Effectively Managing Depression: Optimizing Nutrition

In the last post, I started discussing the effective management of depression which starts with intention. I discussed that in order to set an intention to heal from depression, one must have a greater meaning to their life and answer a higher calling because we are all here for a reason. Most of us live lives of quiet desperation and never seek find their reason for being. I gave some pointers on how to start on this path.

In this post, I’d like to discuss how nutrition is tied to depression. There is now scientific evidence that depression is closely linked to inflammation and stress is a major factor in perpetuating inflammation in our bodies. Even though we often have little effect on the external factors that cause stress, there are many things we do have control over and one of them is nutrition.

The fact is that what we eat can directly affect the degree of inflammation in our bodies and hence the initiation and perpetuation of chronic illness including depression. If you look at the average western diet it has a high unhealthy content including sugars, dairy products and processed foods. These and many other common foods in the western diet are highly inflammatory.

So what should we be eating? First, we need to look at what we should not be eating. The foods that cause inflammation and have little or no nutritional benefit are sugar, dairy products, gluten-containing products, corn, peanuts, soy products and processed foods of all kinds. Some of these are obvious but some are controversial.

For example, there are some that argue that gluten-containing products are safe if you have not been diagnosed with celiac disease. However, even though it has not been scientifically proven, there is an association between autoimmune disease and eating gluten-containing foods. There are many case studies of people improving their autoimmune disease symptoms by refraining from gluten-containing foods. It is therefore plausible that there may be an association between the inflammation caused by eating these foods and depression which is why they should be avoided.

The foods we should be eating include, in no particular order, vegetables of all sorts including greens, root vegetables, such as beets and sweet potatoes, mushrooms and avocado, legumes and beans of all sorts, fruits that have a low glycemic index such as berries, nuts (except peanuts), seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds, non-gluten containing grains such as quinoa, free range, organic or grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free meat, eggs in small amounts since they can also be inflammatory and fish low in toxins such as sardines and salmon.

If you do nothing else but shift your diet with the above recommendations, within a few days to a few weeks you will start to notice an increase in your energy, vitality, happiness and well-being. So I encourage you all to start looking at your diet and making the above changes. It may seem overwhelming at first but start with just one or two changes in your diet.

For example, you may want to start by simply cutting out gluten-containing products and eating more healthier grains, seeds and nuts. Once you are able to adapt to and maintain this change, introduce another change such as discontinuing all corn, soy and peanut-containing foods.

The important thing is not to make drastic changes that you will not be able to maintain but small changes that you can consistently maintain over time. If you are skeptical that this will help your depression and overall energy and vitality then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying some of the above recommendations.

In the next article, I’ll discuss movement and exercise and its role in treating depression.


Nauman Naeem MD


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