20 April 2009

Dealing with Depression


Depression hits many of us at different times during our lives.  The symptoms are commonly known: being tired all the time, low self-esteem, no self-confidence, disturbed sleep, concentration impaired and no interest in life.

Depression is not just a dark mood; it is an illness.  Low levels of the hormone serotonin are a known contributing factor.   The lower the Serotonin levels the deeper the depression.  To increase the Serotonin all the building blocks need to be present.  One of the vital missing links is often the amino acid Tryptophan. 
So increasing Tryptophan in our diets can help ease depression.  Foods that are high in Tryptophan are fish, turkey, meat and chicken, Parmesan cheese, almonds, barley, lentils and bananas.  Tryptophanes first priority in the body is to make Niacin (vitamin B3), not to make Serotonin.  In other words, it is vital to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of Niacin in your diet, if you are going to increase the Serotonin levels.  Other B Vitamins are also essential.  A good balance diet, which includes a variety of fish, pulses and fresh raw vegetables, is always the key. 

Some foods that help lift moods are:

Carbohydrates in winter, if you crave these in winter, they may help lift the winter blues.  Look towards eating the more complex carbohydrates such as dried beans, pasta, vegetables, cereal, whole grain bread and crackers.

Spinach is high in folic acid.  It has been shown that people with depression have lower levels of folic acid than normal.  Low folic acid can cause the levels of Serotonin to shrink.  The amount need to fight off depression is only 200mg-500mg a day.  This amount can easily be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables.  200mg is can be obtained from about three quarters of a cup of spinach.

Fish is brain food.  Eating seafood can improve your mood.  Seafood is extra high in the trace mineral Selenium.  Those with low Selenium levels are more likely to be anxious, depressed and tired.  (Australian soils are deficient in Selenium)  It has been found that when those with low Selenium levels increase them, their moods improve.  Most Selenium comes from grains, seafood and cereals.  Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of them all. Eating just one a day will guarantee you are never deficient in Selenium.

Garlic.  Studies on garlic have shown that not only do they have other health benefits, but also the garlic eaters, generally had a greater sense of well-being.  They experienced less fatigue, anxiety, sensitivity, agitation and irritability.

Many lifestyle considerations need to be looked in to.  Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can decrease the tryptophan levels, as can caffeine and sugar.  When suffering from depression it is easy to use these as a crutch and instead of decreasing your usage, it is increased.  Of course this just exacerbates the situation.

Exercise is a great mood lifting. Mood elevating endorphins are released during exercise.  A brisk walk or jog is great way to clear the air.  Other great exercises for this are cycling, racquet sports, aerobic exercise, weight lifting, etc. 

As always, it is important to look at things holistically.  Emotional aspect must consider.  Often depression comes with an overload of energy, so releasing that energy is important.  So apart from exercise already mentioned, massage is a great energy mover.  Doing things that help spark your creativity can help release pent up emotional energy too.  Consider writing in a journal, or stories, poetry, whatever.  Drawing pictures, they don't have to be a master pieces, just let yourself go, draw squiggles, doodle, paint picture, splurge with colour. Take a class in something like pottery, anything creative. Play a musical instrument.   Sing.  It doesn't have to be in tune, just let it out; this is a great way to release emotions.  Enjoy other people's creativity; go to museums, art galleries, craft show, or concerts.

A great way to deal with depression is to get involved in something worthwhile.  Leave your troubles behind and help someone else.  In our lives today, it is so easy to become isolated from other people.  This is just a breeding ground for depression.  Join a group and make some friends. 
Find someone to talk to about your problems.  In severe cases counselling may help.

If you need more than this you may want to consider supplements.  Hypericum (St John's Wort) is the number 1 herb for depression.  (If you are on other medication, check first that it won't interact)  Tryptophan is available but on a limited basis.  A multivitamin, which is high in the B vitamins, is essential.  Flower Essences are a good stand by to help you through.  Essential oils can also lift the mood. 

Above all, changing your outlook helps.  Work on replacing your negative thoughts with positive empowering thoughts. Take charge and live the life you want to live.