Americans are suffering from depression at alarming rates. Depression and its medical treatment with medications is in the news too often. One staggering statistic states that almost 8% of Americans over the age of 12 are suffering from this disorder. This disordered mood state affects the daily lives of those affected as well as their families, their workplace and even the economy.
What Affects Mood?
Patients who are diagnosed with depression are often treated with medication without consideration of dietary habits. Recently in 2016, a group decided to do just that. They discovered that those who ate less processed foods had fewer depressive symptoms.
Monamine Oxidase (MAO)
Depression has been linked to both brain inflammation and neurochemical transmitter imbalances. Medications for depression symptoms balance these neurotransmitters as their mechanism of action. One such medication that is a monamine oxidase (MAO), and in depressed people this chemical is too high. This is important because high levels of this result in rapid breakdown of the neurotransmitters needed for feeling good emotionally. Too much MAO leads to too little serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
There are some readily available foods that contain another chemical called quercetin that act as a MAO inhibitor. When you inhibit the high levels of MAO then the serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine can return to normal levels. These normal levels mean that mood can improve. These quercetin containing foods include apple, kale, berries, grapes, onion and green tea.
Serotonin, mentioned above, is one of the feel good neurotransmitters. Proper amounts of serotonin is necessary for a happy mood. Serotonin is made from amino acids that we consume from foods. One of those amino acids is Tryptophan. Meat is high in this amino acid, however the high concentration of it actually results in a competitive situation where there is less of it available for the brain. To improve the ratio of tryptophan that is available to the brain, consume a diet rich in plant based complex carbohydrates. These are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Inflammation in body tissue, including the brain, is linked to diets high in processed foods. Arachidonic acid, also called Omega 6, is a polysaccharide fat. This chemical cause’s inflammation in the body and can result in depressive mood symptoms. With increased inflammation in the tissues of the body, the immune system is over stimulated. When our immune systems are over stimulated feelings of anxiety, stress, hopelessness can prevail. Foods that have noted to have high levels of this chemical include chicken, eggs and other animal products. Studies are showing that reducing these foods in the daily diet can improve mental health.
We know that plants are high in phytochemicals and therefore also act as antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals that will pick up and neutralize free radicals that wreak havoc on body cells and tissues by causing inflammation.
Foods for Mood
Plant based Omega 3’s: walnuts, flax seeds, leafy greens, sunflower seeds, watercress, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, broccoli and peas.
Complex carbohydrates: whole fruits, whole vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
“Rather than resorting to medications, following a plant-based diet, rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, from fruits and vegetables, can serve as an inexpensive, natural and noninvasive therapeutic means to support mental health”.Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine 2015
If you are thinking of taking your life, please don’t. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Call a suicide hotline and speak to someone!
If you are currently taking medication for depression do not decrease or stop taking the medication. Make the dietary changes suggested above and then talk to your prescribing provider about the possibility of stopping the medicine.
I have seen some very sad people change into joyful ones when they make a plan to regain their health and they stick to it.
My book, Second Chance at Health can be your guide.
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Food and Mood: Eating Plants to Fight the Blues. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 06232015.