Lifting the cloud of depression

February 23, 2012

Anxiety, Brain, Depression, Diet, Health Concerns

Nineteen million people suffer from depression in the United States.

by Gracelyn Guyol — 

In 2002, within 48 hours of taking three milligrams of fish oils daily, my life-long bouts with depression vanished. It was the thrilling finale to my search for a natural solution to bipolar disorder.

Nineteen million people suffer from depression in the United States. Major depression is the leading cause of disability for those aged 15 to 44. When non-drug solutions can be so effective, why are they not widely known?

Natural substances cannot be patented, and thusly cannot provide billions of dollars in profits to excite the medical industry or to widely advertise holistic solutions. In spite of this, thousands of desperate patients have discovered doctors and natural remedies that cure their depression. To read their stories, go to the testimonials at:

 Brain basics: nutrient-dense diet

Your diet is the brain’s main source of fuel and energy. A nutrient-dense diet — the opposite of a junk-food diet — is crucial to recovery. Plant foods, both raw and lightly cooked, should dominate your diet and be accompanied by small servings of fruits, whole grains and protein spaced throughout the day. For adults and children, three small meals and two 100- to 200-calorie snacks will steadily fuel the brain.

Choose natural, unprocessed foods that are as close to their original form as possible. Skip the boxed, canned and frozen goods (if necessary, frozen is better). Do most of your grocery shopping in the produce aisle or at a farmers’ market.

Carbohydrates are sugars and starches slowly broken down by the body to provide sustained fuel. Avoid pasta, white bread or anything stripped of its nutrient-rich coating. Processed carbohydrates elevate blood sugar faster than candy, causing moods to spike and then come crashing down. Blood sugar highs and lows are a major contributor to depression and anxiety.

Protein is another key element. All neurotransmitters (brain chemicals carrying messages from cell to cell) are made from protein. Red meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs contain roughly 25 to 30 percent protein. Beans, peas and nuts are 10 to 12 percent protein, while vegetables range from 3 to 10 percent protein. Eat small portions of protein with fruit or whole grains for snacks (one or two ounces at breakfast and lunch, and four ounces at dinner).

Since nobody follows a perfect diet, vitamin and mineral supplements are easy ways to keep cells supplied with essential nutrients. Buy the best quality you can afford, and make sure that they contain 200 mcg of chromium to stabilize blood sugar and 200 mcg of selenium, an antiviral mineral.

Cut out bad fats and brain disruptors

Eating a large quantity of saturated fats — those that are solid at room temperature — makes cell membranes more rigid. Studies using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans showed that people suffering from depression have stiffer cell membranes, which reduces responsiveness and processing speed.

Read product labels as you shop. Avoid all trans fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils found in baked goods, salad dressings, condiments and canned soups or sauces.

Avoid all brain-disrupting substances such as: excess caffeine, sugar, street drugs, artificial sweeteners or fats, chemical “Frankenfoods” (genetically altered), and brain-toxic monosodium glutamate (MSG), fluoride and chlorine.

Balance good fats

The human brain is 60 percent fat, by weight. Dietary fats are building materials used for replacing nerve cells, cell membranes and hormones. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered “essential” fats, meaning the body cannot make them so they must come from diet. The balance between these fatty acids is important.

The average American diet consists of excessive omega-6 fats from meats, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and safflower, sunflower and soybean oils. We eat very few omega-3 fats because they come from foods we seldom crave: fish, leafy greens and nuts. The ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats in the Western diet is estimated at 20:1. Yet a 1:1 ratio is considered ideal for brain health.

Medical researcher and Harvard faculty member Andrew L. Stoll, M.D., did not know this before he began clinical trials putting bipolar patients on high daily doses of fish oils. The amazing results, revealed in The Omega-3 Connection, spurred sales of fish and fish-oil supplements for mental and heart health.

To add more omega-3 fats to your diet, eat cold-water fish; blue-green algae; dark, leafy greens; beans; flaxseeds and walnuts or almonds. Be adventurous and try seaweed, marine vegetables and steamed or raw purslane — the ninth most common weed in the world and an excellent omega-3 source.

For variety, increase your omega-7 intake by using coconut oil (a healthy saturated fat) and omega-9 intake by consuming avocados, nut oils in salad dressings, and use olive oil for cooking.

Doctors now commonly prescribe therapeutic levels of essential fats for mental disorders: 3,000 to 5,000 mg of fish oils and 1,000 mg of borage or black-current oils daily. Fish oil contains two primary elements: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). According to Stoll, EPA has the greatest impact on lifting mood, but both are crucial to health.

Vegetarians will find it challenging to get therapeutic levels of EPA or DHA. Plants only contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted into small amounts of EPA and DHA. While flaxseeds are a healthy omega-3, they have not been proven to lift mood. Blue-green algae plants are perhaps the best vegetarian source.

The array of fish oils for sale can be confusing. Buy only those labeled as filtered for mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other environmental toxins. Purchase from suppliers with steady retail sales because omega-3 fats are unstable and can go rancid. If you experience fishy tasting burps, change brands to ensure freshness. Be sure to store fish oil supplements in the refrigerator.

(Editor’s note: An article in the next issue will discuss a fast-acting, free, temporary antidepressant, plus how to find and work with holistic doctors to eliminate common causes of depression.)


Gracelyn Guyol is a recovered bipolar patient and author of Who’s Crazy Here?

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2011.


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