How Gut Issues and a Bad Diet May Lead to Depression

Diet plays a huge role in your mood, and certain habits may increase your likelihood of developing depression. Learn more here.


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It may be surprising, but what you eat can have a huge impact on your mood, concentration, and cognition. Some dietary choices may even put you at a higher risk of developing depression.


In this guide, you’ll learn how certain diet-related factors may increase your likelihood of becoming depressed, along with some mood-boosting diet changes you can implement today.

Gut microbiome imbalances

Imbalances in the levels of beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract may affect your brain function and mood. Through the gut-brain axis, your digestive tract is able to affect your brain—and vice versa. In fact, the gut plays a role in the production of serotonin (the happy hormone). So, you can see how your mood may be impacted if your gut health isn’t optimized.


A pro-inflammatory diet may also increase your risk of depression. 


Although it is difficult to tease out contributors to depression in scientific studies, researchers have found associations between depression or anxiety and increased added sugar intake, lower vegetable intake, and lower fish intake. On the whole, it appears that diet quality may play a role in the onset of depression. 


Particularly, diets that promote chronic inflammation—like those that are high in sugar and processed foods, low in vegetables, and high in omega-6 fats while also being low in omega-3 fats—may be more likely to affect your mood and brain function negatively. 


Additionally, it appears that obesity, depression, and inflammation may all be linked as well.


Finally, researchers have found that an increased omega-3 fat intake may help alleviate depression. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and found in foods like fatty fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.


Diet or food-related concerns can also be a source of mental stress, which may lead to feelings of depression. Stress can significantly worsen symptoms of depression.


Food-related sources of mental distress may include stress related to digestive disorders, food-related chronic issues such as constipation or heartburn, or concerns about your weight. Stress can also lead to chronic inflammation.

Mood-boosting diet changes

Luckily, there are some potentially mood-boosting diet changes that you can make. These include:


  • Eating more fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds called antioxidants. Additionally, they contain fiber, which can feed the healthy bacteria in your gut and help improve digestion.
  • Eating more omega-3 fats: Omega-3 fats are found in foods like fatty fish (salmon, tuna), chia seeds, and flaxseeds. These fats are anti-inflammatory.
  • Avoiding added sugars: Added sugars are found in sugary drinks, fruit juices, and many processed foods. They are associated with depression and can also lead to inflammation and weight gain.
  • Avoiding processed foods: Processed foods are often made with added sugars and other pro-inflammatory ingredients. Try to cook at home, from scratch, for most meals.
  • Avoiding pro-inflammatory oils: Pro-inflammatory oils are high in inflammatory omega-6 fats. These oils include soybean oil, corn oil, and canola oil. Try replacing them with healthier alternatives like olive oil or coconut oil.
  • Eating fermented foods or taking a probiotic: Fermented foods or probiotic supplements can introduce new healthy bacteria to your gut, which can help improve the balance of organisms and potentially promote better brain function via the gut-brain axis.


Need a great probiotic? Try Medlixr’s Candida Balance, which contains healthy bacteria and several other natural compounds to help rebalance your gut.