Learn about depression and the foods that can help

Depression is an extremely common mood disorder that unfortunately often goes untreated. We'll teach you more about the illness and offer some diet advice that can help you fight it.

Learn about depression and the foods that can help

Understand depression

  • Depression is an all-encompassing illness affecting the body, mood, and thought. Symptoms include an oppressive feeling of despair and despondency, a sense of hopelessness, feelings of guilt, low energy, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, sleep disturbances (such as insomnia or too much sleep), emptiness, sad or negative thoughts, difficulty maintaining normal relationships, and a general lack of interest in life.
  • Proper treatment can offer relief for most people who suffer from this potentially debilitating condition.

Discover the causes

  • Many factors are linked to depression. They include hereditary, biological and environmental factors, and significant life events such as physical illness, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job.
  • Depression is also linked to certain medications, alcohol or drug abuse, diet, and hormonal fluctuations (such as those that surround pregnancy and birth).
  • The biological causes of depression may be attributed to disturbances in neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain. However, there's still much about the biology that has yet to be learned.

Find out which nutrients can help

  • Certain nutrients may have a beneficial effect on the brain chemicals that are responsible for mood. For example, researchers believe that the essential amino acid tryptophan may play an important role in normal brain function. It helps produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which may help to reduce feelings of depression.
  • Depressed people sometimes turn to foods rich in complex carbohydrates (found in "comfort foods"), which are thought to also have a favourable effect on the production of serotonin. Foods high in complex carbohydrates also help the body absorb tryptophan efficiently.
  • You can also fight the blues by eating foods high in B vitamins. A link may exist between low levels of vitamin B12 and folate and impaired metabolism of the brain chemicals associated with mood regulation.
  • Vitamin B12 works with folate and vitamin B6 to help reduce homocysteine, an amino acid linked to depression. B6 also helps metabolize mood-regulating brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are lacking in most people's diets, but they're abundantly present in the brain and are essential for ­normal brain function. Though little is currently known about how omega-3 fatty acids regulate mood, recent findings show a correlation between low levels of these compounds and depression.

Get familiar with the research

  • A recent study indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce symptoms of depression. Thirty patients suffering from manic depression (bipolar depression) were administered either a placebo or omega-3 fatty acids in conjunction with their regular treatment for four months.
  • The group receiving omega-3 fatty acids experienced fewer relapses when compared to the group receiving the placebos.
  • Interestingly, the study was brought to a premature conclusion because the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acid treatment were so marked that the researchers felt it was unethical to deny the same benefits to patients taking the placebos.

Chow down on these foods

If you're looking to consume nutrients that can combat depression, aim to eat more asparagus, lentils, peas, salad greens, fatty fish, shellfish, bananas, dairy products, poultry, and potatoes. When choosing food, remember to look for high concentrations of tryptophan, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Though diet is no substitute for medication or therapy, it definitely plays a significant role in your mental health. If you're suffering from depression, follow these tips and be sure to see your doctor right away. Depression is incredibly common, and there's lots of help available.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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