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Healthy Eating for People With Depression, Anxiety and Related Disorders

Healthy Eating for People With Depression, Anxiety and Related Disorders

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Published by Waseem Qureshi

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Published by: Waseem Qureshi on Nov 05, 2011
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act sheet 30
Healthy eating or peoplewith depression, anxietyand related disorders
or mor inormion
ino line 1300 22 4636
1 o 4
Food can play a vital role in maintaining mental health as well as physical health. In general, eating a nourishingdiet gives people an overall sense o well-being. There are also some specifc nutritional strategies that can helpimprove mood, maintain healthy brain unctioning and help people with depression, anxiety and related disorders.
 The Dietary Guidelines or Australian Adults
provide simple instructions or selecting a healthy diet. They are relevant to all Australians,including people experiencing a mental illness. Here are some examples o how the ollowing guidelines can benet someone withdepression and anxiety, in addition to promoting physical health.
Dietary Guideline or Australian Adults
Example o mental health beneft
enjoy  wid vriy o nuriiou ood.
Increasing the variety in your diet can help stimulate interest in ood when appetite is poor.
e plny o vgbl, lgum nd rui.
Some o these oods, such as green leay vegetables, are particularly good sources o olate. The nutrient olate has been shown to improve the eect o antidepressant medications.
e plny o rl (inluding brd, ri,p nd noodl), prrbly wolgrin.
Wholegrain cereals (those with intact kernels) and many ruits, vegetables and legumes have a low‘glycaemic index’ which means that the sugar in these oods is absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. This helps to stabilise blood sugars and optimise mental as well as physical perormance.(To check the glycaemic index o a ood visit
 )Wholegrain cereals are good sources o bre. Eating high bre oods daily and drinking plenty o water helps prevent constipation, a side-eect o some antidepressant medications.
Inlud ln m, f, poulry nd/orlrniv.
 These high protein oods are made up o amino acids – essential nutrients or repairing or buildingnew cells. One essential amino acid is called tryptophan. Regular consumption o protein-richoods ensures a steady supply o tryptophan to the brain where it is used to produce serotonin.Oily sh, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, perch, sardines and herring are good sources o longchain omega-3 atty acids. Consuming about 500 mg a day o long chain omega-3 atty acidsis a good preventative measure or mental health, as well as physical health. Two to three mealsa week o oily sh or a weekly dose o one oily sh and one white sh meal, together with someomega-3 enriched oods (such as eggs, bread and milk) will achieve this.
Inlud milk, yogur,  nd/orlrniv. Rdud- vrii ould bon wr poibl.
Dairy products are ready to eat, nutrient-dense oods that can serve as palatable snacks or peopleexperiencing loss o appetite and weight. Low-at varieties are useul when trying to lose or maintainweight. Milk is a good source o tryptophan. A warm milk drink beore bed can help induce sleepiness.
Drink plny o wr.
 This can help alleviate the side-eects o some antidepressants such as dry mouth andconstipation. Drinking plenty o water also helps prevent dehydration. Even mild dehydration canaect mood, causing irritability and restlessness.
Limi urd  nd modr ol  ink.
 This assists with weight control and promotes a healthy metabolism and healthy heart.
Limi your lool ink i you oo o drink.
Heavy drinking can actually contribute to depression or make it worse, since alcohol is adepressant. Even at moderate levels, alcohol can interact with antidepressant medication,reducing its eectiveness.
Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults
National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government, Canberra 2003.
act sheet 30
Healthy eating or peoplewith depression, anxietyand related disorders
or mor inormion
ino line 1300 22 4636
2 o 4
General vitamin/mineral supplements
While supplements are no substitute or a healthy diet, there maybe occasions when they are helpul. I you have been under-eatingand/or eating poor quality oods or prolonged periods, a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement can help to meet your nutritional needsuntil you’re able to resume better eating patterns.I you decide to take a supplement, choose one with moderatelevels o a whole range o vitamins and minerals. While there’s someevidence that specic nutrients, such as olate, can play a role in thetreatment o depression, more evidence is needed beore specicdoses o individual vitamins and minerals can be recommended.Some nutrients are toxic in high doses (such as the at-solublevitamins A, D and E) so check your supplement choice with adietitian or a doctor.
Omega-3 atty acids
 There is evidence that the long chain omega-3 essential attyacids ound in seaood, (primarily eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) anddocosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) play a role in depressive illnesses.While several studies do show promising results or the use o longchain omega-3s in the treatment o mood disorders, importantquestions remain regarding the optimal dose, optimal proportions o DHA and EPA, and whether omega-3s alone have an antidepressanteect or only in conjunction with antidepressant medication.I you want to try taking omega-3 supplements, do so undermedical supervision with someone who has experience in the area,as there can be complications such as blood-clotting disorders. Also, at the doses used in trials to treat depression (typicallytwo to three grams a day), omega-3s work in a similar way toantidepressant medication and can occasionally cause side-eects.
