Depression is a whole body illness, affecting the body, the nervous system, moods, thoughts and behaviour. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you think about people around you and the way you react and think. Food greatly influence the brain’s behaviour. The level of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters which regulate our behaviour are closely related to what we eat and neurotransmitters are closely linked to mood. The neurotransmitters related to mood are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. The precursor to serotonin is tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Sufficient amounts of vitamins B6, C, folate and magnesium are necessary for the formation of tryptophan.
Here are some changes you can make to your diet to help you deal with depression:
· A diet high in complex carbohydrates, whole grains, seeds, nuts, brown rice, millet, soy protein, beans and pulses will help you become more relaxed.
· Consume salmon and turkey. Both are rich in protein and tryptophan. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we feel good at Christmas!
· Omit wheat and gluten from your diet. Wheat and gluten have been found to be linked to depressive disorders.
· Take essential fatty acids like flaxseed oil, fish oil or evening primrose oil. Essential fatty acids aid in the transmission of nerve impulses, which is needed for brain function. Essential fatty acids are also rich in seeds and nuts like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.
· Some natural supplements that are recommended include 5HTP which increases the body’s production of serotonin, SAMe which works as an antidepressant, Vitamin B complex which is necessary for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, Kava Kava which helps to induce calm and relieve depression and St John’s Wort. Magnesium is a mineral that helps us to relax. Selenium has been shown to elevate mood and decrease anxiety. These effects were more noticeable in people who had lower levels of selenium in their diets. NZ soil is deficient in selenium. This may explain why so many Kiwis are depressed! Folic acid deficiency has also been linked to depression, especially in the elderly. A word of caution - there are contraindications between prescription drugs and natural supplements to increase serotonin production. Please consult a qualified natural health care professional before taking any of the supplements.
Also, aromatherapy is great for relaxing ourselves and uplifting our moods. A combination of Lavender, Bergamot and Cedarwood is great for rest, relaxation and for an uplift. It can be used as a massage, in the bath, or in a burner.
If you are still depressed after reading this article and making the dietary changes, come in and see what we can help you with! Small steps can make a big difference!