Eat, drink, and be merry.
Editor’s Note: This was originally written around the turn of the century and has been thoroughly updated. We do have a special update here: Depression Update. This article adds a bit of research to back our thesis that depression can have a nutritional foundation, in many cases, then goes on to add some insight into additional therapies with better results than drug therapies. Any new information we gather on nutrition (and depression/mental health) will be added to this article.
We do not catch a bacterial infection because we don’t have enough antibiotics coursing through our blood stream. We do not get cancer because we do not have enough chemotherapy in our bodies. We do not get heart disease because we do not have enough heart medications in our medicine cabinets. And we do not get clinically depressed because we’re not knocking back enough antidepressants each morning.
In your basic biology class we are all taught that our blood is manufactured, that it begins, in the bone marrow. In Chinese medicine, we are taught that our blood begins on the end of our fork: we are what we eat.
“The biggest myth of all is that food has any connection to behavior,” says Steven Pliszka, MD, professor of psychiatry, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (found at WebMD).
Actually, the biggest myth of all is that physicians know anything about nutrition.
Is there a nutritional connection to depression? Considering that there is probably a nutritional connection to nearly every dis-ease in the books, the odds are on: Yes. The exceptions, obviously, are genetic disorders, but even a genetic disposition can be overridden by lifestyle and nutrition. And if you proclaim that viral and bacterial infections have nothing to do with nutrition, then you are ignoring the tons of research produced during Pasteur’s lifetime on the terrain and how its condition either protects against or invites infection. You might want to read The Lost History of Medicine.
While visiting a friend, he opened a book to an underlined statement (telling me, “I bought this book because of this sentence) that read: “85% of our serotonin is created in the gut.” Serotonin is considered a “brain” chemical. Serotonin, whether created in the gut or in the brain, begins on the end of your fork. The two other brain chemicals responsible for our moods are dopamine and norepinepherine. These too are created in your gut. Your body cannot manufacture any of them without the raw materials, and it cannot use them if the nutrition needed by their pathways is absent.
The chemicals produced in your gut do not go to your brain. The cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. They actually perform other tasks in your gut. From the Cleveland Clinic, here is a little paper on the Gut-Brain Connection where you can learn a bit about what some refer to as “our second brain.”
I was diagnosed as clinically depressed in 1994. (Six months later they changed that diagnosis to bipolar.) I was given Zoloft, and my whole world changed. I could concentrate. I could actually sit down and read without my mind wandering between paragraphs. I could actually listen to a conversation without my own intrusive thoughts bouncing around my skull and getting in the way. To put it more dramatically, I was not about to commit the suicide I had planned to commit for months and months. I was not very far away from the actual act when the whole world opened up and told me, you’ll be fine.
Zoloft saved my life. But the simple fact is, I was not clinically depressed because I did not have enough Zoloft in my body. I was clinically depressed because my diet lacked key nutritional factors. This combined with my PTSD pushed me right up against the “edge.”
One very important discovery:
You CANNOT possibly be depressed
while helping another human being.
Think about it.
Within a year or so I discovered that Zoloft was messing with my liver function. I was then put on Nefazodone. I quickly discovered that I was one of the .4% who was allergic to it and I was placed on Wellbutrin, which had the added benefit of helping me to quit smoking. However, in late 1998, I read an article about an experiment using Celtic Sea Salt. I do not have the original article today, but I recall that prisoners, especially violent prisoners, were given Celtic Sea Salt without their knowing it and without the guards being informed either. Since violent prisoners are split up in these large institutions, in another cell block there was a control group that was kept on regular table salt. Guards have a lot of daily paperwork. They have to report “incidents,” fill in queries, and report on events. Within less than a month, reports coming from the cell block getting the Celtic Sea Salt showed that incidents were down and behaviors were significantly improved. Significant simply means that the changes were not due to “coincidence.” The salt had had an effect. (To read our original article on Celtic Sea Salt, Click Here.)
The reason I bring up salt is the “lithium” connection. We’ll talk about it more, but first this:
Perhaps the simplest of all studies showing the connection between nutrition and depression was published in Neuropsychobiology, 1995, 32:2, 98-105: Vitamin supplementation for 1 year improves mood, by Benton D; Haller J; Fordy J Department of Psychology, University College Swansea, UK. Here is the abstract:
The possibility that the taking of vitamin supplements may influence mood was explored. One hundred and twenty-nine young healthy adults took either 10 times the recommended daily dose of 9 vitamins, or a placebo, under a double-blind procedure, for a year. Males taking the vitamins differed from those taking the placebo in that they reported themselves as feeling more ‘agreeable’ after 12 months. After 12 months the mood of females taking the vitamin supplement was significantly improved in that they felt more ‘agreeable’, more composed and reported better mental health. These changes in mood after a year occurred even though the blood status of 9 vitamins reached a plateau after 3 months: this improvement in mood was associated in particular with improved riboflavin and pyridoxine status. In females baseline thiamin status was associated with poor mood and an improvement in thiamin status after 3 months was associated with improved mood.
Update (12/08/07): One of our friends, Dr Robert Rowan sent us a recent newsletter (Second Opinion ) of a new study that shows SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) inhibit the absorption of calcium into your bones. He says: “Researchers found that daily use of SSRIs can cause a 4% reduction in bone mineral density in your hips. The lower spine lost 2.4% of bone density.” Additionally, SSRIs can lower your blood pressure which can result in falling; a perfect prescription for broken bones.
He goes on to relate how SSRIs are over prescribed. He notes that Dr David Golzman, a senior investigator in this study (published in Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:188-194) discovered that prescriptions for antidepressants soared by more than 30% between 2000 and 2004, and quotes the doctor: “And that puts a lot of people at increased risk for fractures over and above the risk that they already have as a result of the fact that they’re aging and are taking other medication, which may also predispose to osteoporosis”
Dr Rowen also reminds us that SSRIs do not work for 70% of those taking them. Dr Thomas Insel, the directory of the National Institute of Mental Health points out that only 30% of the healthiest, highly educated, currently employed, Caucasian women met the criteria for remission, adding: “The gulf between research and practice has led to the unfortunate current state where too many research studies have little immediate relevance to practice, and too little practice is based on research evidence.”
