All of us have been affected by depression in some way. In fact, about 16.2 million adults in the US have suffered from depression (1). If you go to the doctor, you will likely be given a medication called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). These medications, no doubt, help a lot of people, particularly with severe depression, however the evidence is not so convincing when it comes to mild/moderate depression.
In my clinical experience, there are more of us walking around with mild/moderate depression as compared to severe, yet the treatments remain the same. Looking at data from 1985 to 1997, SSRI’s had a 40% reduction in symptoms as compared to placebo’s 30% (2). This is not convincing enough data for me. Most of us don’t need these medications, but rather we need to make changes in our lifestyle, habits, and environments.
Your body is an amazing organism with the capacity to heal itself under the right influences.
As a functional medicine physician, I work with you to heal the underlying cause of disease. Each patient of mine undergoes a thorough evaluation to address underlying pathology. I look extensively at the thyroid gland, because patients with thyroid disorders are more prone to depression (3). We evaluate your sugar metabolism, because depression is 2-3 times higher in diabetics (4). And we look at your ability to adapt to stress, because increased cortisol levels can alter your brain’s chemistry (5). Lastly, we assess your levels of inflammation because inflammatory chemicals can affect neurotransmitters (which are our brain chemicals) (6).
You don’t have to wait to get started to begin your healing journey. Let me show you why the digestive tract is so important when dealing with depression.
Did you know that your digestive tract communicates directly with your brain? The microbiota, or the trillions of bacteria that live inside your colon, influence your brain function! (7). Having a healthy and diverse microbiome is foundational to solid mental health.
So what makes a healthy bacterial make-up, and what can you do about it? With these simple dietary strategies, you can begin to take your health in your own hands.
- Eliminate processed foods and sugars: The environment created in the gut by eating processed foods, a hallmark of the Western diet, basically feeds the microbes that promote inflammatory disease (8)
- Eat probiotic foods: These include fermented soy like tempeh and natto, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurts, kefirs, etc. These foods, which were so often included in traditional dietary practices, have the potential to influence brain health by influencing our microbiota (9).
Eat fiber rich foods: They include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Our bacteria need fiber to survive and proliferate and from what we know by now, this is a wonderful thing!
So, my friends, thanks for reading. I hope this gives you a little more insight into the big bad world of depression. It’s a complex disease with a lot of factors to consider. Take care of yourselves and eat your veggies.