Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
19 Oct

Dear Mark: Depression Diet?

pastryI occasionally get emails from readers who are interested in lifestyle changes that can either complement or replace their conventional treatments for depression. Since our post a few weeks ago on antidepressants, I’ve gotten a slew of emails asking me about the role of nutrition in mental health. In response I thought I’d devote a Dear Mark to the general question of diet and depression. Thanks to all who wrote in or commented on the boards or forum!

It comes as no surprise that nutrition directly impacts brain performance just as it does the functioning of every other organ. Although the roots of clinical depression involve a complex (and theoretically contentious) mix of physiological, genetic and socio-emotional factors, the physical picture hones in on neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that travel between nerves in the brain. Of all the neurotransmitters, the key players in mood disorders are dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. When we talk about a diet that supports mental health, we’re essentially looking at nutrition that sustains both optimal neurological functioning and hormone balance.

Although it’s not commonly discussed as such, depression is an inflammatory condition. Current research emphasizes the underlying role of inflammation as a cause for both depression itself and the neurodegenerative symptoms seen in those with depression. Researchers have found that people with clinical depression show elevated levels of inflammation biomarkers. Furthermore, risk factors for depression include conditions linked to inflammatory response such as low omega-3 levels, leaky gut, and late pregnancy/postpartum rise in cytokines. Conventional anti-depressant medications, not surprisingly, have anti-inflammatory effects.

Of course, I support an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle through the Primal Blueprint model for optimum physical and mental health. Not surprisingly, there’s a strong link between depression and insulin resistance. Although researchers are still probing the chicken versus the egg concept on this, they know that many depressed individuals are carb-addicted. Carbs, of course, raise the level of serotonin, one of the mood-related neurotransitters. The glucose spike offers a quick feel-good fix, but it also contributes to the overall problem when the effect wears off. The carb ascent and inevitable descent become a chronic crash and burn roller coaster ride – for mental energy and hormone levels. In addition, the constant carb intake further fuels inflammation, which only exacerbates the physiological problem.

A diet that supports mental health should do four key things:

  1. Limit inflammation inducers
  2. Include anti-inflammatory substances
  3. Prioritize antioxidants to counter oxidative stress
  4. Contain the essential building blocks for neurotransmitter synthesis

Cutting out grains and limiting carbohydrates to beneficial sources (fruit and veggies) will help maintain hormonal homeostasis and will keep further inflammation at bay. It’s also important to eat a clean diet, which will minimize environmental toxins that can stimulate the body’s inflammatory response. Of course, I would especially suggest a healthy dose of omega-3s each day to fight existing inflammation. Keep your diet as close to the 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 as possible, and include an omega-3 supplement as added insurance. (Experts have known for years now that fish oil is an effective therapy for depression.) Eat copious amounts and a wide variety of vegetables and low-glycemic fruits for maximum antioxidant and mineral power. Research publicized last week highlighted the Mediterranean diet as a means to decrease risk of depression. The researchers believed that the combined prevalence of omega-3 fatty acids and high antioxidant power of olive oil, fruits and vegetables served as integrative protective factors. Other studies have highlighted the positive impact of minerals (like selenium, chromium, and magnesium) on mental functioning and mood. Furthermore, make sure you include plenty of quality protein in your diet. Amino acids are vital precursors to neurotransmitters.

In addition to a solid, PB-style diet, I’d suggest a good overall supplement to fill in dietary gaps, counteract the effects of modern toxins and stress, and boost intake levels of several key nutrients especially tied to mental energy and neurotransmitter balance. Neurological functioning is supported by a whole web of nutrients, including the amino acids and minerals mentioned above as well as the B-vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D just to name a few. A quality supplement will enhance your overall nutritional profile and make sure you’re covered consistently day to day.

There are other aspects to the Primal Blueprint lifestyle that will have “anti-depressive” effects. In the past we’ve discussed how Chronic Cardio increases systemic inflammation, and the importance of low level aerobic exercise (walking), play, quality sleep and regular exposure to sunlight for mental health. This is what makes the Primal Blueprint so unique in the health and fitness world: all behaviors work synergistically to promote the kind of gene expression we desire.

Finally, a good diet that supports mental health, let me say, offers powerful protective and therapeutic factors. Nonetheless, it’s not a panacea. People with depressive symptoms should discuss comprehensive treatment options with their doctors and other care providers.

Let me know what you think. In the meantime, thanks for the great questions, and keep ‘em coming!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have also noticed reduced mood swings since switching to PB. I also take a chromium supplement, which has done wonders for my depression. I was suprised at what an easy fix it was!

    Lulabelle wrote on October 19th, 2009
  2. Coincidentallly I will be posting about this later today. Food is our #1 drug and effects our entire body chemistry. Anyone who thinks that diet doesn’t effect mental health is just plain hopped up on carbs!

