Mood Foods – part 2

Inflammation, and mood foods

It all connects back to the gut, the brain and inflammation.

aroma aromatic assortment bottles
The spices you pick can make things better or worse.

Better nutrition for better moods

Is there something special or anti-inflammatory about the foods used in the SMILES trial (see my previous posts)  that may help with moods?

We know the brain needs enough of all essential nutrients in order to function properly. And insufficient levels are linked with the stress response and the immune response.

NOTE: Eating nutrient-dense foods is the best way to get nutrition. Foods are complex combinations of nutrients. Even though I am about to break down nutrients, supplementing with individual nutrients is not the same as eating a healthy diet.

 

Let’s go over a few key nutrients for better moods.

 

B-vitamins such as B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12

People who tend to be low in B-vitamins are more likely to have mental health issues. Higher intakes of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) may reduce risk.

With folic acid in particular, the connection may be due to its different forms. “Folic acid” is the inactive form of vitamin B9. Our bodies naturally converted it into the active form (called L-methylfolate) by the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR).

Once folic acid has been activated, it goes to the brain and is used to make neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

Interestingly, many people with mental health issues are unable to convert folic acid into its active form.

One study tested supplements with the active form of folic acid (L-methylfolate) on people with mental health issues. While some people had a moderate improvement, the people who also had inflammation (higher levels of CRP) had an even greater improvement.

 

Vitamin D

In my mom’s group I hear other moms tell each other: “feeling blue? You might be low in D.” Vitamin D is well known to help absorb calcium for strong bones, but has many other functions too. In terms of immunity, vitamin D can reduce inflammatory molecules in people with certain infections and inflammatory diseases.

Vitamin D has a number of roles within the brain. Vitamin D plays a role in circadian rhythms and sleep, and influences the growth of nerve cells in the developing brain.

There is growing evidence that people who tend to be low in vitamin D also tend to have more mental health symptoms. In fact, some (but not all) studies show that vitamin D supplementation can improve mood scores and reduce mental health symptoms.

Vitamin D is the most commonly deficient nutrient in Western countries. It’s known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our skin makes it when exposed to sunlight.  It is also found in a few foods, and as a supplement.

 

Minerals (Calcium & Selenium)

Low intake of calcium is associated with mental health symptoms, while high intake is associated with lower rates of mental health symptoms.

Depression has been associated with low blood levels of the essential mineral selenium. Low intake of selenium is also associated with an increased risk for depression.

[Note: I am particularly “into” selenium because it helped enormously to bring my auto-antibodies down from above 5000 to about 300.]

 

Omega-3s

Omega-3 oils are healthy fats found in many foods such as seafood, nuts, legumes, and leafy greens. They have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Some (but not all) studies suggest that the omega-3 fats, specifically those found in fish and fish oil, have mental health benefits. You can also get these fatty acids from algae, a vegan source that is also more likely to be clean and free from contaminants.

 

Better lifestyle for better moods

Foods aren’t the only thing that can be upgraded to improve your mental health and inflammation. Your lifestyle can have a big role too!

Both exercise and sleep are important factors that can improve moods and inflammation. Exercise we know is a magic pill. Sleep, though, is HIGHLY underrated.

group of women doing work out
Move your body. Feel free to wear more clothes than these folks.

Lifestyle factor #1 – Exercise

People with mental health issues are more likely to lead sedentary lives. This is another factor that can increase levels of chronic inflammation.

There is a lot of evidence that exercise helps to reduce the risk, and symptoms, of mental health issues. Regular exercise reduces inflammation. We know this because CRP levels are lower in people who regularly exercise, than those who do not. Plus, people who exercise at a higher intensity have even lower levels of CRP.


I encourage you to reduce the amount of time you are sedentary, and take active breaks.

 

woman having bubble bath
Sleeping is great. So is washing your face before to bed. Read my post on the subject!

Lifestyle factor #2 – Sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in our physical and mental health. Lack of enough high quality sleep is very commonly associated with mental health issues. People who experience insomnia are at higher risk for later developing mental health issues.

Lower amounts of sleep can affect the immune system and increase chronic inflammation. Increasing levels of CRP and inflammatory cytokines have been measured with sleep deprivation.

 

If you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, start trying to make it a priority.

Read my post on Sleep Hygiene here!

