A healthy diet is vital to maintaining both physical and mental health. What you eat can affect the structure and chemical make-up of your brain, and it certainly affects your mood, making it essential to watch what you eat. If depression may be caused in part by modern lifestyles at odds with biological needs, then it makes sense that one component of an effective natural treatment for depression is getting back in touch with how our ancestors lived—specifically in terms of what they ate.
Before the advent of drive-thrus and frozen dinners, humans ate a diet high in wild plants and naturally raised or "free-range" animals and fish. Consequently, they consumed far more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids than we do now. Omega-3 fatty acid plays a number of beneficial roles in the body, including promoting good mental health. Various studies have shown that this essential fatty acid can help relieve some symptoms of depression. Scientists believe that omega-3 helps the brain more efficiently transport serotonin and dopamine.
Fish oil supplements can help relieve symptoms of depression. Photo By Matt Allworth/Courtesy Flickr.
As our bodies are incapable of making omega-3, it’s easy to become deficient in this essential fatty acid if you’re not consciously including it in your diet. Changes in our food system have also made it more difficult to consume a sufficient amount of omega-3. Meat and eggs from grain-fed livestock, which represent the bulk of the food industry, generally contain lower levels of omega 3 than their grass-fed counterparts. Like humans, animals such as fish and cattle don’t produce their own supply of omega 3—they get theirs from the food they eat. Cold water fish such as salmon derive theirs from algae, while cattle consume omega-3 through the grass and other greens they eat in the pasture. Therefore, cattle that are pasture raised contain higher amount of omega-3 than those that are fed omega 3-poor grain.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in a number of foods such as flaxseed, walnuts, leafy greens and cold water fish such as salmon, sardines and halibut. If you're not quite ready to alter your diet to include these foods, then taking a omega-3 supplement, such as a fish oil supplement, might be the best option for you. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Change program recommends taking a daily supplment of fish oil with 1,000 mg of EPA omega-3 and 500 mg of DHA omega-3. (Omega-3 fatty acids come in different forms. DHA and EPA chains come from cold water fish, while the ALA chain is derived from plant sources.)
Remember: Taking omega-3 supplements is not a cure-all for depression but one component of the TLC's program natural approach to treating depression. Depression is a chronic illness; if you think you may have depression, please consult your doctor.
Read the original post, "Treating Depression Naturally: The Therapeutic Lifestyle Change Program."