Foods to Alleviate Depression
by Paul Harris, ND
According to the World Health Organization, depression is rated as the leading cause of disease burden among high-income countries. There are many faces of depression, including feelings of worthlessness, guilt, loss or increase of appetite, chronic fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, poor concentration, anxiety or restlessness, thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death.
A number of lifestyle factors can contribute to depression, but one that’s often overlooked is diet. “Diet plays a huge role in depression,” says Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist and author of Vigor: 7 Days to Unlimited Energy, Focus and Well-Being. When one craves sweet, salty or fatty foods when feeling blue, Talbott says, “If we eat better foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and fish, we short-circuit the junk food cravings and have higher energy levels and sharper mental focus.” Good-mood foods include dark leafy greens, walnuts, berries, avocadoes, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, beans, seeds and apples.
Other contributing factors to the development of depression include leaky gut, psychological issues, biochemical imbalances and nutritional deficiencies, which can trigger major stress and trauma. Leaky gut and a compromised microbiome play a significant role in depression. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, elevated levels of inflammation in the gut contribute to decreased levels of BDNF, the brain’s growth hormone, and higher levels of cortisol, which contribute to an unregulated stress response and increased gut permeability.
New research at Caltech, published in the April 9 issue of the science journal Cell, shows that certain bacteria in the gut are important for the production of peripheral serotonin. It has been estimated that 90 percent of serotonin produced within the human body is made in the gut.
“A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Dr. Michael Gershon, of Columbia University, in New York City. Imbalances in this peripheral serotonin have been linked to diseases ranging from depression to anxiety to osteoporosis to cardiovascular disease to irritable bowel syndrome.
Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have reported that, “The brain sends signals to your gut, which is why stress and other emotions can contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms.” This study shows what has been suspected but until now had been proved only in animal studies: that signals travel the opposite way as well. Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, gastroenterologist at UCLA says, “Our study shows that the gut-brain connection is a two-way street.”
While it’s common to crave sweet, salty and fatty foods when feeling blue, making a few positive dietary changes can lead to not only improve mood, but also better overall health.
Dr. Paul Harris is a naturopathic doctor at Tulsa Natural Clinic, located in the CitiPlex Towers, 2448 E. 81 St., Ste. 5125, in Tulsa. For more information, call 918-551-6600 or visit TulsaNaturalClinic.com.