Effect of diet on mood?

Mark Moschel and I were talking afterward and the topic of food came up after I showed him the decadent candy warchest available at the Sun-Times. He is in the health industry and bravely resisted temptation. But he made a good point - there is almost no aspect of life that your diet doesn’t affect.

Does anyone know of any effects anecdotally or even better, know any studies with regards to the effect of diet on depression?

I am glad you brought this up.
I have been experimenting with this lately.
Some things I have been considering are that I may have a B vitamin deficiency, as well as an A and D vitamin issue. I have also been wondering if I have low testosterone levels.
I have been trying different foods to adjust these things.
The one food item that has seemed to have an effect that I notice right away is canned sardines (or kipper snacks which are similar )
When I re-introduced canned sardines into my diet, it felt like part of my brain was lighting up that had not been lighting up in a long time.
The effect does not last all day, but it is significantly noticeable.
I am trying other things with my diet, but this is the one change that had the most noticeable effect.
It doesn’t make me “happy”, but definitely adds a feeling of “normal” to my day, which is what I am looking for.
Some people may not like the sound of canned sardines, but they taste good on crackers or bread, or you can cook with them in a variety of ways.
I am curious if anyone else has been experimenting with diet.
Also, just to say it, I am not a doctor.

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I’m surprised no one else has posted on this yet.

Thanks for commenting, good insights on the vitamin deficiencies. I think Vitamin D might play a big part, since, as most of us work in an office, we don’t have regular exposure to sunlight.

I’ll try to look into the literature more when I have free time!

Unsubstantiated evidence, and I’m going to throw this out there from a foggy seven year old memory, but…

When I got DXed, my therapist told me that people with Bipolar have a hard time regulating their blood sugar. If you eat a bunch of sugar before you go to bed at night, your blood sugar will crash while you’re sleeping, and it will be hard to wake up in the morning. I found that if I stayed away from carbs after 6pm or so, that I woke up easier and earlier.

That said, I don’t need academic studies to tell me that sugar and HFCS messes my stuff up, and that I have more energy when my body isn’t digesting carbs.

Another food experiment:
I have never been a coffee drinker, but recently I have experimented with having an iced coffee at different points during the day.
What I found was that while the coffee did not make me feel happier, it did have an interesting effect.
Basically, if I drink an iced coffee upon waking or during a point during the day when my energy and mood is low, it prevents me from being a d*ck or a jerk to the people around me (whom I care about).
Maybe the caffeine somehow helps me keep my mouth shut when I want so say something nasty or be a complainer.
Obviously, this is not along term strategy. But it may help with damage control in the moment.

One good place to start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXx4WTVU34Y

I have IBS, so I have put a lot of thought into this. We can all have different reactions to specific foods, so one thing to consider is working with a doctor to do an elimination diet. I discovered I was soy intolerant, and wow… it sure made a difference when I removed that from my diet.

Also, vitamins. I had my doctor test my vitamin d levels, and they were very low. I live in a relatively gray city, so that came as no shock. I also found out that my ferritin levels were low and I am now taking iron. In all I take a multi, b-complex, d, folic acid, iron, omega-3 and calcium. Additionally, I try to eat foods high in magnesium (http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/).

The canned sardines and mackerel have been helping a lot.
I also added green pumpkin seeds and that seemed to have a good effect so I will work that in regularly.
I ended up dropping the coffee fix as it raises cortisol levels and that is the opposite of what I want to do.

@tech1: The sardines may provide some amino acids or fatty acids your body doesn’t get from your normal diet.

Amino acids/fatty acids/vitamins/minerals are needed to synthesize stuff like hormons and neuro transmitters so low substance X may keep your body from making enough substance Y. If Y is something like serotonin your brain can’t tell you to feel good or motivated, if it’s cortisol your body can’t tell your brain to wake up and get movin’ in the morning. And when it comes to hormones and stuff basicly everything is connected to everything somehow.

