Processed Food Implicated in Depression
Research has now proven beyond doubt that the food you eat affects your mental health. To maintain a state of optimal mental and emotional balance, you must factor in the decisions you make around food. That is true of depression as well as other mental health issues.
Health experts sometimes describe your gut as your “second brain.” Both develop before birth from the same tissue, and they are connected by the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that extends from the brain stem to the abdomen. Scientists now know the vagus nerve is the primary route used by your gut bacteria to transmit information to the brain. This explains why mental health is so closely connected to the bacteria and other microbes living in your intestines.
As an example, a recent study found that fermented foods help lessen social anxiety disorder in young adults. A second study showed mice engaged in repetitive obsessive-compulsive behaviors were calmed by a strain of the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis. We know that neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are important for maintaining mood stability. Serotonin deficiency is often implicated in depression, and the greatest concentration of serotonin is actually not in the brain, but in the intestines.
Sugar and Depression
A variety of food ingredients have been shown to cause or worsen depression, but the worst of these are refined sugar and processed fructose. Sugar feeds the pathogens in the intestines, which allows them to overtake the good bacteria.
Sugar also suppresses the activity of BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is a key growth hormone in the brain, and it has been shown to be low in people with depression as well as schizophrenia.
Eating sugar can trigger a cascade of chemical reactions that cause chronic inflammation, which is a factor in many diseases. Inflammation interferes with the normal operation of your immune system, and it is dangerous to brain health. Refined sugar and processed fructose, as well as the grains that are converted within the body to sugar, contribute to insulin and leptin resistance. These promote type 2 diabetes and undermine mental health.
A study published in June 2015, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that high-glycemic index foods (such as sugar and refined grains) were strongly associated with a higher risk of depression.
Other Proceed Food Ingredients and Depression
Here are some other culprits:
Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients present in processed foods change your gut flora, supporting pathogens while attacking the good microbes you need for mental as well as physical well-being.
Glyphosate is an herbicide used on food crops throughout the world. It has been shown to cause mineral deficiencies, resulting in diminished brain function and mood control.
Artificial food additives, including the popular sweetener aspartame, are known to interfere with brain function. Aspartame has been implicated in depression and panic attacks. Artificial coloring agents also impact mood.
Gluten, a protein present in many grains, may have a detrimental impact on brain health and mood stability. Some studies have also shown that wheat can have a negative impact on mood and promote depression.
So if you are prone to depression, take a proactive stance on your diet and avoid processed foods.