Diet and Depression
Depression is a fairly common ailment in our modern society, and the first resource many people look to when dealing with depression is medication, but for many people, the answering to alleviating their symptoms lies in diet and lifestyle changes. The Caveman, or paleo diet, is a great way to change your lifestyle in a way that can help you treat and deal with your depression. It’s important to remember the connection between mind and body when working to treat something like depression.
Depression involves multiple mental and physical aspects, including physiological, genetic, social and economic factors, but at the root of depression and other mental disorders is the physical makeup of our brains and bodies, particularly neurotransmitters. Of the neurotransmitters found in the human brain, those that play the biggest role in depression are dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. The paleo diet is a great way to support peak functioning of our neurological systems, as well as our hormones. The paleo diet can help our bodies maintain a sense of balance that may not otherwise be achieved by a standard diet.
Many researchers and followers of the paleo diet believe depression is associated with inflammation in the body. Research has also shown that risk factors for depression include low levels of Omega-3, leaky gut and a rise in cytokines following pregnancy. All of these conditions are linked to inflammation and the body’s response to inflammation.
Research has also shown that individuals with symptoms of depression also consume diets high in carbohydrates, with carbs acting to raise levels of serotonin and temporarily make the individual feel good. When the effect of the carbs wear off, and there is a mental crash, as well as a crash in overall energy, the individual finds themselves on a roller coaster ride that can contribute to depression. A diet heavy in carbohydrates can also affect an individual’s hormone levels.
To deal with depression and follow a paleo diet, there are four important things to remember:
- Limit foods that induce inflammation. Getting your carbohydrates from healthy sources such as fruit and vegetables will help your body fight inflammation, and will also allow for a more steady stream of energy, versus the ups and downs you may experience when you consume a great deal of processed or sugary carbohydrates. Eating clean, organic foods is another great way to limit your body’s inflammation, because these foods help you avoid the toxins that can induce inflammation.
- Consume anti-inflammatory foods. Foods that are rich in Omega-3s are a good way to help your body combat inflammation. Fish oil has been shown to be a great, natural way to fight depression, for example.
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants to fight the harmful oxidation that takes place in the body. A diet full of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants is a great way to improve mood and mental functioning.
- Eat a diet high in protein. Foods high in protein contain amino acids, which are a vital component of neurotransmitters.