Depression is a mental illness that we all go through in our life time in varying degrees. We all encounter failure, grief, loss and challenges like illnesses, work related stress, family life stress, marital problems, children’s problems, unemployment and many more. Depression is caused by environmental stressors in one’s life but research shows that it is also a biological condition that can be addressed with proper nutrition, right kind of therapy, and good support system. Sometimes deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals could also cause depression as food has a major effect on our mood. If you are struggling with bouts of depression, it is important that you look at your nutrition and change your life style to address it. Prevalence of depression is growing significantly and most cases go untreated. There is also a stigma that prevents people from seeking help for mental health issues. The earlier depression can be treated, the more effectively and rapidly recovery can be achieved.
In this blog post, I am going to cover some Mind –Body Mood Solutions, which are designed to work with your mind and body simultaneously to stimulate your energy and get it flowing in a positive direction. It is important to understand the value of nutrition in reducing symptoms of depression.
People who suffer from depression need to look at their eating habits and nutrition they are getting from the food they are eating. If you have a negative outlook, feel exhausted, suffer from poor concentration, and have sleep problems, sometimes adding specific vitamins and mineral supplements, and changing eating patterns can make a remarkable difference. Healthy diet helps with the amino acids that our body needs to make serotonin and dopamine. These two neurotransmitters that relay signals across different parts of our brains, have a dramatic effect on mood. Seventy percent of our serotonin is found in intestinal tract, and the food we eat plays a major role in making its production. By changing your diet and adding vitamins and minerals supplements, you can feel energetic, buoyant, and it can also improve your concentration.
Depressed people tend to binge on high carbohydrate foods that contain refined flour and sugar. Eating some protein at every meal slows the absorption of healthy carbohydrates into blood stream. To keep your body and mood in balance, it is important to eat three balanced meals and two healthy snacks every day. It is not a good idea to skip meals. Purchase organic produce, whole grains, and grass fed animal protein such as beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, and eggs. Animals that are not treated with antibiotics, harmones, and growth stimulants do not produce meat that causes inflammation.
Mindful eating is also important. It is important to enjoy each bite of your sandwich or focus on the sweetness of the watermelon on your tongue to heighten the satisfaction of eating. Mindful eating helps you slow down and enjoy your food by increasing awareness that we are nourishing ourselves with the building blocks of life. Mindful eating also prevents you from over eating as you feel satiated with even the small amount of food portion that you eat mindfully.
Excessive stress can cause our bodies to use up our biochemical reserves too quickly. It can also cause depletion of B vitamins and calcium. Depressed people are more irritable, have a negative outlook, poor concentration, low energy and insomnia problems. Serotonin is the primary anti anxiety and antidepressant biochemical. In order to create serotonin, your body needs a precursor chemical: tryptophan which is found in high protein foods such as turkey, beef, eggs, and some dairy products, including cheese.
Some foods and food additives can also contribute to depression. Processed sugar, high- fructose corn syrup can cause an immediate spike in blood sugar that can make you feel hyperactive. However, excessive consumption ultimately results in blood sugars lows that cause fatigue, low energy, and depression. Many depressed people improve dramatically when they eliminate sugar from diets. Caffeine, diet pills, or aspartame directly interfere with the relaxing effects of serotonin. Stress and chronic pain can deplete the reserve of our serotonin reserves. Therefore it is important to supplement our diet with amino acid combinations of 5- hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), or an herb called St. John’s Wort, to increase the level of serotonin.
