Darker Days Worsen Depression for Many
The sun is setting noticeably earlier in these late October days and soon, it’ll be dark before many of you even make the journey home from work. When the evenings are shrouded in darkness, it can be hard to motivate yourself to keep up your exercise routine, let alone cook a healthy meal (who’s ready for slow cooker season?! This turkey, white bean, & pumpkin chili is on our list!).
But for those of you who tend to experience mood drops as the days get shorter and temperature outside drops, it’s the most important time of year to stay on track with your nutrition.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of Americans each year, 60-90% of which are women and young adults. While scientists point to lack of sunlight as the main culprit for inducing winter depression and energy loss, Mother Nature has some tricks in her bountiful botanicals that can help us humans adapt.
Curcumin Raises Energy & Improves Mental Stamina
A recent study published in the Journal of Pharmacology found that turmeric curcumin may improve cognition and boost mood. Known as the spice that’s basically good for everything and boasts over 700 health benefits, turmeric curcumin has proven its importance to mental health time and time again.
Dr. Adrian Lopresti from Murdoch University recently conducted the longest human study to date on the effects of turmeric-curcumin on patients with a severe depressive disorder.
Of 56 volunteers, half received 500mg of turmeric-curcumin per day for eight weeks and the other half received placebo. After just four weeks, subjects in the turmeric group saw significant improvement in their moods, while a subgroup of participants experienced even greater relief from excessive weight gain, overactive appetite, and hyperinsomnia.
Last year, another study found that turmeric curcumin also works with antidepressant drugs to amplify their mood-boosting effects and diminish adverse side effects.
Though scientists originally believed that depression was a direct result of chemical imbalances in the brain, we are quickly learning that inflammation may play a big role in allowing depression to take root as well. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties are being credited as the cause of its success in treating depression.
Supporting Mitochondrial Function & Glucose Management?
Though the exact way in which turmeric curcumin achieves these results is unknown, scientists believe that it has something to do with the compound’s effects on mitochondrial function, AMP-activated protein kinase (which senses cellular energy levels), and glucose uptake and control.
Dr. Rodier Says: Nourish the Gut to Boost the Brain & Improve Moods
A few decades ago, the concept of nourishing the gut to boost the brain would’ve sent most people scratching their heads. In recent years, however, researchers have honed in on one of the most important channels in our bodies: the brain-gut axis. As our own Dr. Rodier likes to say, “You heal the gut, you heal the brain.”
Check out this cool infographic on nutrition for mental health that demonstrates how women who consume diets high in refined or processed foods and saturated fats are 50% more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms, while those who eat diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins are 30% less likely to develop depression.
By saturating the gut with friendly bacteria — from probiotic supplements or probiotic-rich foods twice a day for only four weeks — healthy subjects experienced improved brain responsiveness and function.
Turmeric Strengthens the Intestinal Barrier Against Poor Diet
Meanwhile, a recent study found that turmeric-curcumin may actually be able to block the damaging effects of a typical Western diet (think refined sugars & bad fats) on the intestinal barrier.
Poor diets throw gut bacteria off-balance and weaken the intestinal barrier simultaneously, creating the perfect environment for harmful toxins to seep into the bloodstream and induce inflammation throughout the body. And you know what widespread inflammation means: chronic disease.
Turmeric was found to strengthen and restore the intestinal barrier, thereby preventing harmful toxins from escaping from the intestines and wreaking havoc on vital biological processes.
The message: don’t wait until your brain is not firing the way it once did. Start healing your gut with fiber, friendly bacteria, fish oil, turmeric, and other gut-friendly compounds like glutamine. Your brain just might respond with loads of appreciation!
Energy Drinks Destroy Brain-Gut Health
Then there’s the stuff that does the opposite of nourishing the brain-gut connection: energy drinks. While cold weather may leave your feeling fatigued, resist the urge to reach for an energy drink – it’ll only make things worse in the long run. A Canadian study published earlier this year found that students who reported drinking the most energy drinks were more likely to be depressed and/or use drugs and alcohol than students who drank none. Meanwhile, another recent study uncovered a link between energy drink usage and heightened anxiety among males.
Energy drinks have the same effect on your body as a sugar high does. Loaded with caffeine, they give you a big burst of energy (if you can handle the jitters) and then they let you down with a big crash. This sort of push-pull is really stressful on your body and, as you can imagine, not good for your mood.
Coffee Actually Assists in Detox
We do, however, have some good news for coffee drinkers: Your favorite morning beverage may actually do more for your body than give you a big energy boost. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute tested the effect of regular and decaf coffee on liver health and found that both promote healthy liver detoxification. Bigger coffee drinkers had the lowest number of abnormal liver enzymes.
Though both decaf and regular coffee demonstrated big liver benefits, other studies have shown that your liver isn’t a big fan of caffeine. It has to work pretty hard to break caffeine down, which leaves less time to focus on other toxins entering the body. While a little caffeine won’t harm you, one symptom of caffeine overload is frequent headaches. Too much caffeine can also cause your blood vessels to constrict and accumulate lactic acid, causing pain.
The key is balance. Your liver likes it when you drink a lot of water to help flush caffeine out and when you load up on vitamin C, which supports your hard-working adrenal glands.