According to statistics, up to 20% of New Zealanders are affected by depression at some time in their lives, with a staggering 1 in 5 young people being diagnosed each year. Pacific youngsters are twice as likely to suffer with depression or make suicide attempts as the rest of the population. However, this could be the tip of the ice-berg because many people suffer in silence feeling helpless, hopeless and even embarrassed to admit they have a problem.
Depression is more than having an off day or feeling low now and then (that would account for most of us!). Signs of depression include; when nothing stimulates or excites the individual; when everyday tasks seem too much to bear and everything becomes an effort; the individual feels worthless or a burden; is tearful all the time; doesn’t care about their appearance or the state of their home; doesn’t want to go out; is unreasonable with family and friends. If symptoms like these persist for more than 2 weeks, it’s likely depression. Once diagnosis is made, the common solution is to prescribe anti-depressants. However, the relationship between mood and food has been extensively researched and documented, and there are many ways for an individual to take back control of their lives by eating the right food. We need magnesium, omega 3 and B vitamins to make ‘happy’ brain chemicals like noradrenalin and dopamine. To produce serotonin (perhaps the best known brain chemical) we require essential amino acids tryptophan and methionine. Methionine is broken down in the liver to produce a sub-amino acid called S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e for short!), whilst tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin. Given that 90% of serotonin is produced and absorbed in the gut, a healthy digestive system is essential to keep depression at bay.
Depression is a disorder that is worsened by inflammation, adrenal fatigue, weak immune system and nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies most commonly arise due to food intolerances. In fact lactose (and fructose) intolerance inhibits the absorption of tryptophan.
The following can help*:
- Tuna, salmon and snapper
- Probiotic yoghurt
- B vitamin complex
- 5-HTP (5 hydroxy-tryptophan)
- St. John’s Wort
* NB: The above may not be suitable for everyone depending on current health, existing medications, food intolerances and whether pregnant.
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