Treating depression holistically: The influence of healthy nutrition on the psyche

08. May 2019

Overcoming depression takes strength. Mental strength to change entrenched thought patterns and beliefs, and physical strength to break through apathy and exhaustion. This process demands a lot from you. This makes it all the more important to supply the body and mind with energy through optimal nutrition. In the article you will find an overview of which foods are real powerhouses, what influence exactly the diet can have on depression and how to get necessary nutrients and vitamins.

Appetite or ravenous hunger?

The appetite changes in a depression. Many sufferers literally lose their appetite and eat too little food. Weight loss and an undersupply of energy and nutrients occur. Others suffer from ravenous appetite and gain a lot of weight during depression. Food can sometimes serve as a solace and distraction.

Both extremes are damaging to our health. For the psyche to heal, the body needs balance. It is important to find the balance again and to eat pleasurably and healthily. Proper nutrition doesn’t have to be time-consuming or fancy. Forget complicated superfoods, much is in our daily foods.

Nutrition for the Psyche

Can we influence the course of depression through our diet? To answer this question, we need to delve a little deeper into the complex biological causes of depressive illness. It has not yet been researched in great detail how exactly diet is related to the psyche, but it is clear that what we eat does influence our psychological well-being (Hausteiner et al., 2007).

Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine

In depression, neurotransmitters in the brain become unbalanced. In a healthy state, these messengers ensure, for example, that we can feel pleasure, that we focus on tasks and feel balanced. A deficiency leads to irritability, listlessness, apathy, sleep disorders and mental illness (Schandry, 2007).

The little helpers are also necessary for different areas of the brain to communicate with each other and for us to manage our daily lives. For their production, the body needs special amino acids and nutrients, which we must consume through food. The best-known messenger substances in connection with depression are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Taking optimal care of the brain

Two important pieces of the puzzle for the production of the above-mentioned neurotransmitters are the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine (Rao et al., 2008). Since the body cannot produce these substances itself, we must take them in through our diet, as mentioned earlier. For example, expand your diet to include the following foods to help boost the production of neurotransmitters:

  • Soybeans, almonds, peanuts
  • Emmental cheese, cottage cheese
  • Tuna, trout
  • Dark cocoa
  • Egg

You realize, no exotic plants or obscure supplements are necessary to do something good for the psyche. Even taking to heart small tips & tricks play a big role for the right diet for depression.

Nutrition for depression: Mood enhancers to eat?

According to research, what other nutrients are real mood boosters? Fish, walnuts, coconut milk, olive oil, and cashews contain many omega-3 fatty acids, the importance of which for nutrition, especially in depression, has been repeatedly emphasized (Rao et al., 2008). A particularly versatile source of omega-3s is linseed oil. It tastes delicious in muesli or salad dressings. A good supply of omega-3 fatty acids ensures physical and mental fitness and boosts cell metabolism (Shahidi et al., 2018).

Much debate surrounds the supply of vitamin D in the context of depression. A 2013 meta-analysis provides evidence that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with depression (Anglin et al., 2013). Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” That is, our bodies make it themselves when they come into contact with the sun (Jorde et al., 2008). But some foods also contain vitamin D: seafood, dairy products and mushrooms can enrich us with the valuable nutrient and thus help to overcome depression.

Balance in the brain

In depression, the chemical balance in the brain is often upset. To get back into balance, we need an adequate supply of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid. All three are essential for the function of our nervous system and ensure, for example, that our nerves can pass on information quickly.

Broccoli and green leafy vegetables (spinach, chard, kale) contain particularly high levels of vitamin B6. Vitamin B12, on the other hand, can only be absorbed through animal products. Vegetarians and vegans are therefore also recommended to inform themselves about an additional intake of vitamin B12 (Ströhle et al., 2018). Folic acid is a growth-stimulating substance and also belongs to the B vitamins. Some studies additionally show that antidepressants work better when sufficient folic acid is present in the body (Deuschle et al., 2019). The vitamin intake in particular thus plays a significant role in the diet in the course of depression!

Healing effect

Recently, inflammatory processes in the body have been suspected of triggering depression (Rusch et al., 2018). If inflammation levels rise in the body, psychological symptoms may result. Indeed, the body reacts to infections by decreasing drive, simply to conserve resources for recovery. Anti-inflammatory substances, such as zinc and magnesium, are found in foods such as pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, seaweed, peanuts and lentils. If the body no longer has to fight inflammatory processes, more strength is available for activities again.

