I thought to myself, Sky the world has changed and people sometimes do not handle change well. Overnight it seems a virus, has bombarded us humans and thrown our world into unprecedented times. Spending the last eight years immersed in the world of mental health and illness, I fear how this quarantine, social distancing, and isolation, will negatively impact the mental health of people across the globe.
Not only those who already suffer from Major Depressive Disorder but those who are on the brink, the edge of this illness, so to speak. Due to the current pandemic, individuals are now more susceptible due to epigenetics and stress.
This concern is what has lead me to delve deeper into the nutritional pathology of this disease so that I can assist people the best I can, during these unknown times. For this post, I intend on blending the realm I have spent the past eight years learning, investigating, helping and understanding, to my new realm of holistic nutrition by bridging the gap.
We are all comprised of the mind, body, spirit connection, allowing us to be a collective energy in this universe... what does that mean? It means energy can be contagious and bounce from being to another. We are all experiencing the "what the f***, my world has been tilt upside down, and now I am faced with accepting this new reality and rejecting it at the time" phenomenon. We can experience all the emotions and we should, but its imperative that we keep level-headed when we can, not allowing the uncertainty to infect our mind.
How do you react? Like me, perhaps you experience this wholeheartedly, with ebb and flows of emotions, of moments of inspiration, acceptance, stillness, followed by confusion and darker emotions. All we can do is ride the wave babayy. We are all in this together.
Perhaps you are loving this time to reconnect with yourself and family, perhaps you feel unhinged, as if your anchor has been pushed out of the ocean and you are floating around in life just barely able to gasp at breath. I have no idea what you are experiencing. All I know is that where the mind goes energy flows, and where the energy flows the mind goes. Its a circular motion of kinetic ability.
Why am I going on a rant about this this week? Well, because depression is a mood disorder that with the right situation, correct recipe "AKA shit storm" of gene-environment interaction, is a disorder that can be activated.
The statistics from the World Health Organization suggest that one in five people, across their lifespan will experience a major depressive episode. That globally, 264 million people will be faced with this in their life. A lot of factors can contribute to this mood disorder such as diet, environment, situational, emotional, toxic exposures and genetic predispositions can cause a depressive episode.
Additionally, depression can be a secondary diagnosis due to other illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation (due to increased cytokine release), chronic pain, Parkinson's, cancer, liver disease, multiple sclerosis, PMS, stress, heavy metal exposure, food allergies, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, diet and nutritional deficiencies, sleep disorders, medication interactions (birth control, antihistamines, corticosteroids, heart medications, etc. can influence depression and how one experiences it.
Now that people are in limbo land, some forced to be by themselves in isolation, some finding this solstice in this, while others feel its been a death sentence and they are just "killing" time... I cant begin to imagine what COULD happen to these numbers.
So NOW, for the positive note. Lets explore how proper diet can promote better brain health. With conscious thought and decision, and lifestyle management you may be able to kick the mood to the curb, allowing your neurotransmitters to remain functioning the way you want.
The recipe or rather aim here is to empower you. By paying attention to what you fuel your body with and how you spend your time is a huge step here.
Now, I am no psychiatrist, or mental health guru, nor do I claim to be one. I am simply a human with a degree in psychology, who spent four years post graduation working hands on with patients to help people live their best life.
Through these experiences I learned that diet, exercise and sleep are the fundamental pillars that get thrown out the window as soon as one become incapacitated by their mental illness. Science has already demonstrated time and time again the importance of all three pillars holding strong to live optimally, to live in best health.
So lets take preventative measures this time. Using our "excess" of time, to become aware of the food we choose to fuel our body with. This means eating foods that are high in quality. What this means is that they have not been exposed to pesticides, and toxins, if its within our power and within reason to choose differently.
Delving deeper into the relevant nutritional intake is important for depression because neurotransmitter production (a chemical released by a nerve cell) is closely linked to mood. In particular, the neurotransmitter serotonin, which eases tension and also is responsible for mood, sleep, and appetite.
If the diet is low on tryptophan, which is the precursor essential amino acid needed to make serotonin, it will interrupt its production. Tryptophan can be obtained through complex carbohydrates and will have a calming effect on the mind. If not enough tryptophan is consumed and used as a building block a patient will have low serotonin levels...
So this means that we need to be eating good quality foods containing tryptophan as it is the building block to a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. Here are a few foods high in tryptophan include: turkey, legumes, whole-grain rice, spinach, and spirulina.
The neurotransmitter dopamine (which makes us feel happy) coupled with norepinephrine is made from high-protein foods, which help to promote alertness, providing more cognitive clarity. An insufficient amount of proteins can alter the function of the brain and impair the severity of this mental illness.
Protein intake is key because amino acids help to make many mood influencing neurotransmitters. The essential amino acid phenylalanine increases endorphins and reduces pain, and is needed in order to make dopamine. So foods high in phenylalanine - the building block to making our happy chemical dopamine include eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Additionally, proper intake of alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) is important for preventing depression. Fish oils may be related to the phospholipid composition of the brain cell membrane as well as reducing inflammation inside of the body. Foods that are rich in omega three's include: flax seed/oil, hemp oil/seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybean, among other nuts.
Alrighty, I have thrown a lot at you. If you have even read this fare that is. So lets quickly o summarize this is the time to pay attention to what you fuel your body with. Take in good quality proteins, fiber rich foods (dark leafy greens and veggies) as well as high quality fats.
Self care is invaluable in its value here and may contain daily meditation, practicing mindfulness, proper sleep and exercise are other factors that can help fight the fight against depression.
With a full arsenal of weapons through diet (understanding the role of vitamins, minerals, and macro-nutrients, the role sugar regulation, etc.), proper mindset, exercise, understanding of external and endogenous factors, empowers one to live their best life. Lets become empowered so that we can tackle our demons head-on.