When the body is healthy, the brain is healthy. If the brain is impaired, it’s pretty difficult to enjoy life.
For those suffering from depression, there’s situational depression and there’s chronic depression. Situational depression is generally triggered by a traumatic incident like losing a loved one or being unable to find work. Chronic depression often starts with situational depression, but it can also seem to come out of nowhere.
A Healthy Brain Requires a Healthy Gut
A healthy gut is necessary to break down food, assimilate nutrients, balance hormones, and supply beneficial microflora throughout the body that keeps pathogenic activity from proliferating.
An unhealthy gut prohibits proper nutrient assimilation, causes hormonal imbalances, and leaks unhealthy, infectious microbes and undigested food into the body. Pathogens, undigested food particles, hormone imbalance, and a lack of balanced nutrition all lead to inflammation.
If the body is inflamed, the brain is inflamed. Studies have shown that people with depression have higher levels of inflammatory markers compared to people who are not depressed. Chronically higher levels of inflammation due to medical illnesses also are associated with higher rates of depression.
Poor diet hurts brain function in other ways too.
The refined sugars found in most processed foods spike insulin and trigger the release of inflammatory cytokines. Pesticides, herbicides, artificial colors and flavors, and other chemicals cause problems in many different ways as well. Each and every toxic ingredient harms our health in multiple ways, which is the nature of toxins. But, gut health usually is the best indicator of overall health.
You can inhibit some of the effects of depression with drugs for a while, but to truly be well one must heal the gut. Healing the gut requires lots of raw vegetables and herbs along with the elimination of pharmaceuticals and other drugs, as well as refined and processed foods.
Of course, fixing other issues that lead to depression may also be required, but due to the fact that key hormones that also function as neurotransmitters are produced in the stomach, gut health is a physiological prerequisite to a healthy brain.
Foods That Fight Depression
This is where articles typically go over the benefits of salmon, fresh whole fruits and vegetables, leafy grains, nuts, chocolate, oysters, etc. Readers are expected to pick out a few of their favorite foods that made the list and start eating more of those foods in a futile attempt to feel better about their lives.
It doesn’t work that way.
Salads are the best thing anyone can eat to heal the gut and the entire body—except for those rare exceptions when someone suffers from things like histamine intolerance, but still, the goal for anyone healing from chronic disease should be to get on daily salads, even if one cannot start off that way. We’re not just talking about lettuce and carrot shreds. Salads should have at least ten vegetables and a few herbs. Other than that, focus on whole foods and diversity. And don’t let corporations make your food for you.
In a nutshell, eat salads, eat whole foods, avoid processed and refined foods, make your own food.
Squats and Other Exercises
We were meant to squat. And the great thing about squats is you can do them almost anywhere. In nature we squatted to hide, to defecate, to pick things up, and we squatted instead of sitting.
Squatting helps massage and activate organ and glandular function, releases positive hormones, aligns the spine, and helps to get the lymphatic system moving. If you can’t squat, try assisted squats to work on the range of motion, and try “get-ups,” which are done by laying on the ground and getting up. Alternate sides and alternate legs being used each time.
Other exercises that are good for alleviating depression include:
• Running: We are also meant to run. The human body should be squatting and running every day. Studies show that aerobic exercise is often as effective as anti-depressants for treating depression. And if you manage to achieve that “runner’s high” you’ll want it again and again.
• Hiking In the Woods: Getting outdoors and in nature for some time has also been shown in studies to match or exceed anti-depressants for treating depression. While you’re out there, do some earthing and connect to the earth with your bare feet.
• Yoga and Meditation: Studies also show yoga and meditation can alleviate depression. We can’t recommend the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel enough.
• Resistance Training: Weightlifting and other forms of resistance training have much less research regarding the benefits for depression, but the little bit of research that has been done looks promising. And anyone who can put more than their body weight on their back to squat can attest to how amazing it feels.
• HITT: If you want to squeeze the most out of the least amount of time, you can’t beat high-intensity interval training. Try it once and you’ll know why it’s a good routine for alleviating depression.
Most of us are rapid, shallow breathers. We raise our shoulders, pull in our diaphragm, and take a breath that fills only the top portion of our lungs.
When you breathe properly, your diaphragm, your stomach, and your ribcage expand, not the pectoral area.
Fully exhaling is important, too. Remember, you are breathing in oxygen-rich air and releasing carbon dioxide and toxins.
Proper breathing dramatically increases stamina and mental clarity, elevates your mood, and helps the body detoxify more efficiently (more toxins are released through breathing than through the pores, urination, and defecation combined).
Supplements for Depression
If you’re looking at supplements to replace a healthy diet, that’s going to work only a little better than skipping exercise for a protein shake. Supplements can certainly help improve symptoms but without the right diet, true health cannot be achieved.
That said, chronic depression indicates a deficiency in the body and pathogenic activity. Most people who suffer from chronic depression also suffer from an abundance of the sometimes pathogenic gut bacteria called Candida. In fact, most people who suffer from any chronic issue have too much Candida. For anything regarding yeast, mold, or fungi, we recommend SF722, second only to a healthy diet with lots of salad.
As stated earlier, a healthy gut microbiome is imperative to brain health. Our symbiotic bacteria play a key role in nutrient assimilation, hormone production, immune system functionality, and science has just discovered that our gut bacteria also reaches our brain.
Probiotics can help bring the gut into homeostasis and can help keep pathogenic microbes from flourishing. Probiotics are anti-inflammatory, and some studies have indicated that probiotics may alleviate depression. Be careful though. Don’t just pick up any cheap probiotic and expect good results. A high-quality probiotic along with a prebiotic diet (raw vegetables) can help build a healthy gut biome, while a cheap probiotic can actually feed pathogens and do more harm than good.
Our brain is 60 percent fat. Our brain, gut, and whole body need a variety of fats to function properly. We need saturated fats, monounsaturated fats (omega 9s), and polyunsaturated fats (omega 6s, 3s). A typical western diet is heavy in trans fats and rancid fats which cause inflammation. Some people don’t get enough fats and most people get too many of the wrong types of fats.
A large Norwegian study showed that people who regularly consumed cod liver oil were about 30 percent less likely to show signs of depression. The longer the participants took cod liver oil, the less likely they were to have high levels of depression. In another study with 49 patients who had a history of harming themselves, study subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a dose of essential fatty acids or a placebo. Both groups also received counseling. The study lasted 12 weeks. In the end, the group receiving the fat supplementation improved significantly more than the placebo group.
Many other studies have shown promise in treating depression and anxiety and other mental health disorders with beneficial fat supplementation. It’s best to get your healthy fats through a healthy diet but supplementation can help speed up healing and have an almost immediate reduction in inflammation and brain health.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid because it can’t be produced by our body. We need it for anabolic processes and the production of various hormones, including serotonin, and the liver can synthesize niacin from tryptophan. So there’s a lot of competition for tryptophan. For those who are low in serotonin, supplementation may help (but low serotonin levels are an indication of poor gut health). Several studies have shown that low tryptophan levels can lead to a depressive state and cause anxiety.
5-HTP is generally recommended over l-tryptophan because it crosses the blood-brain barrier and gets converted into serotonin more efficiently than l-tryptophan. Studies have shown greater results in alleviating depression with 5-HTP supplementation.