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Published on January 29, 2021

Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid

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Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid

According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people suffer from depression globally.[1]

Symptoms of depression can include sadness, lethargy and a general loss of interest in life.

There are a number of ways to combat this and a diet for depression can help not only your mental health but your well-being as well. In fact, a 2017 study found that the symptoms of people with moderate-to-severe depression improved when they received nutritional counseling sessions and ate a more healthful diet for 12 weeks.[2]

Just imagine having higher levels of optimism, energy, positivity, focus, and a greater interest in life. Well, you can.

Making some adjustments to your diet can help with your depression. Not only are there foods that you could eat to help with your depression but there are foods that you should avoid.

Foods That Help With Depression

1. Oily Fish

Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, light tuna and mackerel are a healthy source of Vitamin D.[3] Research has shown that Vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.[4] Other health benefits include reducing fatigue and improving heart health.

If you run low on energy it can increase your chances of becoming irritable which could lead to a number of other negative behaviors. And this is not the emotional path that you want to go down, especially if you are struggling with depression.

We obtain most of our vitamin D from the sun but dietary sources are also important. Other sources include egg yolks, beef liver and fortified dairy products. When it comes to egg yolks, be sure to check the national label as there can be variances in the amount of Vitamin D.

2. Vegetables

It had to be said. Remember those days when you were told to eat your vegetables?

Well, turns out there was a very good reason. Eating vegetables can help if you struggle with depression.

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Darker leafy greens contain folate[5] and people that have depression have been found to have a lower dietary intake of folate than those without depression.[6]

They also contain vitamins A, C, E, and K. Which will supply you with a number of healthy benefits such as maintaining brain function and strengthening your immune system.

Injecting some spinach, kale or arugula into your diet could help improve your mood. If you’re not a fan of any of these then you can use lettuce, broccoli or asparagus.

3. Walnuts

Omega-3 fatty acids are a great source of protein to keep a healthy balance of blood sugar levels.[7]

They are also called essential fats, because unlike some other substances, they can’t be manufactured within the human body, and therefore it is essential that you take them in through your diet.

Walnuts are bursting with Omega-3 and they are commonly known to support brain health and lower blood pressure.

In fact, one study conducted between 2005-2014 found that depression scores came in 26% lower among those that consumed about ¼ cup of walnuts per day.[8]

As you can see, incorporating a source of Omega-3 like walnuts enhances a diet for depression.

4. Poultry

Chicken and Turkey are important for a number of reasons. Not only do they contain lean protein to maintain health but they also contain Tryptophan.[9]

The body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin [10] and serotonin.[11] Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin is thought to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain.

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You may have even experienced a healthy boost of melatonin levels, in the form of a nap, after you have eaten a turkey dinner.

And while you don’t have to eat a turkey dinner everyday, incorporating chicken or turkey into your routine can give you a healthy balance of rest and energy.

In fact, just 3 ounces of roasted chicken breast offers 123% of the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

Foods That Worsen Depression

When coping with depression, it’s important to be aware of foods that could have a negative impact on you. If you limit or, in some cases, eliminate these foods altogether you will increase your chances of feeling better.

5. Alcohol

It’s important to mention this because unfortunately a lot of people turn to alcohol when they are having a bad day. However, it is best to limit or eliminate alcohol altogether.

Alcohol is a depressant. When you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse.

This could lead you to make bad decisions that will further your depressive state.

Not too mention, the energy and effort that is put into drinking could be used to make healthy choices, like preparing a healthy meal.

To decrease your chances of drinking alcohol you could refrain from visiting the wine and spirits store, avoid the section in the grocery store that has alcohol, or put a halt to eating at places that serve alcoholic beverages.

It can be too easy to convince yourself that alcohol will fix everything, when in fact it could cause further damage.

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6. Sugar

An excess of sugary foods can have long-term implications on your health. And while it’s not realistic to eliminate sugar entirely, you should pay close attention to the amount of sugar you consume.

The American Heart Association recommends adults eat no more than 25 (women) to 36 (men) grams of added sugar every day.[12]

Foods like cakes, cookies and pies are high in sugar and can alter your mood. It may make you feel good temporarily but it’s just that, temporary.

Cutting back on sugar will help you keep your blood sugar levels more balanced which will help your mood stay more evenly balanced.

Since sugar offers very little nutritional value, it actually has a drastic impact on the B vitamins.[13] In order for the body to convert sugar into energy, it uses up these important mood enhancing vitamins. In particular vitamin B-12 and B6.[14]

When the body runs low on these vitamins it leads to a lack of energy and poor brain function. This makes it easier to slip into a more depressive state.

7. Fast Food

Refined foods like fast food burgers and fries are loaded with ingredients that should be avoided in your diet for depression.[15]

A study confirmed that the consumption of hamburgers, sausages, and pizza as well as muffins, donuts, and croissants may have a detrimental effect on depression risk.[16]

This is because these foods are high in trans-fat and trans-isomer fatty acids. And these are fatty acids that are non-essential to the human diet.

There is very little national value in these types of foods. You would be better served if you were to replace those foods with fresh fruits and vegetables.

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8. Caffeine

In some cases, eliminating caffeine might seem like an impossible and unrealistic task.

That’s why moderation is key, particularly when you are experiencing depression-like symptoms.

Caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns and make you feel anxious. Sleep deprivation can be a byproduct effect of caffeine which can lead you to feel irritable and exhausted, both of which do not compliment depression whatsoever.

It’s also easy to forget that caffeine is a psychoactive drug.[17] Which by definition means it changes mood, brain function and behavior. But because it’s legal and unregulated, roughly 90% of people in North America consume it daily

Replace your caffeinated drinks such as coffee or energy drink with a healthier option like green tea.

Bottom Line

Constructing a diet for depression can do wonders for your mind, body and spirit. As you can see, your body can be a direct reflection of the food that you’re putting into it.

Healthier, smarter choices will help you in the long run. And depending on what your eating habits are like right now, incorporating any of these foods into your diet may be a lot easier than you think.

A few tweaks to your daily routine may make all the difference for you. The clearer your mind is the better chance you have at improving your diet daily.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

Featured photo credit: Markus Winkler via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Tim Lekach

Father I Husband I Health & Wellness Entrepreneur

Diet for Depression: 8 Foods To Eat And Avoid 7 Actionable Tips to Sleep Better and Wake up Energized

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

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