EAT YOUR WAY OUT OF DEPRESSION FOR GOOD
This week is national Depression Week – created to highlight that as many as one in three of us feel depressed and suffer from low moods . That’s why thousands of people are prescribed anti-depressants, which cost the NHS millions of pounds each year. Yet the long-term side effects of many of these drugs can be depressing – the list to date includes high blood pressure, dry mouth, blurred vision, cardiovascular disease, nausea, headaches, constipation, nervousness, sexual dysfunction and even suicide.
What many people aren’t aware of is that there is a much simpler, more natural way of dealing with depression, low mood, lack of motivation and even low self-esteem.
After many years in practice and researching depression, I’ve seen that the BEST way of banishing the blues for good is to make sure our diets include the top mood and mind-boosting nutrients and supplements. That’s because the most effective and safest way of altering the brain’s complex biochemistry is with the stuff it’s made of – the food you eat.
So to mark national Depression Week, I’ve come up with a food-lover’s guide to Eating Your Way Out Of Depression. If you feel low, I want to help you learn what foods to enjoy and what to steer clear of to prevent depression and ensure your mood always stays in balance.
Top Five Food Tips to Beat Depression
1. CUT OUT THE STIMULANTS
We’ve all experienced the urge to reach for a chocolate bar when we’re feeling down in the dumps. But in the long term, eating a diet too high in sugar and stimulants can upset your blood sugar and make you more prone to emotional ups and downs.
That’s why the best way to deal with stress, depression and low mood is to cut out the most popular self-prescribed ‘drugs’ – sugar and caffeine. It may sound impossible at first, but you’ll only suffer withdrawal symptoms for a few days. And once you’ve got the stimulants out of your system, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to live without them. If you’ve been drinking coffee or tea regularly for some time, you might want to cut down gradually to avoid the caffeine-withdrawal headaches that can occur if you go ‘cold turkey’.
Once you’re off them though, you’ll notice a marked difference in your mood.
2. BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR WITH CHROMIUM
If you’re finding it hard to give up sugar, try supplementing up to 600mg of chromium a day, 400mg with breakfast and 200mg with lunch. Chromium is fantastic for banishing sugar cravings. And as it’s a natural anti-depressant, it’s an important nutrient to include in your mood-boosting diet. Chromium is rich in whole grains, seafood, green beans, broccoli, prunes, nuts, peanut butter and potatoes, so as well as taking an extra supplement when you’re feeling low, it’s important to ensure you’re always getting a good supply of chromium from your diet.
And the good news is that the only side effect is that it will help you lose weight!
3. EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN
Having a serving of fish, chicken, turkey or soya tofu each day can add some important amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which are known to help give your brain a natural mood boost.
All the above foods contain high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which makes your brain’s ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter serotonin. This is why it’s one of nature’s most effective anti-depressants. Other food-sources of tryptophan include cottage cheese, avocados, bananas and wheatgerm. Alternatively, you could supplement 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP) – take 100mg twice a day.
Another brain deficiency associated with depression is low levels of adrenalin. Adrenalin is made from the amino acid tyrosine. Good food sources include green leafy vegetables like seaweed and spinach, tofu and turkey. You can also supplement the amino acid L-tyrosine, available from health food shops, by taking 2,000mg each day.
Remember though, that while tyrosine is energising and should be taken in the morning, 5-HTP can have a relaxing effect and is best taken in the evening. And do not supplement if you are already taking an anti-depressant drug.
4. CHECK YOUR ESSENTIAL FATS
Fish oils are nature’s mood food. Carnivorous cold water fish (they’re the fish with teeth) such as salmon, mackerel and herring have a particularly powerful effect due to the high amount of Omega 3 fat they contain.
Omega 3s not only have a calming effect, they actually help to make your brain more responsive to the effects of serotonin – so the more you have in your blood, the less likely you are to feel blue. And the good news is that because they’re so valuable to the brain, Omega 3 fats WON’T make you fat! So they’re a perfect remedy for low mood and low self-esteem. In fact extensive surveys have shown that the more fish a country eats, the lower the national incidence of depression  – which is probably why you’ll rarely meet a depressed Eskimo!
Fish oils also work well in supplement form. Look for an ‘EPA’ rich fish oil and, for best results, supplement between 400mg and 1000mg a day.
5. TOP UP YOUR B VITAMINS
If you’re low in the essential B vitamins – including folic acid, B2, B6 and B12, it can result in abnormally high levels of homocysteine, a toxic protein found in the blood. Having a high level of homocysteine is known to double the odds of developing depression  and also delivers a host of other health risks such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
You can have your homocysteine levels checked with a simple test. For details see www.brainbiocentre.com
. The best way of ensuring your levels are sufficiently low is to up your B vitamins. Rich food sources include wholegrains, pulses, nuts, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. But even if you’re getting a good daily intake of these types of foods, it can still be worth supplementing a high-strength B Complex formula.
Sadly, many people don’t realise that what they eat may have fundamentally contributed to their mood – or that it could be something as simple as food that corrects the problem. Unfortunately though, that doesn’t mean that there is a quick fix. Because all the nutrients work best in combination, it’s important to follow a programme of optimum nutrition to prevent or treat depression. But the good news is that you can lift your mood and tackle depression head on by targeting nutritional deficiencies in the brain, while avoiding all the side effects of anti-depressants.
Also, if you or someone you know is suffering with a mental health problem, I suggest you contact the Brain Bio Centre, which is an outpatient clinical treatment centre specialising in the 'optimum nutrition' approach to mental health problems. The centre offers a comprehensive assessment of biochemical imbalances that can contribute to mental health problems, plus advice to correct these imbalances as a means to restore health. The Brain Bio Centre is the clinical division of the Mental Health Project. The Clinic is located in Richmond, London. Visit www.brainbiocentre.com
for more details.
Wishing you the best of health