Drugs are not the answer to depression. They can help you initially, as was my case, but as always, getting to the cause of the problem is always the best answer.
At one point in my care, my psychiatrist recommended Lithium. One paper I read called it “the gold standard mood stabilizer.” But, I’ve seen what people look like on Lithium; very reminiscent of my early drug days in the sixties. I refused the drug, but told my psychiatrist I’d get some naturally.
The difference between a person locked up and drugged in a mental institution and a normal person in society is two cents worth of lithium in the brain.
I’d heard this, or some variation of it growing up. My father was a physician and he had learned it somewhere.
Celtic Sea Salt contains natural Lithium salts. So now, Celtic Sea Salt is the only salt I’ll use (with the exception of a red natural salt [Alaea] from Hawaii whose chemical composition is very close to that of Celtic Sea Salt) and I use it on everything. Within six months of using this salt, I took a battery of tests at the VA hospital and they told me I was no longer bipolar. I can think of nothing else I did that would have accomplished this so quickly.
In researching our 3rd Edition of the Wellness Directory of Minnesota™ [Editor’s Note: We no longer publish directories since everyone has pretty much learned how to Google] with our focus on Cardiovascular Wellness, I discovered that B vitamins supported heart function; that Congestive Heart Failure, referred to by Dr Bruce West as “beriberi of the heart,” was due to a B vitamin deficiency. Being thorough, I began reading up on the B vitamin complex and discovered that they are also brain food.
Important Warning: depression can be caused by a prescription drug. We’ve posted a page called The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Cardiovascular Medications that is a must read. The book we reference is a must read. When you put a drug in your body, there is, more often than not, a nutritional cost to that drug.
In the early nineties, there was a big commercial push for brain nutrients. Every vitamin company had brain drinks and brain foods and brain stimulants. I recalled that one of the ingredients common to all these fad mixtures was Choline.
Choline is a B vitamin that is the precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and is essential for optimal memory function. Choline, being water soluble, is absorbed through the blood brain barrier and protects and nourishes other chemicals that support memory. Choline, along with B-12, is necessary for myelin formation. You’ve heard that fish is brain food? Well, fish contains a lot of choline. Choline is also found in eggs, fermented soy, dark greens, liver, yeast, and wheat germ.
I should break in here and just admit that I’ve found a Choline & Inositol product at Swanson’s that I now use daily. It not only regulates mood, it helps to fight off homocysteine levels which are a root cause of heart disease and have lately been connected to parkinson’s disease. Just click the link to visit Swanson’s. (We talk more on homocysteines below.)
Inositol, another part of the B-complex, is also remarkably effective against depression, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in several studies. The effective dose was 12 grams [this is a huge amount] per day for four weeks. Inositol has no side effects and has been shown to be more effective than the prescription drug, fluvoxamine (which also has side effects). [Ref] However, I should point out that we’ve uncovered a more recent paper on PubMed that has a completely different take:
Other effective drugs In a recent study (Bradwejn et al 2005), the extended-release form of venlafaxine (a Serotonin Noradrenergic Reuptake Inhibitor compound) was found to be superior to placebo in reducing the frequency and severity of panic attacks, anticipatory anxiety and phobic avoidance (even though the panic free status was not increased by the compound).
Medications such as trazodone, nefazodone, mirtazapina, reboxetine are recommended (RANZCP, World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry [WFSBP], APA, BPA and CPA guidelines) as second choice drugs because there are only limited data about their efficacy in the treatment of PD.
Ineffective drugs The RANZCP, WFSBP, APA, WCA, BPA and CPA guidelines do not recommend the use of medications such as buspirone, β-blocker propanolol, clonidine, inositol, antihistamines in the treatment of PD, because they are not more effective than placebo.[Ref]
When you come across something like this, two papers that disagree 100% with each other, you have to determine who’s telling the truth. My take on this is always look at who has the greatest conflict of interest.
So you have a paper represented by the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry, the Black Psychiatrists of America, California Psychiatric Association, et al., on one side — all of them medical doctors who’ve not studied anything beyond pharmaceutical medicine and know little to nothing about nutrition, and on the other side, you have a handful of researchers doing a limited study using something that will never make much money.
Do you see what’s going on here? The independent study has a lot fewer conflicts of interest.
All of the B vitamins are water soluble, meaning they don’t last long in your body and must be replenished (except for B-12 which is stored in the liver, as we will see later) daily.
So I went on to continue my research into the B vitamins and I found an article by Dr Judith DeCava, PhD called “Vitamin B Complex in Human Nutrition.” She listed symptoms of B vitamin deficiency and at the top was mild to severe depression. She went on to list: forgetfulness, vague fears, uneasiness to panic, mood swings, rage, morbid thoughts, hostility, restlessness, apprehension, constant feeling that something dreadful is going to happen, suspicions, instability, anxiety, mental confusion, noise, sensitivity, inability to handle stress, hearing noises, voices, etc., loss of ability to concentrate, impaired intellect, loss of memory, nervousness, loss of ability to concentrate, impaired intellect, loss of memory, nervousness, weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness or dizziness, digestive problems, hypochlorhydria (insufficient stomach acid production), constipation or diarrhea, stomach pains, decreased or increased appetite, craving for sweets, heart palpitations, chest pains, neuralgia to neuritis, muscular soreness, pain, tingling or achiness, cold hands and feet, heightened sensitivity to touch and/or pain, menstrual complaints, soreness of the mouth, dermatitis, acne, burning or itching eyes, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, hypochondria, headaches, insomnia or sleep disturbances.
