Depression is a serious mental illness that has very real effects on how you feel and think, sometimes leading to disinterest in former hobbies. This disinterest can also translate to food. If you struggle with depression, you may experience changes in appetite, which could decrease the amount of food you eat or even increase it at times. Along with fluctuating nutrition intake, these changes in appetite can lead to weight gain and weight loss over short periods of time.

If you are experiencing long-term or short-term depressive episodes, you might have noticed changes in your eating habits. There are a number of factors at play when it comes to how food impacts depression and vice versa.

How Depression Affects Appetite

Depression can lead to life-changing symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, loss of interest in normal activities, and loss of energy. A combination of low energy levels and loss of interest in hobbies can make you forget to eat, not want to eat, or lose interest in most things except eating.

Being depressed makes you more likely to indulge in unhealthy foods. Sometimes, it seems as though poor diets contribute to feelings of depression, and depression leads to poor diet. It’s a kind of “chicken and the egg” scenario, where both depression and diet are so intertwined that the effects can be debilitating to a healthy, productive lifestyle. But the reality is that food plays a big role in your body chemistry and hormones, and along with that, the way your brain functions.

How Food Affects Your Mental Health

Diet and depressionJust like food can affect your skin and your weight, it can also affect your mental health. What you put into your body has a direct effect on your brain, so if you’re eating a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, your brain has what it needs to flush out toxins that can damage brain cells.

However, if you’re ingesting processed foods high in sugar, saturated fats, and sodium, your brain cells are cut off from the nutrients they need to function properly. This can hinder the brain’s ability to flush out toxins, which can cause cell damage and inflammation.  

In fact, research has shown that diets low in animal foods and high in fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, olive oil, and low-fat dairy are associated with decreased risk of depression. On the other hand, diets low in fruits and vegetables, but high in red meat, processed foods, refined grains, sweets, trans fats, and high-fat dairy products are associated with increased risk of depression.

Best Diets for Depression

Your brain functions best when it’s feeding off quality nutrients. While there are a lot of trendy diets that advertise quick weight loss, they might not help the way you feel mentally. But if you are struggling with depression and appetite fluctuations, it’s important to eat a diet that changes the way you feel, not just the way you look. A healthy diet should help you feel better not just in the moment, but the next day as well.

The Mediterranean diet is often recommended for those struggling to control depression and appetite. It focuses on eating healthy, single-ingredient foods most of the time, and eating less healthy foods in moderation.

Eat more of these foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables: seven to 10 servings every dayhealthy food, good mood
  • Whole grains: oats, brown rice, corn, whole wheat, whole-grain bread, pasta
  • Seeds and nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, natural peanut butter
  • Fish and seafood: tuna, salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, oysters, crab
  • Low-fat dairy: skim milk, fat-free yogurt, low-fat cheese
  • Tubers: sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, turnips
  • Lean proteins: chicken, turkey, duck
  • Legumes: beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils
  • Herbs and spices: garlic, basil, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper
  • Healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil, avocado, avocado oil

Avoid these foods:

  • Foods with added sugars: soda, candy, ice creamjunk food and depression
  • Refined grains: white bread, pastries, cereal, pasta
  • Red meat: steak, ground beef, pork  
  • Processed meat: bacon, hot dogs, sausage
  • Trans fats and refined oils: margarine, canola oil, soybean oil
  • Sodium: excess amounts of table salt

When to Get Treatment for Depression and Appetite Fluctuations

Depression should always be treated by a professional, even if it is temporary or doesn’t feel severe enough. For some people, treating depression with a combination of prescription medication and talk therapy can be helpful enough to mitigate changes in appetite. But there are some symptoms of depression and appetite changes that should be brought to a doctor’s attention:

  • Using eating as a way to deal with sadness and guilt, or to avoid these feelings
  • Rapid weight gain or weight loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, death, or self-harm

Nutrition, Health, and Wellness Support for Depression

At Viewpoint Dual Recovery Center, we help many clients who are dealing with a variety of addiction and mental health issues, including depression and appetite changes. One of the methods we use to encourage healing and recovery is nutrition, health, and wellness treatment. This can include providing clients with healthy meal plans and an environment of support and wellness. We also offer exercise therapy, including yoga and meditation.

When combined with the care of our attentive staff and therapists, Viewpoint Dual Recovery Center’s nutrition, health, and wellness treatment offers a welcome change for clients suffering from depression. You’ll learn how to deal with your relationship with food, and how to create not just a healthy diet, but a healthy lifestyle.

Depression and appetite changes are so often intertwined. It makes sense to seek treatment at a center that specializes in many different types of treatment. Contact us today or call us at (877) 777-5150 to begin depression and appetite fluctuation treatment.

Resources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diet-and-depression-2018022213309

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/depression-and-diet/faq-20058241

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801