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Let's talk about depression...

This week has been Mental Health Awareness week so here at Parkinsons.Me we decided to dedicate this week’s tasty blog to discussing diet and depression. Mental health covers a wide spectrum of conditions including depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia but depression is common in people with Parkinson’s and the reason for our focus.

Research continues to evolve in the area of mood disorders such as depression. It is known that depression can be triggered by a number of factors such as stress, trauma, hormonal changes and from the side effects of medication. Such events can cause an imbalance of the neurotransmitters that are responsible for sending messages between brain cells. It is thought that depression in Parkinson’s may be due to the underlying changes in brain chemistry. Research suggests that amongst other things dietary factors play an important role in preventing and treating depression.

It is known that the hormone serotonin affects mood, and low levels can cause depression. There is increasing evidence that eating carbohydrates triggers the release of serotonin. So make sure your diet contains ample quantities of carbohydrates. Eat carbohydrates that release their sugars slowly (low GI) such as whole grains rather than refined products. A diet low in omega 3 fatty acids has been found to change the structure of cell membranes causing serotonin release and uptake to be impaired. For a diet rich in Omega 3 oily fish such as salmon should be eaten 2-3 times a week. Or take an Omega 3 supplement.

Other important nutrients include the vitamin B group, in particular folic acid and thiamin. Good sources of folic acid and thiamin are whole grains and marmite. Zinc is also important so include shellfish, pumpkin seeds and beef in your diet. Vitamin D plays an important function in the brain and in trials vitamin D has been shown to improve mood. Sunshine is the best source of vitamin D but good food sources include oily fish, eggs and mushrooms. However diet alone is not sufficient and taking a vitamin D supplement every day is recommended.

We have discussed gut bacteria in previous blogs, this is a fascinating area of science and an understanding of the relationship between gut bacteria and mood is starting to emerge suggesting that pre/probiotics may be an effective way to treat depression.

Research has predominantly focused on the effects of individual foods and nutrients on depression however one study has shown that eating a healthy diet which by definition would include all the foods mentioned above is significant in preventing depression.

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