Additionally, I learned that B-12 vitamin deficiency is common in people over 40 because it (like many of the B vitamins) relies upon stomach acid to be absorbed. Unlike the other B vitamins, it also needs to bond with something called “intrinsic factor.” Those of Scandinavian, English, and Irish descent often lack this “intrinsic factor” (produced by the parietal cells of the stomach). I note the age 40 (though it could happen earlier) because as we age our digestion slows, we produce less stomach acid and less intrinsic factor; thus I discovered sublingual forms of B-12 to help my body absorb it better. There are liquids and little pink pills that you hold beneath your tongue and facilitate absorption that way.
B-12, although it is water soluble, is stored in the liver and not washed away like most water soluble vitamins. However, it can take years before a deficiency in B-12 shows up, though the symptoms can resemble Alzheimer’s disease in extreme cases:
It may take years to develop a B-12 deficiency and the resulting neurological effects will be noticed before it can be detected by the usual blood tests. Testing urine levels of methylmelonic [Sic.] acid is the best way of assessing a B-12 deficiency and will detect it before the blood levels of B-12 will record outside the normal range. A B-12 deficiency causes slowly progressing and irreversible nerve damage. New evidence suggests that B-12 can be deficient even though pernicious anemia is not present. Even in cases where the blood does not indicate it, B-12 may be dangerously deficient and can contribute to such problems as mental deterioration, confusion, depression, and other cognitive problems.
The best form of B-12 (for depression) is Methylcobalamin. Methylcobalamin seems to reverse nerve damage and has been reported in medical literature to help prevent and reverse peripheral nerve damage in conditions including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. My favorite is a liquid form, NOW Foods Ultra B-12, and in my car I keep NOW Methyl B-12.
Vegetarians are often deficient in B vitamins as the foods richest in B vitamins are animal products. There are B vitamin analogues found in yeast and seaweeds, however, there is also a great controversy over whether B vitamin analogues are the same as B vitamins and let me tell you that, personally, I’ve spent the better part of the past two years trying to untie this little knot to no avail. Someday someone will come forward and tell us what’s up with this, we can only hope.
Folic Acid is part of the B Vitamin Complex and clinical studies abound on how it can relieve depression better than antidepressants alone, with women in particular benefiting most.
Homocysteine is an intermediary amino acid associated with a variety of diseases, including heart disease. Elevated levels of homocysteine has been associated with depression disorders, as well as anger attacks caused by depression. A good Homocysteine Formula contains nutrients that can lower homocysteine levels.
Important Note: Some people suffer from MTHFR mutation, meaning they cannot use folic acid or folate properly. You can read about this right here: Chronic Inflammation — Special Note on Folate. If you have that problem, then this is the Ultra Activated Homocysteine Formula you’ll want to take because it contains a form of folic acid people with this mutation can use. That form of folic acid is called: methyltetrahydrofolic acid.
Few people know that the brain is 60% cholesterol. Perhaps fewer know that lecithin (part of the B Complex) makes up about 30% of the dry weight of the brain. Lecithin contains a lot of choline and contains a vitamin not yet recognized by nutritionists called vitamin J. Vitamin J is pure brain food and is needed for good, healthy nerves.
Lecithin also contains phosphatidyl-serine. It used to be thought that once brain cells die, they’re gone forever and that new brain cells cannot be grown. However, according to Dr James Balch, MD, more than 60 human studies and over 3,000 scientific papers have demonstrated that new brain cells can be grown and even Alzheimer’s symptoms (language deterioration, fatigue, depression, poor judgment, vision and hearing loss, etc.) can be reversed, and it’s the phosphatidyl-serine that does it.
After further research into phosphatidyl-serine, it was discovered that all the studies that got impressive results used a form of phophatidyl-serine that came from animal fats; or to be even more specific: cow brains. There are some expensive supplements containing phosphatidyl-serine, but you won’t find any that came from cow brains due to mad cow disease. Studies on vegetable forms just do not get the same results.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) supports nerves and their functions. Deficiency leads to beriberri, but first you’ll feel numbness in your extremities (hands and feet), mental confusion, and trouble speaking. The best sources for B1 are fish, pork, grains and nuts.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) protects against dementia. It also prevents pellegra, often referred to by the medical community as the illness with the “4D” symptoms: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death. Again, meat and fish are where you’ll find these.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal phosphate) is involved with around a hundred enzyme actions involving metabolism. If short on it, you’ll feel confused and depressed and have trouble sleeping. The best sources are raw foods, raw animal foods like raw milk (which our government is outlawing), raw oysters, and raw meat (very rare for you connoisseurs). You’ll also find B6 in a turkey breast sandwich, fish (tuna and salmon), pistachios, avacados, chicken breasts, and sunflower seeds.
The best B vitamins are found in food. If you are taking a B vitamin complex, or a daily multi-vitamin, keep this in mind: most vitamins are crap. And that you can almost take literally, because when I first began my quest to wellness, I discovered that many B-vitamins came from recycled human waste. And synthetic vitamins are ridiculous. Your body cannot survive on synthetic food; how is it supposed to survive on synthetic vitamins? I’ve never been disappointed with NOW Foods, B Complex. They are inexpensive and are not synthetic.
Clinical Rheumatology (July, 2006) reported on a study in the UK where those suffering from vitamin D deficiency scored much higher on anxiety and depression tests than those who had healthy vitamin D levels.
With the spate of studies showing that Vitamin D can lower your chances of certain cancers by 70%, everyone should be getting at least 1000 IU of Vitamin D daily, Vitamin D3 to be specific.
In the July 07 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a report was published detailing the widespread vitamin D deficiency in our population ─ as much as one billion people.
The best form of Vitamin D is Vitamin D-3, the exact same type made in your body by sunlight.