    HIIT Mama wrote on October 19th, 2009
  3. The dietary changes most definitely made a difference in my mental well-being. I was an inflammatory disaster in my previous life.

    Grok wrote on October 19th, 2009
  4. Another piece of evidence linking health (of the body and the mind) with diet…

    So a lean, thin, active and energetic person is less likely to be depressed… and less likely to overeat or be insulin resistant…

    Yavor wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • So they say but I am lean and fairly active and I struggle with depression constantly…. PB and supplements definitely help though.

      Mary wrote on January 6th, 2012
    • I have been thin all my life and lead an active mountain lifestyle, and yet I have had struggles with depression since high school. I have found some help through diet, exercise, and meditation, but I’m on a quest to find a personal “blueprint” to keep bouts of severe depression at bay. Thanks for the article.

      Mandyloo wrote on September 6th, 2012
  5. My wife reports (and I can verify!) that her cycle-related mood-swings (especially the irritability) have become much more moderate since moving closer to a primal lifestyle.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on October 19th, 2009
  6. I personally find the lower carb I go the better I feel, obviously due to not suffering carb crashes. It’s actually 6 weeks today since I got off Fluoxetine and on the whole I’ve been ok.

    Good article Mark. I often tell the girl who sits opposite me in work (who is always depressed, on anti depressents and moaning about it) about the importance of diet, as well as CBT. Instead of listening she sits there eating banana after banana, orange after orange (I’ve never seen her eating nuts or anything with fats) – the irony is that she thinks a fruit binge is healthy and cannot seem to understand fully what I am telling her about sugar crashes from fructose.

    I’m not calling bananas + oranges the devil as they have plenty of benefits but they do also contain a lot of fructose.

    I’ll print this off tomorrow and maybe try to simplify it further.

    Thanks for touching on this subject as it’s very relevant in my life right now.
    Andy

    Andy Meacock wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • About bananas and oranges… people often assume fructose is the sugar in fruits. Did you know bananas have more glucose than fructose? And cantaloupes contain mostly SUCROSE as their sugar content? People need to know that there are some fruits that have primarily fructose, such as apples, but that there are plenty of fruits that have little to no fructose and are primarily sources of glucose and sucrose. So just because it’s a fruit, doesn’t mean you are eating fructose. You could be eating naturally occurring table sugar and/or pure glucose and not know it.

      Meg wrote on October 20th, 2009
      • Interesting where do you get your info from? Do you have a food recommodation for sport? sorry for the language.

        Wout wrote on October 21st, 2009
      • Sorry, Meg, that’s wrong. And sucrose is just a double sugar of 50% each fructose and glucose. Per USDA one medium banana has 5.72 grams of fructose and 5.88 of glucose. Additionally, there is another 2.82 grams of sucrose, which is, of course essentially 50-50 fructose and glucose.

        Most common fruits, in my research experience, are about 1:1 fructose and glucose once the sucrose is accounted for.

        Apples, an exception, are about 2:1 fructose:glucose once the sucrose is accounted for.

        OnTheBayou wrote on October 21st, 2009
  7. Eliminate grains. Doing so has done wonders for my mental state.

    Patrik wrote on October 19th, 2009
  8. Silly me I rushed my post. When refering to my work colleague I mentioned that carbs cause her sugar crashes. Of course, they also cause inflamation also.

    I just wanted to stress that I’m aware of that before someone corrects me! haha.

    The reason I stressed sugar crashes is because she is very up and down throughout the day. I worry for her insulin resistance as there’s little fat in her diet, she’s overweight and binging on fructose. It’s sad, again I’ll show her this article.

    Andy

    Andy Meacock wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • And be sure to tell her that those oranges she is eating have more sucrose than either glucose or fructose, and that the bananas are also higher in glucose than fructose. Most people think fruit is all fructose, when for many fruits, sucrose(yes the same as table sugar) and/or glucose make up the bulk of the sugars in the fruit.

      Meg wrote on October 20th, 2009
      • See above, Meg.

        OnTheBayou wrote on October 21st, 2009
  9. Great post, Mark. I read something similar in the Schwartzbein Principle books(by Diana Schwartzbein MD). While Dr S allows for too many carbs she also discusses the relationship with insulin, depression and horomones. A healthy diet (ie the PB) is essential for maintaining balance. I’m not sure it will alleviate all depression but it will certainly make a huge positive difference in anyone formerly on a SAD, or a high-carb, low protein, vegetarian diet(like I was for years!)

    marci wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Marci– Your comment peaked my interest. I’m a long-time vegetarian who is starting to rethink her ways. Could you tell me a little more about your experience? My thrust is always to be healthy above all, and I’ll admit I am partially motivated by animal ethics, but feel that organic and free range might be doable (and of course sustainably fished and relatively safe, i.e. low incidence of contaminants like mercury). What were your experiences in regards to hormones, weight and depression, and how did you move to a PB diet? I’m not sure I can dive in steak first, but want to consider this approach. Thanks!

