Feeding the Mind: Nutrition and Depression
Depression: is the most prevalent of all the emotional disorders. Symptoms may
vary from feelings of minor sadness to sheer misery and dejection. When sadness
persists and impairs daily life, it maybe an indication of a depressive
disorder. Depression brings together a variety of physical and psychological
symptoms, which together constitute a syndrome.
The most common symptoms of depression are feelings of acute sense of loss,
inexplicable sadness, loss of energy and loss of interest. The patient usually
feels tired and lacks interest in the world around him. Sleep disturbance is
frequent. Usually the patient wakes up depressed and is unable to return to
sleep. Other disturbed sleep patterns are difficulty in falling asleep,
nightmares or repeated waking. Often, emotions of guilt, oppressive feelings and
self-absorption are apart of this syndrome. Cases of severe depression may also
be characterized by low body temperature, low blood pressure, hot flushes and
Other symptoms of depression are: loss of appetite, giddiness, itching, nausea,
agitation, irritability, impotence or frigidity, constipation, aches and pains
all over the body, lack of concentration and lack of power of decision. Some
persons may lose interest in eating and suffer from rapid loss of weight while
others may resort to frequent eating and as a result gain weight.
Irregular diet habits cause digestive problems and lead to the assimilation of
fats. An excess of carbohydrates like cereals, white sugar, coffee, tea,
chocolates and comparatively less quantities of vegetables and fruits in the
diet may result in indigestion. Due to indigestion, gases are produced in the
digestive tract, causing compression over the diaphragm in the region of the
heart and lungs. This in turn, reduces the supply of oxygen to the tissues,
which raises the carbon dioxide levels, causing general depression.
Diet has a "profound effect" on the mental health of a person. Even a single
nutritional deficiency can cause depression in susceptible people. Nutritional
therapy can be used to build up brain chemicals, such as serotonin and
norepinephrine, that affect mood and are often lacking in depressed people.
Eat foods rich in B vitamins,, such as whole grains, green vegetables, eggs and
fish. The diet of people suffering from depression should completely exclude
tea, coffee, alcohol, chocolate and cola, all white flour products,sugar, food
colorings, chemical additives, white rice and strong condiments. The diet should
be restricted to three meals.
Fruits can be taken in the morning for breakfast with milk and a handful of nuts
and seeds. Lunch may consist of steamed vegetables, whole wheat chappatis and a
glass of buttermilk. For dinner, green vegetable salad and all available sprouts
such as alfalfa seeds, mung beans, cottage cheese or a glass of butter-milk
would be ideal.
Add protein and carbohydrates to your diet: Incorporate protein into your diet.
Protein helps to keep sugar levels stable. You can find protein in nuts, yogurt,
beans, fish, chicken, tofu and lentils.
Seek out foods that are high in Omega-3 (a fish oil): This fish oil has been
shown in many studies, to reduce your bad cholesterol levels and reduce plaque
buildup in your blood. By reducing your bad cholesterol, you are helping your
body to fight off stress and relieve anxiety, tension and even prevent heart
disease! Fish that are high in Omega-3 are excellent ways to help your blood
Folic Acid: Folic Acid (required for energy production) is considered brain
food. The brain needs it to work properly. It helps to prevent anxiety and
fatigue. Folic acid works best when combined with vitamin C, vitamin B6 and
vitamin B12. Much research has indicated that a deficiency of folic acid may
include depression, insomnia, anorexia, forgetfulness, hyperirritability,
apathy, fatigue and anxiety. You can find Folic Acid in the following foods:
Whole grain breads
Most multivitamin complexes contain folic acid.
GABA: GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) is an amino acid help reduce anxiety,
allows rational decision making, promotes restful sleep and enhances workout
recovery. It has also been shown to have similar effects as the benzodiazepine
drugs. You will also feel more relaxed and notice that you are sleeping better.
The recommended dose for GABA is 700-750 mg - 3 times daily - talk to a medical
professional about using GABA.
