Sadness, purposelessness, irritability, and impaired body functions? All signs of Depression.
Psychotherapy, medications, or phototherapy are few treatments available for coping with this disorder. However, recent clinical and experimental evidence shows that an appropriate diet might reduce symptoms of depression (Reference 1).
For instance, an unhealthy diet can lead to a depressive state such as maternal depression – during pregnancy and the postnatal period.
Depression & Serotonin
How often have you heard about serotonin? A neurotransmitter synthesised from neurons in your brain and some friendly bacteria in your gut.
Well, serotonin plays an important role in the physiology of sleep, happiness, mood, satiety, and much more. Although certain fruits and vegetables are rich in serotonin, the blood brain barrier prevents easy access to the Central Nervous System. Luckily, the serotonin precursor called tryptophan can readily pass through this barrier, and is subsequently converted to serotonin by a specific metabolic pathway. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, not naturally abundant even in protein-rich foods. Therefore, if you want to stay cheery, you might want to carefully plan your meal in advance to boost the intake of tryptophan.
…a bit of Tryptophan: what Science says
A 2018 Japanese cross-sectional study showed that a higher tryptophan intake was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in middle-aged women (Reference 2), confirming the hypothesis that a diet poor in tryptophan may induce depression.
A tryptophan-rich diet is important in patients susceptible to depression, such as women during pre and postmenstrual phase, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and drug addiction (Reference 1).
To make things even more complicated, you need a carbohydrate-rich diet to trigger the insulin response, which enhances the bioavailability of tryptophan in the Central Nervous System, and the right pool of vitamins B to activate serotonin synthesis.
Therefore, it is obvious that several other molecular mechanisms are involved in a depression disorder and hence it is important not to consider tryptophan a panacea for your happiness.
A healthy well-balanced diet, tailored for your specific case can be the right answer instead.