Depression is a serious illness that affects millions of Americans. Although many patients must manage their depression with medication and therapy, a good percentage of individuals with mild and moderate depression can successfully manage their symptoms with diet and exercise. This does not mean that their depression is “imaginary”. It just means that some individuals can manage their depression naturally, without the unpleasant side-effects of anti-depressant drugs. If you have depressive symptoms, check with your doctor and then try the depression diet and see if it lightens your mood!
The Depression Diet
See your doctor first! I cannot stress this enough. Many serious medical conditions cause serious depressive symptoms. Here are some common illnesses that cause depression in many individuals. If you have an underlying medical disorder, like diabetes, it is imperative that you alert your doctor, so he/she can manage both illnesses together.
This is not an exhaustive list. A medical evaluation is always an important part of your diagnosis. Ask for a complete blood panel and a thyroid test. People with chronic disease have a much higher risk of developing depressive symptoms, so it is important to rule out other physical disease. Many medications have depressive side effects. Birth control pills, sleeping pills, and high blood pressure medication have all been shown to cause depression in some individuals. Alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use can also generate depressive symptoms.
• Thyroid disorders
• Multiple sclerosis
• Stroke or Brain trauma
• Lyme disease
• Huntington's disease
• Parkinson's disease
• Cancer of the pancreas
• Chemical Exposure
• Physical Trauma
• Childbirth/Pregnancy (post-partum depression)
Start taking depression-targeted vitamins. Take a multi-vitamin every day, and invest in a good B-vitamin supplement. B vitamins have been clinically proven to help alleviate mild depressive symptoms, and those who are B vitamin deficient often show symptoms of depression as a side effect. Vitamin B9 (folic acid) may be the most important of all these vitamins. Up to 38% of people with depression have low folate levels and those with very low levels are usually the most depressed. Clinical research has shown that depressed individulas are usually deficient in nutrients essential for general health. Some good natural supplements for depression include:
•St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an herbal supplement that has shown great promise in relieving depression. European studies have shown success with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and nerve pain. This herb is widely prescribed in Europe, and is available as a dietary supplement in the United States. St John’s Wort can interfere with the action of some prescription medications, so check with your doctor before taking this supplement.
•Omega-3 fatty acids, are naturally present in fish, nuts, whole grains, beans and other seeds. They are also readily available in supplement form. These fatty acids play a crucial role in the function of serotonin and dopamine, two of the most important “mood” chemicals in the brain.
•Vitamin C has been shown to help the body metabolize other nutrients essential for boosting immune function and fighting depression. It has also been shown to alleviate the dry mouth associated with prescription anti-depression medication.!
•All B vitamins, including folic acid, are absolutely essential for the treatment and management of depression. Eat your leafy greens, and take a B supplement!
Switch to depression-fighting foods, avoid caffeine, sweets, and all white flour. All of these boost insulin blood levels, and caffeine suppresses serotonin; an essential brain chemical for the treatment of depression. Do not purchase ice cream, cakes, or other sugary treats. If you have to force yourself to go out and get them, you’ll eat these ‘bad’ foods less often. Here are some foods that can help you fight depression and feel better!
•Eat protein three times a day (sausage, eggs, chicken, tofu, beef, cheese, lamb, cottage cheese, nuts)
•Eat only complex carbohydrates and fruit (beans, fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread)
•Drink lots and LOTS of water! This seems like the easiest thing to do, but so few Americans get enough water every day. If you drink soda, coffee, and other diuretics, you must increase your water intake. Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, depression, irritability, and muscle pain.
Exercise! Simple exercise, even just walking outside 30 minutes a day, has been shown to have a tremendous impact on depressive symptoms. Some people can manage mild and moderate depression with exercise and diet alone. Syd Baumel, the author of ‘Dealing With Depression Naturally’, has said that, “Basically… being physically active and being depressed are very largely mutually incompatible.”
In 2005, the journal of Biological Psychiatry published a study that showed certain foods and supplements treat depression even better than some prescription medications. Even if you are already on prescription medication, healthy eating and adding anti-depression supplements may greatly enhance your mood, and help stabilize mood swings and depression.
Sources: The Mayo Clinic, The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, News Target
Christine P Silva, BA, CRTP, lives in California with her husband, two children, and three spoiled cats. She earned her undergraduate degree from San Jose State University, and her advanced accounting certificate and California tax registration from Cosumnes River College. She is the founder of the Sacramento Volunteer Tax Preparation Clinic, a free service offering tax assistance to low income and Spanish-speaking taxpayers.
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