Wednesday, 20 June 2012
While there are several different opinions on the effects of diet and exercise on depression symptoms, many experts suggest that staying physically healthy can help us stay mentally healthy as well. A new report from Opposing Views details how vitamins and minerals (or a lack thereof!) can have a big effect for those suffering from depression.
According to the article, the B family of vitamins is especially important. The brain needs Vitamin B1 (thiamine) to convert glucose (sugar) into fuel for the brain and body—without this, we feel sluggish, weary, and depressed. Vitamins B5 and B6 form the amino acids that prevent depression: a lack of B5 can cause stress and fatigue (big contributors to depression!) while B6 helps us to manufacture serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine, three neurotransmitters that help keep us balanced and healthy mentally and physically.
The article goes on to say that minerals are also essential to keeping the body healthy. We need Manganese to metabolize B and C vitamins so that our bodies can use them. Decreased levels of Magnesium can cause neurological symptoms like confusion, agitation, and anxiety, while a lack of Potassium can cause depression, weakness, fatigue, and tearfulness. Ouch!
While doctors can provide vitamin supplements in pill form, many experts agree that a multivitamin is no substitute for a healthy diet. Some multivitamins can give a greater concentration of a vitamin than is actually required, which can actually be harmful to your health.
The Opposing Views article suggests that by adopting a vitamin-rich diet, those with depression can take a tasty step toward helping their depression symptoms. So, what’s the best way to make sure you get a balanced, healthy diet that provides all the nutrients you need to keep your mind and body in tip-top shape, while still getting the delicious flavors we all love? We found some great resources:
The Department of Health’s Dietary Guidelines For Americans has great recommendations of foods to both increase and decrease in order to stay healthy, with specific recommendations for special groups like kids, teens, and older adults.
Looking for a great way to maximize your healthy food intake? The Harvard Medical School Journal suggests trying nutrient-dense foods, or foods that have a high nutrient content relative to the number of calories. Avocados, eggs, lentils, seeds (such as pumpkin or sunflower), grains such as quinoa and barley, fish (salmon, tuna, lean red meat, chicken, tofu, yogurt, and strawberries are just a few examples of some great nutrient-dense foods.
A healthy diet is just one way to keep your mind and body feeling good. Doctors also suggest that exercising often (even once a week will keep your body happy!), taking time to relax (a hot bath at the end of the day, going for a leisurely walk with the dog), and keeping your mind alert (reading books for pleasure rather than work, doing puzzles such as crosswords or Sudoku) are all great ways to keep your body healthy but also generate more positive feelings to keep your mental health at its peak.
As always, it’s important to talk to your primary care physician and your mental health practitioner before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine to make sure that you’re making healthy, safe choices that will not negatively impact other aspects of your treatment. Adapting to a new change can be stressful, and if you’re concerned about how you’ll handle it, check out the archived copy of our Coping With Stress webinar for some tips about how to adjust.