Part One: Nutritional Therapy in the Treatment of Depression

This past semester, I took a course called Mood Disorders where we explored all facets of Depression. Honestly, I have never learned more in a college class than I learned in this one. I can only imagine what it’s like living with a disease that is so crushing and that doctors don’t have answers for.

 I believe in holistic health and wellness. In my term paper I wanted to explore how nutrition can play a role in the treatment of depression.  

As a disclaimer, I DO NOT think simply modifying the diet can “cure” depression. Depression is an incredibly complex disease, not to be taken lightly. I do believe there is efficacy in nutritional therapy for the treatment and prevention of depression. This will be a two part series.

Part One

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

The father of modern medicine was on to something by making this statement.  Hippocrates believed that mental illness was cause by imbalanced bodily fluid. He believed melancholia, or what we now call depression, was cause by too much black bile. To treat it, he utilized blood-letting, bathing, exercise and diet. We all know that good nutrition correlates to a healthy body. I firmly believe that nutrition also plays a critical role in mental health and that there could be efficacy in using nutritional therapy in the treatment of depression.

Referencing a Greek philosopher in the context of treating modern day depression may seem rudimentary. However, the fact that 2500 years later, depression is the leading cause of disability, with more than 300 million people living with the disease worldwide (WHO, 2017) suggests that we have not made all that much progress in terms of finding a treatment for depression.

What is Depression?

After taking the Mood Disorders course, I have learned that depression is an incredibly insidious disease, and it is a disease that as a medical and psychological community, we still know very little about. We have hypotheses  but, there are no concrete answers as to how to go about preventing and treating the disease. There are so many variables that could be involved in the etiology of depression.

Some biological theories of the disease include abnormalities in genes, hormones and neurochemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. There are theories that too much, too little or even variations of any given neurochemical cause depression. There is also a theory that prolonged hypercortisolism due to stress impairs the HPA system leading to decreased hippocampal volume which is seen in depressed patients. Then again, it is also unclear if some people are born with a smaller hippocampus and leads to depression.

As you can see, there are multiple conflicting theories in the realm of biology (and I only mentioned a few theories and causal factors) on causal factors of depression. Depression becomes even more complex when looking at psychological causal factors.  There are multiple cognitive vulnerabilities associated with depression such as the helplessness and hopelessness theories, which are associated with a negative attribution styles. Behaviorally, excessive negative affect and neuroticism link to depression. There are theories on stressful life events causing depression. Interpersonal factors such as low social support may also help to promote and maintain depression.

Treatment Options

Effectiveness of treatments for depression is another area full of unknowns. Medication and therapy are the two most popular treatment options. There are no guarantees that any one medication will work for an individual, and deciding which medication to prescribe is essentially an educated guess by the physician. In most cases, a patient will go through multiple medications to find one that works for them. I also firmly believe that medication should not be used as a stand-alone treatment. They must always be coupled with talk therapy of some type.

Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in preventing relapses after the patient discontinues drug therapy (Fava et al, 1998). Medication may treat the symptoms of depression, but therapy addresses the root of the disease and therefor can be effective in sustaining recovery. Taking antidepressants is like taking pain medication when you have a broken bone. It will not fix the break, but it will relieve the pain until you can go to the doctor the get the bone set- like going to therapy. If  the bone is not set, it will definitely cause problems down the road. If someone forgoes therapy and chooses to only take antidepressants, the likelihood that they will relapse is very high.

Food as Medicine

I believe that nutrition can play a key role in preventing depression and aid in the treatment of those currently diagnosed with the disease. As I have stated, the prevalence of depression is extremely high. As of 2014, in the United States, 15.7 million adults had experienced one or more major depressive episodes within the past year (ADAA,2016). These statistics imply that the current treatment options are not effective for all cases of the disease.

