ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Alternative & Natural Medicine

How Do You Kick Depression? The Answer May Be In Your Diet

Updated on July 15, 2014

Did you know that there may be a link between food and depression? Your meals may hold the answers as to why you struggle with mood issues and emotional roller coasters.

Have you noticed that when you're depressed or anxious, you "feel it in your gut"? There's a reason for this visceral response to strong emotions: it's the gut-brain connection.

The brain stem is connected to the abdomen by the vagus nerve. Most of the information that travels along vagus nerve fibers travel to the brain, making gut health an important issue when dealing with mood disorders.

The gut is often referred to as the "second brain", containing 100 million neurons and using more than 30 million neurotransmitters. Over 90 percent of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is strongly associated with mood, is contained in your gut. It follows the vagus nerve to relax the stomach.

Gut-Healing Resources

Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia
Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's book on how to heal your gut and relieve your symptoms using the GAPS diet.


Leaky Gut is No Joke

"Gut flora is something we do not think much about. And yet the number of functions the gut flora fulfills is so vital for us that if some day our digestive tract got sterilized we probably would not survive."

-Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the GAPS diet

Many Who Struggle With Depression Lack Beneficial Bacteria

Beneficial bacteria, also called probiotics, are essential for healthy digestion and mood stability. Probiotics outnumber the cells of your body 10 to one. These bacteria eat up destructive pathogens and maintain protective intestinal lining. This lining prevents food particles and toxins from entering into the bloodstream.

A lack of healthy bacteria in the gut is common today. Stress, diet, and antibiotic use are just a few of the factors that contribute to the breakdown of beneficial flora. When your gut flora becomes depleted, holes develop in your intestinal lining, leading to a condition called leaky gut. This allows all sorts of damaging particles to travel throughout your body instead of passing through the intestinal tract.

When harmful elements reach other areas of your body, healthy tissue becomes damaged. This can lead to an assortment of problems, depending on the individual. Depression and anxiety are common problems suffered by those who have leaky gut.

Fermented foods and probiotic supplements promote the healing of holes in your intestinal lining. The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet has proven to be successful in helping people overcome a variety of psychological and mood disorders. It has changed the lives of many who have discovered the connection between food and depression. The GAPS diet was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride who effectively reversed her son's autism using this nutritional program.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the GAPS diet

Happy yogurt mustache
Happy yogurt mustache | Source

Food Allergies and Intolerances Can Play Major Roles in Depression

Most people who have celiac disease remain undiagnosed. Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, IBS, and depression are conditions that tend to go together, but so far most doctors are unaware of this fact. Also, those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are often diagnosed as having IBS and continue to eat the gluten proteins that cause them to suffer.

You can be gluten intolerant and still test negative for celiac disease. Researchers find that there are many who have sensitivities to wheat and gluten, even in the absence of celiac. These food intolerances are important considerations when addressing chronic depression or other neurological issues.

There are a variety of foods that can cause adverse reactions in some people. The most common problematic foods include wheat, legumes (beans, peanuts, peas), dairy, egg whites, nuts, and the nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers). Keeping a food diary and taking note of what you're eating and how you feel each day can be beneficial in determining which foods may be giving you trouble.

What About You?

Did you already know about the gut-brain connection?

See results

Natural Fats and Oily Fish are Vital for Healthy Brain Function

The digestive system has its own nervous system with a large number of neurons. Neurons are protected by myelin, which is made up of 70 percent fat and 30 percent protein.

The human brain is mostly fat. A large portion of this fat is in the form of an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. Low levels of DHA are associated with low serotonin activity and increased levels of depression. Oily fish, like salmon, tuna, and sardines, are the most abundant and efficient sources of DHA.

Low-fat diets lack the fats necessary for proper brain function. A lack of natural fats in the diet, including animal fats like butter and eggs as well as coconut oil and olive oil, increases your risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. Don't worry, natural fats don't make you fat, nor do they increase your risk of heart disease.

Diets that are high in processed foods may also contribute to depression. Refined foods lack minerals, healthy fats, and other nutrients that are important for the brain function and hormone balance.

Diet, digestion, and mood are closely related. If you struggle with strong emotional fluctuations, consider the connection between food and depression. Replenishing your gut flora, identifying food sensitivities, and keeping nutrient-dense foods in your diet can dramatically improve your emotional state.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      It's true: so many people avoid the very nutrients they need for a healthy brain. Combine that with all of the neurotoxins you find in processed foods today, and it's no wonder so many struggle with mood disorders! Thanks for your comment, Sage.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      Wow, amazing stuff. When you think about how the typical person eats in a day, it's not a surprise at all there is such a problem with depression and mood issues.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      @cristina: "A lack of natural fats in the diet, including animal fats like butter and eggs as well as coconut oil and olive oil, increases your risk of depression and suicidal thoughts." You may have misread this statement--not getting enough natural fats, like those found in coconut oil and olive oil, can contribute to depression. Thanks for your question!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thanks, Homesteading! I appreciate the kind words.

    • profile image

      cristina 5 years ago

      can you explain, why coconut oil and olive oil may be causing depression? thanks!

    • Homesteading profile image

      Julie Z 5 years ago from North Central Florida

      Excellent write up filled with excellent advice. I pin'd & FB shared. Thank you for such great articles.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Prairieprincess, it's amazing how the brain and the gut work together, isn't it? Thank you!

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Thank you, Jewels! Hemps seeds are a great source of a certain kind of omega-3s, but unfortunately we don't convert the alpha-linolenic acid (plant omega-3) into DHA as efficiently as we'd like. Only a very small fraction of the o-3 you get from seeds actually becomes DHA. In order to get a healthy dose, you need to get it from fish:

      Funny how the companies that market seeds and seed oils fail to tell us that! I'm glad you brought that up--it's an important point.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for this! I think this is a very important hub and contains some information that I did not know. I knew probiotics were good for digestion, but did not realize they were connected with mood. Voted up, more and sharing!

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 5 years ago from Australia

      Very good hub. Interesting how depression is now in epidemic proportions, in line with a very unhealthy addictive processed food diet. I agree in most cases depression is directly related to diet, digestion and moving one's backside!

      If you can get it, hemp seed products are high in Omega 3 also.