Eat your way out of depression
According to the Mental Health Foundation, depression and anxiety are widespread. Although it is more common in women than men - with one in four women requiring treatment for depression at some time - one in 10 men will also suffer depression at some time.
While there are many reasons for depression, there are some common imbalances connected to nutrition that can contribute to depression. These include:
- Blood sugar imbalances (often associated with too much sugar and stimulant intake in the diet), which can lead to negative changes in your mood and higher than normal anxiety levels.
- Nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamins B3, B6, D, folate, B12, B12, Zinc, magnesium and essential fatty acids. These are necessary for neurotransmitter formation and proper brain functioning.
- Deficiencies of certain protein building blocks, as these are precursors of neurotransmitters.
- Allergies and sensitivities and digestive problems, as these can lead to inflammation. There is a link between these inflammatory chemicals and depression.
In light of the above, there are some simple dietary steps that you can take to help combat depression, including:
- Eating oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or fresh tuna two days a week and seeds such as flax and pumpkin seeds every day.
- Eating whole foods rich in B vitamins, such as whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Folic acid is particularly rich in green vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, while B12 is only found in animal foods, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy produce.
- Avoiding or reducing caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates and alcohol.
- Increasing your vitamin D intake by getting some sensible sun exposure without sun-block - but don't risk your skin health by allowing yourself to get sunburnt. In the winter months, it is essential to take vitamin D3 supplements, as the body can only store Vitamin D for around three months. In March your levels of stored Vitamin D are thought to be at their lowest, as they have been used up during the winter months.
In addition to the above, biochemical testing can also be arranged to identify any vitamin or mineral deficiency, or allergies and food sensitivities. Steps can then to taken to correct them through avoiding offending foods and possibly supplementation.
There is also evidence that exercise can help with depression and anxiety as well as help reduce stress.
Asking a trained nutritionist to carry out a dietary evaluation would be the first step to see if any of the above apply to you. They will be able to work out from your diet history how to improve what you are eating or if you may be low in certain minerals or vitamins.