As we stated last week, depression can have hidden dangers and will affect your physical health in many hidden ways. This week we will identify the dietary factors that can affect mental health, why our diets play such an important role in mitigating the symptoms and severity and what other natural methods can be used to gain relief from depression.
Factors Affecting The Development of Depression
- Serotonin—a chemical messenger created within the body. It is primarily created in the gastrointestinal tract. Low levels of serotonin can be a contributing factor in depression. The body needs certain “raw” materials to create serotonin. One of these materials is the amino acid known as tryptophan. Later, we will learn how to ensure our diet has plenty of it.
- Omega-3 fats—The evidence is growing that your brain needs healthy fats. Primarily fats from fish. There are plant based oils that contain the Omega 3 fatty acid ALA, which must be converted into the most important fatty acids EPA and DHA. But, 80% of people have an elevated insulin level which impedes this process so it is best to get the nutrient directly from fish.
- Folic Acid—If your blood levels are low in a certain B vitamin called Folic Acid, even standard depression medicines will not be effective. Not only will a low blood folate level increase the risk for depression, but it will also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Vitamin B12—This vitamin is vital to optimal health of the nervous system. If you are deficient in this vitamin, you may experience poor coordination, frequent forgetfulness and of course, depression. As we age, it is common to lose some of the stomach’s absorptive capacities. Consequently, by the time we reach age 80, if we rely on food alone to give us B12, we have about a one-in-five chance of developing serious problems and deficiencies.
- Homocysteine—This amino acid or protein building block has been linked at elevated levels to stroke, heart attack and other problems related to blood vessel blockage. It seems that depression is also linked to higher levels of homocysteine. One thing is certain, we must maintain adequate levels of all of the B vitamins.
- Animal Protein intake resulting in early puberty—Among females, the risk of depression later in life is related to early puberty. It is now a common understanding that the higher the intake of animal protein between the ages of 3 and 5, the earlier the the first menstrual period. Another theory to consider is the formula fed females will have been given animal protein since birth.
- Inflammatory foods and Excitotoxins—Avoid using insecticides in your home, garden or yard. Avoid eating food additives, portabello mushrooms, white sauces, cheese dishes, soy sauces, vegetable oils, trans fats, excess sugars, or high glycemic foods such as bread and white flour. Also avoid all fluoride products, aluminum and cooking with aluminum.
Toxins That Damage The Brain
Some of the metals and toxins that have been associated with mental illness include:
There are several other toxins under suspicion, but they lack the evidence to connect them to mental health issues.
Earlier we discussed certain amino acids and nutrients that are vital to mental health. You will find below the foods that are associated with them to begin consuming daily for improvement.
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, hazel nuts)
- Seeds (flax, sesame, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, squash)
- Wheat germ and whole oats (buckwheat, oat bran)
- Beans and lentils (Cranberry [Roman], Yellow, Small white, Pinto, Kidney, Pink, Navy and Black beans)
Other Ways to Boost Serotonin:
- Exercise: Research from the United Kingdom shows that regular exercise can have antidepressant effects.
- Sunshine: Light therapy is a common remedy for seasonal depression. Research shows a clear relationship between being exposed to bright light and serotonin levels. To get better sleep, or to boost your mood, try to work in a daily lunchtime walk outside.
- Positivity: Research shows that facing daily life and your interactions with others with a positive outlook can significantly boost your serotonin levels.
Even though a fish oil supplement is the optimal way to achieve quality Omega 3, there are still numerous plant-based foods that contain excellent amounts of Linolenic Acid:
- Flaxseed oil—1 TBS. contains 7520 mg of Omega 3
- English Walnuts—1/4 cup chopped contains 2043 mg of Omega 3
- Flax seeds ground—1 TBS. contains 1470 mg of Omega 3
Whether used as a salad oil, or sprinkled in a salad, these healthy additions will be game changers for your mental health.
¼ cup ground walnuts
¼ cup ground flaxseed
1 TBS. date sugar
1/8 tsp. sea salt
Mix and serve over toast, cereal, etc.
(Makes about 9 Tablespoons. 1 Tbs.=857 mg omega 3.)
Sources of Folate:
Chickpeas, 1 cup contains 1114 mcg Folate
Black-eyed peas, 1 cup contains 1057 mcg Folate
Lentils, I cup contains 831 mcg Folate
Add any of these to your salads, soups, stews and you have enriched the nutritional value of your food greatly.
Sources of B12:
The best way to get this particular vitamin is through supplementation. The sources that it is most common in milk, soy, egg, etc. are not clean or healthy for various other reasons.
Herbs and Supplements to Complement a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle:
Herbs or Essential Oils That May lift the Spirit:
|Ginkgo Biloba**||Evening Primrose Oil|
Supplements That Counteract Depression/Anxiety
- Probiotics—Includes prebiotics. To keep inflammation reduced, it is important that your gut maintains a high number of quality bacteria.
- Zinc—Several studies show that low levels of zinc are associated with depression and that supplementation can improve symptoms.
- Phytochemicals—A number of plant phytochemicals have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties. These include hesperidin, quercetin, curcumin, resveratrol, berberine, and luteolin.
- Mixed Tocopherols/tocotrienols—These are forms of vitamin E. The best forms are the high Gamme E containing mixed tocopherols. These are powerful anti-inflammatories and reduce excitotoxins in the brain.
- Coconut oil—while it is not an omega 3 oil, it has been shown to reduce brain inflammation and is easy to use as a cooking oil.
Lifestyle Suggestions for Depression:
- Bright light therapy
- Avoid negative thinking
- Regular, restful sleep
- Daily spiritual exercise
- Regular physical exercise
- Deep breathing exercises
- Classical music therapy
While herbs and medications may have a place at the start in reversing depression, the goal is to discontinue the use of most herbs and drugs within 6 months to a year. Nutrition and lifestyle choices are a key part and offer a reasonable expectation of a lasting solution. A general improvement in overall health may likely be realized and is the bonus you may never have expected.
Whether it is medicine induced or socially induced, depression can be mitigated and nearly fully eradicated with lifestyle changes, diet, supplements, exercise and prayer.
For more information, there are two excellent sources: Dr. Neil Nedley, MD who has written the Book, Depression the Way Out. You can order the book from us at www.myhdiet.com or from him. The other excellent source is Dr. Russell Blaylock who wrote the book Excitotoxins.