- When an individual experiences a stressor, physical or emotional, internal or environmental, the body initiates a complex system of adaptive reactions to help cope with the stress. This reactive response results in the release of glucocorticoids, also known as stress hormones, and catecholamines, which stimulate adaptive changes in a variety of bodily systems.
What can you do?
- Eat a wide variety of nutritious food such as vegetables, legumes and fruits.Green leafy vegetables are particularly good sources of folate. The nutrient folate has been shown to improve the effect of antidepressant medications.
- Eat gluten free whole grains.Whole grains (those with intact kernels) and many fruits, vegetables and legumes have a low ‘glycemic index’ which means that the sugar in these foods is absorbed slowly into the bloodstream. This helps to stabilize blood sugars and optimize mental as well as physical performance. Whole grains are good sources of fiber. Eating high fiber foods daily and drinking plenty of water helps prevent constipation, a side-effect of some antidepressant medications.
- Include high protein foods such as lean meat, fish, and poultry.These high protein foods are made up of amino acids – essential nutrients for repairing or building new cells. One essential amino acid is called tryptophan. Regular consumption of protein-rich foods ensures a steady supply of tryptophan to the brain where it is used to produce serotonin. Oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, perch, sardines and herring are good sources of long chain omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming about 500 mg a day of long chain omega-3 fatty acids is a good preventative measure for mental health, as well as physical health. Eat two to three meals a week of oily fish or a weekly dose of one oily fish and one white fish meal.
- Drink plenty of water.This can help alleviate the side-effects of some antidepressants such as dry mouth and constipation. Drinking plenty of water also helps prevent dehydration. Even mild dehydration can affect mood, causing irritability and restlessness.
- Limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink. Heavy drinking can actually contribute to depression or make it worse, since alcohol is a depressant. Even at moderate levels, alcohol can interact with antidepressant medication, reducing its effectiveness.
- Note: I’ll be adding vegetarian sources of protein shortly.
Source: Adapted from beyondblue.org.au