Depression is considered the leading cause of disability worldwide. Common symptoms of depression include:
- Depressed mood most of the day
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once deemed enjoyable
- Significant weight changes without dieting
- Difficulties with sleeping (too little or too much)
- Slowed or fastened movements compared to usual movements
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness and excessive levels of guilt
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating and making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death
With 1 million Australians experiencing a depressive illness in any one year, perhaps it’s time to start thinking more holistically about methods of treatment. Below are a few non-traditional ideas to contemplate.
One fairly recent study (Benton, Williams, & Brown, 2007) showed that the consumption of a probiotic improved the mood of those whose mood was initially poor. These subjects reported feeling ‘happy’ rather than ‘depressed’ following consumption of this probiotic compared to subjects given a placebo.
What can I do?
Try incorporating some fermented foods into your diet. My favourites at the moment are the 3 Ks:
- Kombucha: a fermented tea drink filled with healthy bacteria. I am currently making my own batch, which involves obtaining a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and brewing a sweet caffeinated tea which the SCOBY lives off for a period of about 2 weeks. Stay tuned for the result in the coming weeks.
- Kefir: a fermented milk drink which can be made with coconut milk (my favourite type). I am yet to attempt making my own kefir, and I believe the first step is obtaining kefir grains.
- Kraut: vegetables pickled in brine and left to ferment for a period of about 7 days. I also make my own kraut, as store bought varieties tend to be quite expensive. I eat about a spoonful with my breakfast, lunch and dinner to help the good gut bacteria thrive. You can see some of my purple kraut with my scrambled eggs in the photo above. Thanks to This Sydney Life for the hands-on workshop in making kraut.
Trialling a gluten-free diet
Gluten has been linked to chronic fatigue, depression, and other behavioural changes even in people who do not experience a gluten sensitivity or intolerance such as coeliac disease (Sapone et al., 2012).
Some studies have shown that depressive symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, confusion and suicidal ideation can be significantly reduced through adopting a gluten-free diet (Carr, 2012). There have also been several cases reported where people were not responsive to anti-depressants, but whose symptoms improved markedly and quickly with a gluten-free diet (Hadjivassiliou et al., 2010).
What can I do?
Try a 3 day experiment, whereby you replace gluten-containing foods with some alternative grains such as:
- Quinoa: check out my blog post for some versatile recipes with quinoa https://psyched4success.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/versatile-quinoa/
- Buckwheat: for a quick breakky, I love Activated Buckinis with almond milk and coconut yoghurt
- Brown rice: try my steamed spinach rolls for a fun way to incorporate brown rice into your diet: https://psyched4success.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/steamed-spinach-rolls/
During your 3 day experiment, jot down any changes you experience in mood, energy, mental clarity, and digestive issues*.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in various plant and marine life ( Leaf & Weber, 1987).
It has been suggested that sharp rises in rates of depression and other neurological disorders in the 20th century are being fuelled by increased consumption of vegetable oils rich in Omega-6 fatty acids (Smith, 1991; Hibbeln & Salem, 1995). It has also been suggested that deficits in dietary based omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be a contributing factor to the onset of mood disorders such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder, and that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may be an effective therapeutic strategy, with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) likely to provide the greatest benefit (Parker et al., 2006).
What can I do?
- Replace omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids from common vegetable oils (corn, safflower, and soybean) with healthier alternatives such as coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil.
- Incorporate fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and tuna into your diet.
- Experiment with seaweed. You might like to try my nori rolls recipe: https://psyched4success.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/nats-nori-rolls/
I would love to hear about some of the non-traditional approaches you may have incorporated into your life below, or email me if you would like some further holistic support around issues involving your mood.
*Disclaimer: the information provided here is for educational purposes only. It is strongly recommended that if you are interested in making dietary changes, you should consult a health professional to discuss your individual needs and concerns first.