Depression Treatment: Diet
Nutritional imbalances can absolutely lead to the manifestation of depression. Less concerned with a formal diagnosis of depression, many holistically-minded health providers would address what an individual "feeds" their body, believing that what the person consumes is either exacerbating the symptoms of or, conversely, can be changed to help them cure depression. Toxicity and systemic imbalances in the body are caused from lacking adequate nutrition, and this can directly contribute to depression.1 An practitioner less concerned with the formal diagnosis would focus on the individual's specific symptoms and diet, to see how the two are correlated.
Understanding the underlying nutritional imbalances that cause an individual's depression can help the practitioner personalize their nutritional therapy. This personalized treatment is then related to that person's underlying cause or imbalance that has been identified, hopefully making it more effective.
Depression and Toxic Foods
There are certain foods that create a high level of toxicity in the body and mind. Eliminating these foods can decrease the toxicity that can reduce optimal brain function.
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), other forms of refined sugar (and even pure sugars like honey and maple syrup9) can increase inflammation of the brain and need be eliminated. These sugars reacts with proteins and forms little crusts called AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which can damage brain cells and tissue.
- Trans or Hydrogenated Fats are found in many processed foods and likewise need be eliminated. They damage cells and interrupt normal brain function.2
- Caffeine modifies dopamine and epinephrine levels, inhibits the breakdown of AMP (used for intracellular signaling) and sensitizes receptor cites all of which can cause both depression and anxiety symptoms.7
- Alcohol is a depressant which slows down the brain's activity and can leave the person feeling depressed after the "high" from alcohol is gone but before the chemicals realign themselves.
A recent study notes the that fructose malabsorption might play a role in early signs of mental depression.5 For individuals who have problems absorbing fructose, they should aim to consume 0-25g of fructose per sitting and avoid foods containing high levels of fructose, HFCS, sorbitol and short-chain fatty acids (i.e. fermentable-olio-di-monosaccharides and polyols or FODMAPs).6
Effect of SAM-E on Depression
SAM-e works by enabling the production of glutathione, which is a critical antioxidant that protects the body against free radical damage. More importantly, it is a crucial regulator of methylation...
Read more about Depression and SAM-E.
Effect of Essential Fatty Acids on Depression
A total of 60% of the human brain is made out of fat. Omega-3 fatty acids in the brain regulate serotonin synthesis, release and re-uptake. Since the body cannot make this essential fatty acid alone,...
Read more about Depression and Omega-3s.
Effect of 5-Hydroxytryptophan on Depression
Tryptophan is ingested through food or supplements. Once in the body, tryptophan synthesizes serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating mood, appetite...
Read more about Depression and Tryptophan (5-HTP).
Effect of Vitamin D on Depression
Wrongly termed a vitamin, vitamin D is actually what is known as a precursor hormone. The metabolic product of vitamin D, the hormone calcitriol, affects the key biological functions of over 2000...
Read more about Depression and Vitamin D.
Effect of Folate on Depression
Folate is a B-vitamin and, like all vitamins, cannot be synthesized by the body alone but must come from diet or supplements.2 Folate attained through diet (like leafy green vegetables, legumes,...
Read more about Depression and Folate.
Effect of Veganism on Depression
Changing one's diet in any form will inevitably have an effect on that person's overall health and well being. Depressed individuals looking to change their diet might consider becoming vegan for...
Read more about Depression and Veganism.
Effect of Macrobiotic Diet on Depression
As discussed in the Depression Diet Overview section, refraining from highly processed sugars and avoiding poor quality foods writ large, can be helpful in treating depression. A major part of the...
Read more about Depression and Macrobiotic Diet.
Effect of Paleo Diet on Depression
As discussed in other sections, there are certain foods that create a high level of toxicity in the body and mind. Eliminating these foods can decrease the toxicity that reduce optimal brain...
Read more about Depression and Paleo Diet.
Research Evidence on How Diet Effects Depression
The British Journal of Psychiatry recently published a study that showed that middle-aged individuals who consumed a diet of "whole foods" as opposed to one with more processed foods showed lower levels of depression (as rated on the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale) as well as a lower risk for becoming depressed in the future. The exact opposite was proven to be true of the individuals who consumed a lot of processed foods.8
- The Ultramind Solution, Mark Hyman, MD, 2009
- Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer disease, Morris M.C. et all, 2003
- Life Extension, "A Drug-Free Cure for Depression": James S. Gordon, Donna Caruso
- Morris, M.S., Fava, M., Jacques, P.F., Selhub, J. & Rosenberg, I.H. (2003). Depression and folate status in the US population. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 72(2) 80-7. Retrieved June 1, 2010 from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID: 305028821).
- Ledochowski, M., perner-Unterweger, B., Wildner, B. and Fuchs. D.(1998) Fructose Malabsorption is Associated with Early Signs of Mental Depression. European Journal of Medical Research 17;3(6) 295-8. Retrieved from PubMed-ID: 9620891
- Greden, JF, Fontaine, P, Lubetsky, M. & Chamberlin, K (1978). Anxiety and depression associated with caffeinism among psychiatric inpatients. American Journal of Psychiatry 135, 963-966
- Akbaraly, T.N., Brunner, E.J., Ferrie, J.E., Marmot, M.G., Kivimaki, M., & Singh-Manoux, A. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. The British Journal of Psychiatry (2009) 195, 408–413. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.108.058925 Retrieved on 10/8/10 from: http://www.foodeast.com/news/newsarchive/Dietary%20patterns%20and%20depressive%20symptoms.pdf
- Dr. Lea Kabala's site "Health Matters." Accessed on 10/10/10, from http://nutrient-therapies.com/lk_nl19/