The World Health Organization defines depression as “a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.” Depression affects more people than you’d think, according to the WHO 121 million people worldwide are battling depression. One her website, Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, PhD, DAc, RNCP, ROHP, shares some ways to naturally fight depression. Since we at Liquid Health like doing things the natural way, whenever possible, I decided to share her suggestions with you.
Diet – Dr. Cook feels that our diet has more to do with our levels of depression than we probably realize. Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help to keep everything else in our bodies in order, from hormones to our blood sugar and our weight. Dr. Cook comments “For example, complex carbohydrates from vegetables, legumes and whole grains help the brain manufacture serotonin, a “feel good” neurotransmitter that is needed to prevent and treat depression.”
Food Sensitivities – Going along with eating a balanced diet is being aware of food that we may be allergic to, or have sensitivity to. Dr. Cook says the most common foods to look at are dairy, wheat, gluten, MSG, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and food colors. If you notice your moods changing in conjunction with eating particular foods, you may want to consult your doctor to check if you have a food allergy you never knew before.
Blood sugar fluctuations – Have you ever noticed if you go a long time without eating, you start to feel cranky? This is because your blood sugar levels dip, so Dr. Cook recommends eating small meals and snacks every few hours to keep your blood sugar levels consistent.
Essential Fats – Dr. Cook says “Essential fatty acids are necessary to treat depression, as they are required to create healthy brain cells and are involved in regulating neurotransmitters” – good sources of EFAs include: fish (and fish oil), flax seed, and leafy greens. There are also supplement versions of these essential fatty acids available if you think you won’t get enough from your diet alone.
Nutrient Deficiencies - When you’re having any kind of deficiency it throws your body out of its rhythm. When you’re out of rhythm you’re more likely to have hormones out of balance, which can lead to depression. This is another reason to try and eat a healthy and balanced diet and consider a multivitamin if you feel you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
B Vitamins - Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. says on Mayo Clinic’s website: “Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.”
Balancing Serotonin – Serotonin is known as one of many neurotransmitters in our bodies. Brainexplorer.org says serotonin has many functions “in addition to mood control” – but because of this specific function, having healthy levels of serotonin in your brain can help you fight depression. Serotonin levels can be altered in many ways including exercise and exposure to sunlight, as well as supplementing with vitamins and herbs. Dr. Cook gives a few examples of things to consider supplementing with to increase your serotonin levels on her website, such as: “vitamin D daily can help with depression, because it helps the body make serotonin” and “it (St. John’s Wort) also helps raise serotonin levels in the brain.”
Depression is a serious matter and should be dealt with as quickly and consistently as possible. The WHO lists social stigma surrounding mental disorders as one of the reasons people don’t seek help for their depression. While these natural suggestions for dealing with depression may not work for everyone, there are still many forms of treatment available and you should consult your doctor if you or someone you know are showing signs of depression.