In recent years, a plethora of research has emerged that show that diet and inflammation play a huge role in our moods. Food and nutrients change the trillions of bacteria in our gut micro biome, whether for better or worse. Good food absolutely does equal a good mood. And for whatever reason–convenience, flavor, or lack of sheer will–most of us still reach for some of the most inflammatory foods, which lead to increased gut permeability, or leaky gut. This sets us up for a lifetime of chronic inflammation.
Many studies have shown that people who eat an anti-inflammatory diet have significantly lower risks of depression and anxiety. (2-4). So what exactly is an anti-inflammatory diet and why is it so beneficial? Think healthy fats like avocado or almonds, antioxidants, loads of organic veggies and fruit, and organic grass fed or plant based proteins. In fact, a recent study that tracked about 6,500 women over 12 years showed that women with the most anti-inflammatory diet had an approximately 20 % lower risk of developing depression compared with women with the most pro-inflammatory diet. (5) Sadly the majority of people’s diets in the United States contain pro inflammatory foods as the main dishes. These eight inflammatory foods are the most frequent offenders I see when treating patients for depression:
- Sugar-This may come as no surprise to many of you, but not only can sugar pack on the pounds, feed cancer and disrupt immune function, but it can also lead to a depressed mood. This is because sugar disrupts the gut micro biome, feeding the wrong bacteria as well as affecting our hormones. The deadly white powder causes a surge of insulin that subsequently plummets blood sugar levels. Stress hormones, like cortisol, are then stimulated to come in to support the body during this crash. High cortisol levels are linked to disrupted sex hormones caused by a progesterone steal. This leads to yo-yo dieting and cravings. Not only that, but sugar intake is linked to inflammation and lowered immunity. It is as addictive as cocaine and lights up the same areas on MRIs. You can imagine how this craving and addiction can lead to depression. Rather than reaching for sugar, try Stevia, raw honey or dates instead. Your body will thank you for feeding it ingredients grown from the earth.
- Artificial Sweeteners-You can see from my answer above that I did not list any sweetener like Aspartame (diet Coke), sucralose, or high fructose corn syrup. Thats because these sweeteners are also linked to a disrupted gut micro biome, obesity and diabetes. Yep you read that right, the one thing artificial sweeteners are trying to prevent, they may actually be contributing to–diabetes. And many studies have linked these fake sugars to depression, brain fog and headaches. A study in 2012 researched over 250,000 people and found depression was more common among frequent consumers of artificially flavored beverages. (6) See above for alternative sweeteners that are healthy!
- Dairy–I admit, I’m a reformed dairy addict. I understand how hard it is to let go of cheese! Studies have given us a very revealing reason for this. Cheese contains exorphins, the opposite of feel-good endorphins, that can cross the blood-brain barrier. By binding to our morphine receptors, they facilitate a similar mechanism as opiates for creating addiction. They also are linked to hormone disruption like estrogen dominances, schizophrenia, cancer, and mood disorders like depression. (8) I personally believe a lot of that has to do with the disgusting factory farming conditions, antibiotics and hormone injections. Many people can tolerate raw or lightly pasteurized milk. I truly do love almond and cashew cheeses. Check out the Heido-Ho brand for some of the best spreads.
- Wheat-Many people may have a gluten allergy, better known as Celiac’s disease, but in my opinion, most are not reacting to a protein that has been around for millions of years (unless they tested positive for Celiacs). Many more sensitivities are due to the fact that Glyphosate, or Round Up, is being sprayed on the wheat as a pre harvest treatment. Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community. In my professional opinion, this is the “gluten sensitivity” that many people believe that they have. Instead opt for quinoa, rice, buckwheat, and amaranth.
- Potato Chips and French Fries-this one literally kills me. Anyone who knows me knows that I love some french fries on a cheat day! The reason I have them listed is because the FDA recently approved GMO potatoes in 2015. Potatoes are already one of the more heavily pesticide ridden foods, so you can bet that the GMO variety will not help this issue. If the potato is engineered to resist pesticides, then even more will be added to the crops. Moreover, nearly all french fries bought in fast food restaurants are cooked in vegetable oil, a mix of genetically engineered canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with tertbutylhydroquinone (TBHQ), citric acid, and dimethylpolysiloxane. Ewww…Instead, try beet/veggie chips, lentil chips, quinoa chips….or get your crunchy fix from some carrots.
- Vegetable Oil–I mentioned it above so lets dig a bit further. Canola, corn, safflower, and soybean are all considered vegetable oils. Many of these oils are made through genetic engineering and high processing with chemical solvents (like TBHQ) that are not recognized by our bodies and sound the alarm for inflammation. Let me explain. Canola oil is nowhere close to being natural. It is made from the genetically engineered rapeseed plant. Canola comes from the name “Canada” and “oils.” These oils are considered ‘processed’ because there are many high-heat and high-pressure steps, as well as chemical solvents required to create them. Further, many of these oils are made from GMOs.(9) Stay away from these oils; they’ve been linked to heart attacks, thyroid issues, cancer and mania in bipolar disorder. (10) Reach for olive, peanut or sesame oil for lower temperatures and almond, avocado, coconut, or ghee for higher frying temperatures.
- GMOs-sadly over 85% of our food supply is now genetically modified. GMOS contain much higher percentages of herbicides and pesticides like Roundup containing toxic glyphosate. Glyphosate is now linked to Alzheimers, autism, cancer and gut dysbiosis. (11). It disrupts the Shikimate pathway in plants and bacteria, but the problem is thats where WE get our amino acids that are the necessary building blocks of every reaction in the body. The World Health Organization just named RoundUp as a probable carcinogen. Also, GMOS have never definitely been proven as safe by an independent study over a long period (>20 years). Try to eat as organic as possible. Even organic food can be junk or premade/boxed foods that aren’t healthy. Read ingredients on labels and be sure you know what they are and recognize them as something you would cook with at home.
- Corn–Corn does not bother everyone, but has proven to be more inflammatory than other foods. Over 90% is genetically modified and contains BT toxin herbicide within the kernels. Recent studies have linked BT toxin to toxicity in human kidney cells and other pathologies. (12)(13). Swap corn for organic or reach for other veggies that your tummy can easily digest.
You’re doing a great job becoming your own best doctor,