Fight Depression With Food And Exercise
May 25th, 2011
Depression is a chemical imbalance, more specifically not enough serotonin in the brain. There are several different reasons people become depressed, including simply not enough serotonin is being produced, too few receptor sites that receives serotonin, or a short supply of serotonin producing molecules. There are many causes of depression that range from person to person. These causes could be stress related, or nutrition related. In many cases it is a combination of both. So the problem is that the brain is not getting enough serotonin, so the solution is to increase serotonin production.
There are many medications on the market that do just that…but at what cost? Many of these medications have harmful side effects that range from nausea to worsening of depression and sometimes even death. Would you believe that the food you eat plays a major role in the release of chemicals in the brain? Well it does! Food is what sustains us and doesn’t just affect how we look. Remember we are designed to not only survive, but thrive! Food has and always will play a vital role in how we feel. And let’s be honest “if you’re malnutrition you should be depressed” (Colquhoun & Bosch, 2008). In most cases people will experience depression during stressful times, but what you don’t often hear about is that person’s eating habits during those stressful times. Let’s be honest I know I’m not the only one who eats comfort foods like muffins, cakes, cookies, and brownies when I’ve had a hard day or week. And for a little while it seems to help. That’s because foods high in fat, sugar and salt trigger a response in the brain that release endorphins, a chemical that gives you a happy feeling. The problem is that these foods hold little nutritional value. Some scientists think that the release of endorphins after eating these fatty, high sugar and salty foods is a survival technique left over from early human days. Fat, sugar, and salt were once very hard to find or obtain in nature and humans had to work very hard to find sugar and salt and usually had to hunt or scavenge for meat to consume fat, however now meat, salt and sugar are easily available and accessible. So most people consume too much of these foods because our brains actually reinforce the behavior, which means that we are eating less foods that are more nutritious. Before you cut out all fats, sugar, and salt from your diet remember that these foods are important in a balanced diet but in small quantities. Some natural remedies may be more beneficial and much safer than the medications on the market. If you are currently on any anti-depression or anxiety medications ask a doctor for the safest way to discontinue taking your medication. Stopping a medication abruptly could have very harmful consequences.
The most obvious solution is to eat a balanced diet every day, by consuming several servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grain products to consume enough grain and fiber. If you are still feeling down after making changes towards a healthier diet try simply adding a handful of cashews everyday (which has the same effect of a Prozac once a day). If you have a poor daily diet it is very important that you make small changes that you are willing to make permanent. We are shooting for a lifestyle change here. Reverting to old habits will bring back those same sad feelings. We are still only half way there. Now let’s take care of that pesky stress.
Have you heard of yoga? Ever tried it? You should! Yoga is very relaxing and at the same time strengthens muscles, increases mobility, and promotes sleep! So many great things and the best part is you can devote as much or little time as you want. If you only have a few minutes before work, between meetings, or on the bus just practice breathing and clearing your mind of everything negative. If you have a 45 minutes or a free hour every day add poses while continuing to breathe and focus on happy memories or a “happy place.” Taylor Murphy, a prominent student attending ASU (Arizona State University) conducted her own personal study while participating in a yoga class. She found that she slept better and usually through the night on days she spent time practicing yoga. Yoga will not make your stress disappear but it will stop the chemicals and hormones the body produces while stressed. A body under stress is a body that is not functioning at an optimum level. If a body is under constant or nearly constant stress your immune system is weakened and you therefore or more susceptible to disease and sickness.
So what do you have to lose? Weight? Stress? Depression?
Colquhoun, J., & Bosch, L. T. (Directors). (2008). Food Matters [Motion Picture].
Nickole Siegman is contributes regularly at PSCLife.com – a leading retailer of probiotics and health supplements world wide including TymeZyme enzymatic supplement – designed to improve/decrease the symptoms of allergies, hair loss, and lethargy to name a few.