For this reason, I believe we need to be looking beyond antidepressants and therapy for treatment and prevention of depression. We need to look deeper into the neurobiology of the disease and come up with alternative treatment options. It is well established that poor nutrition leads to a multitude of physical ailments. It only makes sense that diet also plays a critical role in mental health.  I would like to address the role of nutrition in the treatment and prevention of depression.

Sources

ADAA. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression

Fava, G.A., Rafanelli, C., Grandi, S., Conti, S., & Belluardo, P. (1998). Prevention of recurrent depression with cognitive behavioral therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55, 816-820.

 

Part two coming soon. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 

Linking up with Amanda at Running With Spoons for Thinking Out Loud

Health for Me Looks Different Than Health For You

I used to think health was one size fits all. Now, at the ripe old age of 21 (as of two weeks ago-happy birthday to me!), my philosophy has changed and most likely will continue to change as I grow and learn.

I believe that health and wellness is incredibly individualized. I used to gobble up diet and workout advice from magazines and think what worked for such and such fitness model would work for me. Oh how wrong I was.

My body is not your body, yours is not mine. We are so incredibly unique, from the hair on our heads to the bacteria in our guts. Unless you are an identical twin, your DNA is unique to you. And even if you are a twin, your needs are still your own.

What is Health?

I think the rough framework of “health” is something most humans should model- eat wholesome foods, move your body, get plenty of sleep and drink your H20.

That is a very vague outline, and it is up to us as individuals to fill in the details for what works for us and our bodies. That’s the hard part- figuring out what your body needs, and listening to it!

Listening to Your Body

I am currently still in the process of learning my body’s unique needs and, the real kicker, honoring those needs. After 6 years of denying my body of the food it was begging for, and running it into the ground exercising, I have done some damage to the relationship I have with my body. You should be in sync with your body, not a separate entity from it. Your mind, body and soul work together to be a whole. As children, we are all born this way, but for a lot of us, the bonds get severed as we grow and adopt false beliefs about ourselves or how we should treat our selves.

It is a journey to truly listen to what your body is telling you, without letting those false, learned “rules” sneak in to question your intuition. Trust your body, and it will it will start to trust you again.

One of the biggest tips I have for rekindling that bond is to stop comparing yourself to others. Just because the “fit” girl on Instagram is having a giant acai bowl for breakfast doesn’t mean you have to. If your body is craving a salad for lunch but your friend orders a burger, you should honor your craving as your friend should honor hers.

Stop comparing your body to others. Love it and treat it with respect. This is something I am working on and it is definitely a learning process. It may take time to understand what your body needs and get those instinctive cues back. For now, just do the next right thing. Eat whole some foods, but also go out for froyo. Exercise, but get enough rest days in. Talk kindly to your body, don’t tear it down with “fat talk.”

Healthy looks different on everyone, to compare is to despair. When you begin to honor your body you will thrive. Your health is your greatest wealth. 

Channeling My Inner Fashionista

Where are my fashion-challenged ladies at?

Well I feel ya, I am very much a workout clothes inside and outside the gym kind of girl. I can seriously do some damage on athletic clothing- and shoes! However, the truth is I do really like fashion and enjoy dressing up and looking girly.

Part of my problem is I hate shopping. Like strongly dislike it. I can handle about an hour and a half of shopping and then I feel overwhelmed- too many clothes! I need a “goal” when I go shopping like, “I am looking for a grey v-scoop neck shirt,” or “I need to find a dress for x event.”

My biggest dilemma is I just don’t know what to buy to be able to put together an outfit. I like to buy pieces that I think I could style multiple ways. However, I tend to have trouble putting outfits together in my brain.

That is where today’s post comes into play!

Lately, I have been trying to channel my inner fashionista. Pinterest and fashion bloggers are my go to sources for outfit inspiration. I also started to follow LiketoKnowit on Instagram and have found a lot of cute ideas on there. Slowly but surely, I am shopping for some cuter pieces and attempting to put outfits together. Here are some of my favorite ideas lately.