      Jennifer wrote on October 19th, 2009
      • Jennifer- email me at marcibrennan@yahoo.com and I will be happy to share!
        I heart this site, it’s been such a giantic help in my transition to the best health possible (and I was veg for 20+ yrs) The other night I made a nice chicken curry and thought “why did I ever give this up?” lol

        marci wrote on October 20th, 2009
  10. I have really severe moodiness from PMS. It affects my whole family. I would love to make the move to becoming completely PB, but my husband thinks it’s extreem. Plus, I weigh 125 lbs and am 5’9″. I don’t want to get any skinnier – I can eat what ever I want in the weight catagory but too much bread makes me feel hungover and depressed the next day. How to I battle the husband and the weight loss?

    Kristen wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • The trick is to eat lots and lots of fat. It’s unlikely that fat will make you gain weight – it has no effect on insulin – but it will probably keep you from losing any. Ketosis (fat-burning metabolism) has positive effects on brain and nervous system function – to the point where Alzheimer’s patients improve on cognitive tests and children with severe epilepsy are sometimes *cured*. I don’t know if that means that it will help with PMS, but I have a similar profile to you and my period-related moodiness definitely seems less severe on a ketogenic primal diet.

      Icarus wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Husband is easy tell him it will help with your PMS. What man can argue with that reason.

      If you are already “thin” you will prob gain a bit of muscle without even trying. Or try staying of the scale.

      If you are in a better mood, have more energy, living easier what does it matter what the scale says.

      chima_p wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Divorce the hubby and date a PB’er!

      OnTheBayou wrote on October 21st, 2009
    • Give it strict go for 2 months – you will be amazed at the difference. I started the Zone diet 13 years ago – and my PMS went away totally the next cycle. I have adjusted the protein carb ratio to work better for me – less carbs and bit more mainly monounsturated fat, but I have removed legumes, grains and dairy about 4 months ago – and the results are way more consistant. Even premenopausal cycle changes (longer bleeding) has reversed.

      With regards to menstrual pain which I had really badly – Omega 3 around 2000mg EPA+DHA made a massive improvement. Helped with the PMS as well.

      Julianne wrote on October 21st, 2009
    • Hi there, I also suffer from PMS depression and anxiety. I am looking into PB as not only a healthy move, but a way to combat this. Have you tried going completely PB yet? I am curious to know if the PB diet is helping you.

      KatePickett wrote on December 25th, 2009
  11. 7 Best brain foods: Eggs, Berries, Dark Leafy Greens, Fish, Nuts, Dark Chocolate, and (weirdly enough) Mustard.

    Cherie wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • mustard is a good source of selenium:)

      jessica wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Is that mustard the condiment or mustard greens? The former is just seed with vinegar, so I doubt if that’s the case. Seeds are not our friends.

      I’m betting it’s greens, which ARE in incredible source of many nutrients including great omega ratios.

      OnTheBayou wrote on October 21st, 2009
  12. I agree that nutrition is a component of mental health. That being said, however, I would be wary of stating anything too absolutely. Level of depression vary greatly and people’s preferences and body chemistry are very different. Some people do great on PB, while others might feel deprived and depressed.

    Also, to some degree this post makes it sound like being depressed is the depressed person’s fault…that if they “would just do x,y,z” they wouldn’t be depressed. Anyone who has ever suffer from any sort of severe/chronic depression would take offense to that…

    D wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Mark very specifically tried to avoid that impression.

      Diet CAN be a factor in depression, especially mild. It is not THE cause in serious clinical depression. But as the anecdotal evidence shows, and logical science indicates, no one is helped by a high carb diet.

      OnTheBayou wrote on October 21st, 2009
    • I agree. I eat Paleo (strict), take supplements, exercise, have had acupressure, acupuncture, psychologists, psychiatrists, Chinese medicine, naturopaths, self-help books/tapes, religion, community, meditation, and freakin much more and still get deep bouts of depression fairly often. Ive talked to relatives I didnt grow up around and they experience the same symptoms so its genetic and not any attitude I have or situation I put myself in. Paleo helps with mood swings but depression still crushes me.

      Back2Nature wrote on April 3rd, 2010
      • Hey I’d love to hear back. I can relate, and I’m really interested in what you’re trying.

