An estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least 1 major depressive episode last year. People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience depression, but it does affect some groups of people more than others. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older.
What and how you eat can truly affect your mood. It’s important to regulate your mood by keeping your blood sugar stable. For instance, people often notice feeling more anxious if they skip meals. Eating regularly is an easy way to stabilize your mood. The foods that help do that are proteins like eggs, nuts, beans, dairy, lean meats, and fish. Make sure you eat carbohydrates like breads, pastas, and sweets in moderation and always in combination with proteins so your blood sugar is not as affected.
Individual food reactions can also play a role in mood changes. There are several easy ways of identifying problem foods, one of which is the elimination diet. In this diet, you take out the most common reactive foods: gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar, soy, citrus, nightshade vegetables and alcohol for a period of 2-4 weeks and note changes in mood.
Another way to identify potential food problems is through blood testing for IgG antibodies that can be produced up to 3 days after you eat a problem food. There are several labs that offer these tests, which give a more personalized and inclusive guideline on specific foods to avoid.
Even though it’s lighter out, many folks still have vitamin D deficiency because they aren’t actually getting skin exposure. It’s important to have your levels of vitamin D tested to identify this deficiency and to help target the appropriate daily dose for you.
Other nutrients that may have an effect on mood are iron and B-vitamins, which can be easily screened via a blood test. Of course, there are numerous other vitamins and minerals which the body needs to make hormones and neurotransmitters, which keep us balanced and feeling good. These can also be identified through lab testing and easily supplemented.
There are certain times in life where hormonal changes can make people feel depressed. Puberty, pregnancy, PMS and menopause are just a few. Imbalances can often be diagnosed and treated based on symptoms in these cases, although lab testing does exist if needed. Thyroid deficiencies and adrenal hormone imbalances are common and really make people feel lousy. These can come with or even be the cause of the other hormone symptoms mentioned, making it more complicated to figure out the cause. Again, there are easy lab tests that can be done to help get to the root of the issue.
Fortunately, treating hormone imbalances does not necessarily mean taking hormones! There are many natural therapies that work well on this system—including vitamins, minerals, and herbal therapies to name a few.
When most people think of treatments for depression, what comes to mind are antidepressant medications. These target specific neurotransmitters in the central nervous system—most commonly, serotonin. Using lifestyle, diet and nutrient therapies, it is possible to effect these neurotransmitters without medications, and in certain situations even wean off of antidepressant medications. There are easy tests that can be done to evaluate neurotransmitter levels when patients are not responding to a given therapy or have a more complicated situation.
If you aren’t feeling like yourself lately there are several factors to consider. Consult your naturopathic physician to begin exploring together why this may be and get you started on a plan to feel your best.