When approaching a mental health expert, the first round of treatment mostly includes a couple of tests to rule out other medical conditions that might be causing depression, anxiety or related symptoms. The tests involve checking for nutrient deficiencies in the body which could have a direct impact on your mood. From Vitamin D to B-12, lack of all these are held responsible for causing mental health problems.

Also Read: Say Yes to More Sun, Less Sunscreen to Fight Vitamin D Deficiency

Yes, Psychiatrists Will Check You For Nutritional Deficiency

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Yes, psychiatrists will check you for deficiencies.

Dr Bhavna Barmi, a senior clinical psychologist in New Delhi, agrees with this and says:

“Yes, it’s true that psychiatrists prescribe some basic deficiency vitamin-related tests. For example, before they can call someone depressed, they will make sure they don’t have a vitamin deficiency (and thyroid problems).”

Manjari Chandra, Consultant, Nutrition at Max Multi Speciality Centre, New Delhi, emphasises this further in the following manner:

“It’s true psychiatrists prescribe some micro-nutrient deficiency supplements when they see a patient is worked up, not able to focus and has lack of concentration and even when they’re suffering from depression or anxiety. ” – Manjari Chandra

However, she adds, that these prescriptions are only for behavioural problems.

“Food changes are recommended only in mental health cases which are based on behavioural issues, but not for serious neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, dyslexia, autism and so on.” – Manjari Chandra

Does Diet Really Affect Our Mood?

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The doctor lists down items to include in your diet they include.

Dr Barmi reiterates the importance of a good diet in keeping yourself happy. A balanced diet is absolutely imperative to avoid anxiety or depression related symptoms caused by deficiencies.

“Choosing healthy food helps us feel well and happy. A diet which is rich in processed food with added salts and sugars leads to poor mental health.” – Dr Bhavna Barmi

The doctor further broadly lists down items to include in your diet:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Protein
  • Limiting saturated fat and sugar
  • Low fat milk
  • Balance of seafoods and less red meat

Why do Some Food Items Make You Happy?

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Simply an informed choice of the groceries you’re getting will make you more cheerful.

Do you find yourself reaching out for sweetened food items when feeling low? Chandra asserts that while these things produce a temporary feeling of happiness, it’s soon followed by a dip.

“Simple sugar such as table sugar, soft drinks, artificially-sweetened juice, white flour and others produce a hormone called dopamine. This hormone drastically uplifts your mood and makes you feel happy and good. However, when the sugar levels in the body restore and become normal again, the feeling goes away. This moment is best described as a ‘crashing feeling’. The high is temporary and when it all goes away, it makes you feel drained out.” – Manjari Chandra

Similarly, she adds, refined and junk food also gives you a temporary dose of happiness. But this is short-lived since, after sometime, it makes you feel low on energy, along with feelings of guilt attached to it that makes the whole thing worse.

So, a simply informed choice of the groceries you’re getting will not only make your body healthier, but will also make you more cheerful.

Your moods are primarily handled by the brain. A healthy diet would ensure it’s smooth functioning. Simple. Studies have concluded that primarily there are 10 nutrients that are linked to your emotional health. They are as follows:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Chromium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

These food items are known to offer various benefits – from pick-me-ups to long term happiness, suggests the same report. Consequently, eating a diet rich in these will help ensure a happier version of you.

Also Read: B-group vitamins beneficial for psychotic patients: Study

What Are the Symptoms of these Deficiencies?

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Lack of water or dehydration in your body can cause the person to experience negative feelings such as anger, irritability and anxiety.

Dr Barmi states that while sometimes hormones can be attributed to unexpected drops in your mood, there are some neat diet-related markers for it.

To begin with, lack of water or dehydration in your body can cause the person to experience negative feelings such as anger, irritability and anxiety.

Chandra mentions that sometimes low energy levels and the consequent bad moods can also be caused by an iodine deficiency. Another common deficiency is of Vitamin D3 since most people nowadays stay indoors. This deprives them of simple nutrients provided by sunlight, leading to mental health issues and depressive feelings.

Next comes a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which is very common among vegetarians since the nutrient is primarily found in the animal kingdom. The link between Vitamin B12 and depression is further emphasised by this study.

Specific Food Items to Include in Your Diet

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Oats help in keeping the blood sugar stable and thereby your mood.

Now that we have figured it out how a diet low on nutrients can pull you down in the doldrums, here’s a handy guide by Chandra and Dr Barmi to avoid it. When looking for basic food items to include, start with these healthy options:

  • Oats: they help in keeping the blood sugar stable and thereby your mood
  • Nuts, cumin, turmeric, ashwagandha: these brain foods, also known as, nootropics, help improve functioning of the brain, therefore, keeping people sane and happy.
  • Bananas: they contain Vitamin A, B6 and C, along with iron and carbohydrates. All of these help with lifting your mood along with keeping insomnia and anxiety at bay.
  • Lentils: they help increase the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin which results in a calmer and happy state of mind.
  • Millet, wheat, ragi: these food items contain complex carbohydrates and therefore provide sustained energy throughout the day. They make you feel more sane, and you can keep going through the day without having extreme mood swings.
  • Chicken: it helps in secreting the sleep hormone melatonin. Sleep is essential for a calmer, happier mind.
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli: they have high levels of Vitamin B, B6 and B12, again, nutrients that keep the mood lifted.
  • Green tea: two cups in a day is known to calm the mood and fight symptoms of anxiety. There are some foods that are great neurotransmitters, but are low on nutrients, for instance, caffeine – it’s a stimulant which makes you feel alert, gives a better mood, makes you feel energetic. However a caffeine high is often followed by a crash. Green tea is a food item that is both a good neurotransmitter and is rich nutritionally.

In addition to all of this, avoid white table salt and instead include rock salt, black salt, pink salt in your diet.