by Thais Harris, NC
Nutrition Education Program Manager, Ceres Community Projec
The Winter season can have a negative effect on our mood, known as the seasonal blues (my heart goes out to East coast residents with the hard winter they've had!). Our mood tends to shift with the arrival of Spring, but sometimes the seasonal blues persist and turn into depression.
More insidious than sadness, depression can result in changes in brain chemistry powerful enough to create a chronic sinkhole of hopelessness and despair (Bauman, 2012). Depression is thought to be caused by poor energy production in the brain resulting from nutrient deficiencies.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that in any given year more than 1 in 20 Americans over the age of 12 suffers from depression, with increased prevalence in the 40-59 age group, and among women. Depression can impair function, with 35% of depressed males and 22% of depressed females experiencing symptoms severe enough to not be able to handle daily life activities such as work, chores, and relationships (Pratt & Brody, 2008, in Bauman and Friedlander, 2012).
When depression is situational, i.e., caused by external factors such as loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job (or even the weather), symptoms tend to be self-limiting. When the situation improves, so does the depression. But when depression is ongoing and isn’t linked to a specific event, the chemistry of the mind-body is likely affected (Bauman, 2012).
Here are some recommendations for bringing the freshness and light of springtime to your state of mind:
• Eliminate excess alcohol and caffeine consumption.
• Eliminate sugar and refined carbohydrates.
• Eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods with an emphasis on plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
• Eat 20-30 grams of high quality proteins per meal. Neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine) that are essential for brain function and mood regulation are derived from dietary amino acids.
• Eat eggs, lecithin, organic butter (a good source of choline), plus cold-water fish, such as salmon, at least 3x/week for EFAs (essential fatty acids).
• Make sure you can digest proteins (look for a high quality enzyme blend to take with meals if digestion is impaired).
• Keep blood sugar levels stable by eating small, high-protein meals throughout the day, with higher proportion of proteins at breakfast and lunch.
• Eat greens (cooked or raw) with ALL meals .
• Don’t skip meals - especially not breakfast.
• Add booster foods such as algae, sea vegetables, nutritional yeast, herbs, and spices.
• Switch to low-glycemic, non-allergenic whole grains.
• Restrictive diets, including those that limit fat severely, commonly contribute to depression in women, according to Dr. Christiane Northrup. For this reason, avoid fad or gimmick-based diets.
• Eliminate smoking
• Exercise, the most powerful antidepressant, has been proven to decrease anxiety, depression, and malaise, and increase self-esteem, overall happiness, and endorphin production (which is directly correlated with mood). Best exercises: strength training (weight lifting), aerobics (walking, swimming, bicycling, dancing), yoga/stretching.
• Relax. Learn relaxation techniques and/or look for guided meditations - there are many good guided meditations and relaxation on youtube and they are even available as apps for smart phones.
• Keep a gratitude journal.
• Find your community. It takes a village to ensure each individual’s health. Think of your favorite activities and find people who are also interested in them.
• Connect with nature. Make time to walk outside.
• The following are a few affirmations I borrowed from Dr. Christiane Northrup to get you started with the right kind of thinking. Repeat these out loud in fron of the mirror, looking into your eyes, twice per day—once in the morning and once in the evening. You will notice a positive change within 30 days if you do this consistently.
I have the power within me to feel good every day.
I love and appreciate myself.
I appreciate my body for its wisdom and ability to be healthy.
The universe provides me with all the guidance I need to live life fully.
Bauman and Friedlander. Therapeutic Nutrition Part Two.Bauman College, 2012.
Bauman. Mental Health, Lecture 3. Bauman College, 2012.
Northrup, Christiane, M.D. Depression & Dysthymia. Retrieved Aug, 2012
Pizzorno, Joseph E., et al. The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, Second Edition. Churchill Livingstone, 2008.
Image of sad smiley used under creative commons.
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