I personally suffered from intractable depression and chronic dysthymia for thirty-five or more years. I also suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. The symptoms robbed me of my full experience of life and continually weighed like a dark cloud over every pursuit.
Today, it’s hard to imagine having ever been there. For the last fifteen years or more now, this has been a total nonissue for me. I can remember well what it was like and feel deep empathy for others who are similarly suffering. Let’s just say, “I get it.”
Depression: Second Leading Cause of Disability by 2020?
Anxiety and depression are easily the most prevalent psychological disorders today. Major depression alone is expected to be the second-leading cause of disability by 2020 worldwide — second only to ischemic heart disease.
Depression is a state of spinning one’s wheels in the freshly fallen snow. Your wheels spin and spin until smoke starts coming from the transmission. Eventually you run out of gas and wear down the engine.
We’re drained of our reserves. The brain suffers. Energy plummets. Life looks bleak, if not overwhelming. For some people, this is entirely identifiable as a state of chronic anxiety. For others, it spirals and descends into depression or some combined state of misery.
Food sensitivities, EMF pollution, and everyday stressors add another layer to the draining mix. Adrenals move progressively toward exhaustion; the thyroid suffers. One seeks alcohol or carbohydrate-rich snacks to help stimulate struggling serotonin levels, while actually further depleting them or dissociating one from everyday reality. And so, the cycle self-perpetuates.
Anxiety & Depression Are Not A Prozac Deficiency
In 1985, the total annual sales for all antidepressants in the United States was approximately $240 million; today, it is in excess of $12 billion. Between 1987 and 1997, the percentage of Americans in outpatient treatment for depression more than tripled. For those in both outpatient and inpatient treatment, the percentage who are on prescribed medication nearly doubled.
Depression is not a Prozac deficiency. Anxiety is not a deficiency of any pharmaceutical anxiolytic agent. Psychotherapy is ill suited to get at the physiological underpinnings of depression or anxiety. Both disorders are commonly the product of a vicious cycle that becomes self-perpetuating and colors the lens through which life is experienced. It is a substantially tainted lens. Legitimate life issues become entangled, exacerbated, and confused by what can only be termed physiological dysregulation. Improved diet, improved digestion, and nutrient repletion are everything to these populations.
Neurofeedback can sometimes dramatically help restore healthy timing and better self-regulation, but it is diet that ultimately corrects the underlying biochemistry. The brain simply needs certain raw materials to work with; it also needs to be able to get other things that don’t belong there out of the way.
Nutrients to Help Ease Depression and Anxiety
• Very low carbohydrates, moderate protein, and sufficient fat intake as needed to satisfy appetite, including supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and GLA (black currant seed oil). Eat as many fibrous vegetables and greens (raw and lightly cooked) as desired for bulk and antioxidant content.
• Test for gluten sensitivity and/or simply avoid all gluten-containing foods.
• Adequate hydration.
• B-complex vitamin supplementation.
• Trace Mineral Drops or use of full-spectrum (Celtic or Himalayan) sea salt.
• Magnesium (600–800 mg per day): Magnesium glycinate is a highly bioavailable form.
• Zinc (either ionic form or amino acid chelated).
• L-tryptophan (comes in 500 mg caps): May be useful for both anxiety and depression symptoms and is a direct precursor to serotonin. Do not take L-tryptophan if you are also taking antidepressants unless you are under careful, qualified medical supervision.
• For anxiety coupled with mind racing and physical tension, theanine, an amino acid, can be wonderful. Theanine is found in green and black tea. Theanine also has known positive effects on serotonin and dopamine levels. Smaller doses can be mildly stimulating, while larger doses tend to be quite calming. It has also been shown to lower high blood pressure.
• Taurine is another amino acid that is very useful for anxiety-related issues and instabilities.
• Light: Spending some time outdoors at around noontime daily (an hour or so if possible) is another natural means of getting adequate “light nutrition.” Avoid sunscreens or even sunglasses if possible. Being in the shade is okay.
• Vitamin D deficiency has also been identified in people with seasonal affective disorder and other forms of mood dysregulation, and supplementation should be considered.
(complete list available in the book)
Precautions! Avoid Taking the Following Amino Acids:
Amino Acids to avoid (in some cases):
• L-tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, or DL-phenylalanine: if you are prone to migraines, are on antidepressants, have high blood pressure, or have bipolar disorder or manic depression
• L-glutamine: if you knowingly have cancer
• L-tryptophan or 5-HTP: if you have a carcinoid tumor
• GABA or taurine: if you have very low blood pressure
So How Does Exercise Fit In To This Equation?
Studies show that simply walking longer distances for exercise three times a week can improve measurements of focus and attention for older adults. Exercise has been shown to have an effect on mood that is equal, if not superior, to the effect of taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications (antidepressants). It can also improve oxygenation and circulation to all tissues, including the brain. Clearly, exercise is a decidedly helpful thing.
More than one hundred studies done regarding the impact of exercise on anxiety and depression have shown a consistent and significantly positive benefit, roughly equal to that of most traditional therapies. In addition, other variables positively affected by exercise include generally improved mood, enhanced self-esteem, improved ability to recover from psychosocial stressors, and more-restful sleep.
Recent studies have found that exercise boosts activity in the brain’s frontal lobes and the hippocampus. Animal studies have found that exercise effectively increases levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine—all associated with enhanced mood function.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc.
©2009, 2011 by Nora T. Gedgaudas. www.InnerTraditions.com
This article is excerpted with permission from the book:
Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life
by Nora T. Gedgaudas.
Nora Gedgaudas shows how our modern grain- and carbohydrate-heavy low-fat diets are a far cry from the high-fat, moderate-protein hunter-gatherer diets we are genetically programmed for, leading not only to lifelong weight gain but also to cravings, mood disorders, cognitive problems, and “diseases of civilization” -- such as cancer, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance), heart disease, and mental illness. Applying modern discoveries to the basic hunter-gatherer diet, she culls from vast research in evolutionary physiology, biochemistry, metabolism, nutrition, and chronic and degenerative disease to unveil a holistic lifestyle for true mind-body health and longevity.
About the Author
Nora Gedgaudas has a background in diet and nutrition spanning some 25 years and is a widely recognized, respected and sought-after expert in the field. Nora served as a trainer for the State of Washington Institute of Mental Health, illuminating nutrition's impact on mental health for State workers at all levels. She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon as both a CNT and a Board-certified Clinical Neurofeedback Specialist (CNS). Visit www.primalbody-primalmind.com for more info. or visit Nora's website at http://www.northwest-neurofeedback.com/