Article submitted by Paula Tazzyman – Accredited Practicing Dietitan specialising in Mental Health
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
Regrettably, Hippocrates’ philosophy has been largely overlooked in the management of depression. We forget that the brain is a chemical factory needing protein (amino acids) vitamins and minerals to manufacture brain chemicals. If the diet is poor these nutrients will not be present to optimally make these chemicals. Making positive changes to support your mood is easy and the results can be very significant.
Five things you can do today to support your mood.
1. Eat tryptophan rich protein foods.
Tryptophan is an amino acid required to make serotonin, the feel good brain chemical. You can help your brain make serotonin naturally by eating: turkey, cheese – especially cottage, swiss and cheddar, milk, yoghurt, eggs, meat, fish, chicken, nuts, soy and other legumes.
2. Eat plenty of zinc rich foods.
Zinc deficiency is very common in depression, as zinc is required to make serotonin. Eat oysters, ideally fresh, to increase the zinc content of your diet. Zinc is best absorbed from animal foods such as seafood and red meat. Pumpkin seeds are a good option from plant foods.
Signs of zinc deficiency include: white spots/ridges on nails, stretch marks, poor wound healing, mouth ulcers, eczema & psoriasis, hair loss, low immunity, loss of appetite, impaired sense of taste and smell.
A blood test for zinc is not the best marker as only 1% of zinc is found in the blood. Ask a naturopath to administer a zinc drink test, as taste buds are rich in zinc. If you are considering supplementation zinc picolinate is the best form of zinc. Large doses of zinc can unbalance other nutrients so discuss with your health care provider.
3. Eat a magnesium rich diet.
Magnesium is also involved in making serotonin. Magnesium calms the nervous system and relaxes the body. Brazil nuts (3-4 per day), rolled oats and brown rice are great sources of magnesium as are green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and dark chocolate. When magnesium levels are low, muscles are tight leading to cramps and muscle fatigue. Decreased magnesium levels are also associated with increased hyperactivity and impulsivity, poor sleep, poor attention, constipation, anxiety and depression.
A blood test for magnesium is not a reliable marker for magnesium levels as the body will do all it can to maintain blood magnesium normal. You can help your body absorb magnesium by adding Epson salts to your bath. Add 1 cup of Epson salts, relax and soak for at least 20 minutes. If you don’t have a bath you can soak your feet in a bucket with ½ c Epson salts added to the water. In Australia Epson salts can be purchased in bulk from www.blants.com.au.
If you are considering supplementation, magnesium citrate is the best form of magnesium. You want a dose of around 500mg per day for adults. A great product can be purchased online in powder or tablet form here.
4. Omega 3 fish oils are a great support for mood.
Research has shown that 1 gram of EPA omega 3 is of benefit in treating depression. In Australia, because of the temperature of the water, fish is high in DHA omega 3 with the exception of the Queensland mullet. So while eating fish is great, it is unlikely to provide the brain with the EPA that it needs for anti-depression benefits. Blood tests to check levels of omega 3 fats are very expensive and not usually done.
Signs that the body needs more omega 3 fats: excessive thirst; frequent urination; rough, dry, bumpy skin; dry, dull hair/dandruff; soft, brittle nails, eczema, asthma, hay fever, poor night vision, sensitivity to light, visual disturbances, distractibility, poor concentration, difficulties with memory, depression, excessive mood swings, undue anxiety, difficulties falling asleep or waking up.
Blackmore’s Pro omega joint formula provides 1 gram of EPA in 2 capsules. You can also buy this online here.
5. Last but definitely not least- Get your Vitamin D levels checked.
It is hard to believe but Vitamin D deficiency is becoming very common in Australia. You can have a blood test to determine your Vitamin D levels. Aim for levels that are well above 75 nmol/L all year around. Scientific evidence is indicating that levels around 100-120 nmol/L will give optimum protection from diseases like cancer as well as mental health. Most people don’t know that Vitamin D plays a very significant role in protecting our brain and supporting healthy brain function and is proven to have links to depression. Vitamin D is vital to activate the immune system. Ever wonder why the flu season is not in summer when we have more sunlight?
Vitamin D is made in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight (UVB rays). About 90% of requirements are obtained via sun exposure. You need to expose about 20% of your skin to the sun’s rays between the hours of 10 – 3pm. In Sydney, you need 6-8 minutes in summer and 26-28 minutes in winter if you have fair skin. The darker the skin the more sun exposure you require.
In winter it can be difficult to get this much sun exposure so I recommend supplementation from May to September. In Australia you can only buy tablets in the dose of 1000 I.U. Most people will need far more than 1000 I.U per day to reach Vitamin D levels of 100 nmol/L.
I purchase my Vitamin D online from the link below.
It is very important not to get sunburned but some sunlight is vital!!
As written by Paula Tazzyman.
Paula Tazzyman is a Sydney based Accredited Practicing Dietitian (BSc Ma Nut & Diet -Sydney Uni) who specialises in supporting clients with mental health issues as well as children with ADHD/Autism and other learning and behaviour difficulties.
Feel free to contact Paula on 0418 162 202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read Paula’s tips on her Facebook page-