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You’ve likely heard some talk about the effects of diet on depressive symptoms. Job burnout and depression can cause more serious issues than just pervasive sorrow, such as a passive suicidal ideation, loss of appetite altogether, and more.
The lingering question remains, though: Does changing your diet to include better food choices actually help ease some for the symptoms of depression and job burnout? How much does diet really affect the mind and body overall?
Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating concept and how it can actually help with depression and other mental health conditions.
Diet Affects Both Mind and Body
If you’ve ever eaten a ton of junk food in one sitting, you probably remember feeling awful for at least a few hours, if not well into the next day. The fact is what you put into your body affects all parts of the body. From your brain to your muscles to your mental health, the foods we consume on a daily basis inflict physical and chemical changes that can make things better or worse.
Diet and mental health are linked and in fact, are studied by an entire subdivision of medicine known as “nutritional psychiatry.” The food that we eat on a daily basis has been studied rigorously by scientists and doctors, and according to The Harvard Medical School:
A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression. A dietary pattern characterized by a high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression.”
The Modern Diet
The average diet for Americans consists of a lot of carbs, sugars, and fats. We eat red meat and potatoes, drink sugary sodas and coffee, and consume plenty of sweets and processed foods. With the information provided by Harvard Medical School, it’s no wonder depression is at an all-time high in the US and around the world!
Sugar gives you a “rush” or “high” that lasts temporarily; then comes the crash. If you’ve ever felt a sugar “crash,” you know that both your mind and body feel exhausted afterward.
With such high-carb/fat/sugar diets being the norm in the US, depression and obesity have both skyrocketed in recent years. That’s not to say there aren’t other factors linked to a rise in both, but diet is much more important than most people realize.
How Dieting Helps
Putting good food into your body helps your brain receive the much-needed nutrition it craves. Without proper nutrition, your brain can’t operate at full capacity, and your body also suffers. You’ll feel sluggish, tired, and run-down all the time, which doesn’t leave much energy to deal with everyday life. Feeling job burnout isn’t surprising.
It’s also been found that processed sugar has addictive properties, leading to a sense of sadness when you don’t have it. That being said, drinking or eating large amounts of sugar on a daily basis can actually worsen your depression symptoms by bringing another variable into the mix. One study found that lab rats exhibited drug withdrawal symptoms similar to opioid addiction when fed sugar-rich foods for a number of days and then deprived of the sugar for controlled periods.
Withdrawal can make depression much worse, and sugar seems to have a similar effect on the body as recreational drug use. That being said, it’s safe to say a poor diet that consists of high levels of sugar intake is probably not a good thing for those suffering from depression already.
Is Diet a Cure-All?
Some books and groups have advocated that a good diet is a cure-all for mental or physical ailments. While it’s certainly true that a good diet has positive effects on both physical and mental health, you should still consult with your doctor before making any radical changes to your life.
If you suffer from depression, working with a counselor or psychiatrist is an important part of recovery and simply can’t be replaced by eating well. The two together, however, could have a significantly positive impact on your mental health.
What To Do Next
The first thing to do if you’re suffering from job burnout and/or experiencing signs of depression is to speak with your doctor and a mental health professional. Major dietary changes shouldn’t occur overnight but rather at a gradual rate. You wouldn’t want to throw sugar withdrawal symptoms into the mix with your depression! Let each professional know that you’re thinking of changing up your diet in order to help with your depression.
Your doctor will be able to offer insight on which diet is right for your body, and your mental health professional can help monitor behavioral changes or improvements due to your new diet. You’ll want to know whether or not your efforts are having an effect.