Copyright (c) 2012 Embracing Depression
Depression is a disorder that disrupts the lives of its victims and renders them incapable of enjoying life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten American adults say that they feel depressed but the real figures are likely much higher. That’s to say nothing of American children, of whom three to eight percent are estimated to be clinically depressed. A further 20 percent of young people report feeling depressed but do not quite meet the criteria for the disorder.
While it’s perfectly normal for people to occasionally feel depressed in response to certain life events, feeling depressed for prolonged periods or for no apparent reason can be incredibly destructive. Sadly, it is on the rise and as a result, doctors have begun over-prescribing antidepressant medications. At best, these drugs work only for a short time and at worst, they don’t work at all. Furthermore, they are notorious for causing a variety of unpleasant and even dangerous side effects. For this reason, many people suffering from the disorder have begun seeking out natural ways to combat the condition. Here are some of the ways that this can be done.
Many people don’t exercise, or don’t do so enough. While exercising may seem boring or strenuous, it is a critical part of your physical and mental well-being. Physical activity releases certain brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin that lend themselves to mood enhancement, relaxation and feelings of contentment. Certain types of physical activity, such as weight training, also cause your body to produce greater amounts of testosterone. Higher levels of this hormone are associated with higher self-esteem and feelings of well-being.
Exercise can also alleviate symptoms in depressed people by providing a more positive body image. Many people who are overweight or obese are depressed because they feel badly about the way they look. Because physical activity results in weight loss, a negative body image can be improved.
It’s natural to crave sweets but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you. In fact, sugar consumption has been linked to an alarming number of health problems ranging from the common cold to cancer. One problem caused by sugar that is often ignored by mainstream medical science is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Consuming large amounts of sugar, especially without adequate protein and fiber intake, results in a large spike in blood sugar that is followed closely by a sharp decline. When this happens, feelings of anxiety and unexplained sadness, as well as other symptoms, may result until blood sugar is once again stable. Because low blood sugar produces cravings for more sugar, it can result in a vicious cycle of depression. The best way to remedy this is to avoid refined sugars entirely.
Soy has been touted as a health food for many years, but new evidence is showing that it may be far less wholesome than previously believed. Soy is a potent endocrine disruptor that floods the body with estrogen and inhibits the production of essential thyroid hormones. This can support feelings of being depressed in a variety of ways. First, excess estrogen is well known to cause emotional instability and feelings of helplessness. Second, high estrogen and the inhibition of thyroid hormones make it very easy to gain weight and nearly impossible to lose it, which can result in low self esteem. Finally, estrogen drives down levels of testosterone which, particularly in men, can lead to feelings of insecurity and loss of confidence.
Proper nutrition is the cornerstone of good health, both mental and physical. Any number or combination of nutrient deficiencies can cause you to become depressed so it’s important to take this into account when attempting to combat the disorder naturally. Avoiding processed or refined foods and sticking with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy is the best way to ensure that your nutritional needs are met. Substances like sugar and alcohol will actually flush nutrients from your body, most particularly those in the B group that are essential for mood and brain health.