3 Dietary Changes to Improve Mood Disorders
Mood disorders affect your general emotional state or mood and interfere with your ability to function normally. At times, you may be extremely sad or irritable (depressed), or you may have periods of depression alternating with periods of excessive happiness (mania).
Anxiety disorders can also affect your mood and often occur alongside depression and have been linked to an increase in suicide risk.
Depression and anxiety do not have a single underlying cause but are often triggered by a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one, ﬁnancial hardship, serious illness and relationship or family issues. Integrative approaches to managing mood disorders include therapy, medication and healthy lifestyle interventions such as dietary changes, exercise, and nutritional supplementation.
The following dietary changes are said to help better manage mood-related challenges:
Numerous studies have concluded that carbohydrates help increase levels of serotonin, a mood-boosting brain chemical that can make you feel calmer and more relaxed. Some carbohydrate-rich foods are also a good source of soluble ﬁbre, which slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. When your blood sugar levels are stable, you tend to feel less irritable.
So, the next time you feel depressed or anxious, try the following high carbohydrate, low protein foods:
- Warm oatmeal topped with dried fruit or fresh berries
- Toasted whole-grain bagel with jam
- Pancakes with fresh fruit and real maple syrup
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Crackers and low-fat milk
- A glass of unsweetened fruit juice
- B Vitamins (Vitamin B6, Folate and Vitamin B12)
There are eight B vitamins that have been linked to mood changes. Scientifically, the body uses vitamin B6 as a building block for an enzyme that helps convert the amino acid tryptophan into the mood-regulating serotonin. You can obtain vitamin B6 in your diet by eating plenty of protein-rich foods such as:
- Whole Grains
While you can ﬁnd vitamin B6 on its own in supplement form, it is recommended and way more efficient to take it as part of a B Complex to obtain a balance of these vitamins. Look for a formula that provides 50 to 100 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily. Daily B Complex formulas also include folic acid and vitamin B12.
Folate (the natural form of folic acid) is found in leafy green vegetables (such as spinach), fortiﬁed grains, beans, lentils, orange juice and bananas. Look for a formula that provides 0.4 to 1.0 milligram of folic acid daily.
Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products such as meat, ﬁsh, poultry, eggs and milk, as well as fortiﬁed soy and rice beverages. Aim for a dosage between 0.5 to 1.0 milligram of Vitamin B12 daily.
Studies have shown that when people take probiotics (supplements containing the good bacteria), their anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics.
This is because the gut produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, all of which play a key role in regulating mood. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract.
In 2013, a small study reported in the journal Gastroenterology found that women who ate yogurt with a mix of probiotics, twice a day for four weeks, were calmer when exposed to images of angry and frightened faces compared with a control group.
Here are some healthy foods with probiotics that can enhance your mood:
- Kefir—a fermented probiotic milk drink
- Tempeh—a fermented soybean product
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