Depression Defenses that Can Help

01/10/2011

 Misery doesn’t love company. It also doesn’t love sleeping well, or enjoying activities, or eating healthfully, or making hopeful plans. Misery is, well, miserable. And when sad, empty feelings continue for two weeks or more, you’re not just feeling miserably—you may be depressed. For many women, depression is an all-too-familiar visitor. Women are twice as likely as men to have depressive episodes. While the condition responds to many treatments, it often can recur. Your important first step in dealing with depression is to see your primary healthcare provider. What happens next depends upon the severity of your symptoms (mild, moderate, or major), medical advice, and your choices for treatment. Antidepressants and talk therapy are the most common approaches used to fight depression. Yet recent scientific evidence shows you may be able to use natural approaches when: (a) traditional therapies aren’t working well for you, or side effects and risks pose problems; (b) you choose not to use standard treatments; or, (c) you’d like to lessen or prevent depressive episodes. “Individuals who are suffering from mood disorders really want choices,” says Marlene Freeman, MD, director of the Women’s Mental Health Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and a professor of psychiatry and obstetrics-gynecology. “It will serve our patients and the field the best if we really have an integrative approach, where we’re willing to use all possible treatment options and able to use safe and effective combinations.”

Feel better with fish oil

Dr. Freeman was part of a team that reviewed studies of patients who were on antidepressant medication but had not responded well. When the subjects were given omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in addition to the antidepressants, “there was a positive effect for mood,” she says. Omega-3s, best known as the components in fish oil, are essential natural substances our bodies need for good health. We get omega-3s only through foods we eat or by taking them as dietary supplements, usually in capsule form. You may know about the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s, but researchers have also been evaluating their effect on depression and other mood disorders. Those studies are built on previous findings that people with depression often have low levels of omega-3s and that depressive disorders occur less in populations that consume high quantities of omega-3-rich fish. The omega-3 fatty acids believed to improve mood are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Good results in the studies Dr. Freeman looked at occurred at doses of 1 to 3 grams of fish oil per day, with very few risks. Although some studies used much higher doses of omega-3s, those amounts didn’t bring better results. “With a nutritional supplement, there is an optimal dose that the body and brain need for optimal function,” says Dr. Freeman. “Providing in excess of that may not increase benefit.” It is still unclear whether omega-3 fatty acids would be effective on their own, not in combination with medication. But the protective effect of fish oil has been fairly well established, with studies showing it may decrease the risk of depression, including premenstrual and postpartum depression. Taking omega-3s could also avoid increasing antidepressant dosages for some patients, Dr. Freeman says. Omega-3s have other good health effects: they are vital for fetal development and may help prevent certain cancers, Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and other conditions. Vegans who do not want to consume fish oil might get some benefit from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), the omega-3 found in flaxseed oil. ALA is somewhat different than EPA and DHA, the omega-3s in fish oil, and has not been studied for use in depression. Food sources of EPA and DHA include fish, seafood, and omega-3-enriched eggs. In addition to flax oil, ALA is found in canola oil, walnuts, and enriched eggs. “I think it would be fair to say that individuals with major depressive disorders should be taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, unless there’s a particular medical reason why they shouldn’t—of which there are very few,” says Dr. Freeman.

Moving depression out of your life

You probably know about “runner’s high”—the great feeling people get when they exercise vigorously. But, you’re thinking, you aren’t a gym rat or one of those well-toned runners you see burning up the roads. And putting out such effort may seem impossible, especially when you feel depressed. You can achieve the same positive mood effects from far-less-strenuous physical activities. Adding mild movement to a sedentary life can reduce your depressive symptoms even if your fitness level remains unchanged. What’s more, physical activity lessens depression regardless of your pre-existing health conditions, and may insulate you against future depressive symptoms. “Exercise has been shown to give us a boost of energy that helps us feel motivated and do things we might not want to do if we’re feeling down and depressed,” says Teresa M. Edenfield, PhD, a researcher and clinical associate in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. That effect works for people with various levels of depression, from mild to major. “For people with very severe symptoms, exercise might not be enough. They might need something like medication or therapy,” Dr. Edenfield says, noting that medical care, psychological assessment, and safety monitoring are imperative. “We always caution people to seek professional help…to think about this as a combination approach.” Researchers are currently studying how, why, and for whom exercise works its antidepressant charm. Dr. Edenfield helped review a number of studies that supported using exercise to alleviate depression—either as an alternative to other types of treatment or in addition to them. One notable recent study took 153 women and 49 men, all diagnosed with major depression, and assigned them to either supervised group exercise, home-based exercise, a common antidepressant medication, or a placebo (“sugar”) pill. After four months, patients in the exercise-only groups showed just about the same relief from depression (40% to 45% remission) as did those taking medication.

