Food and Diet for Mental Health

Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are the norm in many people’s lives. Health situations like an irregular thyroid, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalance, low dopamine or serotonin, and digestive imbalance can all affect mood and mental health. But often we don’t consider the diet and food as an influencing factor.

Let’s look at a typical diet – you’re eating mostly good food, some take out and craving something sweet in the afternoon and evening. Doesn’t sound that bad does it? Well, it could be better. I know that you could take charge and find a few more beneficial foods to help elbow out the processed foods, fried foods, white foods like bread and sugary drinks and snacks.

Two diets that seem to have a positive impact on mental health are the Mediterranean diet (encouraging more healthy fats) and the DASH diet (focusing on reducing sugar intake). Intermittent Fasting has also shown some promise with its reduction in calories and the timing of meals.

In a recent study, it was found that omega-3 supplementation resulted in a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms in medical students. That’s huge! Another article in Vice, talked about increasing intake of oily fish–salmon, tuna, herring, trout, mackerel and sardines, as much as possible. Taking an omega 3 supplement is often needed in high doses like those found in my Take This by Lianne Omega Boost. The balance of EPA and higher than most, DHA, have helped many of my clients to feel a difference in their mood and memory.

Research has also found that closely following the Mediterranean lifestyle (diet, physical activity and socialization) made people 50% less likely to develop depression. The social aspect of breaking bread together is the perfect arena for discussion, laughter and connection.

If a structured diet like I’ve mentioned above isn’t your thing, then find a way to increase your intake of plants like fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins (like legumes), whole grains, along with fatty fish and olive oil (or other sources of omega-3s). At the same time, reduce your sugar intake. Sugar has been linked to decreases in a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which can play a role in anxiety and depression. Another study of 23,245 people over 22 years found that men who ate 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to develop depression over five years, compared to those who consumed less than 40 grams a day. That’s a staggering number!

There’s also incredible research showing that the gut microbiome and its communication with the brain can be linked to anxiety and depression. An article in Vice said this:

“It’s well-known now that the gut is more than a digestive space, it’s also the largest sensory organ, comprised of more than 100 million nerve cells, and the largest producer of serotonin in the body; such features have earned it the nickname “the second brain.”

With that said, paying attention to your gut health which includes eating more fiber and eliminating as much sugar as possible from your diet, it also means taking probiotics daily. I recommend my Take This by Lianne Bio Boost be taken daily to support the gut microbiome and good bacteria. We lose probiotics with every bowel movement, so it needs to be taken daily. The number one thing that influences your gut health is food.

What else can I do?

Movement and Exercise
The female brain is more prone to depression and the male brain more prone to spectrum disorders. Because the brain produces serotonin mostly efficiently 2 hours after sunrise, women benefit from morning exercise to combat depression. Conversely, because dopamine is most efficiently produced from 10 pm to midnight, it’s better for men to exercise at night to combat spectrum disorders.

Seek Medical Advice
Speak with your doctor, consult your psychologist and stick to the plans you’ve decided on together. This is intended to support your mental health routine and does not replace anything that your doctor is prescribing or recommending.

Listen to my segment on NewsTalk1010 radio with Jerry Agar for #BellLetsTalk Day 2019:


Listen to my segment on The Night Side with Amanda Galbraith (in for Barb DiGiulio) for #BellLetsTalk Day 2020:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *