Tagged with "depression"
Depression’s Chemical Imbalance Explained Tags: depression chemical imbalance explained word life production health mental wellness feature blog

For over three decades, scientists have attributed a chemical imbalance in the brain as the source of major depression. Now, a new study provides an explanation of how this “chemical imbalance” occurs.

Major depression is a disease that impacts approximately 5% of people globally. For over 30 years, scientists believed that monoamines– mood-related chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine– are low in the brain during major depressive episodes. This is commonly referred to as a “chemical imbalance”. However, no one had ever found a convincing explanation for monoamine loss, until now.

This study by the Canadian-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is published in the November Archives of General Psychiatry.

DepressionDr. Jeffrey Meyer investigated whether brain monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) — an enzyme that breaks down chemicals like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine– was higher in those with untreated depression. The results showed that in major depression MAO-A was significantly higher in every brain region that the scientists investigated. On average, MAO-A was 34% higher.

According to Dr. Meyer, “In major depression, higher levels of MAO-A is the primary process that lowers monoamine levels. Having more MAO-A leads to greater breakdown of key chemicals like serotonin.”

This study by the Canadian-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) includes a detailed new monoamine model of depression, based upon this work as well as four previous publications from Dr. Meyer and collaborators at CAMH.

Said Dr. Meyer, “A key barrier to making advances in treating depression is a lack of precise disease models. Having disease model is like having a map. Once you have that map you can really begin to understand how an illness like depression works, and offer more targeted and effective treatment.”

A second part of this new model is that monoamine transporters have an important role in removing monoamines away from active sites. Having more of a monoamine transporter is not helpful as it removes more monoamine — for example if one has more serotonin transporter, one would additionally lose more serotonin during depression.

“An important aspect of our advanced monoamine model is that individuals with depression lose chemicals like serotonin and dopamine at different rates based upon transporter density. This helps explain why one person with depression may experience loss of appetite while another may not. And some people have more severe symptoms than others,” said Dr. Meyer.

This advanced monoamine model of depression is a huge step forward in the disease frontier. It brings the study of mental illness closer to the advancements seen in research into physical illness such as cardiac disease, and offers one of the most comprehensive disease models in mental illness.

The next step for researchers will be to investigate why MAO-A levels are raised in the brain and consider prevention strategies. Prevention strategies are critical — according to the World Health Organization, major depression is currently the fourth leading cause of death and disability and is expected to rise to second by the year 2020.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Self-Help and Coping Tips to Overcome Depression Tags: self help coping tips overcome depression word life production feature blog

Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what you need to feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t beat it through sheer willpower, but you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day.

The road to depression recovery

Recovering from depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.

It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There’s a difference, however, between something that's difficult and something that's impossible.

Start small and stay focused

The key to depression recovery is to start with a few small goals and slowly build from there. Draw upon whatever resources you have. You may not have much energy, but you probably have enough to take a short walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.

Take things one day at a time and reward yourself for each accomplishment. The steps may seem small, but they’ll quickly add up. And for all the energy you put into your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return.

Depression self-help tip 1: Cultivate supportive relationships

Getting the support you need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. However, isolation and loneliness make depression even worse, so maintaining your close relationships and social activities are important.

The thought of reaching out to even close family members and friends can seem overwhelming. You may feel ashamed, too exhausted to talk, or guilty for neglecting the relationship. Remind yourself that this is the depression talking. You loved ones care about you and want to help.

•             Turn to trusted friends and family members. Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.

Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.

Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.

10 tips for reaching out and building relationships

  • Talk to one person about your feelings.
  • Help someone else by volunteering.
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  • Accompany someone to the movies, a concert, or a small get-together.               
  • Call or email an old friend.
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date.
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
  • Confide in a counselor, therapist, or clergy member.

Depression self-help tip 2: Challenge negative thinking

Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself, the situations you encounter, and your expectations for the future.

But you can’t break out of this pessimistic mind frame by “just thinking positive.” Happy thoughts or wishful thinking won’t cut it. Rather, the trick is to replace negative thoughts with more balanced thoughts.

