Food and Mood

Depression is commonly experienced in Fibromyalgia and this is something that I often see with my clients. Not really surprising as the symptoms of fibromyalgia can really get one down, but there is lots that we can do from a dietary perspective to support mood and some of those strategies may also support the general symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The neurotransmitter serotonin is involved in balancing mood and happiness and low levels have been associated with depression. Research has found that people with fibromyalgia have abnormally low levels of serotonin in their brains. Serotonin is produced from the amino acid tryptophan which is found in protein rich foods such as meat and fish, beans and lentils and particularly in walnuts, oats, pumpkin seeds and bananas, so it is important to try and include these foods in our diet.

It is thought that approximately 90% of Serotonin is produced in the gut and gut bacteria have a strong hand in its production. It is thought that up to 90% of patients with IBS, something that I find is common in Fibromyalgia, also experience anxiety, depression or other psychiatric disorders. Therefore, the health of the gut always should be considered for anyone who is experiencing depression.

Consuming a wide variety of vegetables and fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut can support our beneficial gut bacteria populations. You could also consider taking a probiotic, beneficial bacteria supplement.

The integrity of the digestive tract is thought to play a role in both fibromyalgia and depression, because if the digestive lining is compromised by inflammation, oxidative stress and damage, larger molecules can pass through into the blood stream, triggering systemic inflammation. This is commonly known as leaky gut. Research has shown that when the integrity of the gut lining becomes more permeable, so too is the integrity of the blood brain barrier. Therefore, molecules which should be kept out of the brain can cross and trigger neuro-inflammation; it is known that this can affect mood and depression and also have a significant effect on cognitive function. Chronic pain and fatigue which are common fibromyalgia symptoms, have also been linked to neuroinflammation

Nutrients that research has shown are important for repair and integrity of the digestive lining include: Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, L-Glutamine and Zinc, particularly zinc carnosine.

When we have inflammation, we also see higher levels of oxidative stress and this can affect overall neuronal function and may be a risk factor for depression.

Reduce inflammation by increasing omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish, chia and flax seeds, walnuts and dark leafy green vegetables. Consider using anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric (curcumin) and ginger in your cooking and increase vitamin E containing foods such as avocado. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates as much as possible as these are considered to be highly pro-inflammatory foods and are also the main source of fuel for opportunistic (or bad) gut bacteria.

Low levels of certain nutrients have also been associated with depression. Vitamin D deficiency is common in populations that live in the Northern Hemisphere. Low Vitamin D has been associated with low mood but the symptoms of low Vitamin D also encompass many of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. If you are someone who’s mood is lower in the winter months, then it is definitely worth asking your GP to check your Vitamin D levels to ensure that they are optimal. Some GP’s are not keen to do this, and there are several companies that will check Vitamin D levels very cheaply.

Research has found that low B Vitamins status is also a risk factor for both depression and fatigue. B Vitamins are found in Salmon, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, eggs, liver and other organ meats, beef and shellfish.

Zinc is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes and low zinc levels have been associated with depression. Zinc rich foods include; fish, oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams, beef, pork, lamb, turkey and chicken, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, eggs, whole grains, mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus and beet greens

Lastly, ensuring that you stay well hydrated is important for mood as dehydration is a common trigger for both depression and anxiety. The government guidelines for fluid intake are currently 1.5ltrs p/d for women and 2lts p/d for men.

This month I have chosen a quick and easy Salmon and Quinoa recipe. Salmon is full of Omega 3 fatty acids and Quinoa is rich in B Vitamins and magnesium. It is a seed rather than a grain and contains a good amount of protein which is needed for neurotransmitter production.

Hot Smoked Salmon with Quinoa and salad leaves

Serves 2

2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves
2 Hot Smoked Salmon filets
1 pouch of ready to eat Quinoa
½ a cucumber, chopped into bite sized dice
4-6 radishes, top and tailed and slices
The juice of 1 lemon
Olive or Rapeseed Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C or Gas mark 6

Place the hot smoked salmon on an oven proof tray and pop into the oven for about 8 minutes to warm through.

In a small frying pan, add the quinoa and a small splash of water and warm on a medium heat. It might  need breaking up a little bit and move it around with a spoon so that it doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile pop your salad leaves in a bowl, add the radishes and cucumber

Make the dressing by mixing equal parts of lemon juice and olive or rapeseed oil and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients apart from the salmon and dressing in a bowl and gently mix/toss together.

Serve topped with the salmon and drizzled with the dressing.


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