Can your fridge (and a nutrition coach?) be what you need to beat depression?
Depression is a stubborn, frustrating companion that can rear its ugly head unexpectedly and stick around much longer than anticipated. According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 120 million people worldwide, making it the leading cause of disability. In the United States, the problem is even more severe. Data suggest that at least 6 percent of U.S. adults are depressed and one in 10 are taking antidepressants. When you’re feeling sad or anxious, the first thing you should do is head to your therapist. Their expertise and experience are an incredible asset to your wellbeing. Depending on your diagnosis you may also be prescribed antidepressants to help ease the symptoms of depression. Therapy and antidepressants are incredibly valuable keys to living a full and balanced life with depression, but more can be done to help you live your best life. There is a third aspect to treating depression that when added can help to round out your treatment and help you feel better. The addition of proper nutrition is the final piece of the puzzle that can help you go from feeling good to excellent.
The link between eating healthfully and depression alleviation has been misunderstood for quite some time. There have been countless antidotal accounts of how better eating has helped people improve their symptoms of depression, but no official studies have been published. However, a recent 2016 study posted the BMC Medicine (https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y) has shown that people with moderate to severe depression improved their moods and overall signs of depression by eating a healthful diet.
The study participants followed a whole food diet for 12 weeks with the help of a dietician. They were specifically asked to remove refined foods, sugar, and fried foods from their diets. After the study period, the study participants reported significantly reduced symptoms when compared to a control group. Perhaps the most impressive outcome is the fact that 32% of the participants experienced depression remission; meaning they were no longer considered to be depressed.
There are no two ways around it; these results are impressive. If you’re intrigued and want to know the best ways to recreate these results on your own, a little research and willpower can get you there.
The first thing to do is to take stock of your current diet. Having a better idea of what you eat and how it makes you feel will make it easier to understand how to make changes. Keep a food journal for two weeks. Write down what you eat and drink and in what quantities as well as how you feel after each meal. This journal should help patterns emerge and help you understand what food makes you feel calm, clear-headed and energized. From there, slowly begin replacing the foods that make you feel bad with the ones that make you feel good. Don’t think you can do it alone? Utilizing a nutrition coach is a fantastic way to help you monitor what your eating, help you make good choices and track your symptoms of depression to ensure that you’re making progress.
Even a few small changes can make a significant impact on your mood so know that each step you take to eat healthfully is a step to help fight your depression.
Dr. Jeffrey Ditzell is a Psychiatrist in New York City and offers nutrition coaching in the New York City area.