As depression affects millions worldwide, countries across the globe now have special days to foster more awareness about mental health issues. While Mental Health Days are a good place to start, is anyone raising awareness of the concrete strategies that anyone can do to prevent, manage and overcome this condition? While some individuals may require stronger treatment methods (such as medications and psychotherapy) most should begin by addressing the many simple, yet powerful changes they can make in their diets and lifestyle.
Stats Canada and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that about 9% of adults 18 and older reported symptoms consistent with at least one of the following disorders: major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.
Depression can be described as a state of being that includes a lack of motivation, a sense of hopelessness and a lack of energy. It can include chronic fatigue, sleep problems, alterations is appetite and loss of interest in life in general.
In mainstream medicine, most doctors only address and treat the symptoms of depression by prescribing antidepressants. These types of medications all come with varying degrees of side effects which can be even more detrimental to the individual.
An integrated approach looks at all the contributing factors then works to correct and resolve areas that may be creating difficulty.
How You Think and Feel is Directly Affected by What You Eat
There is much evidence that the foods we eat directly influence the brains behaviour. Here’s some Food for Thought: How you think and feel is directly affected by what you eat. This idea may seem strange but a poor diet, especially one with a lot of junk foods, is a common cause of depression. That’s because neurotransmitters in our brain, which regulate how we behave, are controlled by what we eat and closely linked to mood. The fact is that eating the right foods has been proven to boost IQ, improve mood and emotional stability, sharpen memory and keep your mind young.
Two of the most important aspects an individual should address if they’re suffering from depression are their diet and lifestyle. Everything from blood sugar imbalances to food allergies and deficiencies in much needed vitamins and minerals should be considered and corrected as well as ensuring your diet is rich in fatty and amino acids as these have all been linked to low mood.
What is a Balanced Diet?
A good nutritional program consists of three parts:
- A good diet, without chemicals, sugars and junk food. Eating a whole food diet ensures you receive all the right nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and EFA’s. These all support you mental, physical and emotional health.
- Micronutrient support, especially the B vitamins niacin, pyridoxine (B6), B12, folic acid, vitamin C, zinc & essential fatty acids.
- Other nutrients that support the production of neurotransmitter substances such as choline, and L-tyrosine which improves dopamine synthesis and 5-HTP to stimulate serotonin production.
Getting enough Vitamin D through appropriate sun exposure or in supplement form is also essential in fighting depression. Vitamin D is actually a neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that has been found to significantly lower the presence of depressive symptoms. There is growing evidence showing that if you’re suffering from depression one of the best choices you can make is to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible.
Exercise is a great way to prevent and treat depression. Studies show that regular exercise helps you feel better and improves mood and attitude towards life. Exercise can help cleanse toxins out of the body and could moderate depression. Also, exercise helps increase feel good endorphins in your brain.
Exercising 3-5 times a week for at least 45 minutes and including some form of aerobic exercise, weight training to improve strength and tone and stretching to ensure flexibility are all essential components to a balanced program.
Although this may be difficult to even consider when you’re feeling depressed, once you establish a routine it will build and help moderate your symptoms.
How you live your life, interact with others, the work you do and the stresses in your life all have an impact on you mental health and need to be addressed and modified. Keep a positive attitude towards life. Look at challenges as opportunities to improve your well being. Create a regular exercise program and learn ways to talk about your feelings and frustrations with friends or loved ones.
Other possible causes of Depression
Many drugs can cause mild to moderate levels of depression; these include blood pressure medications, estrogens in birth control pills, steroids and antianxiety drugs. Although alcohol can make you feel good initially it is actually a depressant and if you suffer with depression you should absolutely minimize or avoid consumption.
Hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone or menopausal imbalances are also factors in causing depression.
A hidden problem that many individuals suffer from is unbalanced thyroid, in particular hypothyroidism which, often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Thyroid problems can have a definite impact on your mood.
As mentioned above food allergies can produce and aggravate depression. For this reason it’s critical to isolate and eliminate food allergies. Avoiding or better yet, eliminating all sugars, refined foods and chemicals found in those foods helps many people with poor moods and depression.
Empower Yourself with an Integrated Approach to Mental Health
If you or someone you know is plagued with depression there are many ways to help prevent and control this condition using natural alternatives or in conjunction with medical therapy.
Keep a positive attitude, exercise, address your diet and nutritional intake, supplement with a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral formula, avoid foods that are toxic to your body and don’t forget to exercise regularly.
Michelle Thibodeau is a Holistic Nutritionist specializing in preventing, treating and recovering from disease naturally. She is also a Certified Professional Cancer Coach and spokesperson for Canada’s National Association of Professional Cancer Coaches. If you are interested in this post please visit her blog or Facebook profile.
Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind
Staying Healthy with Nutrition – The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine
Prescription for Nutritional Healing – Fifth Edition