Folate makes a difference

Depressed people often have low levels of folate, a B vitamin important for cell growth. Adult women should take in 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily, with pregnant women needing 600 mcg and nursing mothers, 500 mcg. Yet even if these amounts are consumed, some of our bodies don’t absorb or use folate well, resulting in deficiencies. Adding more folate to your diet—through foods or supplements—can reduce symptoms of depression, improve response to antidepressants, and may also help in recovery from depressive episodes. The U.S. government requires folate (as folic acid) to be added to some foods, such as fortified cereals and breads. Natural sources include liver, spinach, and black-eyed peas. “It’s pretty sound advice for women who are experiencing mood problems to take a multivitamin with folate,” says Dr. Freeman. “Most of us should be doing it anyway.” Other possibilities to consider There’s evidence that vitamin D influences depression. Vitamin D deficiency, which often occurs in older adults, has been shown to be related to low mood and cognitive difficulties. Many experts believe the current recommended daily dose of 400 IU of vitamin D is too low and have been pushing for that level to be raised to 800 IU or 1,000 IU daily. The herb St. John’s wort “has been demonstrated effective compared with placebo for more mild to moderate depression,” says Dr. Freeman, who chairs the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She cautions that you not use St. John’s wort without a doctor’s supervision, due to various interactions the herb has with other drugs. St. John’s wort acts like an antidepressant, so should not be taken with other antidepressants. It also interferes with the proper functioning of oral contraceptives, immunosuppressants, HIV medications, and oral anticoagulants, among others. Light therapy—originally used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression linked to the dark days of winter—is now showing year-round benefits for general depression. “It looks effective for major depressive disorder, even if it’s not seasonally related,” Dr. Freeman says. The light boxes studied in research provide 10,000 lux of bright light. You sit in front of the light (it’s angled above eye level) for about 20 to 30 minutes each day, in the morning. For more information on the health topics me ntioned in this article visit the HealthyWomen.org areas below.

 Depression: www.healthywomen.org/condition/depression

Anxiety and Depression Center : www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/anxiety-and-depression

Mental Health Center : www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/mental-health

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.

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Why Mediterranean Diet is Different from American Diet

05/03/2010

a) It is widely known that Mediterranean diet has high fat content.  Is weight loss still possible if people will follow this kind of diet?

To some extent, Mediterranean diet really has a high fat content.  But you have to take note that the fat content of a Mediterranean diet consists of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  These fats are essential and healthy for your body unlike the saturated fat which is common in American diet.  Do take note also that calorie intake is the determining factor for weight loss and not fat consumption.  If you follow the Mediterranean diet, you will enjoy lots of healthy benefits but you still need to lower your daily calorie consumption to achieve weight loss. 

b) What makes Mediterranean diet different from American diet?

Mediterranean diet includes plenty of healthy food choices like vegetables, olive oils, nuts, cereals, potatoes, breads, and many more.  It does not focus on red meat, eggs, and poultry products which are the common component of the typical American diet. 

c) Is it true that Mediterranean diet played a major role in lowering the rate of heart disease in the region?

Mediterranean diet plays an important role in lowering the incidences of cardiovascular disorder.  This finding has been proven by major research and studies.  More importantly, the success of the Mediterranean diet comes from the fact that it promotes a holistic approach to healthy living.  By following the Mediterranean diet, you will learn how to eat healthy and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

d) Is exercise still required if one is following a Mediterranean diet?

Exercise is always essential no matter what type of diet you follow.  The best thing about the Mediterranean diet is that it encourages daily regular exercises as part of the holistic approach to achieve a healthy lifestyle.  When this type of diet was introduced in the sixties, exercise and physical activities were already part of the culture of the Mediterranean people.  For your minimum exercise needs, you have to take a daily one-hour walk and weekly full body exercise. 

e) Is Mediterranean diet different from Low Carb diet?

There is a sea of difference between these two diets.  With the Mediterranean diet, your protein consumption would be lower.  Normally, you will get 15 percent of your calorie consumption from the protein content of a Mediterranean diet. 

f) People observed that wine is included in the Mediterranean diet.  What is the daily recommended amount for wine consumption?