Most nutritional physicians recommend between 1000 IU and 1500 IU daily; however, one study found that depression during winter months was significantly reduced among study subjects who took high daily doses of vitamin D (4,000 IU) for a period of one year.
Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) is a direct link between depression and lack of Vitamin D, though the simple lack of sunshine, something that can brighten up your day, has to be considered. On a dreary day, we just feel dreary.
Vitamin D is inexpensive. You get it free from the sun, but when the sun isn’t visible, or you just can’t get out into it, it’s still pretty cheap. Here is my favorite: NOW Foods D-3.
At one point in my research, I began experimenting. I’d take my drugs for a week on, then two weeks off. I realized I was almost there. And then I discovered flax oil, fish oils, and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
We once referred, incorrectly, to omega-6 fatty acids as the “less healthier” fatty acid.
It all has to do with ratio (the ratio of 6s to 3s or 3s to 6s). But, instead, let me tell you about a very healthy, mentally healthy omega-6. It’s known as AA, and its full name is archidonic acid. Now I’m sure you’ve all heard, lately, about an oil called cannabidiol from hemp or marijuana and used for chronic pain. Cannabidiol is a chemical from a group called cannabinoids. These are “feel good” chemicals.
Well, folks, archidonic acid (from animal fats, butter, and eggs) make natural cannabinoids in our bodies.
Food sources of arachidonic acid (PFA 20:4), listed in descending order by percentages of their contribution to intake, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006
|Rank||Food item||Contribution to intake (%)||Cumulative contribution (%)|
|1||Chicken and chicken mixed dishes||26.9||26.9|
|2||Eggs and egg mixed dishes||17.8||44.7|
|3||Beef and beef mixed dishes||7.3||52.0|
|4||Sausage, franks, bacon, and ribs||6.7||58.7|
|5||Other fish and fish mixed dishes||5.8||64.5|
|8||Pork and pork mixed dishes||3.1||75.5|
|9||Mexican mixed dishes||3.1||78.7|
|11||Turkey and turkey mixed dishes||2.7||84.2|
|12||Pasta and pasta dishes||2.3||86.5|
Specific foods contributing at least 1% of eicosatetraenoic acid in descending order: shrimp and shrimp mixed dishes, soups, regular cheese. (From the National Cancer Institute)
Johanna Budwig, a biochemist, was reversing cancer and heart disease with omega-3 fatty acids back in the fifties (in Germany). Little known is that she was also relieving many mental disorders and childhood behavioral disorders. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have continued on with Budwig’s research into omega-3, essential fatty acids. The conclusion is simple: the lack of essential fatty acids can contribute to depression, as well as bipolar disorder, and including them in your diet can help to eradicate these same disorders. My only question, when it comes to these studies, concerns how much better their results might have been had they administered the omega-3 oils in a water soluble form (Budwig’s own recipe). [References: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in the diet and in red blood cell membranes of depressed patients by Edwards R, Peet M, Shay J, Horrobin D University Department of Psychiatry, University of Sheffield, UK.J Affect Disord 1998 Mar; 48(2-3):149-55;], [Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial by Stoll AL, Severus WE, Freeman MP, Rueter S, Zboyan HA, Diamond E, Cress KK, Marangell LB. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, USA. [email protected] Arch Gen Psychiatry 1999 May; 56(5):407-12], and in Bethesda, Maryland [Essential fatty acids predict metabolites of serotonin and dopamine in cerebrospinal fluid among healthy control subjects, and early- and late-onset alcoholics by Hibbeln JR, Linnoila M, Umhau JC, Rawlings R, George DT, Salem N Jr Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Biol Psychiatry 1998 Aug 15; 44(4):235-42]
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is found in fish oils. It was discovered that DHA levels were low in alcoholics and women in their postpartum period. Apparently alcohol helps to deplete DHA levels. As for women in their postpartum period, because babies need DHA for proper brain development, in the last stages of pregnancy, the baby “pulls” DHA from the mother’s stores. This is thought to be the cause of postpartum depression. Studies at Harvard Medical School suggest “…that DHA may be associated with depression, and the limited data available on supplementation with DHA or other omega-3 EFAs seem to support the hypothesis that DHA may have psychotropic effects.” [Docosahexaenoic acid and omega-3 fatty acids in depression by Mischoulon D, Fava M Depression Clinical and Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Psychiatr Clin North Am 2000 Dec; 23(4):785-94]
From the Weston Price Foundation (of which we are members), we got this simple statement:
Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexenoic acid (DHA) are closely tied to depression, impulsivity, schizophrenia, self-harm, aggression, and dementia.
Update: DHA is now found in a product by Udo, called Udo’s DHA Blend. It comes from algae, meaning vegans and vegetarians can use it. However, to get EPA you’ll need a fish source, and some animal source. Or, of course, you can supplement. Here’s something I recently ordered: High Concentrate Omega-3. Remember to store then in the fridge.
During our original research was when I met Stan Mann and his product Omegasentials™. He had studied Budwig’s research quite thoroughly and he designed a crushed flax product whose omega-3s were absorbed by the body at about the same rate as Budwig’s flax oil and cottage cheese recipe. Within two weeks of adding the Omegasentials™ to my daily regimen, I had conquered my depression. (Omegasentials™ is the most exciting product I have ever found in my research and if you have yet to read Johanna Budwig Revisited to learn about its healing potential, you should do it now.)
I’ve received a few letters from vegans who tell me that I can get DHA from nuts, flax, etc., but that’s because they’ve read articles telling them that these foods are a great source for DHA, when in fact, these foods are a great source for alpha-linolenic acid, which is a biologic precursor to DHA (and EPA). DHA and EPA are created from alpha-linolenic acid in your gut by your probiotics. The liver can create DHA if it is healthy and receives the proper nutrition. If your liver isn’t producing it, then you’ll have to have a sizable quantity of good bacteria in your gut. These bacteria take in your alpha-linolenic acid and pass DHA and EPA. They also pass B Vitamins.
