Anxiety and depression (including their milder forms) have become the blockbuster conditions/diseases of the 21st century. Their expenditures now rival the costs of treating heart disease, obesity and diabetes, or cancer. Contributing factors are many. Experts point to a modern hectic lifestyle, struggles in personal relationships, money pressures, disillusionment relating to our institutions, deterioration in nutrion, sleep, and exercise patterns, preoccupation with electronic media, and other causes. Mild depression or anxiety can be nothing more than the lowered metabolic state, which is characteristic of sedentary populations. In other words, low mood and low metabolism often go hand in hand.
While anti-depressant drugs and other psycho-pharmaceuticals have enjoyed almost runaway popularity in the last 15 years, the prevalence of anxiety and depressive disorders have increased dramatically. Side effects and the long term influence of the psycho-pharmaceuticals have not been adequately studied and raise serious questions, especially when prescribed for young people. On the other hand, natural and holistic treatments have been rarely employed by physicans, yet these methods have repeatedly demonstrated superior outcomes.
Exercise is fundamental to homo-sapiens’ mental health not just physical health. Exercise boosts blood flow and brings nutrients to the brain, which accounts for an astonishing 20% of the body‘s blood flow (while accounting for only 2% of your body’s weight). Numerous studies comparing exercise and antidepressant drugs reveal that exercise is more effective in relieving anxiety and depression long-term (and without negative side effects like weight gain, restless leg syndrome, and reduced sex drive).
Improve Your BMI
If obese, improve your BMI gradually. Obesity is associated with increased systemic inflammation, pre-sleep apnea/snoring, poor posture, low back pain, and other conditions which contribute to stress and anxiety.
Aim to exercise daily or even twice daily with emphasis on achieving cardio fitness. Find a way to get active and stay active. Join group classes like yoga, spinning, step or water aerobics at your local gym or find local walking/hiking, riding, or running clubs. Recruit co-workers, friends or neighbors and schedule times to workout. It’s harder to cancel when you are meeting some one. Convenient cardio at home is often the best. Working out early morning or before a well-earned supper is recommended.
- Sleep well and dream well. Stress relief actually occurs during healthy sleep. Don’t cut it short. Dreams during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep are often periods of stress or anxiety release.
- Well planned, calm period leading up to bedtime
- Cool, pleasant sleep environment
- Natural sleep, not dependent on sleep drugs
- 7 to 10 hours of sleep per night
Stress is often nothing more than over-stimulation. Stress is amplified or diminished based on attitude. Remember, stress hormones contribute to weight gain, hypertension, poor sleep habits, and even glucose intolerance (pre-diabetes).
- Look for “good news”. Positive thinking releases healthy neuro chemicals in your brain. Anticipate good outcomes.
- Avoid “bad news”, especially if it’s unrelated to you.
- Learn to say no. More is not necessarily better.
- Meditate or pray on a regular basis.
- Break the worry cycle. A Nutriex motto: “No worries, no stress, no desserts!”
- Find hobbies to that reduce stress and increase pleasure in your life.
- Be open to trying new things like continuing education, the arts, music, etc.
- Try aroma therapy. The sweet smell of lavender has been used since ancient times for its calming, stress-relieving properties.
- Practice gratitude. Functional brain imaging actually changes (looks healthier) during “appreciation meditation”
Use An Anti-Inflammatory Nutrient Supplement
People who are depressed often do not eat a balanced diet rich in recommended nutrients. Nutrients such a vitamin D, B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and many phyto- chemicals are valuable for improving mood. To comple- ment food choices and increase anti-inflammatory benefits, we recommend Nutriex Sport or Health and Nutriex Omega-3/Fish Oil (twice a day). Our clinical experience with Nutriex often reveals mood improve- ment. Similar products may work as well.
Stay properly hydrated, and avoid too much caffeine (which is a diuretic). The brain is 80% water. Being dehydrated makes it harder to think!
Food For Mood
Scientific studies are now pointing to several foods which are associated with favorable mood and prevention of depression. While many questions remain about the effects of food on mood, experts generally agree that the following foods are helpful for a healthy mind:
- Olive Oil
- Fish Oil
- High tryptophan foods: skim dairy, lean poultry, bananas, oats, seeds and nuts (e.g. sesame seeds and almonds)
- High B-6 and folate foods: fresh veggies and fruits
- Complex, slow-burning carbs: whole grains, inulin, most vegetables
- Healthy proteins Green Tea
- Coffee or caffeinated drinks in moderation
The conversion of vitamin D to its active form requires sunlight. Emphasize outdoor light exposure combined with long walks. Don’t stay indoors in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression (including seasonal affective disorder) in several studies. If you are unable to get natural sunlight explore the possibility of light therapy (www.sunbox.com).
Nutraceuticals for mild depression or anxiety may be effective. Typically, natural remedies have fewer side effects than psycho-pharmaceuticals. Natural treatments can be less expensive, more geared towards prevention, and some are backed by solid research. Many physicians recommend that you consider potential natural remedies with the help of a healthcare professional. Some nutraceuticals to be considered are: 5-HTP, L-tryptophan, SAMe, valerian, panax ginsing, DHEA, fish oil, and GABA.
- Ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, etc.
- Fruits (bright colors are best)
- Red wine / grape seeds
- Vegetables (dark colors are best)
- Soy Protein (tofu, soy milk, etc.)
- Legumes (plants with pods)
- Seaweed (sea vegetables)
- Olive and canola oil
- Green tea
- Lean meats
- Calcium-rich foods
- Soft drinks and juices
- High-glycemic carbs, e.g. white bread, white rice, white sugar
- Immoderate amounts of alcohol
- Processed foods/meats
- Animal fats
- Fried foods
- Feedlot cattle
- Milk chocolate