Despite having abundant choices in the range and quantity of food available to us, our society as a whole continues to make poor decisions regarding our diet.
Never before in human history has information about health and nutrition been so readily available, clearly written in lay terms and accessible from our home computers, and never before has western society been so unhealthy and depressed. Everything is readily available for people to choose fitness, health and mental well being as part of their life path, and yet depression robs millions of people of meaningful careers, family life, peace of mind and simple happiness. Amanda Geary, in her book The Food And Mood Handbook: Find Relief at Last From Depression, Anxiety, PMS, Cravings and Mood Swings, wrote about a diet for depression, “Food can affect your mood, and what you choose to put into your mouth can influence your state of mind.” (7,p. 1)
Depression is very difficult to treat and often, it’s a trial and error process of taking various anti-depressants until the right one is found.
The medical profession naturally relies on prescription medications in the genuine belief that it is quickest and most effective way of alleviating suffering, but there are other alternatives. By choosing counselling, depression sufferers are making a conscious choice to take back some control over their lives, and the role of diet and nutrition is now being seriously considered as another treatment option.
Healthy brain function requires a consistent supply of various nutrients that work with other elements in the body to create a chemical balance in the brain. This balance can be achieved by artificial means such as prescription medications, but there is also mounting evidence suggesting a clear relationship between diet, nutrition and mental health.
Folate, or vitamin B9, makes healthy new cells and is known to be essential for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in babies. Diet for depression research has since found that a deficiency in folate is associated with depression. Other vitamins also identified as being essential for mental well-being are antioxidant vitamins and B12. In fact, research into Vitamin B deficiency shows that the first symptoms are mood swings, insomnia, changes in appetite and impaired drug metabolism. When corrected, the benefits were relief from anxiety and restlessness, symptoms associated with depression.
Already known to assist children with ADHD and other learning difficulties in improving academic performance,
Omega-3 (commonly found in marine animals) has also been identified as having a beneficial effect on depression sufferers. The human brain is comprised of 60% fats, and approximately half of that fat is DHA omega 3, the fuel the brain needs to function, and when it is not present, diminished performance in all areas results. Most of these essential vitamins and oils are no longer fully present in our diet. While still taking prescribed medication, and assisted by a psychologist, depression sufferers could also benefit from looking seriously at the link between diet, nutrition and depression.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).