The western world is in the grip of a terrible malaise. Depression has been earmarked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the fastest growing health problem right now and expects it to be that way for many years to come. But why? What gives? Do they know something we don’t? Or is it, in fact, that people just don’t really understand Depression and are blithely wandering into its clutches because they just can’t see it coming?
Well, I obviously don’t have all the answers, but I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned over the years with my research into food and health matters.
The first piece of information worth considering is the old quote “You are what you eat”. Or the version attributed to the “Father” of Western medicine “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food”. Now, I remember my A-Level chemistry, and I was pretty good at it, and I remember that the bottom line is that you can’t make certain compounds if the ingredients for those compounds are not present in the reaction vessel.
Your body is the reaction vessel in this instance, and therefore it stands to reason that if you don’t get enough, say, Iron in your diet, you will find your body exhibiting symptoms which are caused by a lack of Iron. Pretty simple stuff, right?
Except that during the whole time that Depression has been becoming the world’s number one disease, the ‘official line’ on dietary recommendations has stressed the importance of not eating too much fat. Low-fat carbs have been the order of the day, and we have probably all seen one version or another of that Special K woman on our screens literally thousands of times. She seems to be doing alright on it… what’s the problem?
Well, my money is on the fats.
It takes a bit of heavy science reading to get to grips with this, so let me try and put it in a straightforward way.
There are certain substances in the body which can only be made using the building blocks obtained from fats. Specifically, essential fatty acids. The main group of substances I am talking about are called eicosanoids. These bad-boys sit at the top of a truly vast number of metabolic processes. Imagine a river – if you trace it back and back from the sea, at some point you will find yourself at its source. If you were to put some kind of strong blue dye in the river at here and continue putting it in, eventually the whole river would turn blue, all the way to the sea.
It’s the same with Essential Fatty Acids and the eicosanoid pathway. Making sure your body has enough ingredients to make eicosanoids in the right amounts can affect literally everything.
The most important of these, with regard to Depression, is related to mood regulation. Your happy hormones are just as much a part of this pathway as your hormonal responses, your stress regulators, your inflammation and immunity systems, and indeed your entire nervous systems.
There is a high chance that depression is not a disease of the soul or the mind, but of the body. And not only that, it’s a treatable condition if you know how to truly nourish your body with all the nutrients it needs to thrive.
The Ketosis Diet really focusses on fats, while significantly dropping the amount of carbohydrates that you eat. This is like a pincer attack on the systems that have been hijacked by years of low-fat nonsense. The carb-heavy, low-fat diet is a nightmare for your hormonal balance, and by going into Ketosis, you give your body a chance to redress the balance.
Like I said, my money is on the eicosanoids, and the idea that the human body is a miracle if you’ll just give it what it needs to get on with it.
The understanding that Essential Fatty Acids are a completely natural way to get rid of depression is relatively new. We have been stuck with the idea that the world can be a hard and depressing place, that illness is a part of life and so on and so on. The truth, to me, seems to be a lot more hopeful.
There may be no need to take some kind of pharmaceutical depression fixer pill to redress your hormonal activity and make it so that you don’t feel so bad. Don’t get me wrong; sometimes anti-depressants can be extremely useful for helping someone in a dire position. However, they should be used in the manner that they were meant for – a short term fix which will allow a person to feel better enough that they can take action on fixing the underlying issues.
How about just making your diet so rich in the right fats it has been denied for so long while reducing the amount of sugars that stress your body, so that it can fix those underlying issues for itself. The idea that the human body doesn’t know what it needs or is broken is, in my opinion, an outdated view.
I hope none of this reads as me belittling the state of depression. I’ve been there myself in the past, so I know it’s not something to take lightly. I also know that no matter how many psychology or self-help books I read, how much meditation I did, how much journaling, affirmations, positive thinking training… none of this helped long term until I changed my diet.
Our bodies are so intricately connected with how we feel; I think it’s a mistake to try and fix depression without fixing our diets first.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, though. Let me know in the comments below!