted under the supervision of a qualified nutrition practitioner .
Side effects? none, if changes are made with professional guidance. dramatic changes to diets without master supervision may cause nutrient deficiencies, specially over the longer condition .

Key Action:

Try an elimination diet: you may suspect some foods which may or may not be one of the usual suspects – are gluten ( pale yellow, rye, barley ), pale yellow, dairy ( all types – cow, sheep, capricorn, milk, cheese, cream etc ), soya, yeast and eggs. If this is the case, you could try an exception of the food or foods for a brief trial time period under the supervision of a modify nutriment practitioner .
Get a food intolerance test: alternatively, you could undertake an IgG ELISA blood test to determine whether you have raised antibody levels to specific foods in your blood which is a good indication. Either way, do not make dramatic changes to your diet or cut out whole food groups without master guidance to ensure your diet remains goodly and balanced – this is particularly authoritative for the aged, individuals who have chronic illnesses and for children .
Researched by : Dr Emma Weymouth, PhD ( Psychology ), Nutritional Therapist
technically Reviewed : Alice Benskin, MSc Personalised Nutrition

Date Published : October 2021
Due for Review : October 2022

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Category : Healthy