Authors: Dr. Dean and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai
Team Sherzai are a unique husband and wife duo dedicated to educating people on the simple steps to long-term health. The Sherzai’s spark change with their influential tools through their work as Directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, at Loma Linda University Medical Center. This power couple have published the well-respected book Alzheimer’s Solution and have recently launched Brain Initiative. In this article, Team Sherzai break down the connection between depression and food, educating why food is medicine and how to prevent the onset of depression through better eating habits.
Clinical depression has become an epidemic that is ravaging our population. We live in a fast paced, hyper connected, stressful society. Pressures are answered with fast food, late nights and poor lifestyle choices. When stuck in the daily rat race, it can often feel like there’s no way out. In an attempt to cure depression, many turn to traditional antidepressants which can leave sufferers dependent or introduce a wide range of side effects.
Evidence suggests that there may be far more sustainable and much less drastic treatment options at our disposal. We may even be able to prevent depression in the first place.
We may even be able to prevent depression in the first place.Team Sherzai
Leading minds in the field have noted that depression could, from an evolutionary standpoint, be a preservation strategy employed by your body. We know that the body flares up with inflammation when it’s faced with the threat of infection. As the bodies become inflamed in response to this foreign threat, it is thought that depression sets in as a strategy to minimize social contact and conserve energy in order to fight the onslaught.
The relationship between mental health and inflammation was noted as far back as 1887, by nobel prize winner Julius Wagner-Jauregg. Over the course of the last 15 years or so, studies have been coming out in support of the link between clinical depression and inflammatory foods.
Can Diet Cause Depression?
There are certain inflammatory markers present in people suffering from depression that point to a considerable link between the two conditions. Also, those diagnosed with inflammatory disorders often report suffering from one or another mood disorder which wasn’t present prior to the onset of the inflammatory condition. Studies have even shown that depression can be induced, simply by inducing inflammation.
It’s interesting to note that the current depression epidemic has arrived hand in hand with the rise of fast food culture. Increasingly, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sugar rich sodas, red meat and margarine slathered white bread are becoming the norm. It’s a culture in which we spare little thought to what we’re putting in our mouths and where every day we consume hazardous, inflammatory foods, in spite of the frantic warnings of nutritionists.
Many of us are consuming foods that are so incredibly unhealthy that our bodies react to them by becoming inflamed. While inflammation is a normal way for the body to react to an assault, the food you eat shouldn’t be triggering this process on a daily basis.
Chronic inflammation is also one of the leading causes of premature aging and degenerative brain processes.
The idea that your body could be reacting to your diet as if it were an infection should give you pause. Don’t pause too long, the good news is that you can take action now to fight depression and improve your physical and mental health. To get you back on track, we recommend an anti-inflammatory focused dietary shift that is educated, therapeutic, and sustainable.
To get you back on track, we recommend an anti-inflammatory focused dietary shift that is educated, therapeutic, and sustainable.Team Sherzai
What is an Anti-inflammatory Diet?
The good news is that this dietary shift needn’t be an impractical or radical one. Look at ancient, traditional, heavily plant-based diets such as those the Mediterranean and Japanese people employ. Simply shifting to a more plant-based diet will provide all the anti-inflammatory super fuel you need to raise your spirits.
The processed foods that lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are the very foods which will send your body into a constant, chronic state of inflammation – a state that is now known to induce mood disorders and clinical depression. If these foods are hazardous to both your physical and mental health, why wouldn’t you want to cut them out from your diet?
Fresh fruit, vegetables rich in vitamins B and D, berries, nuts, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and foods with minimal unsaturated fats will make all the difference. Through diet, you can treat inflammation in the gut and cure depression in the process.
You see, it’s really about a shift from mass-production (that has also decimated the planet) – to a more natural, less produced diet that is optimal for both the body and the brain. It’s a shift to a favorable and more basic culinary mindset, if you will. One that is both healthy and eco-friendly.
Blurring the Line Between Food and Medicine
It’s time you started seeing food as medicine. It shouldn’t be a stretch, considering the fact that everything you eat creates chemical byproducts which trigger, dictate, and regulate the production and release of neurotransmitters.
It’s time you started seeing food as medicine.Team Sherzai
These same neurotransmitters are responsible for your moods and emotions. Some foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables, trigger beneficial and balancing effects. Other foods like refined carbohydrates, red meat, and fried foods can negatively impact these same neurotransmitters.
Like any drug or medicine, every bite of food you swallow directly affects your brain and state of mind.
The past 15 years have also seen a buildup of studies linking the presence of certain “psychobiotic” microbes in the gut to positive mental health. You might better know these microbes as probiotics. They are present in fermented vegetables, kimchi, and kombucha.
These microbe rich nutrition sources are responsible for maintaining healthy gut flora, favorable neurotransmitter production, and nervous system modulation. Foods rich in these probiotic microbes are a sustainable treatment option for combating stress and inflammation induced depression.
Data shows that the most effective way to achieve a healthy gut flora is through a diet rich in grains and vegetables, as well as foods rich in probiotics. A healthy gut means optimal nutrient absorption and the ability to guard against and successfully fight inflammation. We specifically advocate a plant-based diet – stick to your fruit, veg and whole grains for optimal results.
Prevention is the Best Cure
Dietary advice like this is usually offered as a long-term prevention plan for vascular diseases such as stroke and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. More often than not, patients following these prevention plans are happy to notice a diminishing of depressive feelings, enhanced moods and increased mental stamina.
The fact is, prevention is better than cure. I can hardly stress the value of this slogan where mental illness is concerned. Once impacted by an ailment, not everyone is able to rise to the challenge of becoming well again, especially on their own.
Over 150 million individuals are affected by this epidemic of clinical depression. Symptoms can lead to job-loss, broken homes, narcotic abuse and even suicide. You can’t afford to ignore potential solutions that are economical, easy to apply, and seriously beneficial to your health in all aspects.
Whether you have concerns or not, our recommendation is the same: A plant based, traditional diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, and probiotic rich foods. Don’t wait until you have problems to act, act now and pursue prevention of these problems in the first place.
Don’t wait until you have problems to act, act now and pursue prevention of these problems in the first place.Team Sherzai
With that said, the ball is in your court. We hope you and your taste buds will set off on this healthy, educated, culinary adventure. Prevention is possible.
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