This post is a continuation from yesterday’s post on managing depression sans (or alongside) psychopharmaceuticals. You may already know that there is a proven link between diet and depression, and most studies advocate for a diet based on whole foods (here is a BBC article re: a study comparing the impact of whole foods diets vs. process diets on future depression). For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what I mean by “whole foods,” I’m referring to unprocessed, unrefined foods (think organic chicken breast instead of chicken nuggets, or quinoa instead of white, refined bread). Of course, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t encourage extremes in any form. If I tried to cut chocolate out of my diet, I’d be pretty effing depressed. Aim for an 80/20 split in terms of whole foods/processed foods. In addition to trying to follow a whole-foods based diet, there are some supplements you might want to add to your daily routine:
1. B Vitamins
Let me start with an oh-so valid personal anecdote: About four years ago I started taking an oral contraceptive (birth control pill) that was marketed very well (who doesn’t want clear skin and protection against untimely pregnancy?!! I was sold!). Most of my female readers will know of this pill (Yasmin), and probably a lot of men will know about it as well. Yasmin has since had a class-action lawsuit launched against it due to several blood-clot related deaths, and the case study consensus suggests many, many women have experienced depression and anxiety as side effects of taking it. There are claims out there that oral contraceptives actually cause depression (although none have proven significant enough to make doctors ask patients to consider other options if they might have a predisposition to depression). A third variable that might contribute to this is the B Vitamins, of which studies have proven oral contraceptives interfere with absorption. And, you guessed it! Lack of B vitamins is linked to depression! Whew! So, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan (or don’t eat many animal products), or if you are taking an oral contraceptive, supplement with a B-Complex vitamin! I’m not ruling out a placebo effect, but I noticed a HUGE change in my mood and energy level when I started taking one.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Part of the reason those who follow a whole foods/Mediterranean diet may experience less depression may be because of the emphasis on fish and nuts, both of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown these puppies (not literal puppies, although I bet those help fight depression, too) are totally linked to fighting depression. So pick up your fish oils, people! There are tons available without a “fishy” aftertaste (mmmmm!).
3. Vitamin D
I grew up in Kamloops, where the sun shines 363 days of the year (except for the 2 when I visited last weekend, of course. Rain in Kamloops is like snow in Vancouver. It’s a really exciting novelty for the first hour or so, but then everyone stays confined to their homes for fear of the bizarre form of water. Umbrellas and raincoats were like unicorns until I was 18. Anyways, I digress). My point is that when I moved to Vancouver, there wasn’t enough milk in the world to supplement my need for Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is (surprise!) linked to depression, so unless you’re flying to Mexico weekly or want to make buddies with skin cancer, supplement!
If you’re apprehensive about adding supplements to your diet, I recommend speaking to a naturopath who will likely encourage you to purchase your supplements from a natural health store (they claim to provide higher quality and easier absorption). That being said, I have never had a problem with drugstore brands! Try incorporating your supplements into your daily routine (I have mine with breakfast every day) and keeping them somewhere that will remind you to take them (like in the cupboard next to the oatmeal…now you’re picturing my kitchen…random bottles of pills everywhere…who is this girl?).
Finally, I know some of my readers are personal experts or paid professionals in the areas of holistic nutrition, naturopathy, dietetics. I encourage you to contribute your knowledge to this post! Stay tuned for Part 3…