Two years into this pandemic, with more to go, has been enough to harsh all our mellows. But for many more of us, clinical depression threatens our very existence and we need to talk about it. To do that, I turn to one of my favorite gurus, Dr. Greger.
In a summary article, https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/depression/ , he defines depression as weeks of feeling sad, lack of enjoyment in activities usually pleasurable, change in weight up or down, fatigue, feeling of inappropriate guilt, difficulty concentrating, and recurrent thoughts of death.
We already know there is a strong mind/body connection. “Positive psychological well being seems to be associated with reduced risk of physical illness…(it’s) crucial that the food you eat support both your mind and your body.”
So, get out that pint of ice cream when the blues hit and dig in? Having done that a few times I can tell you I felt better only while I was eating it, worse a few hours later, and really bad when I got on the scale. Research, however, has shown that leafy green vegetables and tomatoes do alter brain chemistry to lift one’s mood. (Wouldn’t you know. Tomato ice cream?)
The Meat and Mood Connection
“It’s Friday night and I had a horrendous week at work. Let’s go out for dinner at the Steak House and celebrate the coming weekend.”
Here’s why that may not help your mood.
Researchers studied meat and meat products, like eggs, and depression. They found some components in certain foods contained arachidonic acid that potentially causes inflammation in the brain, leading to depression. Top sources of arachidonic acid? You guessed it. Mostly chicken and eggs, but also:
“There are data suggesting that people with higher levels of arachidonic acid in their blood may end up at significantly higher risk of suicide and episodes of major depression.”
In fact, Greger cites that as far back as 1887, we knew of the connection between inflammation and depression. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/anti-inflammatory-diet-for-depression/
Finally, the the fish/depression connection surprised me. I always thought the Omega-3 from, say salmon, was good for me. Here’s an interesting video suggesting that the mercury level in fish may be connected to increased suicides. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/fish-consumption-and-suicide/
Food and Medicine
Physicians order medication to treat mental health issues because we know brain chemistry plays a huge role in diseases like depression. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) in the body breaks down excess levels of “feel good” neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. But what if there is too much MAO that breaks down too much serotonin and dopamine? Well, that contributes to depression. That’s why many medications for depression are called MAO inhibitors.
But can you inhibit excess MAO with food as well as with medication? Research says yes:
- Foods: spices (cloves, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg)
- Plant foods: apples, berries, grapes, onions, green tea
I am not saying the only prevention and treatment for depression should be a Whole Food Plant Based diet. Life’s crises throw us curves and bring feelings of depression and helplessness. Along with diet, counseling, prayer, meditation, and exercise, medication may be necessary—especially in acute, life threatening situations. I admit I asked my doctor for medication during the most difficult periods of my late husband’s illness, and it helped.
Here are two more videos which may interest you.