        Charlie wrote on May 28th, 2011
      • Back2Nature–

        Dr. Mercola is a huge proponent of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). I haven’t gotten around to trying it yet, but I plan to:

        http://www.eftuniverse.com/

        Annie Smyth wrote on June 20th, 2011
  13. One thing I need to mention, I suffered from severe depression for about 2 years due to divorce. This is important, if you are seriously depressed get to a doctor and get on something. LOOK, no one likes being on anti-depressants but you don’t do anyone any good dead or curled in the fetal position. Sometimes you need something to get through the rough spots and this ain’t no game. Just sayin’.

    glorth2 wrote on October 19th, 2009
  14. Amanda Rose has a fabulous new book out “Rebuild From Depression” – while it relates her story with depression during pregnancy and then afterwards, it is entirely based in the science of nutrition. Her book is for sale through her blog: http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/blog/

    jennifer wrote on October 19th, 2009
  15. One thing that frustrates me a great deal wrt depression is how frequently it seems young women go on hormonal birth control and shortly thereafter end up on antidepressants as well, usually prescribed by the exact same practitioner. Obviously not every woman on birth control becomes depressed, but many do…and it does seem to be mediated by funky insulin effects at least in some formulations (commonly used progestin levonorgestrel, for example, has well-documented effects on insulin release and fasting blood sugar levels). It would seem to be basic common sense to me to try a different Pill or even non-hormonal options (a la the copper IUD), but instead it seems far more common to add in a prescription for Lexapro.

    Kim wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • This was my experience. I realized that the emotional effects were actually from a vitamin deficiency that was being caused by my BC (research this if you are interested….there is evidence of this). I started taking a multi-vitamin and I was vastly improved. The pill was literally sucking nutrients out of my body. I’d since decided to go off it because I was having other side effects and the whole thing kind of worried me. I’d recommend the Fertility Awareness Method because it is the most natural with the highest effectiveness rate (if you don’t cheat).

      I wasn’t aware about how much nutrition effects depression. It is hard to get all of our vitamins and minerals, especially with conventionally grown stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lack of vegetables and grass-fed meat in the American diet highly contributes to depression.

      Also, think about how many people overdose on caffeine all day and then are taking sleeping pills in order to sleep and then are eating irregular unhealthy meals and then are taking anti-depressants on top of that. We now how anti-depressant booster prescriptions in case your first one isn’t doing it! There are definite cases where people need medication, but I think we’re just over-medicating things that have simpler, healthier solutions.

      Kara wrote on October 20th, 2009
    • Just as a head’s up, the copper IUD is not without hormonal effects — copper actually interacts with the female reproductive system on a hormonal level. Granted, it’s less extreme than Mirena, but it still isn’t hormone-free. I can dig up sources, but this is something that was discussed in a psychobiology of women class I took.

      There is, however, a non-hormonal in every respect IUD which is available and very popular in Europe, but surprise, surprise, not available in the US.

      Elyse wrote on October 31st, 2011
      • what is the europe non hormonal non copper iud? Sounds worth a flight if it works.

        Dan wrote on September 12th, 2012
  16. I started on my fitness journey (exercising, eating clean) right before my divorce and I tell people all the time that I truly believe that nutrition and physical activity (esp. using primal guidelines) helped propel me through the BS into a healthy mental state of being, where I am now.
    I did it for me, I did it for my kids and I’ll keep doing it it feels so darn good!

    katbarnett16 wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Is it really necessary for you to be in your panties and bra for your avatar?

      Get a clue.

      Jen wrote on March 15th, 2010
      • Ah ha ha! that’s funny, but i think she’s showing an after pic and not really trying to turn you on, jen. :D

        golden wrote on June 14th, 2011
      • Workout outfit? Nike type bikini? Someone clearly worked hard on that physique, & is showing far less than most bikinis. Maybe give her a break, rather than telling her to get a clue?

        Femgrok wrote on August 1st, 2013
  17. I know I feel tons better mentally when I follow a PB-style diet. Even eating just a small cookie can suddenly alter my mood and my attitude in a very negative way. For me this “diet” has definitely been an incredibly potent anti-depressant, and has made a huge positive difference in my life…as long as I can stick with it!

    Tony wrote on October 19th, 2009
    • Tony,

      This is good to hear. I am struggling to get out of a cycle of mania and depression with anxiety I’ve been in pretty much all my life.

      I have already felt how outstanding I can feel … like “the man” from trying this diet out. Only problem for me is I have a hard time staying this way consistently. So I’m looking to learn more so I can get myself through this shit and out on the other side.

      Brian wrote on February 16th, 2013
  18. I’ve never suffered from depression, but I did struggle through several years of feeling superbly miserable and upset. And who is to say why it went away? But I can tell you this. When I look back at my eating patterns, my diet during this down time was conventionally healthy (lots of whole grains, fresh fruit and veg, not too much protein, and barely any fat), and my diet now is predominantly rich animal proteins and fats. I can say with absolute confidence that the transition in my moods matched the gradual change of my diet. And I’ve seen the same thing occur repeatedly with clients; particularly on introducing Omega 3.

