Have you ever experienced a total sense of insidious flatness deep in your core – no drive to do anything, indifference to life, struggling to get out of bed because what’s the point in doing so?
Or maybe you’ve been overwhelmed by racing thoughts examining every single thing that could possibly go wrong around you?
Perhaps a combination of these.
If you haven’t had an experience with anxiety or low mood/depression, chances are someone you know has struggled, or is currently dealing with the weight of anxiety and/or depression. You might not even know it’s happening.
The rise of anxiety and low mood in the modern world is alarming. With the number of people increasingly being medicated for such disorders, it would make sense that the amount of people suffering would improve and as a population we were more content and happier. This is not the case. We need to look deeper into the root cause of these illnesses.
While there’s no one single aspect that depletes mental wellness, the research is pointing to some holding more weight than others.
Our body is one system. Our brains and our bodies are connected. The food that creates health or illness in our bodies, similarly plays a role in creating health or illness in our brains.
What is anxiety and low mood?
Anxiety and low mood isn’t as simple as black and white – there is a spectrum and two people experiencing anxiety or low mood could be on completely different ends of the spectrum.
There is also a difference between feeling depressed and having depression, just the same as there’s a difference between having anxious thoughts and having anxiety. Having a diagnosed condition is often debilitating, getting in the way of regular, everyday life. However, don’t let perceived severity or lack of, stop you from seeking help. Stress is common; this doesn’t mean it needs to be normal.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or low mood in any capacity, it is a good idea to seek support. Stress that isn’t dealt with has the potential to become pathological. Nip it in the bud.
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – Excessive anxiety and worry
- Social and panic disorders – Related to social or performance situations
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – results from a trauma; recurrent intrusive thoughts, nightmares, avoidance of places / people related to the trauma impacting on daily function
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – Uncontrollable thoughts and compulsive behaviours
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) – Ongoing feelings of low mood that interfere with the capacity to function normally in everyday activities
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Cycles of depressive episode occurring typically in colder months only
- Postpartum Depression – Depression during or following pregnancy as the woman experiences major hormonal shifts
- Bipolar Disorder – Consistent patterns of mood extremities cycling through episodes of ‘high highs’ (mania or hypomania) and low lows (depression).
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – Related to hormonal shifts that take place throughout the menstrual cycle. Intense emotional response can interfere with everyday life. The colloquial term ‘Shark Week’ may assist in painting a picture of PMDD.
Can foods trigger anxiety or low mood?
Going back to a systems biology approach and the mind-body connection, the food we eat affects our thoughts and our feelings.
People experiencing signs of inflammation of the brain may also display physical signs of inflammation such as arthritis, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome.
Foods linked to inflammation:
Can nutrient deficiencies make you more anxious or depressed?
While it’s hard to know for sure what is really driving anxiety and low mood, there is mounting research to suggest there may be nutrient deficiencies playing a significant role.
We need to address the underlying dysfunctions of the system as a whole, this is, mind and body, that give rise to conditions like anxiety and low mood.
Micronutrients are the building blocks of our neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that tell the cells in your body what to do. Serotonin, dopamine and GABA – known as our ‘happy hormones’ – are neurotransmitters that play a big role in our mood, lighting up areas in our brain. So, when you have nutritional deficiencies, you can see how our brains are having a harder time generating the ingredients needed for creating and sending the messages.
Zinc and Magnesium – essential components that help make neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, our happy hormones!
Vitamin D – Lowered levels are associated with lowered mood – Seasonal Affective Disorder is more common in places which have significantly shorter days in Winter such as Iceland.
Omega 3’s – Studies have found high intake of omega 3s can reduce depression.
B vitamins – An essential component to help make neurotransmitters.
- Selenium – An essential mineral for the thyroid gland. New Zealand soils are significantly deficient.
What foods can support anxiety and low mood?
As mentioned earlier, the foods we eat affect how we feel. This means eating food rich in macro and micronutrients, not only nourishes your body, but also your mind. Let's take a closer look at foods you can add into your diet that may help combat anxiety and low mood.
Oily fish Rich in vitamin D and omega 3’s, such as salmon and sardines
Green leafy vegetables Rich in B9 and magnesium
Brazil nuts are loaded with selenium. Eating just 2 - 3 a day provides you with your recommended daily intake.
Oysters and pumpkin seeds both rich in zinc.
Buckwheat is a great gluten-free alternative and is rich in B vitamins and magnesium.
Turmeric - has strong anti-inflammatory properties like cucurmin.
Fermented foods feed the good bacteria in our gut, the health of our gut is directly related to the health of our brain.
Chicken and fish are rich in vitamin B6
Turkey for tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps you to feel calm. Tryptophan in the form of meat, has been shown to reduce anxiety disorders.
- Red meat – specifically grass-fed organic red meat is rich in iron and B12.
9 Tips To Support Your Mental Wellness
As mentioned earlier, there is no single solution, however, there are many things we can do that may help such as;
- Eating a whole food diet suited to your macronutrient profile
Addition of high-quality multi vitamins and high-quality fish oil
- Stabilising your blood sugar levels
Reducing or preferably removing caffeine and alcohol from your diet
Getting good quality sleep - When your serotonin levels decrease this can impact your sleep quality. When you aren’t sleeping well, it is more likely that you won’t feel great either, in fact, some researchers have found that disturbances in circadian rhythms have been linked to depression.
- Exercising right for you
- Safe sun exposure
Supporting great gut health
- Eating an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates, such as ancient whole grains and kumara to support your energy and thyroid function.
One of our BePure Holistic Health Consultants, Helen Duyvestyn, has particular expertise in holistic management of mental health. To read some of her blogs, click the links below.
Please see your GP if you have concerns regarding your mood and anxiety.
If your situation is an emergency, or if you or someone is at risk, call 111.
For support, you can contact:
1737, Need to Talk? Free call or text anytime for support from a trained counsellor.
Lifeline 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland