When a porcupine won’t heal your depression what can you do? In my last blog I suggested that a porcupine might help cure your depression. However, depression is much like a porcupine, slow moving and stops when approached. It curls up and shows its’ quills to the world. Now comes the hard work.
Now we must buckle down and get set for the long hall. For most of us we didn’t fall into the pit of depression overnight and now we will get out of that pit of depression slowly.
In the last two blogs I talked about how our bodies get depressed and some ways to recover from depression. The biggest change and the slowest to show benefit is changing our diet.
Many studies have shown that the typical Western diet can cause depression. When a diet similar to the Western Diet is fed to mice, they become depressed. That is correct; the sweet, highly processed diets that are marketed to us clearly contribute to our depression.
Over the Centuries our bodies adapted to a diet different from the one we commonly eat now. As recently as 100 years ago there were few sweetened foods. Then food scientists discovered that we preferred to eat sweet foods and the race was on. We added sweeteners to everything, just look at the labels of the processed foods in the stores. There is Fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, and many other natural sweeteners. It is hard to find a packaged food without some such sweetener.
Thinking that the sugars were the cause of many of our ills, scientists came up with many artificial sweeteners. Now we realize that they are little better than the natural ones they replace. When we taste sweetness in our foods, our brains get our bodies set for some sugar.
When our bodies become used to the boost sugar gives, they come to depend upon it. Sugar serves as the primary source of energy for our bodies. It readily gets from our food into our blood stream, and to the cells that extract the energy they need. Brain cells are also very dependent upon blood sugar for their energy. Thus kids get very active with the “sugar high”. Our bodies soon consume all that easy energy and then struggle to find more energy. How many of us struggle before noon and at the end of the day? Those are the times our bodies need to extract energy from other food sources.
The next source of energy is starches. Starchy foods are the basis of most diets. They are found in grains (wheat and rice) and potatoes among others. These plants can be raised in mass and stored. Thus they are good crops. However, we have developed ways to refine and store these crops that remove some of the nutritional values and concentrate other parts.
Gluten is one food component that has received much attention. Gluten is found in many plants, but especially wheat. The processing of wheat leaves high amounts of gluten in our diets.
In small amounts our gut and its bacteria can digest it easily. In the large amounts found in our processed diets, it causes problems. Some people react violently to the gluten, but most of our guts would be happier with les gluten.
Our body’s cells are like our legs. If they always get the easy way, they soon become weak. If you never climb stairs, then when you must it is an effort. The same is true at the cellular level. Easy ways soon make the hard ways even harder.
Sugars aren’t the things in our diets that can lead to depression.
As I outlined in the ways our gut leads to depression, there exists a balance in our guts. Our gut is full of bacteria and other organisms that we NEED to be healthy. The right bugs in the right place make us healthy. But they need nutrition as well. Artificial sweeteners don’t’ provide the nutrition these gut bacteria need.
Food manufacturers have also contributed to this unhealthy diet. To prevent the foods from spoiling they add chemicals to the food and packaging. Sulfates are put on fresh fruits to stop them from spoiling. Unfortunately sulfates prevent normal digesting of those same foods. To digest foods we need the help of our gut bacteria. These preservatives harm the helpful gut bacteria.
Sulfates also irritate our bodies. Some people react violently to sulfates in the foods. Most of us react to some degree. Efforts have been made to reduce or eliminate sulfates from our foods. They have mainly been used to preserve vegetables and fruits. They too are not good for our gut bacteria.
Processed foods remove much of the nutrients that our gut bugs need. The gut bugs that can thrive on a processed diet are not the ones that produce the nutrients we need. Our guts themselves become ill. They leak toxins into our blood streams. These toxins along with the low grade inflammation of our gut contribute to depression.
The GMO’s make it even worse
GMO’s are “Genetically Modified Organisms”. Scientists put genes that do not naturally occur in a plant or animal into that plant or animal. These genes make them resistant to chemicals the farmers can use to rid their fields of weeds.
When we eat these foods (such as corn or soybeans) two problems arise. First, our bodies are not able to digest the foods. Second, small but significant amounts of those week killers get into our bodies.
The worst of these weed killers is glyphosate, the main ingredient in “Round Up”. Recent studies have linked this to many of our modern ills. I find it very convincing, but more careful and directed studies are needed to confirm these links, but the linkage is very strong.
So, stop eating! Then you won’t be depressed, just starved.
Or at least stop eating the foods you are used to. What you have been eating makes you sick and depressed.
What should we eat?
Diets that avoid most of the problem foods are high in fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry. How these foods are grown and processed determines how good they are for you.
Since chemicals put on crops remain on and in our foods the farmers need to avoid using them. This means they must abandon the mechanized farming they have learned. They must grow the foods organically. Ways of large scale organic farming are being developed. The cost of organic foods is decreasing.
It is harder to preserve organic foods without resorting to toxic preservatives. Thus what gets to your stores varies by what the farmers produce. How the oranges my wife just bought found their way into the grocery store, I dread to know.
The diet most experts recommend is some form of the “Mediterranean diet”. One that is easy to follow is best. Here is one such Resource the Mediterranean Diet for Depression Anxiety Recovery
The Mediterranean diet relies on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also has us replace red meats with fish, poultry or nuts and seeds.
There are many reasons to avoid red meats. Recent studies have linked them to depression (along with other ills).
Changes in diet take time to improve your health. Allow at least six months to see the benefits.
In the mean time you can supplement the diet with a multiple vitamin with minerals. These need food to be absorbed and used most effectively. Thus, they are not a substitute but a good addition to the Mediterranean diet.
Many experts also recommend fish oil supplements. These oils are those found in cold water fish such as salmon and cod. The oils also help us digest and absorb some vitamins that don’t dissolve well in water.
If you find it difficult to find foods you like that are good for you too, seek out a dietician. They can work with you to come up with foods you like that your body will like too.
In summary: Ways to Eat your way out of Depression:
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Avoid vegetables with sulfate preservatives
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables (especially organically grown)
- Replace red meats with fish, poultry or nuts and seeds
- Avoid GMO foods
- Drink lots of water (avoid artificially sweetened beverages)
As All Ways, Seek Joy,
Coach Dr. Dave