Magnesium: The supplement magnesium has been found to aid in the management of
depression. Taking 200-300 mg of magnesium 2 to 3 times daily has been shown to
SAM-e (Sammy): short for S-adenosyl-methionine, SAM-e has long been used in
Europe to treat depression and is now available in the U.S. It seems to work
faster than St. John's Wort. Look for tablets with enteric coatings which
improve absorption, and also go for the new butanedisulfonate form. Results can
be seen in as little as two weeks, but often takes at least a month for the best
effects to be felt.
Selenium: Selenium, an important antioxidant, is a trace mineral found in soil
and food. It protects neurotransmitters. Deficiency in selenium has shown to
have a negative impact on mood. It also helps to reduce bad cholesterol and keep
the heart healthy. You can get much of your selenium from dietary sources such
as: Alfalfa, fennel seed, ginseng, butter, garlic, liver, Brazil nuts, shellfish
and other fishes. You can find it in sunflower seeds, yarrow, wheat germ and
Vitamin B1: Vitamin B1 is also known as "thiamine." In many studies, B1 has
shown to have positive effects on the nervous system and mental well being.
Vitamin B1 is found in peas, soybeans, fortified breads, cereals, pasta, fish,
pork, whole grains and dried beans. Prolonged intake of large amounts of alcohol
depletes your body's supply of vitamin B1.
Vitamin B6: Lack of Vitamin B6 has been known to cause anxiety and depression.
The formation of certain brain chemicals from amino acids requires this vitamin.
It affects the nervous system. The recommended Dietary Allowances for adults
(25+ years) is 2.0 for men and 1.6 for women. The best sources of vitamin B6 are
meats (particularly organ meats such as liver), whole grains and wheat germ.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is needed for energy, brain function and a healthy
nervous system. It helps to combat depression, stabilize PMS and helps to
protect against anemia and it may help fight cancer. The best food sources of
Vitamin B12 are liver, kidney, oily fish, beef, pork lamb, cheese, eggs and
Zinc: and essential mineral, has been found to have positive effects on the
nervous system as well as helping to produce a calming effect. Most
multivitamins contain zinc. Food sources for zinc are Oysters, meat, poultry,
nuts, beans and dairy products.
What You Should Avoid:
What you don't eat may be even more important than what you do eat. Avoid
alcohol, caffeine and sugar, because they tend to worsen depression. If you
canï¿½t avoid them, then at least cut down.
Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine is something many people in America and Europe are used
to bringing in their daily lives. Though many studies have shown that this
addictive stimulant can help produce symptoms of depression, insomnia and
anxiety. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, many sodas and even
certain medications. Always ask your doctor about a medication before using it.
Also, ask the doctor if there is an alternative medication if your medicine
Reduce Processed and Refined Foods:
Processed food can rob your food of nutrients and vitamins that your body needs
to fight off stress and promote good health. Try to buy whole foods, unprocessed
foods and try and stay away from "instant" foods, preservatives, artificial
flavors, saturated fat and MSG.
Reduce Sugar Intake:
Too much sugar can rob our body of essential nutrients. Yet don't be so fast as
to replace the sugar with Stevia the natural sweetener from the Stevia plant.
Artificial sweetener can also cause anxiety as well as other health concerns.
Reduce Alcohol Intake:
In small amounts, alcohol can be good for your heart but too much alcohol is not
a good thing for your body and too large of an intake increases your body's need
for extra vitamins. The body has a harder time using oxygen. As a result, you
can become more sensitive to stress - which in turn can cause anxiety reactions.
It can also cause depression.
The Effects of Alcohol on Depression:
How does alcohol contribute to Depression Disorders? Research has shown that
alcohol in high doses has numerous health hazards. As well as many other things
that can: increase your need for extra vitamins due to disturbed eating patterns
interfere with the body's ability to use oxygen, to process food & absorb
vitamins. As a Result: High alcohol consumption makes you more sensitive to
Chronic abuse of alcohol is often associated with depression-like symptoms,
which can reduce the ability to solve problems, which in turn can lead to
anxiety. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to poor work performance,
relationship difficulties & financial difficulties. This can produce stressors
that worsen anxiety.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit