Sugar and depression?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about diet and its effect on my depression.  I’ve been on meds for over three years now but have yet to achieve a stable, maintenance regiment.  Seems impossible, no?  On the one hand, my new psychiatrist tells me that some people are treatment resistant…I’m not there yet, as she has a few remaining tricks up her sleeve, but the mere thought of treatment resistance makes me want to – well, crawl under the covers.  On the other hand, as I do more research, I’m learning a lot about diet, specifically sugar, and its role in mood.  I cook the vast majority of our meals, and we generally eat a very healthy diet.  At meals.  It’s the clandestine visits to the pantry that get me in trouble.  A handful of wheat thins?  Sounds perfect.  Perhaps a few chocolate chips?  And then a few more?  Lovely.  But…at the end of the day, how are all of these jumps and dips in my blood sugar affecting my depression?  I don’t know…but I suspect there’s more of a link than I’d care to admit.

A friend recommended the book “Chemistry of Joy”.  If the Amazon reviews are to be believed, the author does an excellent job of merging Western and Eastern approaches to the treatment of depression.  Diet is one of the biggest elements.  I was excited to receive the book (ordered it used – maybe it would come with some good chi?).  And yet it has sat next to my bed for a few weeks because it’s one of those “meaty” books that I want to read when I can really focus, and maybe even take notes on.  But let’s be realistic – who wants to take notes during their leisure reading time?  So the secret to my mental health may be right there under a layer of dust while I wait until I’m 80 and have the time to process it fully.

And of course I admit there’s some resistance to acknowledging the full role that diet may play in my depression.  I already take so much ownership for my lack of mental health, and have such a far-reaching sense of guilt, that do I really want to add the pressure of “Just eat better and you’ll feel better”?  Not really.  Plus, even more scary, what if I tried something as ludicrous as a sugar-free diet, and I felt transformed, and…would that really be feasible in my everyday life, with my enjoyment of food, and cooking, and baking?  “Good news, doc – the depression is gone but now in its place I’ve developed an eating disorder.  Does that count as progress?”  Clearly these are subtleties that would have to be worked out.

Time to finish off that Ghirardelli square and save the sugar analysis for another day.


7 thoughts on “Sugar and depression?

  1. Ok this is the last comment I’m going to leave today because I feel like I’m stalking you, but I’ve been reading through your blog and I could be reading my own (I hope I didn’t jsut insult either/both of us there!!) What I mean by that is I get it. I get everything that you’re saying from treatment resistant through to kids through to perfection related panic through to no sugar v love of cake – I just get it. It’s a relief for me to read you, because once more, it reminds me that I’m not the only one on this ridiculous journey towards getting depression under control. Thanks for writing x


  2. Wow – thank you so much for the kind words – you’ve made my day! Not because I’m happy that you’re miserable too :), but it helps enormously to know that the words that are floating in my head and eventually make it to the keyboard MAKE SENSE TO SOMEONE. It’s really quite a powerful affirmation somehow. Thank you for that – I’ve needed it.

    You are definitely not alone!! I’ve been reading your blog but haven’t commented much because you have been in such pain, and struggling so much with the docs etc., and it just seemed pathetic to comment “hang in there” or “it will get better” or something else trite that I’m not sure I believe. But please know that I have read your posts, and have related to so much, and have been hoping that things turn a corner for you soon. And forgive me in advance if I do post a comment that sounds pathetic…just want to let you know that I understand.


      • I’m confident that we’ll get there…I just wish I knew what it will look like when we do! 🙂

        I’m not feeling particularly strong here either but it’s a long day ahead with 3 kids on my own, so I need to keep it together. I hope that your day improves a bit. Sending good vibes your way. Keep putting one foot in front of the other…that’s all we need to do today.


  3. I had some success with treating my depression with diet – more than just sugar, and I still eat some. It helped a lot with the physical aspects. However, the underlying problems were still there, so it definitely wasn’t a cure. I have to address the underlying issues as well.


    • I’m still debating the sugar link for me although it’s pretty clear that a lot of sugar on a bad day makes it all worse. What other foods did you eliminate or add more of? Just curious. Thanks for sharing your experience.


      • I actually followed a program from a book on the subject. I added a lot more protein to my meals and eliminated wheat. Added more veg. Then there were also supplements. Lately I’ve eliminated more, but that was more for digestive troubles than for the depression. I think eliminating wheat and adding protein were key for me. I don’t take meds though – they didn’t work well for me. I’m not sure of the effect of diet when you’re already taking meds, as they are so strong and have so many effects.

        I also think it may depend on an individuals make-up – everyone is somewhat different. Perhaps you are especially sensitive to sugar for instance.



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