There are many probiotics manufactured today, and people have their favorites, but after a lot of research, I’ll list for you some of the best we’ve found:
Dr. Stephen Langer’s Ultimate 16 Strain Probiotic with FOS.
And keep in mind you have to feed your probiotics. Eating Resistant Starch does that. So does eating chocolate and blueberries and reishi mushrooms. You must care for your biome, your microbiota (neat words, eh?).
Update: Having discovered this paper: Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;42(3):192-8; Eur J Clin Nutr, 2007; 61(3): 355-61, we learned that the combination of EPA and Probiotics kicks butt in fighting depression. EPA alone reduced symptoms by 56%, beating the Prozac group’s improvement of 50%. Another study with 124 adults (mean age 62 years) found that drinking a probiotic-laden milk improved their mood. Those in the bottom of the “happy” scale were much higher on the scale after taking the probiotics.
One more thing we’ve learned from our research is that people who get depressed have a high alkalinity. And that does not mean very high at all.
Important: The pH of our blood fluctuates from 7.35 to 7.45 only. Anything lower is acidosis and you’ll need a doctor, and anything higher is also unhealthy (deadly).
By “maintaining alkalinity” we mean not stressing out the body so that it has to work hard to maintain these numbers (above). Eating only acidic foods creates inflammation and the body has to rebalance (this is called maintaining homeostasis).
Having said this, some organs are supposed to be alkaline while others are supposed to be acidic, while one of the key indicators is urine. If your urine is very acidic, the body’s homeostasis mechanisms are working overtime.
People who are bipolar can watch the pH of their urine fluctuate from 5 to 8. Testing your urine’s pH is a good idea. I raised my alkalinity by using Omegasentials™ and by drinking a potassium broth. Additionally, a shot of apple cider vinegar in the morning actually helps lower your alkalinity. Here is the potassium broth recipe:
Fill a large pot with 25% potato peelings, 25% carrot peelings and whole chopped beets (half and half), 25% chopped onions and garlic (more onions than garlic), 25% celery and dark greens. Add hot peppers to taste (or cayenne pepper). Add enough distilled/purified water to cover vegetables and simmer at a very low temperature for a minimum of 2 hours. Strain and drink only the broth, put the veggies in a compost (I feed my chickens). Make enough for two days and refrigerate the leftover broth. Do not store for more than two days.
Having beaten my depression is no guarantee that some event will not suck me into another fog of depression. For the most part, however, my chronic/clinical depression is gone and I’ve beaten my bipolar diagnosis too. One bad day cannot be equated with clinical depression. We all have our ups and downs. The main point is that my chronic depression is now a thing of the past. Should enough stress build up and start to drag me back, my research has uncovered still more supplements used for depression and anxiety that I have access to. I don’t believe that these supplements are a substitute for good nutrition, but once in a while we all need help.
Additionally, (as I’ll show you below) I have other self therapies such as meditation, long walks, nature walks, canoe rides, a little tai chi, spending time with friends, and playing a little tennis.
St John’s Wort has been touted as a natural anti-depressant. St John’s Wort is a drug. Natural or not, it is still a drug. It should be used only as an emergency stopgap and is no substitute for good nutrition.
Since I did a ton of research over those first three years after my diagnosis, I feel I should pass on to you some of the things I’ve found that also fight depression. Some can be used daily; some can be used in an emergency. However, do not go this alone. Have a professional work with you and monitor your progress. And again, there is no substitute for good nutrition. Period.
Research shows that a moderate exercise program, three times a week is nearly as effective at relieving depression as antidepressants.
In my struggle to relieve my depression, I also took up tennis (again…it’s been years). I also began a daily program of Qigong/Tai Chi. This program has been remarkable.
And getting out on the tennis courts in the bright sunlight has increased my Vitamin D stores. The cheapest source of natural Vitamin D is sunlight.
We should mention that in 2016 we posted a Depression Update. This talks a bit about nutrition, and goes onto talk about therapies that seem to be more successful than drugs.
As you know (from above) this article was first written around the turn of the century (no, not 1900, wise guy!), and a lot has happened since then. If you’re a political junkie, then you might know that too much has happened and please, make it stop hurting!!!
Okay, back to the subject at hand. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Ayurvedic Medicine. We are all of us, familiar (way too familiar) with Western Medicine. When we start to compare the two, we find right away two supremely different mindsets behind these two very different practices; different paradigms, different sets of assumptions, and even a different bottom line. In India, for centuries, Ayurvedic Medicine’s bottom line was prevention, and if that was too late, healing the individual.
Well isn’t that the bottom line of Western Medicine? We would hope so. It once might have been. But today, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, medicine as practiced in the US is profit-based, profit-driven.
There is some money in nutrition, or rather food, but the two are not the same. In the US, not all food is proper nutrition and most of it has no nutritional value at all. But there is profit and that’s why we have agribusiness.
In medicine there is no incentive to treat disease with nutrition. Nobody’s going to get rich telling you to eat a banana a day for potassium. In fact, medical boards have fined physicians for prescribing nutrition. We had a physician here in Minnesota who finally retired after getting fined for prescribing nutrition. He’d had it with the damn system and just closed his office and walked away.
But Ayurveda is much different, and when this article was first written, we did not know of the medical journal called, The Indian Journal of Psychiatry. And we did not know that in 2008 they had published an article entitled “Understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illness.”
Having found this article, we are tossing out a few things below that we’ve previously written and and we will be borrowing heavily from this article because it concisely describes everything we have tried to do here, but with authority. Yes, people love our “coffee talk” kind of journalism, but we’re just journalists. Sure we research and write and all that, but when we find a treasure such as this article, we’d be fools not to at least try to give you the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version. Capiche?