Brittany at Truth or Flares. I love these pants, they are sold out but I have been on the lookout for  a similar pair. Maybe these?

A cute Spring look! Also, no white after Labor Day/before Memorial Day is not a rule in my opinion-especially in Florida!

The white tee and jeans look, with a twist! Caitlin at Southern Curls & Pearls is another blogger I follow for fashion inspiration. I got this white off the shoulder shirt the other day at Express- love it!

Bodysuit and jean short; simple, sexy, sold.

T-shirt dresses in the Summer are a great option too. Super cute stuff at The Mint Julep Boutique by the way!

Finally, what do you think about this bathing suit? Thinking of ordering in maroon. SRRA is a local company, I am all about supporting the young entrepreneur!

Tell me…

Do you like shopping?
Go to Summer outfit?

 

Linking up with Heather for Friday Favorites.

Struggling With Body Image

I want to preface this post by saying that it is darker in mood. Recovery isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. I want to be honest and true to myself by sharing every stage of the journey- because it’s important to be real.  

They say that body image is the last to go in recovery. I don’t know how accurate that statement is for everyone, but for me it definitely holds a lot of truth.

I have been struggling with body image and body dysmorphia these past few weeks. I write posts about reframing the negative thoughts, but in all honesty, it has been hard to practice what I preach.

It started about a week and a half ago after an eventful weekend where many pictures were taken. I saw pictures of myself and the thoughts just started pouring in:

“Your thighs are fucking huge, you need to start running more to get leaner. Just lose 5 pounds, no one will know…”

These thoughts and similar ones have been streaming through my head for almost two weeks. It sucks, and I have been trying to distract myself for a while and push the thoughts away, but that only makes them louder when they do come back.

It’s embarrassing for me to write this, to admit that I think I look fat or am unsatisfied with my body. My thighs in particular bother me. I have been insecure about them since I was a little girl, and throughout the years in my eating disorder and now in recovery, they have been the area of my body that I fixate on in a very negative way.

I know logically I am not fat. I know how much I weigh and the number on the scale tells me that there is no way in hell that at 5’4 and 20 years old that I could ever be fat. In fact, logically I am on the smaller end.

But I just don’t see it. And is scares me.

It scares me that, apparently, I don’t see myself how others see me- for how I really look. It scares me that I can look in a mirror literally minutes apart and see something completely different each time. I feel crazy, which makes it incredibly difficult to talk to others about my body image woes, because they just say I look  “great/beautiful/hot/perfect.” But I just don’t see it.

I had a very good therapy session the other day. We analyzed the pictures together and while it was difficult, I gained a lot of insight from it. I am putting all of my self worth into this tiny area of my body. Not only that, but I am letting this 1% area of my body to ruin my mood. It’s ridiculous!

Finally, I showed her the Instagram account of a woman I look up to, Taylor Chamberlain. She has overcome an eating disorder herself and is now a dietetics grad and a very successful bikini bodybuilder. Her approach to health and fitness is so healthy and her physique is #goals. We have a similar build and I aspire to build a similar physique someday. Anyway… I showed a picture of her to my therapist and said “I think her legs look incredible and would love to have legs like her.” To which my therapist pointed out that this woman’s legs are bigger than mine are- so how is it that I think this woman is so beautiful and I like her legs- but my own legs are “fat.”

See the issue?

It is not about weight or the size of my thighs. It is about accepting myself and knowing that I am enough.

I hold myself to these expectations (in all areas of my life, not just body image) and put ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to “have it all together.” In doing that, I am missing out on the present, and forgetting to be grateful for where I am in the moment. I need to start loving myself right now, and being okay with where I am and trusting that I will get where I want to be.

Thank you for listening to my rambles, I hope it wasn’t too doom and gloom today.

Tell me…

Do you struggle with body image?
What has helped you cope when you are struggling?
And lastly, tell me something you love about yourself!

 

linking up with Thinking out Loud on Amanda’s blog.