Our -bodies produce GABA, a natural anti anxiety biochemical. GABA turns off the over stimulating effects of stress and reduces adrenalin levels. When we have adequate levels of GABA, we feel energetic, enthusiastic, and are better able to cope with our stressors. If you are always anxious and have worry thoughts, supplementing with GABA may also help you feel calmer and relaxed. Anti anxiety medication like Xanax and Valium tend to increase the GABA levels to reduce anxiety. GABA can be purchased at health food stores and one can use it as a supplement to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Our bodies need endorphins which help us feel comfort, pleasure, delight, and joy. Endorphins are our natural pain medicine and are produced in response to pain, grief, and loss. The amino acid phenylalanine (DLPA), the building blocks of endorphins, can be used as supplement too. Vitamins and minerals also boost endorphin levels. For example, Vitamin B, dark chocolate, nuts, Omega 3 fatty acids, and magnesium help produce endorphins. Both fish and fortified fish are good sources of magnesium. Taking a daily multivitamin that provides required levels of these and other vitamins and minerals can help your brain produce bio chemicals needed to feel energetic, hopeful, focused, joyful and calm. It is a good idea to supplement Omega 3 in addition to multivitamin to protect you from nutritional deficiencies that affect mood and general health. Physical exercise like running, biking, climbing stairs and using the elliptical work out machines can boost the level of endorphins and make you more energetic. The flow of energy is evenly distributed in the body and the aerobic effect of exercise provides oxygen to the brain and thus remedying the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Deficiency of Vitamin D is the most overlooked contributor to depression, especially Seasonal Affective Disorder. It plays a big role in the healthy functioning of nervous system. Our modern life style sometimes deprives us of the sunlight and we do not get enough Vitamin D. You should get a blood test that will show if you are deficient in Vitamin D and start taking a supplement that your doctor recommends. By taking the supplement, you will see a change in your negative thinking and worrier type thought process that is associated with depression.
Vitamin B deficiency can also cause depression. Low levels of Vitamin B, Folate, B6, and B12 can also make you feel low energy. The deficiency also impairs the production of neurotransmitters involved in maintaining a healthy mood and good cognitive functioning. These vitamins also play a role in helping the receptors on cells receive messages from neurotransmitters. When you begin to take these supplements, you can alter your mood. Depression can be addressed by taking the following food that will provide you with Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 respectively.
Folate: Beef liver, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, and peas.
Vitamin B6: Meat, dairy, eggs, tuna, potatoes, chick peas, banana, cauliflower
Vitamin B12: Meat, dairy, eggs.
Sometimes depressed people are recommended to take these supplements to decrease symptoms of depression.
Vitamin B 12 is also another nutrient that is needed to help decrease depressive symptoms.
Before adding any supplement to your diet, consult a nutritionist, physician or a naturopath.
Symptoms of Depression and Corresponding Food sources to Alleviate Them.
If you have symptoms of irritability, worry, negative thinking, trouble sleeping, you need serotonin. It can be derived from food sources like turkey, grains, fruits, and supplements like Tryptophan, 5-HTP, and St’ John’s Wort. If you have symptoms like lack of energy, sluggishness, exhaustion, flat emotions, no motivation, lack of focus and depressed mood, you need bio chemicals like dopamine, epinephrine, and adrenalin. Food sources like fish, beef, eggs, peanuts and almonds can help you. Supplement L-tyrosine can be helpful as a supplement. If your thoughts are overwhelming and you have tension and anxiety all the time, you may be deficient in GABA and high protein foods balanced with healthy carbohydrates, and lots of vegetables can help you. Supplement GABA, and L-theanine can be helpful in addressing these symptoms. If you suffer from chronic physical pain, grief, loss, isolation, oversensitivity or vulnerability, it is likely that you are deficient in endorphins and foods like fish, eggs, chicken, cottage cheese might help you. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids, DLPA, and B vitamins can also be used as supplements. If you have difficulty falling asleep, you are probably deficient in Melatonin, serotonin, magnesium and GABA. In order to address this symptom, you might benefit from eating turkey, beef, eggs, dairy and taking supplements like Magnesium, Melatonin, GABA, 5-hydroxytryptopha (5 HTP).
Even when symptoms of depression or anxiety are not exclusively related to diet, improving your nutritional intake can increase your energy level, motivate you and reduce symptoms of depression.
Besides nutritional improvement, following techniques might also help reduce symptoms of depression. Writer has discussed them in other blog posts and I recommend the readers to review the other blog posts to learn about anti anxiety and anti depressant techniques.
Exercise, breathing practices, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization with guided imagery, meditation, bright light, living in the present, and overcoming avoidance are some of the techniques that one can also use to reduce depressive symptoms.
In addition, techniques for transforming judgment, forgiveness and gratitude, the power of action, the courage to change what you can, and resilience strategies so that you can face your life challenges, trauma, loss and grief, are also conducive to reducing depressive symptoms. Depression can be treated by adopting a holistic approach combined with thought management and nutritional improvement. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that provides education to the client regarding thought management, challenging mistaken beliefs, assertive skills, and relaxation techniques, is also very effective in decreasing depressive symptoms. It is important to seek professional help at early stages of depression for faster recovery. Joining a support group and engaging in social/recreational activities also remedy depressive symptoms.
The Mind-Body Mood Solution by Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D