Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nutritional Help for Anxiety and Depression

I'm not a doctor or a medical professional.  I do have a scientific background, but no medical training. I'm just a mom, who like lots of other moms has struggled at times with anxiety and depression. 

I stated in my other post about why I think anxiety and depression are so common among mothers.   I'd like to add something to that.   Not only our our daily lives stressful and we frequently don't eat enough, but pregnancy and breastfeeding take a huge nutritional toll on our bodies.  This is especially true if a mother has closely spaced children.  It takes time for a woman to recover her nutritional stores after pregnancy and breastfeeding and a mother's body will nourish the baby first.  So, if you have had closely spaced children (and by closely spaced, I really mean closer than 18-24 months between pregnancies which translates to a child spacing around 2.5 years or more), and struggle with anxiety and depression or just plain irritability and impatience, you may want to pay special attention to nutritional cures as your body may be depleted of vital nutrients. 

Why nutritional cures?  I'm a fan of nutritional cures for mood disorders because I believe that in may cases, these disorders are caused by a lack of nutrition and a nutritional cure addresses the root cause.

Forgive me for getting too science-y, but our moods are regulated by these things called neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters are formed from amino acids and vitamins.  If we don't have enough amino acids and vitamins, then our bodies can't make the neurotransmitters we need and we suffer from mood disorders. This is especially true during pregnancy or breastfeeding, because our bodies are shunting those amino acids and vitamins into either the developing baby or breastmilk, so these is less left over for the mother.

The only way to really know if a nutritional cure is going to work for you, is to try it.  And, it does work, it likely means that you were deficient in that nutrient in the first place.

That is not to say that I believe pharmaceuticals are bad, I don't.  I would never judge anyone for taking them.  However, I do believe that good nutrition is vital and that if we do have a nutritional deficiency that is affecting our moods, well the smart thing to do is to correct it. It certainly can't hurt to eat well. 

Is anyone really nutrient-deficient? 

I think a lot of people tend to have a hard time believing that in our society of plentiful food and overweight people that anyone is really nutrient deficient.  Yes, many of us eat plenty of food, but not plenty of the right kinds of food.  We eat junk food, nutrient-deficient food and calorically-empty foods.  In our society, food has more become more about pleasure and fun than nourishing our bodies.  

What Can We Do?

I found the following three books to be extremely helpful.  I suggest you either buy them through my Amazon link <wink, wink> or check them out from your local library.  Unless you live in my city.  Then you can't, because I have them checked out and if you put a hold them, I will have to return them, instead of renewing them the 4 times I had planned.  Just kidding....I will happily return them, so you can check them out.


 


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I can't tell you everything in these books...you'll have to read them yourself...but I will tell you some of the highlights.

Eat lots of healthy fats.  Fat is an essential part of brain health and development.   Most people think they are eating enough fat but they really aren't or they are eating the wrong type of fat.   We basically consume 3 differents fats in our house....butter, olive oil and coconut oil.  We stay away from things like vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil...none of those are healthy. 

Omega-3 fatty acids. Lots of studies have shown that high doses of omega-3 fatty acids help with anxiety and depression.

Lysine and Arginine. Studies have shown that these two amino acids help lower cotisol levels and decrease anxiety. 

There is a reason you crave chocolate: Chocolate is high in magnesium and fat....both of which are an important part of mood regulation. I like to make my own healthy chocolate....mix coconut oil with dark cocoa powder and then a bit of honey or maple syrup.  Much healthier than typical chocolate and still satisfies that chocolate craving and gets you all the healthy fat in coconut oil and magnesium and anti-oxidants in dark chocolate. 

Lots of protein.   I have read suggestions to eat 25-30 grams of protein with each meal.  Especially in the morning.  That's a lot of protein. A lot!  Most of us get nowhere near this.  All this protein serves two functions..it regular blood sugar.  Low blood sugar and blood sugar spikes is a common cause of feeling anxious, irritable, depressed or moody.  Plus, protein is composed of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters which regulate mood. 

To get that much protein you pretty much have to go back to a traditional meat and potatoes, eggs and sausage way of eating.  Our society has taught us that raisin bran is a healthy breakfast, that a salad makes a great lunch and that meat should be a small part of dinner.  We're told to get vegetarian sources of protein like nuts and beans.  Which is fine...but really you need to get 15 oz. of black beans to get as much protein as in 3 oz. of chicken. 

Whether it's because of budget concerns or diet concerns, our society has gotten away from eating lots of meat. And I think our health is suffering....because it really is quite hard to get enough protein without eating meat. And without enough protein we don't have enough amino acids to make the neurotransmitters we need.

Lots of vegetable and fruits.   Amino acids don't just form neurotransmitters all on their own.  They need vitamins, especially B vitamins and vitamin C.   Hence...the need for eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Some carbs too.  Yes....carbs can be healthly and we do need some.  They are an efficient energy source and a good source of vitamins and minerals.

Consider supplements.  You can read more in the books, but some supplements that are are especially helpful are L-theanine (an amino acid), inositol, other amino acids, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Stay away from bad stuff.  Limit sugar and consider an elimination diet to discover if  you have any hidden food allergies.  Gluten and dairy are the most common hidden food allergies or intolerances,  Some people find that their mood improves just by eliminating those foods.  Others find that they can tolerate them in small amounts, but not on a daily basis.  I have learned that I am sensitive to gluten  I can eat small amounts (maybe 1 serving once a week) and be fine, but if I start eating gluten-containing foods more often than that, I start to notice a reaction. 

Pay attention to your moods. Try to think when you feel the most irritable or anxious or depressed or not yourself.  Pay attention to what you ate or didn't eat before those times.  I've realized that for me, I tend to feel more anxious and irritable in the mornings.  I tend to feel much better after lunch and even better after dinner.  I think that's because I tend to eat a small breakfast, mid-sized lunch and big dinner.  Even something as simple as reversing that....eating a big breakfast and smaller dinner makes a difference in my moods.  There's something to be said for the hearty breakfast idea. 

Consult a doctor.  I have to tell you that.  Of course, it's a good idea, especially if you can find someone who will help you find nutritional cures.
Naturally non-nutritional things like exercise and prayer are also helpful.  It may take some experimentation to figure out what works for YOU.  I've listed some things that work for me, but you might find other solutions that work for you.   If so, please share them with me!  I'd love to hear your experiences. 


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