Can Nutritional Psychiatry Help with Menopause?

Can Nutritional Psychiatry Help with Menopause?

MenoLabs News | Fri, Jun 17, 2022

Many women in peri/menopause battle mood swings, stressful and anxious feelings, and may also experience symptoms of depression. Although we know hormones are at play here, the food we eat could also impact behaviors during midlife. A study by Supporting the Modification of Lifestyle in Lowered Emotional States (SMILES) proved that food can improve mood. Mental health professionals and nutrition-based professionals agree that the gut and brain are connected.There is a two-way communication going on that many of us didn't realize was happening beyond getting hangry

The good news: research suggests that we can use food as a tool during peri/menopause to relieve some of those unpleasant, roller-coaster emotions. 

Bon Appetit’s article, “What Is Nutritional Psychiatry? For Starters, it’s Delicious," shares that what we eat impacts our mood. It recommends focusing your everyday diet on nutrient-packed foods filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, pro-and prebiotics, and protein, as well as cutting out unhealthy choices like processed and sugar-rich foods. 

Why is Nutritional Psychiatry getting popular?

The medical field used to think only a few foods like Omega-3 Fatty Acids affected the brain. But, they are now realizing with various studies that a well-balanced diet that includes a wider variety of nutrient-packed foods can benefit sleep, libido, mood, and overall health. 

How can nutrition help with depression and mood swings during peri/menopause?

Serotonin is a chemical in the body that controls mood. Did you know 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract? This is why keeping a healthy gut microbiome is essential! You can do this by taking probiotic supplements and eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics. Some examples of prebiotic-rich foods are onions, bananas, asparagus, and garlic. Some examples of probiotics are plain yogurt, kimchi, tofu, pickles, miso, and kombucha.

How do processed foods and sugars affect my mood?

A study in Psychiatry Research found that a dietary pattern characterized by high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, and high-fat gravy, and low intakes of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression. Experts at the American Society of Nutrition gave two examples of how a person with processed food and a sugar-rich diet felt through their day, compared with someone who ate a healthy, well-balanced diet. It’s not hard to guess who’s day went better, right? 

Which foods should I focus on to help my mood?

Your diet should be balanced with a variety of foods. And, even include pieces of cake once in a while so you aren’t stressing yourself out by cutting out all “indulgent” foods. Psychiatric Times shares a list of nutrients that are great for the brain. They’re calling them antidepressant nutrients: Folate, Iron, Long Drain Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Thiamine, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Zinc. The Mayo Clinic highlights a few foods that help keep your mood lifted, too. 

Here’s some food for thought when choosing “food as medicine”:

  • Blueberries have antioxidants that help with oxidative stress.
  • Flaxseeds have Omega-3.
  • Plain yogurt is rich in Probiotics 
  • A variety of vegetables and fruits. Try to eat 30 different fruits and vegetables a week, which is around 3-4 colors a day. Eat the rainbow
  • Eat fish once a week.
  • One serving of whole grains a day.
  • Try to have three servings of legumes a day. You can do this by adding lentils to your brown rice when you are cooking it, or if you are making chili, use three or four different bean types.
  • Snack on a variety of nuts.
  • Fiber is your brain's best friend! 
  • Cook with olive oil.
  • Try the Mediterranean Diet.
  • Eat an orange instead of orange juice to avoid added sugar.
  • Read labels to avoid extra sugars. Who would have thought that spaghetti sauce added so much sugar?!
  • Add cinnamon for extra flavor and to avoid using sugar in your coffee or yogurt! A little goes a long way and adds the extra benefit of antioxidants! 


Try an elimination diet

For two to three weeks, try cutting out processed foods and sugar-rich foods. Take note of how you are feeling without those foods in your diet. Now is the fun part. Slowly add different processed foods or sugar-rich foods back into your diet. How do these foods make you feel? I cut out soda (pop) around 15 years ago and when/if I want to try something new and take a sip it literally tastes like an awful syrup. 

It all comes down to balance

In life, we are all looking for happiness. To get there in our health and/or mood, it’s not about going on a special diet or restricting all the foods you enjoy most. It’s about balance. Make the choice to have a slice of cake once in a while. In the long run, a slice of cake is not going to ruin your gut microbiome or mood. It’s the lifestyle change to eating what’s best for your mind-body that will make the real difference. 

Connect with MenoLabs Founders Vanessa and Danielle

Connect with Founders Vanessa and Danielle

Join our newsletter to hear from V and Dani! Get advice, tips and tricks for managing your menopause journey the happy and healthy way!

By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to receive emails from MenoLabs and accept our privacy and cookie policies. You may unsubscribe at any time.