 

 

So, in summary, eating a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet, and getting regular exercise and quality sleep can help to reduce inflammation, and improve mental and overall health.

It’s an exciting area of research that will continue to answer more questions about this link.

In the meantime, try eating a more health-promoting (anti-inflammatory) diet, and getting enough nutrients, exercise, and sleep.

xox

Dana

 

NOTE: None of these are a substitute for professional medical advice. 

 

 

References:

 

Berk, M., Williams, L. J., Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Pasco, J. A., Moylan, S., … Maes, M. (2013). So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from? BMC Medicine, 11, 200. http://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-11-200

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3846682/

 

Dash, S. R., O’Neil, A., & Jacka, F. N. (2016). Diet and Common Mental Disorders: The Imperative to Translate Evidence into Action. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, 81. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00081

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4850164/

 

Davison, K. M., Gondara, L., & Kaplan, B. J. (2017). Food Insecurity, Poor Diet Quality, and Suboptimal Intakes of Folate and Iron Are Independently Associated with Perceived Mental Health in Canadian Adults. Nutrients, 9(3), 274. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu9030274

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372937/

 

Jacka, F. N. (2017). Nutritional Psychiatry: Where to Next? EBioMedicine, 17, 24–29. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.02.020

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5360575/

 

Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., … Berk, M. (2017). A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the “SMILES” trial). BMC Medicine, 15, 23. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282719/

 

Krishnadas, R. & Cavanagh, J. (2012). Depression: an inflammatory illness? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 83(5):495-502. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2011-301779.
LINK:  http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/83/5/495.long

 

Lucas, M., Chocano-Bedoya, P., Shulze, M. B., Mirzaei, F., O’Reilly, É. J., Okereke, O. I., … Ascherio, A. (2014). Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 36, 46–53. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2013.09.014

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3947176/

 

Mansur, R.B., Brietzke, E. & McIntyre, R.S. (2015). Is there a “metabolic-mood syndrome”? A review of the relationship between obesity and mood disorders. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 52:89-104. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.12.017.

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25579847/

 

Meegan, A. P., Perry, I. J., & Phillips, C. M. (2017). The Association between Dietary Quality and Dietary Guideline Adherence with Mental Health Outcomes in Adults: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. Nutrients, 9(3), 238. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu9030238

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372901/

 

Opie, R.S., O’Neil, A., Jacka, F.N., Pizzinga, J. & Itsiopoulos, C. (2017). A modified Mediterranean dietary intervention for adults with major depression: Dietary protocol and feasibility data from the SMILES trial. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Apr 19:1-15. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1312841.

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28424045

 

Raison, C. L., Borisov, A. S., Majer, M., Drake, D. F., Pagnoni, G., Woolwine, B. J., … Miller, A. H. (2009). Activation of CNS Inflammatory Pathways by Interferon-alpha: Relationship to Monoamines and Depression. Biological Psychiatry, 65(4), 296–303. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.08.010

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2655138/

 

Roca, M., Kohls, E., Gili, M., Watkins, E., Owens, M., Hegerl, U., … on behalf of the MooDFOOD Prevention Trial Investigators. (2016). Prevention of depression through nutritional strategies in high-risk persons: rationale and design of the MooDFOOD prevention trial. BMC Psychiatry, 16, 192. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-016-0900-z

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4898322/

 

Rosenblat, J. D. & McIntyre, R. S. (2017). Bipolar Disorder and Immune Dysfunction: Epidemiological Findings, Proposed Pathophysiology and Clinical Implications. Brain Sciences, 7(11), 144. http://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci7110144
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5704151/

 

Smith, R.S. (1991). The macrophage theory of depression. Med Hypotheses. (4):298-306.
LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1943879/

 

Strawbridge, R., Young, A. H., & Cleare, A. J. (2017). Biomarkers for depression: recent insights, current challenges and future prospects. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 13, 1245–1262. http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S114542

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5436791/

 

Subramaniapillai, M., Carmona, N. E., Rong, C., & McIntyre, R. S. (2017). Inflammation: opportunities for treatment stratification among individuals diagnosed with mood disorders. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 19(1), 27–36.

LINK:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5442361/

 

Wikipedia. Inflammation (definition). Accessed Jan 9, 2018.

LINK:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflammation

 

About Dana Green Remedios

Holistic Nutritionist

Leave a Comment

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.