How many people in the U.S. suffer from depression? Care to wager a guess? If you said over 15 million Americans, you're going to the Showcase Showdown. What's worse, roughly 80% of those people never receive any help. Plus being a resident of Tennessee means you're among the top 7 states for adults meeting the criteria for depression.
So the problem is obviously quite serious. With the fall upon us and winter soon approaching, you can bet the lack of sunlight and extended indoor time will crank up the feeling down. What can we do?
First, an activity standpoint. Simply getting outside can do wonders for your mood. Going for walks, hikes or bike rides can get your heart rate up, give you some peace of mind and increase your exposure to the sun.
When we get more sun, our body naturally produces more vitamin D. Vitamin D acts like a steroid in our body. It's critical for our sense of well-being, a strong immune system and bones, as well as an increase in cognitive ability.
While many people are deficient in vitamin D and don't realize it, getting a quick and easy blood test from your doctor's office can provide answers. As it is with most things, if you begin getting adequate amounts of anything you're deficient in, you'll feel noticeably better.
Your GP may suggest a daily dose of 400 IU. This amount was actually established as the dose that was sufficient to reduce the risk of rickets. More recent studies show amounts of up to 5,000 IU or more may be more accurate. Be sure to talk to you health professional, either way.
It's beneficial to pair vitamin D with vitamin K2. You can choose either the supplemental form or by eating dark green, leafy vegetables.
In addition, controlling the amount of inflammation in your body can drastically reduce depressed mood and energy levels. While most people are aware of the importance of vitamin D, the matter of inflammation seems to sneak by unnoticed.
You will increase your inflammation (not a good thing) with poor sleep or stress management and eating too many pro-inflammatory fats and sugars. If you can avoid deep fried foods, you're off to a great start.
Digging deeper and being aware of excess canola, soy, sunflower and safflower oils can help even more. These oils aren't inherently evil -- you actually need them -- we just get way too much. Too many of them in relation to too few anti-inflammatory oils will set you up for increased inflammation and risk of depression.
Increase your anti-inflammatory fats with a good quality fish oil, like Arctic cod liver oil, and aim for a minimum daily dose of 250mg. The American Heart Association actually recommends 1g each day. Some studies even show that initial super-dosing in the amounts of 6g per day for 1-3 weeks provides extra benefits as well.
In addition, flax seed, krill oil, chia seeds and hemp seeds are good sources. Keep in mind, your body isn't as efficient at breaking down the plant sources. Be sure to check with your doctor first to avoid any contraindications.
I would suggest increasing your activity levels first, followed by vitamin D and fish oil. That approach alone can make a drastic difference. Beyond that, there are still other supplemental options like 5-htp, rhodiola rosea, curcumin and green tea extract that can help. Would you like to know more about them? Well good news! I'll be covering these all in further detail next week, so stay tuned...