Beat moody blues with Omega-3

Essential fatty acids could be your best bet to beat depression

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Depression is nothing new - it's the stuff that keeps some companies - and, practically an entire industry - in business. Some even speculate that such companies don't actually intend to "cure" depression, for it then becomes less lucrative. Small comfort for you, if you are among the millions of people who often feel down, sad, lethargic, hopeless, lackadaisical - the symptoms go on and on.

The fact that depression affects the entire person - body, mind, and spirit - certainly makes it both a holistic concern and something worth looking at a bit more closely.

The good news is that there is much you can do for yourself to ease depression. In fact, depending on the source of your depression, you may be able to turn things around entirely on your own. Did you know that depression can be linked to nutrition? And not only that - recent research suggests that it may be caused by inflammation in the brain as a direct result of an imbalanced diet.

Enter one French psychiatrist.

David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, Co-founder of the Center for Complementary Medicine at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, US, and author of The Instinct to Heal: Curing Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Without Drugs and Without Talk Therapy, has taken depression and other mood disorders head on. And, his approach doesn't seem to string you along [like, say, a pharmaceutical company's might]. Rather, Servan-Schreiber suggests you can treat depression successfully with something as remarkably unremarkable as Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

A short lesson in nutrition

Essential fatty acids [also called "EFAs"] are "essential" because your body cannot manufacture them, yet you require them to live. There are two related types of EFAs: Omega-3s [alpha-linolenic acid] and Omega-6s [Linoleic acid]. In general, Omega-6s come primarily from grains and can be found in most vegetable oils and animal fat. Though you can get Omega-3s in some seeds or nuts, the highest concentrations are available in algae, plankton, and other sea sources, that usually find their way to us via fish and other seafood that eat these sea-plants and accumulate the fatty acids in their flesh. Servan-Schreiber maintains that one of the results of modern Western diet is that we consume far more Omega-6s and than -3s, and this has significant deleterious results, especially on our brains.

The Instinct to Heal points to persuasive research indicating that depression may actually be an inflammatory disease. If this is the case, then supplementing with Omega-3s may be incredibly beneficial in the treatment of depression.

Why? Because one of the well-known effects of Omega-3s, in the body, is its ability to decrease inflammation and "feed" the brain [two-thirds of which is composed of fatty acids].

Relatively high doses of Omega-3s (1-3 gm/day] are required to benefit from their anti-inflammatory and anti-depressive effects; a nutritional consultant will be able to help you choose and use a good Omega-3 supplement.

Studies have shown that an entire range of depressive symptoms improves with adequate supplementation of Omega-3s. So, if you're feeling bluer than blue but don't want to be hooked onto prescription medications for life, explore this EFA. It may be just what the [holistic] doctor ordered!

Act Don't Despair

Research has shown that certain individuals are more prone to depression at certain times in life, and vice versa. The problem is sometimes more pronounced in the elderly.

The following symptoms are quite characteristic, in most cases of depression:

  1. Negativity in all aspects of life: a feeling of pessimism, a belief that nothing can make your life better
  2. Changes in sleep pattern: sleeplessness; disturbed sleep, getting up too early, or sleeping more than is necessary
  3. Changes in eating patterns: lack of or change in appetite, or eating too little or too much
  4. Fatigue, difficulty in concentrating or making decision/s
  5. Isolation, withdrawal from people, and neglecting your appearance
  6. Persistent sadness; and, self-disgust.

Not all types of mild, short-term episodes of depression and anxiety, which all of us are prone to, once in a while, or otherwise, merit the help of mental health professionals. So also occasional moodiness, or a depressed feeling, which is not likely to be symptomatic of mental disturbance, but merely a part of every day functioning.

Well, if you are constantly depressed, there is, again, no need to despair. Try to first gain control of your emotions; thereafter, try to -

  • Sit quietly
  • Think of what exactly is disturbing you
  • Take a good look at how you respond to daily events
  • See how you can make adjustments to reduce your stress levels
  • Don't blame others for your problems
  • Try to deal with your basic mood difficulties
  • Develop your own strategy/strategies to get over your stresses
  • Try to reduce your frustration levels
  • Exercise regularly for 20 minutes, 3-4 times a week
  • Go for a 30-minute walk, 4-5 times a week
  • Eat healthy and nutritious food
  • Eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables, everyday
  • Avoid sugar and caffeine. Remember: sugar and caffeine raise your stress levels
  • Develop a hobby to take your mind away from stress
  • Relax, practice yoga and meditation, listen to music tapes etc.,
  • Communicate clearly with the important people in your life. This will help you immensely
  • Become socially involved
  • Read your favourite magazine to relax
  • Read a humorous book to laugh your stresses away
  • Watch a TV comedy show
  • Go to a movie which will make you smile
  • Join a self-help group, if there's one, in your area.
  • Speak to your therapist.

- Team CW

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

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Ryan Harrison
Ryan N Harrison, a holistic health educator and consultant in private practice, holds a post-graduate degree in transpersonal psychology and certifications as nutritional consultant, holistic health practitioner, spiritual counsellor, quantum-touch practitioner; and advanced practitioner of EFT [Emotional Freedom Techniques]. He also teaches and lectures in online and traditional settings. He lives in California, USA.

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