Having a mental illness can make it challenging to eat well. Lacko motivation, loss o appetite, irregular meals, eeling isolated,nancial insecurity and the use o comort eating, drugs or alcoholas a coping strategy can all undermine adequate nutrition.People with depression and anxiety and their carers can try somesimple strategies or optimising nutrition when aced with thesechallenges.
Lack o motivation
Lack o energy and motivation is one o the most dicult barriersto eating well or people with depression and anxiety. Keeping itsimple and asking or support can help.
such as shopping, cooking and eating.
toast or example, with cherry tomatoes and spinach is a healthymeal that can be prepared in ve to ten minutes.
using rozen or home-delivered meals (e.g. Meals on Wheels orrom commercial providers). These are better than no meals at all.
ahead o time (e.g. i you eel good in the morning, make dinnerthen) – or cook large quantities o ood and reeze it.
Dietary Guideline or Australian Adults
Example o mental health beneft
conum only modr moun o ugr ndood onining ddd ugr.
Many high sugar oods are not good sources o essential nutrients.High sugar oods such as cakes, pastries and biscuits are oten high in saturated at and kilojoulesthat increase blood cholesterol and encourage weight gain. Other oods/drinks such as sot drinkhave a high glycaemic index, causing an initial surge o sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream. Thiseect soon wears o leaving a person eeling tired and low.
 Additional Suggestions
Limi in ink.e rgulr ml (nd nk i ungry)rougou  dy.
For people who experience anxiety, avoiding caeine is wise. Caeine, especially or those whoare particularly sensitive to it, increases anxiety and contributes to insomnia. Coee, tea, energy
chocolate in lesser amounts.For those who don’t experience anxiety, limiting daily caeine intake to the equivalent o two cupso coee, or our to ve cups o tea is acceptable. This helps stabilise blood sugars and mood.
Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults
National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government, Canberra 2003.
or mor inormion
ino line 1300 22 4636
3 o 4
need to take on the role o ood preparation until you are wellenough to do this yoursel.
Weight change
People with depression oten lose or put on weight.
Weight loss
Loss o appetite and interest in ood is a common symptom o depression that typically results in weight loss.
Dealing with weight loss
the day on energy-dense and nutrient-dense oods such ascheese and biscuits, dried ruit and nuts or letover dinner.
moderate activity, such as walking, as oten as you can.
such as smoothies or soups. Adding skim milk powder to theseboosts the protein, energy and nutrient content.
eat at all, ask your doctor or a reerral to a dietitian who canprescribe adequate meal replacement supplements until yourecover your appetite.
Weight gain
During recovery, as appetite improves, lost weight is usually restored. This weight gain can be regarded as a healthy sign o recovery.Further weight gain can occur i physical activity levels are low,i comort eating is common and with regular use o high-at,high-sugar oods and drinks.Some antidepressant medications also cause weight gain. Themedications most commonly associated with weight gain includeMirtazapine, tricyclic antidepressants and the mood stabiliser, lithium.For most people, the weight gain is small and soon stabilises. Fora small number o people, the weight gain can be large. Regularexercise and healthy eating can help minimise weight gain, whethermedication or liestyle induced.
Dealing with weight gain
too hungry, which can lead to impulsive choices or overeating.
activity (such as swimming, walking or cycling) as well as someresistance training (weights, squats, push ups) i you can.
meats, ried ast oods, pastries, cakes, biscuits, hard cheese)and high sugar oods and drinks (such as sot drinks, sweetbiscuits, chocolate).
vegetables, low-at crackers and dips (such as rice crackersand hommous).
proessional help rom a dietitian or psychologist can help.
doctor to review your medication.
maintenance may be the most achievable result to aim or.
lose health. Increasing your tness can oset the health risksassociated with carrying extra weight.
Drugs and alcohol
Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and taking other drugs tocope with depression all have nutritional consequences. Regularuse o these substances can deplete the body o certain nutrientsand disrupt regular eating patterns, exacerbating mood fuctuationsand challenging a person’s ability to establish healthy eating habits. Tobacco smoking, or example, suppresses appetite and can leadto a person not eating enough. It also increases the demand orantioxidants to cope with the damage caused by smoking andcan leave smokers low in these protective nutrients. Thiamineand other vitamin deciencies are common in heavy drinkers andthese decits can cause low mood, irritability and/or aggressivebehaviour. Cannabis, or marijuana, can stimulate appetite and insome cases lead to over-eating however, taking amphetamines canlead to going days without eating.Since most illegal drugs and alcohol interere with the eects o antidepressant drugs, it’s important to tell your doctor i you aretaking them, so you can get the appropriate treatment.For suggestions on how to cut down your alcohol and drug intakesee
Fact sheet 9: Reducing alcohol and other drugs.
kilojoules), certain nutrients (such as calcium) and fuid. The loss o appetite and anxiety that usually accompanies postnatal depression,and the atigue that is common to many new mothers, can makemeeting these extra requirements dicult. I a mother’s overall oodand energy intake is too low, this can reduce the volume o milkproduced, and can also leave the mother depleted.

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