Depression is a common, but serious medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, the way they think and act. However, have you ever imagined that poor feeding, especially foods high in sugar and fats, can be a cause of depression?
According to Private Kamanzi, a dietician at Amazon Wellness Centre, Remera, Gasabo District, one of the causes of depression is hydrogenated fats which are got from over-consumption of foods like doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins and pies.
He says saturated fats from foods like meats like salami, sausages, chicken skin, dairy products such as butter, cream, ghee, regular-fat milk and cheese, also have a negative effect on the mental power of the brain.
For Dr Dieudonne Bukaba, a nutrition expert at AVEGA Clinic in Remera, gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye products can also be a big trigger for depression symptoms.
Research has now confirmed that people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance are at higher risk for depression and mood disorders.
Kamanzi says over consumption of fats is not healthy for the body because they have an increased risk of high blood cholesterol levels in the body.
He, however, advises that re-using the same cooking oil a number of times is also not good since it contains fatty acids.
Research shows that consuming fatty foods affect the hypothalamus - a region of the forebrain below the thalamus which coordinates both the autonomic nervous system and the activity of the pituitary, controlling body temperature, thirst, hunger, and other homeostatic systems, and involved in sleep and emotional activity.
The dietician also says refined sugars like sodas, chocolates and processed foods like bread, tinned vegetables, cheese or cakes affect the functioning of the brain, thus leading to stress and depression.
Bukaba adds that studies have shown that although sugar does not cause depression, it does create changes in the body that can worsen depression symptoms and damages the body’s ability to effectively cope with stress.
Kamanzi also says if one insists on eating the food they are allergic to such protein, milk or meat, can lead to depression.
Bukaba says caffeine has long had a reputation for generating the body’s fight-or-flight response which is similar to the symptoms associated with depression, thus caffeine can also make one nervous, nauseous, light-headed and anxious.
“Caffeine like other energy drinks makes it hard for one to get sleep (insomnia) which worsens depression and anxiety,” Kamanzi explains.
Bukaba says excess alcohol consumption is also said to provoke the symptoms of depression since it is a toxin that leads to improper mental and physical functioning, by negatively impacting the levels of serotonin (the feel good chemical) in the brain.
“Most foods that are fat-free are high in sugar and sodium, and researchers have concluded that too much sodium in our diets can have a negative effect on the body’s neurological system hence causing fatigue and damaging the immune system as well,” he says.
Recommended foods to eat for the brain are those rich in serotonin amino acids which help people to sleep especially for those suffering from insomnia.
Bukaba further says if one is depressed, foods rich in celetoline such as legumes, and complex carbohydrates present in bananas, yams, cassava, potatoes and soya products like soya meat, soya milk, soya coffee help them feel better.
“Detoxify the body by taking natural cleansers like fruits like cucumber and at least two glasses of vegetable juice a day with no sugar.”
Kamanzi advises those depressed to feed more on foods rich in vitamins especially vitamin B1 (present in eggs, seeds, legumes and peas), B6 (in vegetables, beans and nuts) since they are good for the functioning of the brain.
Kamanzi says, “You should feed on salads, like cabbage, carrot, cucumber and onions. It is also healthy to add one table spoon of olive oil daily, especially omega 3 and 6, since they help the body to generate cells and boosting the brain.”
Since depressed people have low-density lipoprotein in the body, he says they should add half a tea spoon of garlic powder with hot water, hibiscus tea bags, and honey and take.
Bukaba advises those suffering from depression to opt for green tea instead of coffee since it is believed that the theanines in green tea may help to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
He adds that salt is essential in maintaining good health and a balanced diet, but too much can lead to panic and depression.
Bukaba advises that those depressed should endeavor to have a restful sleep since it is a major key to a healthy mind, mood and body.