Will the medical community begin treating depression with diet? Of course, I hope so. At Cooking2Thrive, we support healthy diet and exercise as a first step in treating and preventing any disease. If that first line of treatment works, there’s no need for the introduction of chemical medications that may have numerous adverse side effects. The use of diet and exercise first also reduces the cost of medical care. Finally, science has begun controlled trials that can show whether diet is effective treatment for specific conditions.
Diet as effective as drugs?
We know that exercise can be as effective as drugs for some conditions. How we fuel our cells is bound to affect how they perform, so in some ways this result doesn’t seem all that surprising. But don’t get too excited yet. One promising study doesn’t mean there will be any immediate change in protocol in psychiatric medicine.
For one thing, this study was small and small may or may not reflect the results you would find in a larger group. Before the medical approach changes, there will need to be larger studies that repeat this result.
It’s food, not drugs.
The good news is that this improvement was driven by food, not drugs. If you suffer from depression, it may be possible to improve your outlook by changing your diet on your own. Do not take this as a license to discontinue any medication you are currently taking without consulting your physician. Some antidepressants must be tapered down in order to avoid adverse reactions. Instead, work with your physician or therapist to revise your treatment plan to include nutritional counseling and dietary change.
In the SMILES study mentioned above, the experimental group received dietary advice and nutritional counseling that included goal setting and mindful eating. The specific dietary recommendations were:
5-8 servings per day of whole grains
6 vegetable servings per day
3 fruit servings per day
3-4 legume servings per week
2-3 servings per day of low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods
1 serving per day of raw and unsalted nuts
At least 2 servings per week of fish
3-4 servings per week lean red meat
2-3 servings per week chicken
Up to 6 eggs per week
3 tbsp per day olive oil
Up to two glasses of wine per day only with meals. Red wine preferred.
In addition, participants were encouraged to reduce intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks, and any alcohol beyond two glasses of wine per day with a meal.
As you can see, there’s nothing radical here. The experimental group was simply consuming the kind of healthy diet that benefits all of us.
I know I told you not to get too excited, but if the results of this study hold true, the news is incredibly exciting!!!
According to the CDC, 3% of Americans (more than 9 million) over the age of 12 had severe depressive symptoms in 2012. Almost 43% of those reported serious difficulties at home, at work, and socially. Of that 43%, only 35% reported having contact with a mental health professional during the past year and those living below the poverty level were 2.5 times more likely to have depression than those above the poverty level. Dietary support can be a powerful way to help the approximately 1.4 million severely depressed people who do not have a mental health professional.
Dietary support and change can also improve the mood and resilience of those who suffer from diabetes, IBS, celiac disease, heart disease, fatigue, reflux, and eczema. All we have to do is overcome our resistance to change.
Okay, I know that’s a big obstacle. And that…is the challenge.