Diet is one of the key factors of preventing disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s no surprise, then, that what you eat can also impact your mental health, and, for people with mental illnesses or disorders, your diet can both help and harm your treatment and recovery. Read on for some of the links between diet and mental health issues.
1. Vitamin-B Deficiencies
Some people’s depression and anxiety is actually rooted entirely in their diet. Vitamins in the B class, particularly Vitamin B12, B6, and folate, have all been linked to depression, memory loss, and even paranoia and delusions. These deficiencies are more common in adults over the age of 50, vegans and other strict vegetarians, long-term alcoholics and people on certain medications. And it’s not just people with poor diets that can have vitamin-b deficiencies: sometimes, no matter how much you eat, your body just can’t absorb enough of the stuff. Luckily, you can find out if you’re deficient in these vitamins by getting a simple blood test; talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
Caffeine can influence people with mental health issues in a slew of negative — and positive — ways. People with depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may benefit from a cup of coffee. On the other end of the spectrum, very high doses of the stuff can lead some people to experience hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.
For some people with ADHD, however, even small amounts of caffeine can actually have the opposite affect — making it harder to focus. Some people with depression feel worse after a cup of coffee, too. Pay close attention to how your body fairs both with and without caffeine before keeping up your habit or ditching it altogether.
3. ADHD and Protein
Protein is a crucial component of any diet, but it’s especially key for children and adults with ADHD. Protein helps your brain function better, helps balance out energy levels, and even improves alertness. One tip? If you’re feeling sluggish or unfocused, have a little high-protein snack, like a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese. Protein is especially helpful for people on stimulant medications — it can actually help the medication work better!
4. Omega-3s and Psychosis
More and more research is suggesting that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help people cope with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, and even help prevent these disorders in the first place. It may be particularly helpful for people experiencing psychosis for the first time; some studies have suggested that treating these folks with omega-3 fatty acids helps prevent the development of more chronic mental illnesses.
5. Citrus and Medications.
Certain medications used to treat mental illnesses and disorders may be negatively affected by grapefruit juice, seville oranges, and, possibly, other types of citrus fruit. Though the research isn’t complete, it’s often best to avoid grapefruit and other citrus if you’re taking certain medications. Buspar, which is used to treat anxiety, Carbamazepine, which is sometimes used to treat Bipolar disorder, and several stimulants used to treat ADHD are some of the medications that may negatively inexact with citrus fruits. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any possible interactions between your medications and citrus fruit. You can find a more exhaustive list of medications here.
6. Hunger and Depression
Depression is often associated with an increased appetite and, thus, weight gain. That’s likely because when ghrelin, a hormone that signals to your brain that it’s time to eat, is released, your brain is less likely to feel stressed, anxious and depressed. So, for some people with depression, finding comfort in food really does help ease the pain. Now, of course, that’s not always a good thing: gaining a lot of weight doesn’t have many advantages in the long-term. But this finding does pave the way for further research that may help shape future treatment for depression. It may also suggest that, well, if you’re feeling stressed, don’t skip meals!
7. Balanced Diet
The bottom line? A healthy diet is a key component of a healthy mind. Watching what you eat, and, if necessary, taking vitamins, can help you cope with a mental illness or disorder. It might not solve all of your problems, but it will certainly help alleviate symptoms.