The recent tragic news of Robin Williams’ death has reminded us of the too frequent tragic consequences of depression. A recent survey of 2,000 people showed 44% experience anxiety and 39% experience depressed mood and diagnoses of depression is increasing every year. There is absolutely no way that it can be natural that this many people live with these feelings on a daily base. Clearly we are getting something very wrong and, like many things, a good place to start looking is nutrition. Too often these individuals are let down by doctors and placed on a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs which do nothing to tackle the root of the problem. In 2010, a staggering 1 in 5 Americans were taking prescription medication for mental health disorders and new research suggests that GPs are nearly 50 times more likely to prescribe drugs for depression and other mental illnesses instead of other far safer medically proven alternatives. Concern over pharmaceutical antidepressants is continuing to rise, especially SSRIs, which are known to increase the risks of suicide in those taking them. How it can be considered okay to treat depression with a drug known to increase the risk of suicide just baffles me. There is so much I have to learn on this fascinating area but below are seven simple and, most importantly, safe ways to help overcome depression.
- Remove allergens – we all know the importance of detoxification and an important part of this detoxification process, particularly for depression and mental health, is the elimination of allergen causing foods. The late Dr Abram Hoffer had an extraordinarily high success rate with curing mental illness, in particular schizophrenia, by first and foremost eliminating common allergens such as gluten and dairy. I have recently read “Grain Brain” which makes some very interesting connections between gluten and mental health and I will write a post on this separately soon.
- Feed your cells what they are crying out for – many symptoms of poor mental health including depression and anxiety are linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and such deficiencies are hardly surprising given the poor nutrient content of food in today’s society. Ditching the processed fake foods for actual real nutrient dense food will flood your cells with the vitamins and minerals they need to function correctly. Try to increase the amount of raw and organic food for the greatest nutrient punch. Juicing or blending a smoothie is a fantastic way to get raw living foods into our bodies.
- High dose nutrient therapy – Linus Pauling (winner of two Nobel prizes) first suggested the power of high dose nutrient therapy for mental health and his work has been advanced by many great minds since. In particular, high doses of fish oils (containing omega-3 fatty acids essential for brain health), vitamin C, vitamin B3, 5HTP and a good multi-vitamin may be a far better cocktail than the cocktail of toxic pharmaceutical drugs so often prescribed for mental health.
- Cashews – cashews are a perfect example of a natural food providing exactly what a pharmaceutical drug does but without any of the harmful side effects. A handful of cashew nuts provide 1,000-2,000 milligrams of tryptophan (boosts brain serotonin which is our feel-good mood elevator) which works as well as prescription antidepressants. Nuts are also high in magnesium and vitamin B6 which help keep us feeling good.
- Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) has an incredible ability to reduce anxiety and depression and can easily be taken as a supplement. It can also really help symptoms of insomnia.
- Turmeric – a 2011 study found that turmeric was more successful at reducing depressive behaviour in animals than Prozac/Fluoxetine.
- St John’s Wort – this is the ultimate herb for mental health. This herb has been consistently shown to be more effective at treating symptoms of depression and insomnia than any antidepressant drug, and with far fewer side effects.
None of the above recommendations will do any harm, (although check for interactions with other medications – particularly for St John’s Wort) so what have you got to lose from the trying these first…?