    One other thing I’d like to add – whilst hormones and nutrition are incredibly powerful, our minds are also very effective at controlling our moods (I know I’m veering off the topic of full-blown depression, but it is related), and also our ability to break out of downward spiraling patterns.

    For this reason I think it’s crucial to include some form of mental makeover as well as a nutrition/lifestyle makeover. There’s a lot to be said for motivational blogs, texts, audios, or just the company of a trusted and (positively-minded) friend. After all, we are, to a great degree, what we surround ourselves with.

    Kat Eden wrote on October 19th, 2009
  19. I totally agree that what you eat has a major impact on your mental well-being. I have been through depression, but the medication was terrible – it just made me feel ‘nothing’ all the time. So I ditched it, deciding I would rather go through the ups and downs rather than feel nothing at all.

    Since being on the Primal way of eating (17 days now), I have never felt better. Just before changing my eating plan, I was on the way to a downward spiral, and this has now reversed – so much so that I feel absolutely great. This has never happened before – I’ve usually had to get to the bottom (for me) before making my way back to normality. Also (a little off-topic) my period has arrived without the bloating, the headaches, the PMS, the horrendous stomach cramps. This is the first time in my whole adult life.

    I would never say never see a doctor for depression, but I would say that diet can certainly help, in my opinion and experience.

    PrimalK wrote on October 20th, 2009
  20. Nutritional Armor for the Warfighter: Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Enhance Stress Resilience, Wellness, and Military Performance? Although all the videos from this conference are worth watching, those who haven’t time at the moment may start with
    “Omega Fatty Acids and Aggression, Suicide and Psychiatric Distress”
    Joseph R. Hibbeln,

    and the talk 3:30 – 4:00pm
    Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Bleeding and Suicide
    Tomohito Hamazaki

    Given plasma levels of omega 3 are improved within hours but tissue levels take months or even years to change, it is important to stress the value of 2g of OMEGA 3 (total EPA + DHA = 2g) and NOT just 2 x 1g fish oil capsules for everyone with suicide ideation.

    The root cause of the problems, suicide, aggression, homicide, etc is high omega 6 tissue levels but they require long term attention.
    Eventually reducing omega 6 intake by eliminating (industrial vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil, and everything that contains them.) will reduce the need for omega 3 intake but for anyone – everyone with current problems, the immediate value of 2g omega 3 must not be forgotten or delayed.

    Do remember each STANDARD 1g fish oil capsule contains roughly 120mg DHA + 240mg EPA = 0.34g so 6~7 daily but high strength capsules and omega 3 liquid forms are available that reduce the number of capsules required.
    A brand with a total of 750mg EPA+DHA per capsule before each meal would result in 3 x 750= 2.250g daily intake and reduce the immediate risk.

    Ted Hutchinson wrote on October 20th, 2009
    • I should perhaps have added a link to this FREE! Software to Choose Foods This will help you correct your omega 6omega 3 ratio and you will be able to work out the amount of omega 3 supplement required to bring your omega 6 level under control.

      Ted Hutchinson wrote on October 20th, 2009
    • How long until you see results? I take 15 grams of fish oil a day (carlsons) for the last 1.5 months but still get depressed (but maybe not as bad?)

      Back2Nature wrote on April 3rd, 2010
      • The fish oil helps with inflammation and it also helps with the omega 3/6 balance. I’ve read that the balance part can take up to 2 years.

        It depends on what you are eating now and what you were eating. So avoiding omega 6’s can help speed that up a bit.

        The heartscan blog mentions a test that can check the ratio if you want to track progress.

        I hope you are indeed seeing some results from the fish oil – that’s a large dose. Are you taking it throughout the day?

        ATA member wrote on April 4th, 2010
        • Thanks, yeah I take it through the day. 5 tbsp with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was having a rough day yesterday but in reflection I think that it is helping. I usually find it very hard to pull out of my deep moods and they can last weeks/months at a time. Today I feel almost back to “normal” when yesterday I was very very low. Guess that’s a great sign!! 2 years huh…well 2 years are going to pass no matter what so Ill keep supplementing with the fish oil and hope that Im good to go by then.
          P.S I determined that amount through Robb Wolf (another Paleo writer)

          Back2Nature wrote on April 4th, 2010
  21. Although Vitamin D3 was mentioned by Mark we must not forget low vitamin D found in those with impaired executive cognitive function, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

    We also know how Vitamin D activates receptors on neurons in regions implicated in the regulation of behavior, stimulates neurotrophin release, and protects the brain by buffering antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defenses against vascular injury and improving metabolic and cardiovascular function.

