Depression: the Nutrition Connection
Marion Hauser, M.S.,R.D.
I was recently reading a women’s magazine at a friends’ home and found an interesting article regarding the role of omega-3 fatty acids in lifting your mood and reducing the symptoms of depression. The article said, “Researchers are not sure why, but people who eat a diet rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids seem to suffer less depression…” They went on to say, “No one is recommending fish-oil supplements as antidepressants, but it couldn’t hurt to include fish on your menu at least twice a week.”
As we have discussed in our prior newsletters, omega-3 fatty acids appear to be effective alternatives to drug therapies. Omega-3 EPA and DHA were proven effective in a Harvard study (Archives of General Psychiatry 1999 56:407). The mechanism of action is thought to be stabilization of the lipid based (fat containing) cell membrane, the transduction of nerve signals across it, and calcium channel blockade. Flax oil is not an adequate substitute for this effect since the ALA in flax is not a normal component of cell membranes. Other supplements which can be helpful include the antioxidants, B complex (especially B12 and folate), amino acids, tryptophan and 5-HTP, and multi-dose multivitamins.
If you eat lots of carbohydrates and/or caffeine and sugar, you should get tested and treated for possible low blood sugar. The fluctuating high and low swing in blood sugar in this condition can produce anxiety, depression, irritability, and a sense of loss of control. The condition is very common. Targeted nutritional supplementation and dietary modifications can stop the Jekyl-Hyde like transformations.
If symptoms cycle with the menstrual period, women should get hormone testing. Cycle related imbalances are easily and safely corrected with identical to natural hormones. Simple dietary maneuvers can make a big difference also.
Chronic depression in women can be due to estrogen efficiency. It can be seen in both pre and post-menopausal women. Other signs include sparse periods, hot flashes, loss of desire for sex, small breast size, narrow hips, and unwanted facial hair while patchy hair loss on the head occurs. Half of all women who attempt suicide have subnormal estrogen levels, and most attempts occur during the first week of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are lowest. Natural hormone replacement is safe.
Depression in the elderly can be due to growth hormone, sex hormone, or adrenal hormone deficiencies or vitamin and mineral imbalances, especially B12 deficiency attributed to inadequate dietary intake and failing digestive and absorptive functions.
In short, see one of our natural medicine doctors. We can help you regain your balance!