Vitamin Expert
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Q & A: Can nutrition help improve my partner’s low mood?

“My partner has been suffering from low mood quite a lot lately and feels a little ‘flat’ for no apparent reason. He has previously had very stressful jobs and I wondered whether this might be a contributory factor. He’s 40, is reasonably fit and we try to eat healthily.  Are there any specific foods he could be eating that might help?”

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, answers.

Many thanks for your question.  This is a common symptom in men and women, of all ages.  When we feel ‘flat’ as you say, this can stop us from fully enjoying and engaging with life.  There can, of course, be many reasons for this. And there are indeed some nutritional tips which could help.

Gut Health

I often start by looking within and specifically, to the gut, for answers.  It may surprise you to learn that around 90% of serotonin (our happy hormone) is produced in the gut and not the brain.  Therefore, if the gut is not working well, then serotonin production is going to be impaired too.

A range of probiotic fermented foods

It’s important, therefore, to feed the gut microbiome, the friendly flora living within us all, to help things along.  Specifically, natural yoghurt, miso soup, plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, green tea, onions, and garlic can really have a positive effect.  All these foods help nourish that life inside us. If your partner has been stressed in the past, this can affect gut health, so this is certainly the first place to start work.

Eating enough protein

A range of protein sources

It’s also good to ensure he’s eating plenty of protein at each meal from meat, fish, dairy, poultry, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, and soy produce.  Many of our hormones, especially those working as neurotransmitters in the brain are produced from protein.  Serotonin is actually made from the amino acid tryptophan, with turkey, soy, dairy, oats, and nuts all being good sources.

The importance of B Vitamins

When people have been highly stressed for a while, the adrenal system that delivers our stress hormones, particularly cortisol, can be slightly under par.  This system needs plenty of B vitamins to keep it functioning well, which are widely available in many non-processed foods.

Avoiding stressing our body systems with too much caffeine, alcohol or sugary foods and drinks can also help restore balance.

The herb rhodiola rosea, has lots of research showing that it helps with stress and fatigue, which includes mental wellbeing.  It’s known as an adaptogenic herb, so it adapts to what’s going on individually and helps restore the adrenal system during and after stressful times. I think your partner could find it helpful and it might really help lift his mood. It’s readily available in supplement form.

World Wellbeing Week

Finally, it’s World Wellbeing Week during June so it might be worth looking at some of their suggestions for mental wellness.  As we know, it’s about looking at the body as a whole, so what we eat, how we think, the activities we enjoy, and the friendships and connections we make, are all part of the jigsaw puzzle.  There may be some suggestions of things he hasn’t tried before.  It’s also good to connect up with other people who are looking for answers – talking is always one of the best therapies.

I hope that all helps him.

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