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Dealing with depression through diet

MagazineOctober 1995 (Vol. 6 Issue 7)Dealing with depression through diet

Here are a number of non-drug methods of improving depression

Here are a number of non-drug methods of improving depression. Do not embark on this programme without the guidance of a nutritionist skilled and experienced in this area, as you will be taking megadoses of certain vitamins and amino acids, which could have side effects if not monitored closely.

Consume a large, varied wholefood diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fats. Take your fats from mono and polyunsaturated fats (avoid cooking with the latter). Don't eat too much or too little fat.Investigate whether you have any food allergies or intolerances (especially to comon allergens like dairy products, wheat, corn or yeast).

Cut out caffeine and refined sugar.

Consider taking daily supplements of B vitamins (including 300 ug biotin and 100-500 mg of B6, again not without medical supervision), vitamin C (1000 mg), calcium (if you are shown to have low blood calcium), iron, copper, magnesium, potassium and omega-6 fatty acids

(1 gram 3 times daily of evening primrose oil), shown to be low in depressed patients.

If tests prove that you are low in stomach acid, consider hydrochloric acid supplementation.

Exercise regularly. When half of a group of people hospitalized for depression did one hour of aerobic exercise three times a week for nine weeks, their depression scores were significantly lower than the group who did not exercise (Br Med J, 1985; 291: 109).

Talk to a trained therapist or counsellor. A recent Oxford study showed that six sessions with a qualified therapist or counsellor were just as helpful and much safer than a powerful drug (BMJ, February 18, 1995).

If the right diet and a supplement programme doesn't sort you out, you could try one of several nutritional antidepressants under guidance. Remember, there's no method for predicting which neurotransmitter may requiring boosting and which substance will work for you other than trial and error. It appears that a combination of serotonin and norepinephrine precursors work better than either alone: rubidium chloride is an alkali metal which resembles potassium physiologically. Taking 180 mg three times a day may be as effective as an antidepressant (Mod Probl Pharmacopsychiat, 1982; 18: 145-63). Make sure to take 5g sodium and 60-80 mmol potassium daily to maintain electrolyte balance.

tryptophan 6 gm or less per day (no more than 4 gm a day if taken with niacinamide).

L-5-HTP (25 mg taken with food and increased over 10-14 days to 75 mg three times a day).

Hypericin, a constituent of the herb St John's Wort (hypericum perforatum) increases the amount of the major breakdown product of brain norepinephrine in the urine, suggesting that the herb can boost the level of norepinephrine in the brain. In one trial of 15 women given a standardized extract of hypericin, all felt better, according to a standardized rating system, and none suffered side effects (Arnzeim-Forsch, 1984; 34: 918).

D-Phenylalaline (100-400 mg daily, or D, L-Phenylalanine (150-200 mg daily for one month as a trial) or L-Phenylalanine (500 mg daily) and increase dosage as needed to, on average, 3-4 gms daily for a two to six month trial.

L-Tyrosine (2 gms three times daily for a two-week trial.


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