Although there is rarely just one cause, a poor diet often makes a significant contribution to depression. A deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.
Just recently, a very thin teenage boy came to see me as a patient after suffering with depression for about six months. When I asked about his meals, he told me that he usually did not eat anything during the day until he returned from school. My treatment plan for him was fairly simple: eating at regular intervals, testing for food allergies and eliminating the allergens, taking a high-potency multivitamin, and fish oil. By his next appointment, just two weeks later, the depression that had cast such a dark cloud on his life began to lift, simply from eating and adding missing nutrients.
Deficiencies of vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B6, B12; C, biotin, pantothenic Acid or folic acid – and minerals – zinc, selenium and chromium – can lead to depression.
Because the brain requires a constant supply of blood sugar, several studies have shown hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) to be common in depressed individuals. Reactive hypoglycemia is often caused by eating refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. A study of six countries showed a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the annual rate of depression.
Nutrition can powerfully influence cognition (awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment), emotion and behavior. ‘Numerous studies,’ cited by Melvin Werbach, MD, ‘utilizing rigorous scientific designs have demonstrated impressive benefits from nutritional supplementation.’
An insufficiency of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), fish oil being the best example, has also been linked to depression. The commercial refinement of fats and oils has meant lower availability of EFAs in the diet, conversion of EFAs into toxic compounds and blockage of EFA metabolism.
Studies have shown that countries that eat lots of fish have low rates of depression. The medical literature has also demonstrated that a relative EFA deficiency triggers changes in fatty acid levels in the red blood cells and in serum fatty acid composition that contributes to depression. Because the brain is the body’s richest source of phospholipids (a type of fat) and proper nerve cell function is extremely dependent on proper membrane fluidity, changes in membrane fluidity affect behavior, mood and mental function.
In another new study, people who added a daily dose of EFAs to their regular antidepressant treatment had significant improvement with: less anxiety and sadness, better sleep, increased sexual desire, and decreased suicidal tendencies.
Until next month, remember the fish story!
Explore additional topics from Dr. Godby at Natural Wellness.