Eating is vital to our survival. However, few know that what we eat not only benefits our body, but also our mind. Those who eat irregularly are more likely to develop depression and anxiety. But how exactly does our food intake affect our mental health?
The food we eat and our mood
The links between food and mental health are still quite new, therefore the research is still fresh. However, we do know that certain digestive hormones have an effect on dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has an important role in our mood, energy and overall pleasure.
Those who are affected by depression and bipolar disease have irregular dopamine levels. It is believed that an irregular diet can contribute to a person's poor mood.
Indeed a person affected by depression or bipolar disorder will often have irregular eating habits as they haven’t got the necessary energy to cook for themselves. This in turn translates to worsening their mood, which then turns into a vicious cycle of not eating regularly.
Moreover, those who work shifts are more prone to develop depression and anxiety as they have an irregular eating schedule in comparison to the general population.
Despite the studies, assessing eating rhythms is not part of standard clinical care.
How to optimise your eating rhythm
One known method that optimises your eating rhythm is time-restricted eating (TRE), which is also known as intermittent fasting.
TRE means you only eat at allotted times during your day. This is usually between 4 and 12 hours. For example, you could choose to eat your meals and snack between 9 am and 7 pm. This would mean you have an overnight fasting period.
Practising TRE would help optimise your brain function, energy metabolism as well as the healthy signalling of metabolic hormones.
Studies have shown that TRE can help prevent depression and anxiety symptoms in animals. Antidepressant effects related to TRE has also been shown in people. Having a regular eating pattern can also reduce the risks of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.