    Raising 25(OH)D to above 125nmol/l 25ng/ml improves insulin sensitivity. Most UK adults that will require MORE THAN 3000iu/daily D3

    As up to 10,000iu/daily is considered safe (even in the presence of ample sun) 5000iu ~ 6000iu daily would ensure levels are raised to above 60ng/ml 150nmol/l that is associated with lower incidence of inflammatory conditions and enables human breast milk to flow replete with vitamin D3 which would surely have occured in primal societies.

    There is now ample evidence that low vitamin D level is a risk factor for neuropsychiatric disorders.
    Vitamin D acts as a neurosteroid with direct effects on brain development, so it isn’t surprising if Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy impairs maternal and fetal outcomes.

    Ted Hutchinson wrote on October 20th, 2009
  22. When reading ‘The Great Cholesterol Con’ by Malcolm Kendrick I was struck by the stats on suicide and cholesterol levels. For example, this study (Association of low serum total cholesterol with major depression and suicide).

    I think it’s quite hard to achieve the levels of cholesterol associated with depression without being put on statins, but nevertheless to me it indicates possible risks to mental health of very low fat diets.

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on October 20th, 2009
    • It’s not the low cholesterol causing the depressiong, it’s the depressiong and the physical and dietary apathy causing the low cholesterol.

      Niklas wrote on October 21st, 2009
  23. I think you can say that it can help improve mood but not necessarily that it cures depression. They are two very different things.

    D wrote on October 20th, 2009
  24. I am a young adult (19) who suffers from depression. I have had several bouts of it in the past couple of years, and I must say…medication does not work.

    From most things I’ve read, it is almost certainly a placebo.

    What DID help me was basically the Primal Blueprint style of eating…fruits, vegetables, nuts, and protein. Now I feel like a normal person. (:

    Honestly, I think some of depression IS the affected person’s fault. For example, you feel bad, so you irresponsibly carb binge. The source of it may not be your fault, but if you don’t pay attention, you can definitely exacerbate it.

    That’s just my $.02…

    h wrote on October 23rd, 2009
  25. I’ve come out of a lot of my depression when I changed to paleo and then later PB. It wasn’t an overnight process or even a monthly process, but when I look back, it’s clear that I’m much more happier than I was last year.

    Could it be my diet? More than likely. I haven’t changed anything else but my food choices and exercise habits plus supplements. Adding fats back into my diet and switching over from 80% carbs to 80% fats felt the best. No more insulin spikes either which contributed to that “I don’t want to do anything” feeling.

    The biggest change is that I feel like going out and have the energy to go out now.

    paleo_piper wrote on October 23rd, 2009
    • I’m another “I think paleo/PB helped me out of depression” person. Some may be due to getting lots of Vitamin D this summer, which is of course, part of PB.

      But, paleo, really, 80% carbs? All kinds of health issues are noted as appearing with 60-70% carb diets. That’s typical of very poor people.

      You are lucky you are alive……and not depressed!

      OnTheBayou wrote on October 23rd, 2009
  26. Being tired, depressed moody grumpy and irritable can also be a symptom of gluten sensitivity. Dr Rodney Ford lists these amongst the many symptoms that people come to his clinic with. As 10% of people have gluten syndrome swtiching to Paleo eating will cut out a food group that is making at least 10% feel chronically out of sorts.

    http://www.drrodneyford.com/index.php/Table/Gluten-Syndrome/

    Julianne wrote on October 23rd, 2009
  27. About a year ago, when I was vegan, I was often either depressed, over anxious, or just plain grouchy. Ever since I added meat back to my diet (in large amounts, about a pound of meat and sometimes up to 6 eggs a day plus I eat %65 animal fat and fish fat, 25% protein and 10% carbs) and eat around 50 carbs a day, from veggies and fruit, with the occasional 88% dark chocolate, my mood is generally on the lighter side. I find that I’m just happier and more likely to joke with people and not take the hard things so hard. I once took antidepressants, but now I’m sure I’ll never need them again, funny how that just sorted itself out when I went back to the true original human diet. I love it! :)

    Liana wrote on October 23rd, 2009
  28. Yet another primal poster child chiming in here. I’ve been fully primal for 40 days now. There’s been a huge alleviation of my depression. My energy level has improved dramatically (I had such little energy, I was seriously wondering if I had chronic fatigue syndrome or MS or even cancer). I have zero desire to binge eat. My GERD (acid reflux) (so bad I was bolt upright in the middle of the night with acid in my mouth) was completely gone in less than 2 weeks. My restless leg syndrome (awful stuff) is gone. I started my period and didn’t even notice, whereas before I’d clear my schedule and lay in bed as much as possible. I am losing weight — just bought new underwear a size smaller. I have no desire to eat junk of any sort and no cravings. THANK YOU, MARK!

