How is our depression affected by the stress we see in our daily lives and how can we fix it with food?
Stress Linked to Depression
Just about everyone experiences stress and anxiety at some point in their life. This year there seems to be an extra stress button everyone has at some point because let’s face it – this year is DIFFERENT! What’s not different is how the body responds to those stimulants.
Understanding the difference between stress and anxiety is key!
Stress is a response to a threat in a situation while anxiety is a reaction to the stress.
Studies show that sustained or chronic stress can lead to elevated hormones, like increased cortisol (the stress hormone) and decreased serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters within our brains. A decrease in these vital hormones and neurotransmitters can lead to depression. When we have stability within our hormones and neurotransmitters, things like sleep, energy, appetite, and even our sex drive are level and help us in maintaining a balanced life.
The connection our bodies make between emotion, stress, anxiety, and depression directly affects our diet and can come from the relationship between our brains and our gastrointestinal tract. There is a direct link from our brains to our stomach and intestines. While a troubled gut can send signals to the brain, it can go the exact opposite, too. This means that our stomach can send emotional distress signals to our brain and can be the direct cause of our anxiety, stress, or depression.
That sick feeling you feel in your gut and the prompting to do something different in a given situation are not just what you ate for lunch but that brain-gut connection!
Stress, Depression, and Our Diets
This is why what we feed our bodies, we feed our minds. Our GI tract is home to billions of bacteria that aid in the production of our neurotransmitters. When we fuel our body with healthy food, our good bacteria grow. When we feed ourselves less nutrient-dense foods, our receptors can become inflamed and slow the production of the good neurotransmitters, causing us to feel down. It’s like an army of good bacteria and bad bacteria fighting for the same space. We want the good bacteria to overpower the bad.
Sugar plays a large part in slowing down the good development within our gut and can cause major inflammation. It can give us a false high of “feel-good” that ends with a terrible crash leaving you feeling worse. When we keep a healthy diet, we are setting ourselves up for less mood changes, an improved ability to focus, and a higher chance of fighting off depression.
Adding in foods that are high in Fiber, Antioxidants, B-12, and fermented foods are a great place to start increasing our good neurotransmitters and kicking that depression and anxiety to the curb!
Here are some great option in these categories:
Fiber rich foods:
- Red Cabbage
These foods are rich in B-12:
These are a good example of fermented foods:
As we talked about last week, our children’s diet and the stressors they face play a large part in their mental health. As the leaders of our families, we are setting the precedent in how we handle these emotional hurdles. Let’s continue to improve our physical health and our emotional health by expanding our own minds and learning how to best take care of the bodies we have been given; physically, emotionally and spiritually.
One thing doesn’t cause one thing because we’re not one thing!