Can diet help with anxiety and depression? Absolutely!
You know by now that I am a big advocate for self-care for highly sensitive people but you may not know that I have been moving (personally) toward a different way of eating for years now. This year my yearly checkup showed bloodwork indicating my cholesterol levels were fine but my triglycerides were way elevated (this has been the norm for years) but since I was able to see a difference in my overall cholesterol decreasing I thought that I must be doing some things right (I made some changes last year; namely, reduced intake of grains and sugars). This year (essentially the last two months) I have switched to the Ketogenic way of eating. Before you say “fad!” and tune me out please understand that I don’t do fads nor do I do things lightly.
Since starting a Keto way of eating, which is basically high fat, very low carbs, moderate protein, and no sugars or grains, I have:
-lost 14 pounds (no changes otherwise in lifestyle otherwise)
-experienced better cardiovascular functioning
-less inflammation in my body overall
As we know, getting quality sleep is essential to good mental health. I now sleep much deeper and for a longer period each night before waking to roll over. Before, I was tossing and turning often and never entering really deep sleep; sleeping more deeply and entering such states more easily is a major benefit and HUGE for anyone with depression and/or anxiety.
The other huge change has been in reduced inflammation throughout my body as I ceased consuming sugars and grains. I NEVER would have thought there would be such a pronounced change by just altering the way I eat! I feel as if I have been moving toward a Keto way of eating for years without particularly being aware of it as I cut down on sugars, limited bread consumption, and was more careful about foods but now, by being very explicit about what I’m doing and having seen immediate benefits from it, I am convinced and plan to continue long-term.
Ironically, there is not much that’s special that you need to do to embrace a Keto way of eating. Just change what you eat to some degree (depending on your current diet) and start watching the ingredients in everything you buy. That part is harder but worth the effort to avoid the many hidden sugars and junk added to our food (it’s disheartening how many susbtances that act just like sugar in the body are snuck in on us).
I have nothing to sell you my fellow HSPs, but I do desire that you be well and live as well as you can. The video below by Dr. Berry is a great introduction to the Ketogenic diet (or way of eating). His short videos are great because he bases his comments largely on his empirical experiences and on research (especially metastudies, which, as we know, are studies of studies). Be mindful of other speakers out there espousing views that diverge from the research or that ask you to buy something they happen to produce and sell. Dr. Berry is a medical doctor in family practice in Tennessee seeing patients on a daily basis.
For those of us who experience depression and anxiety, I feel that addressing our diet in a serious way is essential to calming the body and mind. Isn’t it time as grown adults that we put away the childish food choices that are slowly killing us and exacerbating our depression and anxiety? To be an adult implies that we make adult choices; no choice could be more important than our health because it is so initmately intertwined with our functioning in the world.
If you need to make changes in your diet I heartily recommend the Ketogenic diet (or way of eating because it is simply the way humans are suited to eat). Plant based diets may also be workable for those who are opposed to the consumption of meat or dairy. Whatever you do, consider giving up the highly processed foods, the sugars, the grains, and the carbohydrates and see if it makes a difference in how you feel and experience this life.
Please feel free to share in your social media circles.
(link to basics of Ketogenic Diet presented by Dr. Ken Berry)
Dr. Tracy Cooper is the author of Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career and Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person. Dr. Cooper provides one on one consulting to HSPs in career crisis or transition through his website at drtracycooper.com.