Also nasty stuff like gluten or lectins (like in soy (@allisbe), basicly stuff the plants developed to make you feel ill after eating their offspring) may either damage your gut (and its ability to absorb nutrients) or inhibit the breakdown and absorbtion of nutrients. So if something is messing with your gut (or your gut is already messed up, i.e. Irritable bowel syndrome, celiac desease,…) you can shove down as much healthy food as you like but symptons and blood tests won’t improve because your body cannot digest/absorb the good stuff.
Of course if you only absorb 1% of all, say, vitamin D or magnesium you’re consuming just taking higher doses may help :wink:

From my experience: When I eat more fat and protein than carbs I don’t get hungry as fast as on mostly carbs and I don’t get annoyed by being hungry. Also when I eat grain-free/low-carb (meat/fish/eggs + shitloads of non-starchy veggies) I get almost none of those little episodes with my brain just refusing to process visual information for 30 secs to a few minutes. But I in my current position I cannot afford dropping the white rice for more veggies.
And I also know the mood-improving effect of canned sardines ^^

@briankung: You may want to take a look at https://www.grc.com/health/Vitamin-D.htm and listen to a fellow geek talking 'bout this :wink:

One of the things Doc Phelps lists on Antidepressants That Aren’t Antidepressants are omega-3 fatty acids “(including Fish Oil)” - just to support the “mood improvement by canned sardines” :wink:

I’ve struggled with my moods for a long time, and in the fall it gets worse, I think because of lack of sun. I got very thorough blood work done about 5 years ago, and the only things flagged were vitamin D deficiency and slight anemia. I started supplementing with 2-3000 iu of D3 daily, but I wasn’t really sure if it helped. However, I stopped taking it for several months, and now just a few days ago went back on. In about 3 days, I did notice a big improvement in my mood. I have also found that maintaining a low-carb diet (esp. sugar and bread) seems to help. Contrary to what you might think, I find I have more energy with fewer processed carbohydrates. I do allow myself cheat days about once a week, though, as I think it helps maintain my insulin resistance at the right levels. It’s all anecdotal, but FWIW I think diet is pretty important to mood. When I get stressed, I tend to go for candy and junk, and I think that makes me feel worse - vicious circle. So now, I try to take my stress out via exercise, and keep a pretty strict diet.

Marks’s Daily Apple is a great resource for some well explained articles to how diet affects everything from mood to inflammation levels. It’s a bit ‘go team!’ in places, but there’s some really good stuff on there.

During my absence from devpressed I’ve read Julia Ross’ Mood Cure (well, a translation so I can pass it along more easily) and pretty much straight after reading the 3rd chapter about Serotonin I’ve went to the pharmacy to get some L-Tryptophan (the stuff the body converts to (well first 5-HTP and then) Serotonin, which needs to be broken down to create Melatonin which in turn keeps you asleept at night). Half an hour after taking a 500mg dose of L-Tryptophan I actually felt really good, just like on some Tuesday in early summer when I slept well for the first time in months and started the day well rested. I can remember two times in the last year I felt so good.
This isn’t a marihuana-high “good”, just the “enjoying the summer-sun on your skin” good that many of us have lost.

But Julia Ross isn’t just writing about supplements she also explains that many things in you diet can make you sick and even addicted. She lays out a nice masterplan to clean up your diet so your body get’s the stuff it needs to create enough of all those neurotransmitters and homones to keep you alive AND kickin’.

And to come back to the studies: There are like 16 pages of references in the back of this book. I bet you can find some studies among those. Of course, there’s also an Articles and Research section on her website.

I started taking lavender oil drops in the morning and evening to reduce depression. To my surprise, it works. I have been using them for 6 months now, without side effects so far.

I just take 4 drops of lavender oil with a half glass of water and swallow it. It tastes like hell, but it greatly improves my mood and kind of immediately has effect. Note: the lavender oil has to be pure, you don’t want any other substance in it. Also check that the oil is suitable for ingestion before trying.

There’s some scientific literature on this (that’s how I got the idea), but I must confess that I didn’t study any of this in great detail. For example: http://naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-02/lavender-oil-anxiety-and-depression-0

The lavender oil, while it works (for me) for depression, does not help with anxiety (or so it seems). So I’m still looking for a good natural substance that can help me with that.

Note: I have no medical degree