Recently I had the opportunity to speak at Whole Foods, Mississauga. I was asked by my school, The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, if I would consider speaking in May which is Mental Health Month. I chose to do it not only because it was a great opportunity but because I’ve had my own experience with mental health. Not so long ago, I was in that space where I was suffering from living with depression. It was not an easy place to be, and I put a lot of judgement on myself. In my mind being a holistic nutritionist and yoga instructor, there is no possible way I should have been depressed. I felt I should have it all together and it was wrong for me to be weak and ask for help. In reality, asking for help was the best thing I ever did. Now I can see this time as a gift. Without having gone through this period I would not have the understanding of what it truly feels like to be in that space, and more importantly, what it takes to pull yourself back out again. As it is still Mental Health Month, I’m going to share within the next few posts, what I have learned – through research and my own experiences.
It is true, depression can happen to anyone. It can sneak up on you faster than you would expect, or it can slowly build and accumulate over many years. Life events or major life changes, emotional traumas, physical trauma can all lead to depression, but we often forget to look at the connection to our food. Nutrition and emotions are so closely linked – let’s look a little further…
What are the classic symptoms of depression?
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Poor concentration
- Loss of energy and fatigue
- Thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death
- Loss or increase of appetite and weight
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Agitation, restlessness or anxiety
Some of these symptoms are more severe than the others. However, how common is it for many of us to experience poor concentration, loss of energy and fatigue? How well do you sleep at night? How often are you restless or anxious? Some of these symptoms are so common, we don’t consider why we feel this way, or just deem some of these symptoms or feelings as normal. I question, are they?
Our gut or GI (gastro intestinal) tract contains 100 million neurons. Yep, that’s the same amount of neurons as our brain. They are so closely connected that everything we eat has a direct effect on our brain and nervous system. Or vice versa – everything we think or feel emotionally has a direct affect on how well our gut digests and absorbs nutrients. These nutrients are so important because our cells, our brain, our hormones (like the happy hormone serotonin) and our nervous system are made up of these nutrients. Therefore, if we have a poor diet or we are under constant emotional stress our body and mind will not be functioning at an optimal level.
In fact, a deficiency in any nutrient. Yes, that’s right; ANY NUTRIENT can lead to depression. Take a gander at this…
Effects of Deficiency
|Vitamin B1||Poor concentration and attention||Whole grains, vegetables|
|Vitamin B3||Depression, psychosis||Whole grains, vegetables|
|Vitamin B5||Poor memory, stress||Whole grains, vegetables|
|Vitamin B6||Irritability, poor memory, depression, stress||Whole grains, bananas|
|Folic Acid||Anxiety, depression, psychosis||Leafy green vegetables|
|Vitamin B12||Confusion, poor memory, psychosis||Meat, fish, dairy, eggs|
|Vitamin C||Depression, psychosis||Vegetables and fresh fruit|
|Magnesium||Irritability, insomnia, depression||Green vegetables, nuts, seeds|
|Manganese||Dizziness, convulsions||Nuts, seeds, tropical fruit|
|Zinc||Confusion, blank mind, depression, loss of appetite, lack of motivation and concentration||Oysters, nuts, seeds, fish|
New Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, Patrick Holford
Did you take a good look? Those are some fun symptoms, huh? Okay, let’s be serious, none of those symptoms are fun. However, take a look at the foods where we can find such vitamins and minerals. Whole grains, vegetables, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, nuts, seeds, fish. So if we choose to eat whole, real food that nourishes us, it can dramatically improve our mood and ward off that looming cloud called depression.
I think it’s time for a salad