We are warned that diets consisting of over-processed carbs can cause depression. But a low-carb to a no-carb diet can drive you nuts. Your brain needs sugars, and carbs are where the sugars start. So yes, you can do a low-carb diet, but just don’t let them get too low, and make sure your diet has a cheat day to get some carbs into yourself.
Or! you can up your intake of Medium Chain Triglyceride Oils. These oils feed the brain like carbohydrates do and they are one of the oils at the foundation of the ketogenic diet. They are also anti-inflammatory.
Studies have recently linked depression with inflammation. [New Research Shows Depression Linked with Inflammation] This makes a lot of sense. So when you consider all the supplements and dietary changes you can make for your depression, don’t forget to do everything you can to keep down your inflammation. It will protect your heart and your brain. And this is the article that will do it: Chronic Inflammation.
When we first published that there seemed to be a connection between mental health and inflammation, again we were called quacks. But the connection to us seemed obvious. People had lousy diets. Lousy diets are inflammatory. There just had to be a connection. And so here are a list of articles that today, 20 years later, backup our hypothesis:
The Link Between Brain Inflammation and Mental Health
Could Depression Be Caused By An Infection?
Surprising new link between inflammation and mental illness
How inflammation in the body…
may be on the the major causes of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems
Infection, inflammation, and mental illness
Editor’s Note: Our bodies need proper, total nutrition to function fully. Some of these are necessary for proper health and wellness, and some are supplements that can help when your depression gets out of hand.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): A direct precursor to serotonin. Proven to be extraordinarily effective in increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. However, one out of five people who respond well to 5-HTP relapse after a month. I’ve recently found a version of 5-HTP that contains L-tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid that plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. In addition, because L-Tyrosine is necessary for the synthesis of thyroid hormone and epinephrine (adrenaline), L-Tyrosine supports healthy glandular function and stress response. As you will see, shortly, amino acids have a lot to do with our mental health.
Adapton or Garum Armoricum®: An extract from the brain and stomach of the Great Bluefish. Though this chemical has a long history of helping many chronic illnesses, it is primarily used for stress related problems; anxiety, fatigue, and depression. It is one of the single most effective supplements for these disorders and French studies seem to prove this out. It is an inexpensive alternative to anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax™, Valium™, and Buspar™ or antidepressant drugs such as Prozac™, Zoloft™, and Paxil™. It is also used in Europe as a replacement for Ritalin™ in children with ADD.
Garum contains vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Its effect is to increase the amount of calming, endogenous opiates called endorphins. The polypeptides in Garum act as precursors for endorphins and other neurotransmitters.
A study in Japan showed that Garum was able to triple the incidence of alpha (brain) waves, something normally accomplished by narcotics and major anti-psychotic tranquilizers.
Still, for chronic depression, this might be only a part of the solution.
Amino Acids: The building blocks to proteins. Our brains need proteins, but amino acids are also the building blocks of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinepherine, our happy chemicals, and they are also “converted to neurotransmitters which in turn alleviate depression and other mental health problems.” [Ref]
From Understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illness we get:
As reported in several studies, the amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine, and methionine are often helpful in treating many mood disorders including depression.
But get this, a recent study out of Finland has shown that in the chronically depressed there is reduced arginine bioavailability. Now researchers ran the gamut trying to find the connection and came up with the fact that their bodies did not produce enough nitric oxide. [Ref] They also concluded that just taking more L-Arginine might not help at all. However, having studied this subject previously (we’ve published this somewhere) people over 40 are having a harder time using arginine to produce nitric oxide.
Okay, I found it. This is from our article Nitric Oxide Revisited.
However, there turned out to be a fly in the ointment.
There seemed to be a cut-off age for NO’s effectiveness using L-arginine.
The L-arginine pathway has been found to lose its effectiveness in middle-aged men (when hypertension and heart disease really starts taking its toll), and even worse: it can do damage. People who’ve had heart attacks get no NO from this particular pathway, and people with heart disease can be pushed over the edge taking L-arginine supplements. We found a study in which six subjects died while taking large doses of L-arginine.
Luckily, there are other pathways to manufacturing NO in the body, and (you’re going to love this) one is called “nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway.” [Wikipedia] [The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics.]
This pathway was first suggested to us by the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates when he said: “Let your food be your medicine . . . .”
The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway takes foods rich in dietary nitrates and nitrites and converts them to NO.
So the secret here is it’s not just the amino acid arginine, but the nitric oxide that perks us up. And younger people are low in L-Arginine.
See below for a special look at Glycine.
Chromium: “Many studies on the association of chromium in humans depression have been recorded which indicate the significance of this micronutrient in mental health.” [Ref]
Colostrum with transfer factor: Comes from the first milking of a cow (found in the first milkings of every mammal). Normally this is used to boost immune function, but it also increases beneficial neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and prevents their re-uptake. It also seems to improve concentration and alertness, so much so, that if used late in the day it will interfere with sleep. Swansons has Immunel Colostrum Fraction with Transfer Factor.
DHEA: Has been found to help in chronic depression, but since it is a hormone, it, like all hormonal therapies, is a double- edged sword and we feel that the possible side effects would wipe out any possible positive effects and we cannot recommend it with a clear conscience. The form I use is called 7-Keto, by NOW Foods. Here is what they have to say about it: 7-Keto® is a natural occuring metabolite of DHEA, providing the same benefits of DHEA, without its associated side effects. Because the body’s production of DHEA declines with age, so does the production of 7-Keto®. Weight gain is a common sign of aging that often accompanies the decreased production of DHEA and its metabolites. Supplementation with NOW® 7-Keto® can safely promote thermogenesis, thereby supporting the maintenance of healthy body weight.
