Has the economic crisis got you down? A recent National Sleep Foundation poll found that one-third of Americans are losing sleep over the faltering economy. As the economy continues to spiral downward, more people are experiencing economic anxiety which can easily turn into clinical depression – and, unfortunately, experts predict that the economy will only get worse before it begins to improve.
This wave of "recession depression" is creating a plethora of new patients for doctors, who typically treat depression with a drug like Prozac or Cymbalta. Such medications, however, may cause unpleasant side effects such as sexual dysfunction. Fortunately, there are several ways to elevate your mood and prevent depression naturally.
Herbs & Supplements for Depression
St. John's Wort, for example, is a natural herb that increases serotonin levels in the brain – which is the same mechanism of drugs like Prozac. Last year, Science Daily reported that a Cochrane Systematic Review of 29 medical trials found that St. John's Wort is just as effective as standard antidepressants with fewer side effects. The recommended dosage for the treatment of mild to moderate depression is 200 to 1,000 milligrams per day.
SAMe is another popular supplement for depression. As the synthetic form of a compound formed naturally in the body, SAMe elevates mood by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine. Since SAMe is a natural compound present in every living cell, it has very few side effects. It normally increases energy levels; therefore, it should be used with caution by those suffering from bipolar disorder, as it may induce mania or hypomania. People with Parkinson's disease should avoid SAMe. The standard dose of SAMe is 800 – 1600 milligrams per day. Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equally. Read all labels carefully and discuss the dosage with your healthcare provider.
Nutrition and Depression
Your diet can have a tremendous impact on your serotonin levels and your mood. Too much protein, for instance, may suppress serotonin. Likewise, excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine often leads to anxiety and depression. Choosing the right fats, avoiding simple sugars and getting checked for food sensitivities can minimize the chances that you will suffer from depression even during stressful times.
Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Depression
The typical American diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in refined vegetable oils and processed foods) and low in omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, flaxseed, and cold-water fish). In 2004, Prevention magazine reported that six out of ten people suffering from depression found relief by taking fish oil supplements rich in omega-3 fats, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Psychiatrist Andrew Stoll, MD, of Harvard Medical School said, "These results were huge, and the improvements were obvious. Those who got the supplements slept better and felt less worthlessness and guilt. We think omega-3s help your brain use a feel-good chemical called serotonin."
The participants in the study took 2,000 milligrams of an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA daily. You can get EPA from cold-water fish like salmon, but you'll need to take supplements to get 2,000 milligrams a day. Note: You shouldn't take EPA if you're taking Coumadin or fat-blocking medications.
The Effects of Sugar on Depression
In her book Food Addiction, former food addict Kay Sheppard, MA, explains, "Gummy bears and marshmallow chicks can be vicious killers whose effects can lead to depression, irritability, and even suicide. The terrible truth is that for certain individuals, refined carbohydrates can trigger the addictive process."
Refined sugar is an addictive chemical with no nutritional value. Upon consumption, it elevates insulin levels, which in turn elevate endorphin levels. Like serotonin, endorphins are "feel-good" chemicals. However, continuous, excessive consumption of sugar and carbohydrates will cause the body to scale back its own production of endorphins, causing depression. The body will then crave more sugar and carbs in an effort to get those feel-good endorphins back, but you end up feeling like you're chasing your own tail. Meanwhile, high blood sugar levels lead to heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney disorders. To avoid this vicious cycle, reduce consumption of refined sugars and processed foods and opt for more long-term energy producers like complex carbs found in fruits and vegetables.
Food Allergies and Depression
Food allergies can affect your mood as well. Not all food allergies cause immediate reactions. Delayed food allergies, or food sensitivities, are often difficult to detect, but they can have a devastating impact on your mood. For instance, many people have sensitivities to casein (milk protein) and gluten (a protein in wheat, rye, and barley). Eating foods to which you are sensitive can cause mood changes as well as other symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and digestive problems. A simple blood test will let you know which foods, if any, you should avoid.
Heavy Metal Toxicity, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Depression
Heavy metal toxicity is another common cause of depression and fatigue. Metals like mercury, lead, and arsenic may enter our bodies via the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Tuna, halibut, and swordfish, for example, typically contain high levels of mercury.
In January, Environmental Health published a study which found that nearly half of commercial samples of high-fructose corn syrup contain mercury. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a main ingredient in many popular processed foods, from soda pop to bread. Even many "juices" consist primarily of water and high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS causes many, many health problems and can worsen depression just like simple sugars do. (HFCS is like a turbo-boosted simple sugar). Add the concern about mercury, and you should have no reason to consume any of this dangerous substance.
When heavy metals and other toxins build up in your body, they eventually cause toxic overload, which affects the immune, endocrine, neurological, and cardiovascular systems. Unfortunately, in our modern society, it's impossible to completely avoid exposure to toxins like heavy metals. That's why it's helpful to detoxify your body under the supervision of a healthcare provider at least once a year.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies and Depression
Too many processed foods not only contain toxic chemicals, but they also lack the natural vitamins and minerals present in whole foods. When you eat a diet consisting of organic, whole foods, you're less likely to suffer from depression.
"Fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, anxiety and depression – all can be signs of a B vitamin deficiency," reported Psychology Today in 2004. Alcohol, refined sugar, nicotine, and caffeine all destroy B vitamins. Good dietary sources of B vitamins include dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, nuts, eggs, chicken, liver, and fish. Brewer's yeast enriched with B vitamins is a great supplement; dosages vary depending on the supplement.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to depression, too. Last year a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that two out of five small children have less than optimal levels of vitamin D. While you can get vitamin D from supplements and fortified foods like milk, the best source of vitamin D is sunshine, which produces the ideal form of vitamin D when it hits your skin. So don't let your kids play video games all day! Make sure that they get healthy sun exposure.
Mineral deficiencies may also cause anxiety and depression as well as sleep disorders. Several nationwide studies have concluded that the typical American diet does not include enough magnesium, and stress further depletes magnesium. A deficiency in magnesium can cause depressive symptoms as well as confusion, agitation, and a host of physical problems. To get sufficient levels of magnesium, eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and fish, plus at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of magnesium.
Calcium deficiency has been implicated in depression too. Foods high in calcium include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Your doctor may suggest mineral supplementation; the ideal dosage varies with sex and age.
Candida and Depression
Candida are yeast-like fungal organisms that are normally present in the digestive system. For most people, candida are harmless. But sometimes, usually because of poor diet or use of certain medications, candida can grow out of control, causing a condition called candidiasis. Toxic candida byproducts then enter the bloodstream, where they may affect the brain and cause depression. Candida overgrowth may also reduce magnesium absorption in the intestine, which can lead to depression. Signs of candidiasis include oral thrush, white patches inside the cheeks, and frequent yeast infections. If you suffer from candidiasis, ask your healthcare provider about cadida detox options.
Avoid Depression with a Naturally Healthy Lifestyle
If you want to avoid the rapidly spreading recession depression, it's important to maintain a positive state of mind during these tough times. In addition to the suggestions above, you should exercise regularly, drink plenty of pure water, and stick to a regular sleep schedule. It is vitally important to get a handle on your stress level. Meditation or yoga can help with this. Finally, everybody needs healthy emotional support. When you're faced with a stressful problem, talk to a friend or family member about it. Simply getting your problem off your chest will relieve a great deal of anxiety.
The Akasha Center offers several modalities to help alleviate depression, such as nutritional counseling, serotonin testing, food allergy testing, and several detox programs, including candida detox, sugar balancing detox, and heavy metal detox. Schedule your appointment today, and our experienced staff will help you achieve the happiness and peace of mind that you deserve.