Thursday, September 6, 2012

Your Diet is Causing Depression and Anxiety

According to the CDC 1 in 10 Americans reports suffering from depression. Another 40 millions Americans or approximately 2 in 10 are suffering from anxiety disorders. The anxiety disorders and the medications associated with them cost our country about 1/3 of our current mental health bill. These are serious statistics that are showing how our moods can truly affect not only our relationships but also our health care cost and our budget deficit. Something needs to be done to reduce the incidence rates and fast!

Many people suffering from anxiety and depression are given anti-depressants to help cope with symptoms and attempt to get them returning to their normal lives. However not much is known about how these anti-depressants work in helping depression or anxiety and researchers aren't looking into natural methods of helping to regulate depression and anxiety. Most of these medications including Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft work by regulating the brain hormone serotonin. This brain hormone which is actually a neurotransmitter is responsible for communication within the brain and 90% of this "hormone" is actually used in your gut!  So what does this mean? Well if your serotonin levels are low it can not only cause depression, anxiety, sexual desire, appetite, memory loss, temperature regulation troubles, insomnia, but also effect digestion and how you absorb the nutrients your body needs for everyday body functions.

Serotonin is made from amino acids which are the broken down form of the protein that you should be ingesting everyday. These amino acids are necessary for not only muscle function and energy usage but they are also used to make the proteins and enzymes we use in digestion, the hormones we need to regulate our moods and metabolism, and they are the building blocks of our brains and muscles too. So if we are not eating enough protein in our diet (3-5 servings of high quality protein such as seafood and grass fed beef) then we may not have the amino acid building blocks necessary to make the serotonin required for brain and body function. In addition, if you're living an active lifestyle or working out frequently then you're going to need more protein in order to satisfy the demands of muscle building but also serotonin needs in the body.
Scientists have shown in 2011 study that increasing the protein intake in rats from 2% to 10% had an effect on increasing serotonin production levels. Want to read this article for yourself?

So what can you do to help?
1) Make sure you're getting 3-5 servings of high quality protein daily. I recommend high quality seafood or grass fed beef for the best sources. Athletes or those leading an active lifestyle and working out need more like 5+ servings of protein, so if you're questioning if you're getting enough I recommend scheduling a nutritional consultation to discuss your diet and any modifications you should make. My office does phone consultations as well to help for those unable to find a doctor or nutritionist in their area that are trained to discuss these dietary demands with them.
2) If you're not taking a fish oil or omega 3 supplement daily, then you need to add one in. Fish oil is important because it is not only a great source of essential fatty acids but it also helps to reduce systemic inflammation, aids in healing, and increases our nerve response times. Since high quantities of fish oil can thin the blood, I recommend talking to your doctor before taking a high dosage. Standard quantities of 1000-2000mg/day are usually recommended but if your diet is lacking or you have an autoimmune or systemic inflammation it may be advisable to take up to 5000mg/day for up to 6 weeks.
3) If you're depressed or suffering from anxiety and you're currently taking an anti-depressant, I'd highly recommend talking to your doctor about reducing or monitoring your dosage of  medication if you're going to put these above steps into action. I've seen many patients recover or completely eliminate anti depressants once they've restored their dietary protein intake and thus serotonin balance.