DL-Phenylalanine: An amino acid. It increases Norepinephrine levels (also associated with depression) and for those who’ve relapsed using 5-HTP, DL-Phenylalanine worked like a charm.
Ginkgo biloba: An herb from the Maidenhair tree. Ginkgo, famous for improving memory loss, contains terpenes that increase circulation to the brain and other parts of the body (aids in male impotence too), and protect nerve cells. The terpenes even seem to regenerate damaged nerve cells. Ginkgo in a dose of 240 mg per day improves memory in Alzheimer’s patients. If used early enough, it can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Ginkgo has been shown to be a very effective antidepressant, especially in the elderly. In a study of 40 older patients who were not responding well to antidepressant medications, one group was given Ginkgo while the control group got a placebo along with their antidepressant. They were tested using the Hamilton Depression Scale, and the Ginkgo group dropped from 14 to 7 after one month and to 4.5 after two months, while the score for the placebo/antidepressant group went from 14 to 13 over the same time period. Ginkgo seems to reduce the loss of serotonin receptor sites.
Ginkgo can have some minor side effects (in a small percentage of people) of mild headaches or mild stomach upset, but these seem to go away after a short while.
Ginkgo also thins your blood, so you’ll want to discuss all your drugs and supplements with a nutritionist before adding ginkgo to your regimen.
Glycine is an amino acid found in gelatin-rich bone broth. Now I want you to hear me out for a second, this is your chief author/editor at this site, David speaking. We survive (barely) by our affiliate programs. We don’t have that many because they must live up to our standards. I’m about to show you a product from one of the best companies we’ve ever found that makes some healthy proteins . . . some of the healthiest on the planet, and you can even choose from free range, to grass fed, to organic.
So I want to show you the good stuff in the following product: ORGANIC, GRASS-FED BEEF BONE BROTH COLLAGEN (just click the pic to visit or purchase).
Next, I want you to see this nutritional information.
You’ll note right away that this product has seven of the nine essential amino acids. Note the amount of glycine. Glycine regulates dopamine levels, helping with both depression and anxiety. And so does, phenylalanine, which is in this product too. You can use this product as a soup starter, but you’ll have to add the salt and pepper. You can add this to any meal to thicken your sauce. However, if you’re going to make a smoothie, then I would suggest their Collagen Peptides. They come plain, vanilla, and dark chocolate & blackberry. Take a look at the amino acid profile:
If you are dieting, or just want a bit of extra protein during the day with collagen (let’s face it; we’re getting older and our joints need this stuff), take a look at the products at Vital Proteins. You’ll helps us both out.
If you’re going to make a smoothie, taking a protein high in collagen is just very good for you. It fights arthritis pain, builds muscle, puts out the inflammation, and increases your metabolism . . . and fights depression and anxiety. If you want to support us and your health, visit them and get their products. (And if you always come back and use this link, you’ll be helping us on each purchase.)
Idebenone: An analogue of CoQ10. It has many of CoQ10’s properties, but does one thing CoQ10 doesn’t: it increases serotonin in the brain.
Iodine: is essential to health. It is so essential that over 120 governments have adopted mandatory iodization of all food-grade salt. There are exceptions, such as natural salts. But those salts that remove minerals, must add iodine. Yet still, there are still over two billion people suffering from iodine deficiency which is the leading (preventable) cause of developmental/intellectual disabilities. [Ref] It is such an important mineral that we have three articles at this site about iodine, and I’ll be linking to them as we propagate this site with our articles.
We’ve already mentioned its connection to brain development, but it is most critical for a healthy thyroid gland: the master gland of metabolism. And what does metabolism have to do with depression? Look at it this way. If your metabolism is slow, your body temperature is low, immune function follows, and like a dreadfully boring day at the office after a big lunch, your performance drops and so does your brain’s performance. You have trouble concentrating; you keep forgetting things. Sure enough, you’re going to feel depressed because the entire system is depressed.
According to our wise government, (where’s my sarcasm font?) our body’s minimum daily requirement is about 150 mcg (micrograms). That’s not very much at all. But if you’re not eating a lot of fish or seaweed (kelp), you’re probably low on iodine. Because I live in the “goiter belt” (not much iodine in the air here because we’re not near an ocean), I used to take some Iodoral once in a while . However, one of my favorite products in the world is Nascent Iodine, which was invented by Edgar Cayce while he was in a trance. He described two forms, one more expensive than the other and never caught on. But it’s caught on now, because a good friend of mine, John Brookshire, makes that form. And John and his company donate thousands of bottles to countries needing them. He’s also taught them how to make it. It cures malaria and even prevents it from coming back the following year. And, get this, just one drop in a glass of water gives you more than double the minimum daily requirements.
According to Edgar Cayce, it is your body’s most recognizable form of iodine.
John calls his product, Magnascent (click that to read a review of his product and a silly video we made) and Simply the Best handles it. It’s good stuff. No, it’s great stuff. It gives us energy to spare. And buying it from Simply the Best supports both us and the humanitarian work of John Brookshire.
Iron: In women especially, iron deficiency is very common. And when you lack iron, your body can’t produce enough red blood cells and you become anemic. You get sluggish, irritable, suffer from brain fog. Sure, you’re going to feel depressed. You need about 18 mgs of iron daily. You can get it from meat, internal organs, and supplements. Only 3% of men have an iron deficiency, but they’re usually good meat eaters.
Editor’s Note: Large quantities of vitamin C will chelate iron. Keep that in mind for those of you using megadoses of C.
Jiaogulan: Used for centuries in treating cancer, this is the Longevity Herb from China. In addition to all its wonderful properties, it also helps to stabilize mood.
Magnesium: At PubMed there are over 10, 000 studies linking magnesium to cognitive health. In fact, there are instances of people pulling out of their depression by simply adding magnesium.
