The relationship between nutrition and mood disorders

I was diagnosed with a mood disorder in the summer of 2019. My first steps were getting my mind and me on the same page, then headed towards a better relationship. Soon after, I started figuring out what my treatment would look like and what I should add to my life, like therapy and support groups. But something I’ve to strive to implement, and that always comes up between myself and my doctors, is the importance of good nutrition.

Before diving too deep, what’s a mood disorder anyway? Basically, what it sounds like: it’s a condition that affects your moods and emotions. Sometimes it involves periods of intense happiness or intense sadness or can swing both ways. Examples are major depression and bipolar disorder. What does nutrition have to do with it? As Eva Selhub puts in her article Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food for the Harvard Health Blog, “Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.”

variety of baked and dessert foods on plates

We’ve all experienced a sugar high and the sudden crash it leads to or that jolt of caffeine. I’ve noticed when my diet contains more sugar I swing more easily towards depression or agitation. It’s harder to find my footing, especially when I’m also lax on my other self-care tools like meditation or yoga. It’s known that refined sugars and carbs usually equal inflammation in the body. Brian Krans’ article Mood Disorders Linked to Inflammation discusses Danish research that supports the theory that there is a connection between mood disorders and inflammation. However, it is important to mention that inflammation is a factor to consider, not a direct cause of a mood disorder. Andrew H. Miller’s article Five Things to Know About Inflammation and Depression gives a great breakdown of the intricate relationship.

I think something that is not discussed enough with mood disorders is the side effects of the medications and how they can change your nutrition. One of my meds makes me gain weight and raises my cholesterol. I know I should go vegan or fish only, but I really like bacon. So, I chose to do one vegan meal a day. I have to say I’ve enjoyed exploring new recipes and the community of vegan bloggers and YouTubers. Also, being cognizant of how your meds are filtered in your body is good practice. I know that one of my meds is filtered through the liver. I have another med that’s filtered through the kidneys. Fun fact it’s a salt. Yep, salt. I already drank a lot of water before my diagnosis, but now I’m very conscious of the amount I drink. I make sure to get that daily gallon (and I have honestly never been so aware of the color of my pee).

carrot fruit beside lemon fruit on black wooden table

Developing an understanding of how your body responds to food is powerful. I’ve learned that the hardest part is to implement your findings. Remember to be kind as you figure out your relationship with your nutrition.

Dara Hall
Dara Hall

Dara is a Wellness & Lifestyle Writer based out of the Pacific Northwest. Her passion for self-help, self-care, and mental health grew from her own struggles with mental illness and a desire to showcase that you don’t need all the fancy accessories to take care of yourself. When she isn’t writing you can find her exploring local bakeries and learning everything she can about sharks. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.


  1. Sugar equaling inflammation: