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Depression is a condition that affects millions of Americans each day and that is just the ones that are diagnosed with the condition. Some people who feel depressed think that it is just a normal response to a painful situation or event in their life. In some cases, that is true. However, when those deep feelings of sadness last for an extended period of time, and are accompanied by a variety of other symptoms such as poor sleep or changes in appetite, it can no longer be considered a normal reaction.  Clinical depression can be debilitating, because it interferes with your normal ability to function.  However, there are treatments available for it.

In addition to the standard types of treatment for depression – primarily psychotherapy and medication – there are also natural treatments for depression.  One of these includes making changes in your diet in order to have a positive impact on your mood.  While changing your diet to treat depression is a natural remedy, it will also benefit your overall health.  For some people, this is the best solution in terms of their personal needs and preferences.

The Importance of an Accurate Diagnosis

If you think that you might have the symptoms of depression, you need to be diagnosed by a doctor. Even if you prefer to try a natural approach to treating your symptoms, such as making a change in your diet, it is important to have an evaluation to rule out other medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.  Making a decision to eat healthier is always a good idea whether you have depression or not. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation.

  • Depressed mood
  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low self-esteem, a feeling of worthless that persists
  • A significant weight loss or gain within a short period of time
  • Frequent feelings of fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Insomnia or sleeping excessively
  • Lack of pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Thoughts of suicide

Problems with Medication as a Treatment for Depression

There are many medications that are readily available to treat depression.  However, for many people the use of medication is not the best option. Not all medicines work the same on all individuals. What helps one person may actually make another person worse. Potential side effects can be a significant concern.  All medications carry a risk of side effects, which may be intolerable for some individuals.

Another reason that some people aren’t good candidates for drug therapy is that they are already taking medications for other conditions.  These medications may interact with an antidepressant. This is especially true for elderly individuals.  Seniors are more likely to suffer from depression and also more likely to have other conditions which require medication.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers may have clinical depression or post-partum depression.   They often are not good candidates for taking antidepressants because of the risk to their unborn child or nursing baby.  Medications can be transferred via the mother’s blood to the fetus or from her breast milk to her nursing infant.  For these women, using natural methods to control depression is often a better alternative if possible.

Changing your Diet to Aid with Depression

There is no single diet that has been proven to help with depression. However, the results of a study performed by the University of Melbourne in Australia suggested a “Whole Diet” might be beneficial.¹ This particular diet is comprised primarily of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meat, and fish. The study also found that those who ate a typical Western diet, containing high amounts of processed foods along with saturated fats, were more likely to develop depression.

The results of this study suggest that what many professionals recommend in terms of foods that help depression are inaccurate.  The Whole Diet is a healthier diet for individuals with depression.  It provides much needed nutrients and eliminates those ingredients that may contribute to or cause depression, but which can cause other health conditions as well.

One problem with the Whole Diet is that high quality meats – such as beef from grass fed, free range cattle not treated with growth hormones or antibiotics – are recommended. These are often difficult to come by in the United States. One benefit of these meats is that good quality red meat contains generous amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression.

Although there is little evidence to show that any single component of a diet will serve as an effective treatment for depression, there is evidence that eliminating certain foods from your diet can have a profound effect. According to a study at the University College London, those individuals who eat processed foods are much more likely to develop depression than those who eat a whole food diet.²

The connection between diet and depression seems to be similar to that of diet and other conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Even though the mechanism may not be understood, it makes good sense that eating healthy can help prevent depression. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that help fight all types of illness.  Additionally, many different types of nutrients help enhance brain function.

Include Other Natural Remedies to Enhance Dietary Benefits

There is never a bad reason to eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This is also true of dieting to treat depression. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to changing your diet in order to get results. Other actions you can take to help reduce symptoms of depression include exercising regularly, taking certain supplements, and learning techniques to help you relax and control negative thoughts. Even if you make the decision to take medications to treat your depression, eating a whole diet is a great way to get better results and improve your overall health!

¹ WebMD, Depression and Diet


² BBC News, Depression link to processed food, November 2, 2009



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