    Ginger wrote on October 25th, 2009
  29. Since I was a sophomore in high schools, my weight never changed. It stayed between 162 and 165 pounds (I’m 6’0″ tall). It never changed up or down. I just turned 50 and have always been active. However, about six months ago I noticed my pants were getting tight. I got on the scale (which I never do) and realized that I weighted 172 pounds. At about that same time, one of my friends told me about the Primal Blueprint. I thought it made a lot of sense so I bought the book and read it. I’ve now been primal for four weeks and have lost 10 pounds and an inch off my waste. I’m back to where I was. Not only that, I no longer have those energy highs and lows in the mornings and afternoons that I used to have. I’m a huge believer!!

    Tom wrote on October 25th, 2009
  30. has anyone noticed mood effects from chocolate (eaten only occasionally, of course) I’ve read it can cause moods to rise and then fall.

    WSB wrote on October 25th, 2009
    • Go for cocoa or dark chocolate. It’s awesome. I’ve been on a cocoa binge recently, as much as I can reasonably afford, mixing it with water and drinking/eating it that way. It also tastes good mixed in water with a bit of licorice powder and it’s delicious stirred up with a bit of raw honey and bee pollen. I think it has improved my mood and energy levels in the last few days. I’m reading a book now called Training Your Brain (and there’s another that seems basically the same called Keep Your Brain Sharp and the authors strongly recommend eating dark chocolate (though I hypothesise pure cocoa is probably better).
      Here’s a bit of a summary/plagiarism.
      Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which decreases coagulation in the blood, thus improving blood flow.
      Dark chocolate contains (monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOs) that allow the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain to remain higher for longer, alleviating depression and producing feelings of well-being. Later on they say it also contains anandamide and the MAOs increase your anandamide levels.
      Dark chocolate is one of the richest sources of flavonol antioxidants. These clean up your system and also decrease coagulation on your blood stream. One of these is called epicatechin.
      Dark chocolate contains theobromine (as does tea), which is similar to caffeine but safer. It’s prescribed to lower blood pressure. It causes alpha brain waves which in turn cause relaxed alertness and heightened creativity.
      Dark chocolate makes you produce endorphins.

      Animanarchy wrote on January 6th, 2012
    • In my experiences chocolate is a mixed bag. Has these attributes yes, and it also has strong alkaloids that would be more medicinal than nutritional like blueberries and broccoli. With chocolate I get addicted to it and over eat it… even 100% cacao with nothing added.

      I’ve gone back and forth on it in a cycle of binge and then stop. Especially when I stick with the diet cravings for fruits, coffee, stimulants, and chocolate come up strong… like golum in the lord of the rings.

      Brian wrote on February 16th, 2013
  31. I have anxiety, cyclothymia and depression. It’s really hard because I’m only thirteen and I often feel like I shouldn’t have to deal with these things. I have to keep reminding myself of all the people who have it worse. But I am dealing with it. I think haha.

    Jesse wrote on November 1st, 2009
  32. Please Jesse, don’t buy in the “I’m too young to deal with this” line of thought. The truth is you’re a young man and life is made of challenges and the sooner one understands this the better the happier he will be in life.

    There’s nothing beautiful or fulfilling in the crappy youth pop-culture they try to pass as the best way of life for a young person. And parents who think their kids can really learn about life and making good choice by being oppressed and sheltered till major age are doing a huge disservice to these young people.

    The artificial world in which many parents force their children to live might be sanitized, might entail less problems but it’s fake and feel fake and lacks the humanity and opportunity a kid needs. The real world might be a bit more cruel but it’s also more beautiful and more fulfilling: the things you can do, the people you can meet.

    Dealing with your problems is making you a more mature and sensitive person and because of this your like and your opportunities to enojoy life will be a lot more than if you had a lived an MTV youth lifestyle.

    Please focus on healthy eating because my depression started at age 6 and there was time in elementary school I didn’t even had the energy to lift my school bag. I would get back from school at 2 pm, throw the bag againt the wardrobe and collapse in the bed sleeping till 8 pm. But believe me I enjoyed being a mature kid and not a childish brat, I discovered lot of things and learned about the beautiful complexity of life from a young age. Anyway, eating an healthy diet helped me tremendously and improved my depression by 99%.

    Niklas wrote on November 1st, 2009
  33. Hi thanks a lot for a perceptive post, I actually found your blog by mistake while looking on Goole for something else closely related, anyhow before i ramble on too much i would just like to state how much I enjoyed your post. I have bookmarked your site and also taken your RSS feed. Once Again thanks for the blog post keep up the good work.

    Gregory Despain wrote on November 8th, 2009
  34. Hi cheers for an incisive post, I really found your blog by mistake while looking on Goole for something else closely related, in any event before i ramble on too much i would just like to say how much I enjoyed your post. I have bookmarked your site and also taken your RSS feed. Once Again thanks for the blog post keep up the great work.

