Beloved, Do you or does someone you know suffer from depression? You would not be alone.
Depression affects 300 million people worldwide.
As a doctor, it is one of the most common complaints I hear and is it any wonder? In Western countries like Australia, one in five individuals aged 16-85 have a mental illness. If you suffer from depression or you know someone who does, you are aware firsthand of the debilitating impact it can have on one’s life and the life of those around them.
It can be dark. It can be lonely. It can feel hopeless.
The cause of depression is of course multifactorial. The treatment? Much of the known treatment is medication and meditation. Today I want to talk about something different.
I want to talk about Diet! With a capital D. There is overwhelming evidence that diet is one of the most effective treatments for depression. Moreover what you eat not only can treat the symptoms of depression but prevent it in the first place and stop it from coming back.
Beloved don’t let depression steal your joy a single moment longer. There is something you can do to be proactive about your recovery. And the evidence is surmounting.
There was a meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials which was done examining the effects of dietary interventions on symptoms of depression and anxiety. A meta-analysis and systematic review were done of 16 Randomised controlled trials.
This is where researchers went through 16 Randomised controlled trials which are the highest quality of study and synthesised the evidence that they found in relation to dietary interventions and its effect on depressive symptoms.
What did they find?
That there was consistently a significant positive effect of dietary interventions on depressive symptoms observed across all the studies. Strongly suggesting that diet can play a role in the treatment and the self-management of depressive symptoms across the population. In addition to this, there was further evidence that the potential cumulative effects of diet and exercise together was evident and promising for treatment.
The SMILES trial is a well-known study on depression and Diet. Here 67 adults with depression were enrolled in 12 weeks of a modified Mediterranean Diet. They included the following:
- Whole grain cereals (range from 5-8 depending on how active you are)
- Fruit (3 servings)
- Vegetables (6 serves a day)
- Milk, yoghurt or cheese (go for natural products like Greek yoghurt and goats cheese) (2-3 serves a day)
- a handful of nuts or serve of peanut butter or olives (every day)
- Legumes or pulses (3-4 serves a week)
- Poultry (2-3 serves a week)
- Eggs (6 a week) and generous amounts of olive oil ( 60mls a day.)
- Lean red meat (2-3 times a week)
One in every three persons who underwent these dietary interventions were in remission from their depression at the end!
Can you believe it?
Beloveds the evidence is there. Depression has more to do with what you are putting into your body day in and day out than you know.
I want to make one thing clear. I am completely and totally against diets. I DO NOT want people to develop a fixation with weight loss or restriction. Quite the opposite. I want each of you to develop a passion for nourishing, wholesome, non processed foods.
This is the best medicine that you could ask for in the treatment of depression, what you put into your mouth every single day.
If you are struggling with depression I exhort you to stop and listen. This could change your life.
For those of you who would like to change what you eat but don’t know where to begin, I am in the process of writing my own ten-day restart for you. If, however, you want something to start on straight away, look at Dr Mark Hyman, who has a 10-day program called the Blood Sugar diet which I think can give you the starting tools you need. I really respect Dr Mark Hyman as a pioneering holistic doctor. If you feel like you need more direction in how to restart the way you eat you can download his book here.
You are deeply loved and richly cherished.
Dr Christine Greenwood
Own Your Health
Think Well, Eat Well, Live Well
Below are two of the studies I used for this article.
Firth J, Marx W, Dash S, et al. The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Psychosom Med 2019; 81: 265-280. 2019/02/06. DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000673.
Opie RS, O’Neil A, Jacka FN, et al. A modified Mediterranean dietary intervention for adults with major depression: Dietary protocol and feasibility data from the SMILES trial. Nutr Neurosci 2017: 1-15. Article in Press. DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1312841
P.S. If you are struggling with depression do NOT hesitate to seek medical help. Lifeline, Beyond blue, black dog institute, are all online resources. Also, your local GP can help refer you to the appropriate people, your local church can be an important community of support, or even a close friend who you know you can trust can be important places to start. My article does not substitute for medical care or attention. Please also see my disclaimer below in the page footer.
You will all be very disappointed to know that there was no evidence in any of the research to support comfort eating. So falling headfirst into the Moorish pastries and doughnuts from Agnes does not produce lasting elevations to one’s mood. Apparently Greenie, of course, would beg to differ. But once in a while, however, one must treat themselves. There is nothing wrong with that.