You are what you eat

Of course, everyone, sick or healthy, benefits from healthy eating. A few rules of thumb apply to all people: We need carbohydrates, animal or plant protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and adequate fluids. Sweets and fast foods should be enjoyed in moderation. These foods provide the most important building blocks. Important: These are suggestions! More information is provided by the German Nutrition Society

Carbohydrates: potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, oatmeal, quinoa, couscous, sweet potatoes
Tip: Try the whole grain variety. Delicious, nutritious and filling!

Protein: Legumes, nuts, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, meat, fish

Healthy fats: olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts

Vitamins and minerals: fruits, vegetables, nuts

Every now and then, of course, it may also be “soul food”. Consciously enjoy small treats. How about dark chocolate, homemade cake or vegetable chips baked in the oven?

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 as a mood booster
coconut milk, olive oil, cashews or as linseed oil in muesli or salad dressings – cell metabolism is boosted and physical and mental fitness is supported.

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels are linked to depression
Our bodies make vitamin D when we come in contact with the sun. Sea animals, dairy products and mushrooms also contain vitamin D.

Vitamin B6

Restore balance in the brain
Broccoli and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale contain particularly high levels of vitamin B6 and provide balance in the brain.

Vitamin B12

Functioning nervous system through Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 can only be absorbed into the body via animal products or appropriate substitutes.

Folic acid

Folic acid as a growth-stimulating substance
To enable our nerves to pass on information quickly, wheat, lentils or millet should also be on our menu.

Zinc & Magnesium

Zinc and magnesium as anti-inflammatory substances
Pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, seaweed, peanuts and lentils support inflammatory processes in the body.

Treating depression – diet as an important component

In many clinics that focus on the treatment of mental illness, there is now a strong emphasis on healthy, wholesome food. Regional and seasonal foods are processed into delicious and wholesome dishes. After all, healthy nutrition is an important component in depression treatment, although by no means the only one. To address the disease holistically, psychotherapy, drug treatment, relaxation methods and sports are used in combination.

Wonderwork Body

In a sense, proper nutrition is the basis for successful treatment. The therapy with depression is energy-consuming, the constant occupation with the own feeling can be really exhausting. Those affected should take care to look after their bodies properly. Through a combination of treatment methods, depressed individuals regain their courage to face life and their sense of well-being. The motto is: Our body is a temple in which the soul resides. We should take good care of this temple and maintain it so that the soul feels comfortable in it.

References

(1) Anglin, R. E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S. D., & McDonald, S. D. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British journal of psychiatry, 202(2), 100-107

(2) Deuschle, M., & Gilles, M. (2019). Interaction of depression with cardiovascular and metabolic disease. PSYCH up2date, 13(01), 23-33

(3) Hausteiner, C., Bornschein, S., Zilker, T., Förstl, H., & Graßmann, J. (2007). On the possible influence of diet on mental health. Der Nervenarzt, 78(6), 696-705

(4) Jorde, R., Sneve, M., Figenschau, Y., Svartberg, J., & Waterloo, K. (2008). Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. Journal of internal medicine, 264(6), 599-609

(5) L-tryptophan in foods. (2015, September 12). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.zeinpharma.de/ratgeber/vitalstoffe/l-tryptophan-in-lebensmitteln

(6) Phenylalanine and tyrosine – important for hormone metabolism and brain functions. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.centrosan.com/Wissen/Naehrstoff-Lexikon/Aminosaeuren/essentielle-Aminosaeuren/Phenylalanin-und-Tyrosin.php

(7) Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Ramesh, B. N., & Rao, K. J. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian journal of psychiatry, 50(2), 77

(8) Rusch, K. (2018). Silent inflammation and depression. Experiential medicine, 67(04), 212-219

(9) Schandry, R. (2007). Biological psychology. Beltz. Erfurt

(10) Shahidi, F., & Ambigaipalan, P. (2018). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and their health benefits. Annual review of food science and technology, 9, 345-381

(11) Ströhle, A., Löser, C., Behrendt, I., Leitzmann, C., & Hahn, A. (2018). Alternative diets: General aspects and vegetarian diets. The Rehabilitation, 57(01), 55-70.

Categories: Depression Therapy

Friederike Reuver
Autor:in Friederike Reuver
"Die LIMES Schlosskliniken haben sich auf die Behandlung von psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen spezialisiert. Mit Hilfe des Blogs möchten wir als Klinikgruppe die verschiedenen psychischen Erkrankungen näher beleuchten und verschiedene Therapien sowie aktuelle Themen vorstellen."

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