Depression: What You Eat Changes How You Feel

The Last Harvest by Marisa Kestel on etsy

The Last Harvest by Marisa Kestel on etsy

In the summer of 2012, I started writing about depression. Ultimately, I wrote thirteen articles that were published monthly at the online magazine Scoutie Girl.
A part of it includes my experience with a long, dark episode of depression. But mostly, my goal has been to remind myself of good things to do and help others to help us when we’re unwell: something I couldn’t do when I was down.
The first full week of October 2015 encompasses Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada, so I thought, why not republish these? So, here they are. Where possible, the articles exist as they did in 2012-2013, with links to originals.

Depression: What You Eat Changes How You Feel

There are few more contentious topics these days than “what you eat.”

I won’t get into which diets are best and how we need to change the world through them, and this also has nothing to do with changing your body shape.

I’m here to talk about what I tried that worked in helping me to feel better.


Foods avoided

First, I cut out alcohol consumption. Alcohol makes me feel worse, almost across the board: any kind, any situation, any amount. It sends me into the pit, for at least 48 hours. (I’m not making this up.) I haven’t had addiction issues, and there were a few years where alcohol consumption was really fun! But cutting it out has been good for me.

Caffeine. It messes with mood ups and downs too much. Yes, this meant even cutting out chocolate for a while. But the effects of eating it were so strong and noticeable that cutting it out created marked positive feedback.

Refined foods, like sugar and wheat flour and packaged foods.

Nightshades. There was a point where one of the meds I trialled had me swollen up with some kind of auto-immune response that behaved like rheumatoid arthritis. As we sorted out the underlying cause(s), my nutritionist recommended a low-inflammation diet. It excluded all refined foods and nightshades: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.

Foods welcomed

Fresh vegetables. Mother* was right: fresh vegetables are really good for you. Paying such strong attention to what was happening in my body led me to feeling the energetics of food. And eating fresh vegetables creates a happy buzz.
(*Maybe not yours, but someone’s.)

Food that’s close to home. Not everyone has the luxury of having garden space in the back yard and living near a mixed farming community. But for those of us who do, we know that eating vegetables from the earth tastes good and very different from the same vegetables we get in most stores. It’s the same with meat, if you eat it. For example, chicken from your local farmer tastes so much better than chicken from a commercial farm. And there has to be goodness in that.

Water. Okay, it’s not a food, but it seems to help with balancing everything out.

Tea. It’s hot, it’s a change in taste, and it’s soothing. After cutting out caffeine, I hit rooibos. It’s perfect when I’m after a mellow, dark drink. And I have always enjoyed herbal infusions, so it wasn’t a stretch to reach for them. To go back to my earlier article on how pushing our senses can shift how we’re feeling, tea fits.

It’s both simple and complicated: We become accustomed to eating certain foods, even when we know that others might be better for us. By trying to move toward those that help us more, and avoiding more of the ones that make us feel worse, we can start to participate in feeling better more of the time.

Have you noticed that, over time or in the moment, certain foods help support good feelings? What works (or doesn’t work) for you?

I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this.