Life has its ups and downs.
Whether it’s raining cats and dogs, exams are looming, your partner has done a runner or some grander calamity occurs, a perceived lack of control can lead to depression.
However, feelings of doom and gloom may also result from a number of biochemical imbalances associated with nutritional intake.
• poor control of blood sugar levels due to excess sugar and stimulant intake (tea, coffee, chocolate, cigarettes)
• nutrient deficiencies caused by a highly refined diet or poor digestion ( B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids)
• a shortage or imbalance of brain neurotransmitters (including serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin)
• food intolerances, the main culprits are wheat and dairy products.
How can we influence the “happiness factor” more naturally without popping anti-depressant pills which may have side-effects? Depression pervades every aspect of life – it involves the way we think, feel about ourselves, eat, sleep, move, react. It isn’t easy to find the motivation to make major lifestyle changes, so it may be a good idea to get family and friends to help. If, by this stage you don’t have any, no worries, you can do it on your own!
Beat the blood sugar blues by avoiding sugary foods and drink. Although sugar provides a short-term energy fix, it saps your strength long-term. Blood sugar imbalances are a common cause of anxiety, depression and fatigue. Also avoid refined, processed foods and stimulants which have a similar effect. Replace these with foods that release their sugar content into the bloodstream slowly, such as wholegrains, vegetables and fruit. Eat small regular meals and include protein and fibre at each meal.
As well as increasing the amount of nutrients in your diet, supplement with a high-strength multivitamin and mineral to provide your nervous system with the co-factors it needs to build happy brain messengers. They are likely to remain sad without enough protein, particularly the amino acid tryptophan found in fish, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, beans, avocados and bananas. Want your brain to function with the speed of “greased lightning”? Then up your intake of essential fatty acids. These are found mainly in oily fish (mackerel, herring, salmon, trout) and flax, walnut or cod liver oil.
We may have no say over some of life’s little surprises, however, we do have control over one aspect of it – our diet.
Recommended reading: Nutrition and Mental Health: A Handbook
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus January 2004