Self Care: Diet and Depression

What contribution can diet make to recovery from depression (or at least management of the worst symptoms? I’ve been doing a little research on this topic.

I found some pretty bizarre advice online so quickly redirected myself to research journals, especially meta-analyses and lit reviews. Boiling it down to a simple message, I learned that omega-3s are very important.  There are two types of omega-3s, and EPA is the kind that seems to make a big difference for depression as well as in the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication.We can do this by eating fish and seeds but even when we increase these foods in our diets, we can probably benefit from a supplement as well.  From the research, the key recommendations seem to be:

Eat fish 2-3 times per week. Choose oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon, trout, and fresh but not canned tuna.

Eat seeds on most days. Grind up flax seeds and sprinkle on top of cereal. Add pumpkin seeds to salad, or use flax seed oil in a salad dressing.

Eat green vegetables, beans and lentils.  These are all good sources of folic acid.  Nuts too, but I have a nut allergy so that’s out for me.

Don’t go vegan right now. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products: meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Take vitamins.  Take a folic acid supplement (I couldn’t find consistent information on the dose). Make sure to get vitamins B2 and B6. It is safe and possibly beneficial to take more than the recommended dietary allowance. Consider taking 600 mcg of chromium per day, especially if you have the kind of depression that makes you gain weight and sleep too much (like I do). If you do take it, take in the morning and at lunch, but not at dinner as it can be stimulating for some people. A fish oil omega-3 capsule (500 mg of EPA daily) if you increase your intake of fish and seeds–otherwise take 1000 mg daily.

At the same time, it’s probably a good idea to take it easy on sweets and alcohol, and possibly caffeine as well, especially if anxiety is a problem.  (This will be harder for me than adding more fish and seeds.)

I am working on creating the supports (see Radical Self Care) that can help keep me out of the pit, and I think diet should be part of the program.  Also, even though I am not completely okay, I know that doing this research and making a plan means I’m doing a lot better than I was a few weeks ago, and I’m grateful for that.

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