The World Health Organization says that depression is a widespread mental illness. According to estimates, the condition affects 5% of adults worldwide.
It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.
Moreover, it may impair appetite and sleep. The root causes of depression are frequently complex, including both risk factors from the environment and genetics. Certain stressors or conditions might act as triggers, resulting in recurring major depressive episodes.
While targeted therapy and medication help many overcome or manage their symptoms of depression, these interventions do not work equally for everyone.
This has prompted researchers to search for novel approaches to depression treatment and symptom management, such as dietary interventions to treat or even prevent various medical conditions.
Dr Najaf Amin, a senior research associate in the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and her work colleagues examined data from 1,133 Rotterdam Study participants to determine if there was a correlation between having symptoms of depression and the makeup of the gut microbiota.
According to a study transferring the gut microbiota of depressed human patients to germ-free rats causes the recipient animals to exhibit behavioural and physiological traits that are typical of depression, suggesting that the gut microbiota may be involved in the contributing factors that lead to depression.
Why might diet be key?
Between 70 to 80 percent of our immune cells are in the gut. The microbiota of a healthy person provides protection from pathogenic organisms that enter the body such as through drinking or eating contaminated water or food. This emphasises how closely linked gut health and the immune system are, and when out of balance, it is harder for the body to fight infection.
Dr Amin believes that diet may also play a role in "feeding" or reducing the expression and severity of depression symptoms.
Other studies show that dietary interventions can be a simple, self-empowering strategy to strive towards better mental health even though depression is a complicated disorder.
- Processed foods
- Unhealthy food such as fizzy drinks and fried foods
Eat this instead:
Increase consumption of prebiotics such as leafy greens and probiotics like yoghurt and kimchi, which can help the gut's bacterial variety.
- Nuts and seeds
- Fermented foods
- Fruits and veggies
Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that nourish your body and have also been shown to boost happiness.
Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.