Here in North Carolina, we’ve had some pretty gloomy weather. The past few days have been cold, grey and rainy. This is the type of weather that reminds me of sadness…extreme sadness. Therefore, I thought I would post on depression and diet.
Depression is a common problem among older Americans. It affects approximately 15% of adults over age 65 and at least 50% of patients in long-term care facilities.
Many of the changes that we experience as we grow older—such as retirement, the death of a loved one, moving away from home, or health problems—can lead to depression.
Just because depression is common later in life, doesn’t mean that it’s a normal or necessary part of aging. Depression is a true medical condition that improves with medication, exercise, and a healthy diet, much like diabetes or heart disease.
Am I Depressed? Click here to learn about the signs and symptoms.
How Can Food Impact My Mood?
Researchers have established a strong correlation between depression and nutritional status. Certain nutrients influence brain chemistry and the production of neurotransmitters—or powerful brain chemicals that conduct signals between neurons. Foods that increase the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA can improve your mood, memory, energy, and sleep quality.
1. Eat small, healthy meals every 3 to 4 hours
- A regular eating pattern can help you avoid mood swings and energy lows by maintaining your blood sugar at a steady level. Small, frequent meals can also regulate appetite changes and prevent weight loss or gain.
2. Don’t pass on the protein
- Include some protein with each meal to enhance the release of dopamine. Lean meats, seafood, eggs, low-fat dairy, and tofu are good sources of high-quality protein.
3. Boost your B vitamins
- Research indicates that B vitamin deficiencies are common in patients with clinical depression. B-6, folate, and B-12 support serotonin and dopamine synthesis. To boost your B vitamin status, take a multivitamin and limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day.
4. Increase omega 3’s
- Omega 3’s increase serotonin concentration in the brain. Emerging studies suggest that 1 to 2g of omega-3’s daily can enhance recovery in patients with depressive disorders. Fish, fish oil capsules, flaxseeds, and walnuts are good sources of omega-3’s.
5. Drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly
- Staying hydrated, along with regular exercise, can relieve depression and reduce fatigue. Click here for more information on physical activity guidelines for older adults.
Depression is a serious medical problem that can deteriorate health and quality of life. The foods we eat directly influence our cognitive function. Good nutrition, combined with antidepressant medications, counseling, and physical activity, form an effective treatment for depression.
Co-Author: Emily Padian
- Bottiglieri T, Laundy M, Crellin R, Toone BK, Carney MW, Reynolds EH. Homocysteine, folate, methylation, and monoamine metabolism in depression. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2000;69:228-232.
- Logan A. Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional. Lipids Health Dis, 2004;3:25
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