It's probably a lot easier if you start by making changes slowly, one at a time, and just for a trial period. Changing what you eat takes a bit of effort and time; trying out new and different foods may mean you need to shop in new places. Hopefully, you will enjoy making these changes and find them to be a positive experience. Smaller changes, introduced one at a time, are easier to manage and keep up, should you find them beneficial. If you make more than one change at a time, then you won't be able to tell what is having an effect. Some changes may even be unnecessary, although you won't know until you try. This step-by-step approach can be broadened out later, and keeping a food and mood diary may be helpful.
Sometimes, a change to the diet produces some unpleasant side effects, for the first few days only. If people suddenly stop drinking coffee, for instance, they may get withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, which then begin to clear up after a few days, when they start to feel much better. Symptoms such as these can be reduced if you cut down gradually, rather as if you were weaning yourself from a drug. There are, necessarily, some costs associated with making changes to what you eat, but these can be rewarded by significant benefits to mental and physical health.
Can foods interact with medication?
Some people like to try herbal alternatives, such as St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), which can help with the symptoms of depression. However, if you are already taking any medication, it’s essential that you consult your doctor for guidance prior to trying herbal remedies: some can interact with other drugs, stopping them working or causing additional adverse effects. Note: it is very unwise suddenly to stop taking any medication you are already prescribed. It’s also worth consulting a medical herbalist about using these herbs, as they don’t suit everyone.
The MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) type of antidepressant can interact with a naturally occurring substance in some foods called tyramine. This can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure, which may be signalled by a throbbing headache. Foods containing particularly high levels of tyramine include: beans, yeast extract, meat extract, most cheeses, fermented soya bean extract and salted, smoked or pickled fish (especially pickled herring).
As the action of bacteria on protein produces tyramine, if you take MAOIs, you should avoid stale food or food that may be 'going off'. This is particularly relevant for protein-rich food, such as meat, fish or chicken. Avoid game meats completely. You can obtain a full list of tyramine-containing foods from your doctor, dietitian or nutritional therapist.