Ways to challenge negative thinking:

Think outside yourself. Ask yourself if you’d say what you’re thinking about yourself to someone else. If not, stop being so hard on yourself. Think about less harsh statements that offer more realistic descriptions.

Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Many depressed people are perfectionists, holding themselves to impossibly high standards and then beating themselves up when they fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking

Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.

Keep a “negative thought log." Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation. For example, let’s say your boyfriend was short with you and you automatically assumed that the relationship was in trouble. It's possible, though, he’s just having a bad day.

Types of negative thinking that add to depression

All-or-nothing thinking – Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)

Overgeneralization – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever (“I can’t do anything right.”)

The mental filter – Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.

Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)

Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead end job forever”)

Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)

‘Shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ – Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.

Labeling – Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)

Depression self-help tip 3: Take care of yourself

In order to overcome depression, you have to take care of yourself. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning to manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, adopting healthy habits, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems. Whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.

Expose yourself to a little sunlight every day. Lack of sunlight can make depression worse. Make sure you’re getting enough. Take a short walk outdoors, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, people-watch on a park bench, or sit out in the garden. Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day to boost your mood. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.

Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it.  Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out. Examples include: work overload, unsupportive relationships, taking on too much, or health problems. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can make a plan to avoid them or minimize their impact.

Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

Care for a pet. While nothing can replace the human connection, pets can bring joy and companionship into your life and help you feel less isolated. Caring for a pet can also get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed—both powerful antidotes to depression.

Do things you enjoy (or used to)

While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can choose to do things that you used to enjoy. Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark.

Push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

Develop a wellness toolbox

Come up with a list of things that you can do for a quick mood boost. Include any strategies, activities, or skills that have helped in the past. The more “tools” for coping with depression, the better. Try and implement a few of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.

•             Spend some time in nature

•             List what you like about yourself

•             Read a good book

•             Watch a funny movie or TV show

•             Take a long, hot bath     

•             Take care of a few small tasks

•             Play with a pet

•             Write in your journal

•             Listen to music

•             Do something spontaneous

Depression self-help tip 4: Get regular exercise

When you’re depressed, exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing. But exercise is a powerful tool for dealing with depression. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication at increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.

Scientists haven’t figured out exactly why exercise is such a potent antidepressant, but evidence suggests that physical activity triggers new cell growth in the brain, increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, reduces stress, and relieves muscle tension—all things that can have a positive effect on depression.

To gain the most benefits, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. You can start small, though, as short 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on your mood. Here are a few easy ways to get moving:

•             Take the stairs rather than the elevator

•             Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot

•             Take your dog for a walk

•             Pair up with an exercise partner

•             Walk while you’re talking on the phone

As a next step, try incorporating walks or some other enjoyable, easy form of exercise into your daily routine. The key is to pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to keep up with it.

Exercise as an Antidepressant

The following exercise tips offer a powerful prescription for boosting mood:

Exercise now…and again.  A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. The key to sustaining mood benefits is to exercise regularly.

Choose activities that are moderately intense. Aerobic exercise undoubtedly has mental health benefits, but you don't need to sweat strenuously to see results.

Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic (rather than intermittent). Walking, swimming, dancing, stationery biking, and yoga are good choices.

Add a mind-body element. Activities such as yoga and tai chi rest your mind and increase your energy. You can also add a meditative element to walking or swimming by repeating a mantra (a word or phrase) as you move.

Start slowly, and don't overdo it. More isn't better. Athletes who over train find their moods drop rather than lift.

Adapted from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

Depression self-help tip 5: Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet

 What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones (such as certain meats).

Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.

Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, and whole grain breads can boost serotonin levels without a crash.

Boost your B vitamins. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.

Try super-foods rich in nutrients that can boost mood, such as bananas (magnesium to decrease anxiety, vitamin B6 to promote alertness, tryptophan to boost feel-good serotonin levels), brown rice (serotonin, thiamine to support sociability), and spinach (magnesium, folate to reduce agitation and improve sleep).

Consider taking a chromium supplement. Some depression studies show that chromium picolinate reduces carbohydrate cravings, eases mood swings, and boosts energy. Supplementing with chromium picolinate is especially effective for people who tend to overeat and oversleep when depressed.

Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood.

Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can give your mood a big boost. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold-water fish oil supplements. Canned albacore tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed. When cooking fish, grill or bake rather than fry.

You may hear a lot about getting your omega-3s from foods rich in ALA fatty acids, such as vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax, soybeans, and tofu. Be aware that our bodies generally convert very little ALA into EPA and DHA, so you may not see as big of a benefit.

Some people avoid seafood because they worry about mercury or other possible toxins, but most experts agree that the benefits of eating one or two servings a week of cold-water fatty fish outweigh the risks.

Depression self-help tip 6: Know when to get additional help

If you find your depression getting worse and worse, seek professional help. Needing additional help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Sometimes the negative thinking in depression can make you feel like you’re a lost cause, but depression can be treated and you can feel better!

Don’t forget about these self-help tips, though. Even if you’re receiving professional help, these tips can be part of your treatment plan, speeding your recovery and preventing depression from returning.

Source: HealthGuide.org

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_tips.htm

Healthy Foods That Reduce Stress and Depression Tags: healthy foods reduce stress depression mental wellness word life production feature blog

Rethink your comfort foods

What makes a food calming? Too often, a client will wave me off when I bring up this topic and say, "Oh, Keri, all foods are calming foods. Whenever I'm eating, I feel better." But there's a huge difference between tapping into a food's inherently calming properties and using any food as a kind of emotional anesthesia. That kind of eating may buy you a temporary sense of calm, but it's a quick fix that wears off way too fast. And where does it usually leave you? Weighing more than you'd like and muttering at yourself, "Yuck, how could I have eaten all that?"

Stressful events—and they don't even have to be big, just the daily hassles of life—cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol causes food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. The more of them we eat, the worse our mood gets. As if that weren't bad enough, the cortisol then makes more trouble for us, triggering an enzyme in our fat cells (it converts cortisone to more cortisol). Since our visceral fat cells (the ones in our abdomen, packed around our vital organs) have more of these enzymes than the subcutaneous fat cells (the fat on our thighs and butts, for example), stress causes many women to accumulate more belly fat. The more stress, the more this abdominal, or central, obesity occurs. Some research has found that these belly fat cells, which have been linked to a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, have four times as many cortisol receptors as regular fat cells.

So when I talk about calming foods, I don't mean so-called comfort foods. I mean meals and snacks that will truly soothe and calm you. Whether it's because of the specific nutrients they provide or the steady, reliable source of energy they give you, they'll get you through the day feeling focused, even, and balanced—so you'll have the ability to conquer anything.

Adapted from the Slim Calm Sexy Diet

Asparagus

I know, these slender stalks are known to make your urine smell funny. But they are high in folate, which is essential for keeping your cool. I like them steamed, then added to salads. I also love them broiled until crisp. Go ahead and eat as many as you'd like.

Avocados

These creamy fruits stress-proof your body. Rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage, avocados also contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and more folate than any other fruit. A single serving (about one-quarter of an avocado) has plenty of B vitamins, too. Remember, this may technically be a fruit, but I count it as a fat, so use portion control. Thin sliced on sandwiches, it adds a whole new layer of flavor.

Berries

Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, and they've been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. German researchers tested this by asking 120 people to give a speech, then do hard math problems. Those who had been given vitamin C had lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol after the stressfest. Substitute berries for any other fruits on the plan whenever you want. I like to nibble on them frozen, too.

Cashews

I love all nuts. They're great snacks, and because they are crunchy and a little salty, they cure many cravings. For those trying to lose weight, they're such a potently satisfying combo of protein and fat that it's hard for me not to recommend them at every single meal. (You do have to watch portion size though, since they are high in calories.) Cashews are an especially good source of zinc—a 1-ounce serving has 11 percent of your RDA. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it's important to get some every day. Trade cashews for other nuts on the plan when you're in the mood. Coarsely chop a handful and toss them into a chicken stir-fry.

