Guest Post by Dr. Bradley Jabour:

Depression is a widespread condition that can cause people to lose interest in their everyday activities. Depression can lead to feelings of sadness, worthlessness, the inability to find enjoyment in any activity, or even bring about suicidal thoughts. This often debilitating disease can be effectively treated with various methods, including therapy and medications. However, recent studies have found that nutrition may play a large part in the both cause and cure of depression.

The Role of Food in Depression

When people feel sad, down or depressed, it’s not uncommon for people to turn to food as a way of making themselves feel better. When people seek out food for comfort, it usually takes the forms of junk food or foods high in sugar content. Even though you seek out junk food when you’re depressed, the effect that these processed and high-sugar foods have on your body can actually worsen your depression.

Foods that Cause Your Body Stress

High sugar foods create stress on your body. As your liver processes the sugar, it uses what it can for energy and stores the rest as fat. If there are large amounts of sugar, the liver works twice as hard, giving the body that lazy and lethargic feeling, like you just don’t have enough energy to do anything. As your body becomes stressed, you may start to feel ill or unwell. This unpleasant feeling will only cause you to feel more depressed.

Processed foods have the same effect on your liver. However, the large amounts of chemical based products in these foods can place undue stress on all of your organs. As the liver is unable to process these chemicals, the body becomes damaged. The damage can cause depression and aches and pains. Most people report feeling physical pain with their depression, poor eating habits are what is most likely contributing to this fact.

Relying on caffeine or alcohol to deal with the depression can also harm your body. Caffeine will increase your cortisol levels, causing you to feel stress, while alcohol is a depressive and will enhance the sad feelings.

On the other side of the issue, many people opt to avoid food when they are depressed. This is also the wrong way to deal with depression because the malnutrition caused by lack of food can enhance the depressive mood as well as cause physical problems.

Foods That Help Fight Depression

Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, salad greens and some fish, are very good for fighting depression. Many studies that have been done in recent years which show that the brain needs Omega-3 to function properly. Omega-3 has been shown to increase the receptive powers of the brain on dopamine and serotonin levels, which help to balance out these hormones.

Well balanced diets that include all the food groups are best for people suffering from depression. An Australian study found, however, that people eating excessive amounts of fried foods often suffer from higher depression rates. In addition, while sugar has been shown to elevate mood, people often go overboard. Sugar can be quickly abused and cause more damage to the body than good. Substituting sugar and processed sugar products with a sweet fruit will bring about the same results without damaging the liver.

Studies have also shown that taking a multivitamin can help fight the onset of depression. A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom has shown that many people with depression suffer from vitamin deficiencies. The most common deficiencies were: Selenium, B6, B12, Magnesium and Manganese. And while a well-balanced diet should provide enough of these vitamins and minerals, a multi-vitamin can help when food is not enough.

We all get sad from time to time, usually in response to stressful or  traumatic life situations. A painful divorce, the  loss of a job or personal problems can trigger lack of appetite, insomnia, and feelings of deep  sadness. If your sadness last longer than a few weeks, or if it occurs  outside the context of a major life change, you may have what’s known as a “major  depressive disorder.” While food alone is not a cure for depression, it can go a long way when coupled with medication and therapy.

Bradley A. Jabour M.D. has more than 20 years experience in academic and clinical research and is a nationally recognized Neuroradiologist. Dr. Jabour speaks at colleges and Universities around  the globe and has received several national honors, including a  Certificate of Merit from The Radiological Society of North America  (RSNA). Jabour lives in Santa Monica where he practices as Chief of  Neuroradiology at the depression treatment center, Smart Brain and Health.

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