[T]he results of several case studies where patients were treated with 125-300 mg of magnesium (as glycinate or taurinate) with each meal and at bedtime led to rapid recovery from major depression in < [less than] 7 days for most of the patients. [Ref]
Since no one can agree on which kind of magnesium is best, I take a form called Triple Magnesium Complex. And if someone asked me for the one thing to take daily for cardiovascular support, it would be magnesium. Only an idiot would listen to the bullcrap on television telling you to take an aspirin a day. It’s magnesium your body needs.
MSM: A form of nutritional sulfur that is primarily used to support connective tissue and reverse pain in people with arthritis; also tends to normalize mood and increase feelings of well-being.
N-Acetylcystein (NAC): Is something we should all be taking daily (I use it daily). It converts many carcinogens into harmless chemicals, reduces homocysteine levels, and increases glutathione levels (a powerful antioxidant and cellular detoxifier). It also supports our capillary system, has antiviral properties, and protects the liver. High homocysteine levels are associated with both depression and heart disease. (And if you missed it, there are a bunch of solutions to high homocysteine levels above that we’ve talked about.)
SAMe: The latest craze in the world of alternatives (tons of junk mail about SAMe in my mail box). However, upon further research, all of the fabulous results from this supplement were gotten from the injectable form only. However, we have now found more studies (at MedScape) that seem to show that SAMe works better than the placebo in both depression and pain relief (from chronic inflammation).
Selenium: Like iodine, selenium is great for the thyroid. In fact it converts an “inactive” thyroid hormone into an “active” thyroid hormone. Additionally, we would tell you that the fabulous, often imitated but never equaled antioxidant glutathione, is found in healthy individuals but lacking in people with depression.
It is also known that lower levels of antioxidants, such as co-enzyme Q10, glutathione, ascorbic acid, vitamin E, zinc and polyunsaturated fatty acids are regularly detected in the blood of depressed patients (Maes et al., 2011; Slyepchenko et al., 2016), supporting the notion of an oxidative-stress state in this population. [Ref]
Low selenium and low glutathione go together, so you can boost both by just boosting one, your selenium. Brazil nuts are a great source for selenium, but there’s a form of selenium that we’ve been researching that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and it’s the selenium used in most selenium studies: Super Selenium Complex.
Trimethylglycine TMG: (Also known as betaine), and Dimethylglycine DMG, are methyl donors that help in the production of several brain chemicals and hence improve mood, energy, wellbeing, alertness, concentration, and visual clarity. DMG (I use this daily too), has anti-tumor properties, modulates the immune system, acts as an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal agent, and increases oxygen utilization, while decreasing lactic acid formation and making energy production more efficient. One of the best ways to take this is by putting it into your sports drink. If you’re jogging, or lifting weights, or playing tennis, this will keep you going and increase your stamina.
Vitamin C and vitamin E: Studies indicate that levels of vitamin C are lower in people with depression. Low levels of vitamin E are also linked to major depression. And here at this site, we believe that the best Vitamin C is, like the best Vitamin E, a complex. Here is the C we take: Supreme C Complex; and here is one of the Vitamin Es we take: Full Spectrum E with Tocotrienols.
Zinc: Published in J Affect Disord 1999 Dec; 56(2-3):189-94, was a study showing that “There is now some evidence that major depression is accompanied by activation of the inflammatory response system (IRS). Other signs of IRS activation, which have been reported in major depression are lowered serum zinc (Zn) and serum albumin (Alb) concentrations. 15 to 30 mg daily is the usual dose.”
Our brains are mostly made up of fat (yes, the term fat head is accurate) and that fat is mostly made up of cholesterol.
Do Not Let Modern Medicine Tell You That Cholesterol Is Bad
We do not have good and bad cholesterol.
We cannot survive without cholesterol and cholesterol lowering drugs will shorten your life. Yes, statins are slightly anti-inflammatory, but our page on Chronic Inflammation has hundreds of options for fighting inflammation and not one of them is a statin drug.
You have no idea how researchers have to bend and twist and manipulate the statistics of their outcome to entice you into taking their cholesterol lowing drugs.
Our adviser, Dr Uffe Ravnskov just wrote to me telling me: “If high LDL were the cause of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, those with the lowest values should live the longest, but it is just the opposite. In a recent study we found that people above the age of 60 with the highest LDL-cholesterol live the longest! And remember that more than 95% of those who die from a heart attack are older than 60 years.”
In other words, if you are over 60, a cholesterol level of 300 will make you live longer.
Cholesterol is needed by the brain for our feel-good chemistry. Low cholesterol levels (these are side-effects from cholesterol lowering drugs) are associated with depression, violent behavior, and psychosis.
If you’re worried about your heart, read our cardiovascular articles and you will learn that you should avoid processed foods, industrial vegetable oils, and get fruits, veggies, and good oils into your body.
People in the know have told us that we might just be the first website (originally mnwelldir.org) to describe and promote “nutritional psychiatry.” We do know that if the number of times one is labeled a “quack” before the science catches up to you means anything, the reality is that no one will ever apologize for the attacks and admit that they were ever wrong. (We Are Pioneers)
Personally, (this is your editor [David] speaking), I don’t give a shit about the labels or about apologies never appearing. This started as my journey, and I’ve welcomed anyone who stumbles across our pages to join me. And no matter how many times someone labels me/us quacks, we will always point to the science behind our pages and the science underpinning our theories. It’s science and the science we subscribe to, like ourselves who’ve dedicated years to this research, cannot be bought.
Here is the future of psychiatry: Nutritional Psychiatry: Where to Next? found at the National Center for Biotechnology Information website. Enjoy, learn, and live well.
National Institute of Mental Health
The Guide to Depression and Intimacy for Men
Chocolate — Would you believe it’s health food?
Depression, by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses (Published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry)
Bad Benzos — The life and eventual death of a person suffering from bi-polar disorder, who committed suicide, but whose life was truly ended by her psychiatrist.
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