 Chamomile tea

This is probably one of the most recommended bedtime soothers around. I've always loved it because the flowers are so pretty, like tiny daisies. But now there's more evidence than ever that chamomile calms. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania tested chamomile supplements on 57 participants with generalized anxiety disorder for 8 weeks, and found it led to a significant drop in anxiety symptoms. Of course, I'd much prefer you drink it in tea form—that way, you'll get the warm, wonderfully calming feeling of holding a mug of tea as you sit in a quiet spot before bed. And yes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there is some evidence that, in addition to calming nerves, chamomile promotes sleep. Just pour a cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of the dried flowers (you can buy chamomile either loose or in tea bags at health food stores) and steep for 10 minutes. Try having a cup every night: Turn off the TV, the computer, and your phone, and settle down for a peaceful end to the day. It's nice iced, too.

Chocolate

Besides the healthy antioxidants in this treat, which push chocolate to the top of most heart-healthy food lists, it has an undeniable link to mood. A recent study from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine reports that both women and men eat more chocolate as depressive symptoms increase. Of course, we've all been there, polishing off an entire package of chocolate after a bad day. But there's evidence that, in moderation, chocolate does actually make you feel better.

Dark chocolate, in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, adding to a feeling of calm. It contains more polyphenols and flavonols—two important types of antioxidants—than some fruit juices. You can safely allow yourself dark chocolate as a snack once a week, or as a conscious indulgence, and still stay on track with your weight loss results. I always keep a few squares in my bag.

Garlic

Like many plants, garlic is jam-packed with powerful antioxidants. These chemicals neutralize free radicals (particles that damage our cells, cause diseases, and encourage aging) and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage the free radicals cause over time. Among the compounds in garlic is allicin, which has been linked to fending off heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold. Because stress weakens our immune system, we need friends like garlic, which can toughen it back up. As long as you saute it in broth, not oil, you can add it liberally to all the meals on the plan.

Grass-fed beef

Grass-fed beef is not only better for the planet, it's also better for people. It has more antioxidants—including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene—than grain-fed beef, and doesn't have added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs. And while it's lower in fat overall, it's about two to four times higher in omega-3s. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that healthy volunteers who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. These changes have been linked with a lower risk of a host of disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and inflammatory disease. Grass-fed beef is pricey but well worth the occasional splurge. (If you're really gung-ho on the concept, check out local sources for "cowpooling," where you go in with others on shares of grass-fed cattle.)

Green Tea

While it does contain caffeine, green tea also has an amino acid called theanine. Researchers at the University of Illinois say that in addition to protecting against some types of cancer, this slimming food is a brain booster as well, enhancing mental performance. Drink two cups each day.

Oatmeal

Talk about comfort food! A complex carbohydrate, oatmeal causes your brain to produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical. Not only does serotonin have antioxidant properties, it also creates a soothing feeling that helps overcome stress. Studies have shown that kids who eat oatmeal for breakfast stay sharper throughout the morning. And beta-glucan, the type of soluble fiber found in oatmeal, has been shown to promote greater satiety scores than other whole grains. Make a batch of the steel-cut variety on the weekend, store it in the fridge, and microwave it on busy mornings. It keeps beautifully, and in fact, that's how restaurants often prepare it.

Oranges

Another vitamin C powerhouse, oranges have the added benefit of being totally portable. That tough skin keeps them protected while they're bouncing around in your purse or backpack, meaning you can tote them anywhere. Experiment with all the varieties—clementines, tangelos, mineolas.

Walnuts

The sweet flavor of walnuts is so pleasant, and it's nice to know they've been proven to provide a bit of a cognitive edge. They contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, and other polyphenols that have been shown to help prevent memory loss. Researchers at Tufts University found that animals that ingested walnuts even reversed some signs of brain aging. To bring out their flavor, I toast them for 10 minutes, then chop them and add them to salads. (Check out these 3 Heart-Healthy Walnut Recipes.)

Oysters

And you thought oysters were only good as aphrodisiacs! They belong here, too, because they're the Godzilla of zinc: Six oysters, which is what you'd typically be served in a restaurant as an appetizer, have more than half the RDA for this important mineral. I think they're best served on ice with nothing but a lemon wedge.

Published May 2012, Prevention

By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN

http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/healthy-foods-reduce-stress-and-depression/more

 

 

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