Depression and anxiety are common conditions that affect millions of Americans. If you have depression or anxiety you know debilitating and frustrating it can be to manage.
Of course, I always recommend anyone with anxiety or depression to visit his or her health professional. Depression and anxiety may be a symptom of a more serious medical concern. Naturopathic physicians are unique in that we often search for a deeper underlying cause than many typical primary care professionals.
For those who are under the care of a health professional - here are some extra steps you can take to further your health and naturally encourage good brain chemistry:
Eliminate hypoglycemia: feeling anxious or depressed at certain times of the day? Hypoglycemia can mimic anxiety or depression. Hypoglycemia is common in our society because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in sugars and simple carbohydrates. These foods spike the blood sugar initially and then lead to a sharp drop in blood sugar, resulting in hypoglycemia. Keep blood sugar stable by eliminating refined sugars and processed foods (like cookies, low-fiber crackers, doughnuts, pastries, etc), and increasing protein and fiber intake. Nuts, seeds, and whole grains are high in both protein and fiber.
Eliminate artificial sweeteners, colors and flavorings. Some, but not all people, react negatively to artificial ingredients. Some artificial ingredients may affect brain chemistry leading to an imbalance n neurotransmitters. Do a trial of eliminating these to see if they have any effect on you.
Add brain-chemistry enhancing foods:
* Foods with tryptophan: white turkey meat, nuts, fish, eggs. Tryptophan is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin - one of the brain chemicals responsible for feelings of well-being, happiness and relaxation.
* Magnesium-rich foods: seeds, nuts, legumes, green leafy vegetables, whole grains. Magnesium helps relax skeletal muscle, decreases blood pressure and supports proper conductance in nerves. Typical SAD diets are low in magnesium, making many Americans deficient in this important mineral.
* Omega-3 fatty acids: foods high in EPA are especially helpful, including fatty cold-water fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel), as well as nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, promote nerve healing, and enhance serotonin receptor binding. Recent research has shown EPA to be clinically beneficial in treating depression. Healthy fats like Omega-3's are especially important for the brain and nervous system because every neuron is lined with a fatty membrane to increase conductance.
* Vitamin B6-containing foods: banana, salmon, spinach, avocado, turkey, green peas. Vitamin B6 is a cofactor needed in many neurobiochemical reactions, including processes that make neurotransmiters. Low levels of vitamin B6 may lead to imbalances in neurotramitters, which could exacerbate anxiety or depression.
**Have questions about naturopathic medicine? Call 415.441.1777 to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Dr. Claire**