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Depression and Nutrition


If you are feeling down for an extended period of time, you may need to ask for professional help. If diagnosed with depression by a medical doctor, you may choose to compliment their prescription with a nutrition diet rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients often found deficient in those with the condition. Read on to find out more (for more see nutrition).

What is Depression?

Depression, sometimes referred to as clinical depression, is a mental illness that entails an overwhelming sense of sadness, loss and hopelessness. Bouts of the condition may span from weeks to years, and may sometimes cause the sufferer to despair so greatly they no longer want to live.

Causes of Depression

Depression is often thought of a purely psychological condition, with imbalanced biochemical’s in the brain being often overlooked as the root cause. Biochemicals themselves are heavily influenced by certain nutrients that must be sourced by the diet, and when found in an unbalanced state may reduce the ability to deal with ones depression.

Biochemical imbalances that may occur include:

  • Imbalanced concentrations of neurotransmitters (such as Dopamine, Serotonin, Adrenalin, etc).
  • Allergies/sensitivities
  • Nutrient deficiencies (such as the B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and essential fatty acids)
  • Fluctuating blood sugar levels (which have been linked by science to excessive sugar consumption and stimulant use)

Those suffering with depression will also at some stage experience symptoms surrounding their eating habits. They are typically:

  • Less likely to have an appetite
  • Less likely to eat nutritious foods
  • More likely to eat junk food and sweets
  • More likely to skip meals

Carbohydrates for Depression

Carbohydrates consumption has a positive impact on mood and helps to alleviate symptoms of depression. Recent studies have shown that complex carbohydrates can raise levels of Tryptophan in the brain, which is used to produce Serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter thought responsible for symptoms of depression when in deficiency. Good sources of carbohydrate for depression include whole gain cereals, breads and pasta, brown rice, legumes and soy products.

B Vitamins for Depression

Foods rich in the B Vitamins, especially folate and thiamin, may positively impact a persons mood and alleviate symptoms of depression. Additional B vitamins may be sourced from supplementation or from foods rich in vitamin B include spinach, avocados, bananas, whole grains, meat and poultry.

Zinc for Depression

Zinc deficiencies has been linked by Science to Depression. Zinc is thought to act as a neurotransmitter, whose balance when disturbed may produce symptoms such as irritability and fatigue. Zinc deficiencies also create excessive of Copper levels in the blood that in recent studies have also been linked to depression. Additional zinc may be sourced from supplementation or fromfoods rich in zinc include meat, wheat germ, wheat bran, Brewers yeast, shellfish and oysters.

Magnesium for Depression

Magnesium deficiencies a cause a host of psychological changes including those associated with depression. Recent scientific studies have shown plasma magnesium levels to be significantly lower than those patients in the control group. Additional magnesium may be sourced from supplementation or from foods such as avocado, wheat germ, almonds, pumpkin seeds and spinach.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression

The brain is made up of fat by up to 50%, making the good fats such as the Omega-3s essential to optimum brain functioning. Studies have shown the EPA constituent of Omega-3s to rebuild neuronal connections within the brain, as well as the neurotransmitter receptor sites that accommodate for healthy serotonin production. Good sources of Omega-3s include Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, Avocado, nuts, seeds, Linseed Oil, Fish oil and Cod Liver oil.

Amino Acids for Depression

Deficiencies in certain amino acids may cause depression by inhibiting Serotonin production in the brain and body. Serotonin itself is derived from the amino acid 5-Hydroxy Tryptophan, which is produced initially from the amino acid Tryptophan. Tryptophan (which is later converted by the brain to 5-HTP and Serotonin) may be sourced directly through supplementation, or from foods such as eggs, cows milk, poultry, and some seeds and nuts. Supplementation of 5-HTP is also available from licensed practitioners.

If you would like more information on how a nutritious diet may help alleviate depression, please speak to a professional nutritionist or naturopath.

Find out about other effective natural depression treatments.



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