    Joyce wrote on November 8th, 2009
  35. Just curious if anyone else has read about this. Even low-carb how-to pages are saying you may feel a bit sluggish and blue while avoiding carbs. They are essential to our mental health.

    Kate wrote on December 16th, 2009
    • Well, there’s no reason to avoid carbs
      I think it makes sense to have enough carbs as your brain requires because otherwise you will be converting proteins to carbs and it sounds like a waste. There are people who feel indeed depressed if they go too low on carbs (or too soon) The solution is to be low carb but not extremely or to slowly approach a low-carb diet rather than overnight but decreasing your carb intake 10 grams by 10 grams day by day or week by week

      Niklas wrote on December 16th, 2009
    • Unless one is only eating meat and fat, carbs are pretty hard to avoid entirely. PB doesn’t advocate just meat and fat.

      On the other hand, the bits of grains that may aid in mental health are those B vitamins that are found in liver and other organ meats. So I would argue that you could theoretically go zero carb provided you ate sufficient organ meats to compensate.

      Moreover, I would argue with the “we need carbs” mantra. Our metabolic pathways are quite capable of converting protein and fats to glucose – though it takes longer than using glycogen. Our brains function pretty well on ketone bodies as well as glucose – it just needs to have a high enough level of ketone bodies in the bloodstream in order to make that shift.

      Jennifer wrote on December 16th, 2009
  36. I have seen read many, many articles linking diet, exercise and depression, that as diet and exercise improve, so does depression. However, I have rarely, if ever, read anything about bi-polar, another type of mood disorder. Sure, proper diet and exercise could help anyone feel better, but would it potentially heal someone of bi-polar?

    Sarah HI wrote on November 16th, 2010
  37. @Sarah HI
    would it potentially heal someone of bi-polar
    I have a bi-polar diagnosis.
    I find (though I accept some readers may detect signs of manic obsessive behaviour in my posting style at times) that reasonable control of bi-polar through diet/lifestyle changes is possible.

    It takes a lot longer than you may think though.
    I think if you start now by eliminating omega 6 seed oils orn, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed oil and all the commercially prepared foods that contain them, it could be 5yrs before the full effect of continuous omega 6 industrial seed oil avoidance is felt.
    Attaining and maintaining a 25(OH)D vitamin D level around 50~60ng/ml takes time and persistence and regular testing initially.
    The gluten syndrome: a neurological disease. I think wheat (and possibly gluten) avoidance may help many people with depression.
    I think we also have to consider the role of gut flora on mental illness. There is useful talk here for those who are new to this idea.
    The Gut-Brain Connection: An Inside Look at Depression
    I know it’s hard for anyone whose mind is constantly racing and on overdrive to appreciate that that can change but the brain does need down time to heal properly and I have found improving sleep quality, flux free monitor dimming software use of BRIGHT LIGHT early morning and spending at least an hour outdoors when it brightest and time release melatonin early evening helps me.

    I also supplement with magnesium daily and usually add magnesium chloride (dead sea salts) to bathwater, I find it helps going to sleep. (Epsom Salts magnesium sulphate also works)

    There is plenty of research supporting the use of exercise to help mood disorders for me Though this has never been an option for me

    So yes I think if you have a plan and take the time to understand how managing sleep, diet, rest and exercise can influence your mood swings, you may be able to control the condition reasonably though I’m not yet convinced a “cure” is possible. I still need to work on improving my ability to relax, reflect, meditate and improve the way I relate to others.

    Perhaps if I stayed off the red wine for longer I’d do better?

    But it seems to me if you want your brain/gut to function properly then you have to deal with chronic inflammation and that means correcting common deficiency status in basic anti inflammatory essentials like vitamin D, Omega 3 and magnesium (and some others).

    Ted Hutchinson wrote on November 17th, 2010
  38. I don’t do the antidepressants because I know how horrible they are, but I am filing for SSDI and the attorney said they are going to want to see that I have been on prescriptions meds trying to get well, and they won’t accept my lifestyle choice of using only natural medicine and foods and acupuncture and chiropractic. They want me to use pharmaceuticals and see a “medical doctor”. How can they do that?

    Tricia B wrote on September 13th, 2011
  39. Don’t forget Turmeric. I started taking it to get rid of a lipoma and the spice ended up improving my mood greatly after a week. I then did a google search and it turns out Turmeric is a fantastic anti-inflammatory spice and also increases BDNF (brain fertilizer). Oh and it also does seem to shrink the lipoma. I believe the lipoma is half the size after 3-4 weeks.

    Mark wrote on February 24th, 2012
    • HI, how much tumeric were you taking? Sounds like a good, easy idea to try.

      Berry wrote on March 25th, 2012

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