By Joan Breakey

Dietitians are asked questions such as whether diet can help with depression. Depression is better helped medically but a low chemical diet has been shown to have the surprising result of changes in mood. It can affect irritability, touchiness, worry, anxiety, and sadness.

What can you do to help?

There can be a mood component among food sensitivity symptoms. You are being a good clinician if you are monitoring this part of patient care at the time diet investigation is considered. You can let your patient know that mood can change, especially if they raise the topic, or talk about sleep problems. It is rarely the main presenting symptom. It can still be helpful for you to clarify that withdrawal can involve considerable worsening of mood symptoms during the first week on the diet so patients don’t stop the diet trial when mood problems increase.

If you suspect depression

A wise psychiatrist once said that if you ask a patient if they think they might be depressed and they answer “yes” then care for depression should be followed up. If you are comfortable with using a depression questionnaire then do so. Where indicated you will refer them to their doctor for care. You could also use your favourite questionnaire before and after the diet trial if you later run one for other symptoms. 

Some dietitians wisely tease me about quoting dramatic reactions when these are usually not as clear or strong as my favourite examples. But the dramatic reactions remind us to monitor the milder ones that often occur and may be an important part of the improvement with diet investigation.

To be well informed see the presentation “The role of diet in mood” in the Articles section, and more in the chapters in Tolerating Troublesome Foods that cover ‘What to expect when you are reacting”


And for the new easy-read article you can refer members of the public to see, use


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