Excerpt: The Food Mood Connection by Uma Naidoo

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When stress is skyrocketing and your mood is plunging, it’s only natural to turn to comfort food… It’s not surprising that in 2018, a cross-sectional research study of depressed college students found that 30.3 per cent ate fried foods, 49 per cent drank sweetened drinks, and 51.8 per cent ate sugary food two to seven times per week. Women were found to be even more susceptible to eating unhealthy food when depressed…

Many depressed people will skip meals and make poor food choices, which makes sense given that depression is associated with waning levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This can make self-care, like fixing healthy meals, a real challenge. All you can think is, I want to feel better, and convenient junk foods like candy bars and potato chips in the moment seem to do the trick.

But here’s the thing: they really don’t… high sugar intake can contribute to and worsen depression, as well as increase the odds that depression will recur in your life. Luckily, there are foods that can boost and improve mood…

When discussing depression and the gut with my patients, I often use the phrase “blue bowel”, a lighthearted name for the very serious relationship between depression and your gut…

Food changes the types of bacteria present in your gut microbiome. Your gut bacteria may become less diverse as a result of your diet, which may cause the bad bacteria to outgrow the good bacteria, triggering a cascade of negative health effects. Food can also influence the chemical messages these bacteria send from your gut up to your brain along the vagus nerve — signals that can make you feel either depressed and drained or uplifted and energized.

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