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What Everyone Needs to Know About Depression

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Nothing works right when you’re depressed. You don’t do your job well, your relationships don’t work right, and even isolating yourself sometimes doesn’t bring any relief because you are your own worst company. If whatever you are doing to manage your depression isn’t working…in other words…if you are taking an antidepressant and you’re still depressed, there may be something about your lifestyle that is perpetuating the problem.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES THAT CAN HELP

There are many lifestyle changes you can make that will greatly reduce or sometimes even eliminate depression and anxiety. Some of these things include exercise, stress management, prayer, sunshine, meditation, yoga, surrounding yourself with more positive people, developing more positive thoughts, practicing gratitude, dancing, and eating a healthy diet. There are many popular internet resources as well as bookshelves lined with self-help books on most of these topics. The focus at MENTALHEALTHFOOD.NET is on diet because much less information is readily available about the food-mood connection, even though there is a growing body of scientific research supporting the fact that what we eat directly affects how we think and feel.

GOOD FOOD = GOOD MOOD

Our bodies are designed to utilize nutrients from food to be strong and healthy. The body converts nutrients into many things including energy, muscles, hormones, and neurotransmitters – chemicals needed by the brain that regulate our moods, give us mental acuity, and even help us sleep soundly. When we deprive our bodies of these necessary nutrients, everything goes haywire. Nutritional deficiency leads to weak immune systems and malfunctions in every area of the body, including the brain. Without the nutrients it needs to be healthy, the body falls into a state of disrepair. We manifest symptoms of nutritional deficiency as sickness and disease, including anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, modern medicine spends billions of dollars every year looking for “cures” without looking for the “cause”. Many of our health and mental health problems are a result of inadequate nutrition. Food is the original medicine!

HOW CAN WE HAVE NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY IN A “LAND OF PLENTY”?

Our traditional “Western diet” barely resembles what it looked like 50 years ago. Family farms have been replaced by corporate agriculture. Soil has been stripped of many of its naturally occurring nutrients, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria, and replaced with toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. This produces crops that grow bigger faster but lack the vitamins and minerals of their ancestors grown in nutrient-rich organic soil. People stopped cooking and eating homemade meals at home as TV dinners made it easier for both parents to be wage earners outside the home without facing the time consuming chore of preparing foods and cooking. Pop Tarts replaced cooked breakfasts and canned Spaghetti-O’s masqueraded as real lunches and dinners as processed foods of all kinds found their way to grocery stores on every corner across the country. Fewer people are growing their own food, buying fresh foods at their local markets, baking bread and cooking meals from wholesome, healthy ingredients. We have traded wholesomeness for convenience. Processed and refined foods have a longer shelf life, necessitating fewer trips to the market for fresh food. Unfortunately, many of the original nutrients are removed in the processing. We have become accustomed to prepackaged, canned, and boxed food. And in between those nutritionally diminished meals we have the bagged chips, cookies, crackers and packaged cupcakes made of essentially nothing but white flour, white sugar, hydrogenated fat, and artificial color and flavor that also have very little, if any, nutritional value but instead pump us full of salt, sugar, trans fat, and toxic preservatives and other chemicals. Add to that today’s multi-billion dollar fast-food industry, and you have the current Western diet. Our bellies are full but our bodies are nutritionally depleted.

EAT WHAT YOUR GRANDMOTHER ATE

Depression can be triggered by many things, including traumatic events and extremely difficult circumstances. Chronic depression can be due to an inadequate diet.

There are at least 20 vitamins, minerals, and amino acids known to be associated with depression and anxiety. People who are deficient in any of these nutrients are at higher risk of depression. Deficiencies in all of these nutrients are common in the current Western diet. The rates of depression have risen as the nutritional content in food has declined.

The vitamins, minerals, and amino acids we need to make the beneficial neurotransmitters involved in preventing and reversing depression and anxiety are in fish, red meat, poultry, eggs, green leafy vegetables, colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans, and dairy products. These whole, “real” foods are what our ancestors ate and are the sources of what we need to eat to be healthy, both physically and mentally and should be the mainstay of our regular diet. The key to a nutritional approach to mental health is in eating foods containing the nutrients that help our brains function optimally and not eating foods that are depleted of those nutrients or, worse yet, actively working against the good foods we are eating. We can break the vicious cycle of relying on processed and fast-foods that are causing the nutritional deficiencies that result in depression and anxiety, robbing us of our energy and joy. Eating processed and fast-food perpetuates the cycle of eating more foods laden in trans-fats, refined grains and sugar in an attempt to make ourselves, momentarily, feel better, or just for the sake of convenience. We are beginning to see the toll this dietary lifestyle has taken on our health. The best solution for fixing a problem is to discover the cause of the problem and correct it. Anything else is nothing more than treating symptoms or, at the very least, trying to fix a problem that could have been prevented. Avoiding processed food while eating nutrient rich “real” food can act as both prevention and cure of problems associated with nutritional deficiencies, including depression.

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