Mental depression is characterized by altered mood. There is loss of interest in all usually pleasurable outlets such as food, sex, work, friends, hobbies, or entertainment.
The neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When the brain produces serotonin, tension is eased. When it produces dopamine or norephinephrine, we tend to think and act more quickly and are generally more alert. Eating carbohydrates alone seems to have a calming effect, while proteins increase alertness. Protein meals containing essential fatty acids and/or carbohydrates are recommended for increased alertness. Salmon and white fish are good choices. Avoid foods high in saturated fats; consumption of pork or fried foods, such as hamburger and French fries, leads to sluggishness, slow thinking, and fatigue. Fats inhibit the synthesis of neurotransmitters by the brain in that they cause the blood cells to become sticky and to clump together, resulting in poor circulation, especially to the brain.
At the neurochemical and physiological level, neurotransmitters are extremely important. These substances carry impulses between nerve cells. The substance that processes the neurotransmitter called serotonin is the amino acid tryptophan. It increases the amount of serotonin made by the brain.
Complex carbohydrates, which raise the level of tryptophan in the brain, have a calming effect. A balance is achieved when the diet contains a combination of proteins and complex carbohydrates. A turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread is a good combination; the turkey is high in protein and tryptophan, and the whole wheat bread supplies complex carbohydrates. Consume more carbohydrates than protein if you are nervous and wish to become more relaxed or eat more protein than carbohydrates if you are tired and wish to become more alert. A depressed person who needs his spirits lifted would benefit from eating foods like turkey and salmon, which are high in tryptophan and protein.
Beware: the body will react more quickly to the presence of sugar that it does to the presence of complex carbohydrates. The increase in energy supplied by the simple carbohydrates is quickly accompanied by fatigue and depression.
Tyrosine is also needed for brain function. This amino acid may be good for those who have prolonged and intense stress. Uncontrollable stress may thereby be prevented or reversed if this essential amino acid is obtained in the diet.
Diagnostic criteria include presence of at least four of the following every day for at least 2 weeks: poor appetite or significant weight loss or increased weight gain; insomnia or hypersomnia; psychomotor agitation or retardation; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, or decreased sex drive; loss off energy or fatigue; feeling of worthlessness, self-reproach, or excessive or inappropriate guilt; complaints of or evidence of diminished ability to think or concentrate; recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, wish to be dead, or attempted suicide.
Some people do not admit to sadness or guilt; instead they withdraw and hide from society. Things appear bleak and time passes slowly for them. They often try sleeping off their depression and do nothing but sit or lay around. In most people, the depression is not severe, they can still function, but do so in a lower capacity and at a slower pace. Some people become depressed in winter months when days are shorter and darker. The sun and bright light seem to trigger a response to a brain hormone called melatonin (produced by the pineal gland), which, in part prevents the "blues". Research reveals that two hours of morning sun is very effective in lifting depression. The evening light has comparatively little results.
Heredity is a significant factor in depression. In up to 50% of people suffering from recurrent episodes of depression, one or both of the parents were depressive.
Diet is most often the cause of depression, related to poor eating habits and constant snacking on junk foods. The brain's neurotransmitters, which regulate our behavior, are controlled by what we eat.
Vitamin B complex, 100 mg. 3 times a day, is necessary for normal brain function.
Lecithin, 100 mg. twice daily, is important in brain function and nerve transmission. (Not for manic depressives).
L-Tyrosine (amino acid), up to 100 mg per kg. of body weight daily, taken on an empty stomach with 1,000 mg. vitamin C and 50 mg. vitamin B6. Tyrosine alleviates stress by boosting production of adrenaline and raises dopamine levels, which influence moods. Lack of tyrosine results in a norepinephrine deficiency at a specific brain location, resulting in mood disorders such as depression.
Niacin (B3), taken 100 mg. 3 times daily, improves cerebral circulation.
Niacinamide, 200 mg. daily, also improves cerebral circulation.
Calcium, 1,500 mg. daily, has a calming effect and is needed for the nervous system.
Magnesium, 1,000 mg. per day (asporotate or chelate forms are the most effective).
Multivitamin and mineral complex plus zinc chelate, taken as directed on the label, needed because vitamin and mineral deficiencies are associated with depression.
Primrose oil or black currant oil, 2 capsules twice daily, supply essential fatty acids needed by every cell.
Spirulina and crude raw bee pollen, 5 tablets between meals, improves energy.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 50 mg. 3 times per day, is needed for normal brain function and is an antistress vitamin that may help depression.
Pantothenic acid (B5), 500 mg. daily, needed for normal brain function.
Vitamin C plus rutin, 2,000-5,000 mg. per day in divided doses, is needed for immune function and aids in preventing depression.
- Black root
- Bog myrtle
- Lady's slipper
- Lemon balm
- Primrose, evening
- St. John's wort
- Sedge root
- Thistle, holy or blessed
- Valerian, American
A raw fruit and vegetable diet, with soybeans and their by-products, is important. Diets too low in complex carbohydrates can cause serotonin depletion and depression.
Avoid phenylalanine supplements if you suffer from anxiety attacks.
People suffering from manic depression should avoid choline, ornithine, and arginine. These substances may make the disorder worse.
If taking MAO inhibitor drugs, avoid tyrosine. It can raise blood pressure. Also consume the following foods in moderation: avocados, cheese, chocolate, herring, meat tenderizer, raisins, sour cream, soy sauce, yeast extracts, yogurt, and wine and beer.
Beware of hypoglycemia, allergies, hypothyroid, and malabsorption. In these conditions vitamin B12 and folic acid are blocked from entering the system, thus leading to depression.
Keep your mind active and get plenty of rest. Avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
Steroid drugs and oral contraceptives may cause serotonin levels in the brain to drop.