The fight against depression has many components. One that cannot be emphasized enough is the connection between nutrition and emotions. The difficult fight that depression sufferers face is eating the right things while their brains are directing them to eat the wrong things.
It is difficult to do the right thing nutritionally when all your cravings are for high carbohydrate, sugary foods that offer fleeting feel-good reactions. Eating this comfort food starts a chain reaction that will lead to more depressed feelings. Accepting the fact that nutrition plays a large role in your emotional state, is the first step in stopping the hormonal reactions that lead to depression.
The first recommended step is supplementing a healthy diet with high dose fish oil. Fish oil has been shown to reduce the “bad” hormones, eicosanoids and cytokines, and increase serotonin which is the “feel good” hormone. When you have higher levels of eicosanoids and cytokines you have increased inflammation that carries a host of problems.
This can lead to strong cravings for high carbohydrate foods like potatoes, pizza and candy. Once you give into the craving and eat these foods you will feel better but it will be short lived. As your blood sugar increases, your insulin levels increase causing the short lived good feeling. This information leads to the obvious conclusion that nutrients do affect our emotions.
Food is a large part of our emotional health and can have amazing results when used in the treatment of depression. Complex carbohydrates are a vital component in well rounded nutritional plans. As complex carbohydrates take a long time to break down and release sugar steadily and slowly into the body you do not get a sugar overload.
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and within minutes of consuming these foods your serotonin levels will increase.
As with any healthy diet, it is important to consume unprocessed foods and a lot of green leafy vegetables to ensure a healthy amount of vitamins and minerals. Including supplements such as vitamin B12 and folic acid is important because up to 35% of depressed people show folic acid deficiencies. Foods that are rich in folic acid are seeds, legumes, livers and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin B12 rich foods include meat, poultry, milk, eggs, cheese and fish.
Your diet should include 800mcg of both folic acid and B12. Depressed patients also typically have low levels of B6, which you can get from food or supplements and is vital for the production of amino acids. Foods rich in B6 include protein-rich foods like fish, poultry, eggs, lentils, peanuts and wheat products.
It is believed that amino acids play a role in depression as they are the precursors to neurotransmitters. Amino acids help our brains send chemical and hormonal messages more efficiently to our bodies. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a natural anti-anxiety chemical that depressed patients generally have low levels of. This amino acid is vital for the production of serotonin, which makes it extremely important for people fighting depression.
For patients suffering with a seasonal affective disorder type of depression, melatonin has been shown to ease symptoms and can help with insomnia. SAM (S-adenosyl L-methionine) is comparable to synthetic anti-depressants minus the side effects. It has been studied extensively and can increase production of serotonin and dopamine, which both help produce improved brain cell membrane fluidity causing improvement in depression.
It is a project to find the right balance of nutrition, supplements and exercise to improve each person’s depression, but the alternative is synthetic drugs that carry a host of problems. With synthetic drugs many people must try many different pills to find one that works for time, each time changing their brain chemistry.