Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fighting Depression With Nutrition

Did you know that over 120 million people around the world are affected by depression? I find this to be a very depressing statistic. Fortunately depression can be combated with proper dietary habits. So what is depression? Depression is one of the most common mental disorders presenting a depressed mood, loss in pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-esteem, disrupted appetite or sleep, poor concentration, and low energy levels. Depression can become either a chronic or recurrent condition leading to substantial impairments in one's ability to care for his or her everyday tasks. Unfortunately, about 850,000 people die every year due to depression related circumstances.There are five major types of depression:

Major depression.

Major depression is all around us. When one has major depression they experience symptoms such as sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in particular activities that one may have once enjoyed, weight gain/loss, under/over sleeping, low self-esteem, and thoughts of death or possibly suicide.


People who are mildly depressed during most days of the week typically have dysthymia. This condition is closely related to major depression but more mild and not as severe.

Seasonal affective disorder.

Some individuals experience a less severe type of depression during certain seasons of the year. Most occurrences of this type of depression occur during the wintertime possibly do to the lack of sunlight, causing a vitamin D deficiency and other related issues.

Postpartum depression.

Many women experience this form of depression within the first few months of giving birth. The symptoms are eerily similar to those of major depression and often interfere with the mothers desire to take care of herself and the new child.

Bipolar disorder.

This type of depression is commonly used in films depicting someone who is happy one second and angry the next second. Such a view of bipolar is taken to it's furthest extreme. Having this condition may have subtle symptoms such as feeling depressed every other day.

So what causes depression? It is generally caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and gamma-aminobutyric acid. These imbalances are caused by a number of underlying factors.

Fortunately, by providing one's body with proper nutrition, the symptoms of depression can be minimized. Any individual who wants to combat depression should include foods rich in tryptophan, zinc, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients can also be obtained through dietary supplements from the local supplement store, pharmacy, or online. Here are the following nutrients needed to fight depression:

Vitamin D.

Vitamin D can be obtained from fish oil, cows milk, soy milk, orange juice, and mushrooms. These foods may also have anti-inflammatory properties increasing the flexibility of the cell membranes, and helping the brain's neurotransmitters work properly.

Tryptophan rich foods.

Sources of tryptophan include turkey, chicken, lamb, beef, dairy, spelt, nuts, soy, tuna, beans, and salmon. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can help produce good feelings and promote better sleep.

Omega-3 rich foods.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish, flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil. Studies have shown that when people's diets are lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, they tend to have higher occurrences of mood disorders and schizophrenia.

Folate rich foods.

Sources of folate include beans, orange juice, hazelnuts, spinach, avocados, and wheat germ. Low levels of folate have also been associated with poor brain performance and depression.

Foods rich in zinc.

Sources of zinc include oysters, chicken, cheddar cheese, yogurt, beans, basil, beef, pumpkin seeds, and fortified grains. Research has shown depressive behavioral patterns associated with low zinc intake.

While the above are important to include in one's diet to prevent depression one must also avoid consuming trans fats, saturated fats, high glycemic foods, and alcohol. Also, one should avoid low-carb and high-protein diets, and skipping meals.

By following these nutritional suggestions you will be multiple steps closer to being depression free. Remember, nutrition is not the only method for fighting depression. You must use any and all methods at available to fight this sometimes chronic condition. Always tell your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

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