For your general guidance, you have to consume wine in low to moderate amounts.  For male dieters, your daily calorie consumption from wine should be 5 percent.  For women, it should be lower or about 2.5 percent. 

g) Final word of advice

The Mediterranean lifestyle is your way to achieve good health.  You need to include foods in your diet that are rich in Omega 3, root crops, and vegetable oils.  Combine these with breads, cereals and fruits and you can prevent heart disease. 

About the Author – Eva Alexander writes for http://mediterraneandiet.org.uk/”>mediterranean diet plan, her personal hobby blog focused on tips to eat healthy on the Mediterranean way.


Fish Oil/Omega 3’s Good for Everyone’s Heart

03/04/2010

 

A recent review of fish oil studies that have been performed over the past 30 years suggests that omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for everyone (published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology August 2009).  Studies have found that healthy people as well as patients with heart disease (heart attack, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation) benefit from fish oils.

Most of the positive health effects were found with trials using DHA and EPA, which are long-chain fatty acids.  EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements.  Not as much data is available on plant-based ALA which is found in flaxseed and other plants.

Current recommendations for omega 3 consumption:

1)  Healthy people should consume at least 500 mg per day of EPA and DHA, equivalent of 2 fatty fish meals per week

2)  Patients with known heart disease or heart failure should consume 800 to 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day

3)  Patients with very high triglyceride levels may require prescription strength fish oil, should discuss with your healthcare provider

For more heart healthy info visit www.heart-strong.com


Heart Healthy Vitamins and Supplements

09/12/2009


Wine drinkers have higher omega-3 levels

06/17/2009

 redwine

We have all heard that drinking red wine is “heart-healthy” well a recent study from Europe may help explain why…

 Over 1,600 European adults between the ages of 26 and 65 were evaluated (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan 2009).  The researchers found that drinking one or two glasses of wine a day may increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in a person’s blood.  Omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy (lower triglyceride levels, reduce inflammation, and prevent heart rhythm disorders), found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel.  The study found that adults who drank alcohol (especially wine) in moderation were more likely to have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.  This finding was found irrespective to the person’s intake of fish.

 Remember to drink in moderation though – one glass of alcohol a day for women and no more than two glasses per day for men.

 For more heart healthy info visit http://www.heart-strong.com


Heart Healthy Snacks for National Nutrition Month

03/15/2009

Promise® SuperShots® for cholesterol (drinkable yogurt)

Foods containing at least 0.4g per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a total daily intake of at least 0.8 g, as part of a low saturated fat, low trans fat and low cholesterol diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of Promise® SuperShots® provides 2.0g plant sterols. More info available at: http://www.promisehealthyheart.com/products_supershots.aspx

 

Promise® SuperShots® for blood pressure (drinkable yogurt)

Good source of potassium and low in sodium. Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.  More info available at: http://www.promisehealthyheart.com/products_supershots.aspx

CocoaVia® Brand Chocolate Bars and cholcolate covered almonds

 

Phytosterols have been studied for more than 50 years and it’s well documented that a significant decrease in LDL-cholesterol can be achieved by consuming 1-3 grams of plant sterols each day.  Each 22-gram bar of CocoaVia® Original Chocolate contains 100 mg flavanols and 1.1 grams of natural plant extracts.

Almonds are an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin E, and provide many other nutrients such as protein, fiber, B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc.

More info available at http://www.cocoavia.com/

 

Handful of Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts (unsalted), Pistachios (unsalted)

 

Nuts are easy to store and travel with. Good source of fiber, unsaturated (healthy fats), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and plant sterols. Even though nuts contain healthy fats they still have a lot of calories so should be eaten in moderation.  Current guidelines suggest eating 1 to 2 ounces (or a small handful) of nuts each day.

 

Snacks Rich in Fiber

 

Women should eat about 25 grams of fiber per day, men 30 grams.  High fiber diets can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, reduce belly fat and prevent diabetes and colon cancer.  High fiber, low calorie snacks include: air-popped popcorn, fresh fruits (with peel), whole grain crackers.

Flaxseed (actual seeds or ground up flaxseed, not the oil) contains a lot of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. We recommend sprinkling on yogurt, cereal, vegetables, salad.

 

More heart healthy nutritional information available in “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” visit http://heart-strong.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Omega-6 Fatty Acids – Helpful or Harmful

03/02/2009

There is plenty of research to support the benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids to our diets to improve heart health but what about omega-6 fatty acids? Recently there has been some debate about the health effects of omega-6 fatty acids, some suggest that they may promote inflammation and increase cardiovascular risk?

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Linoleic acid is the main omega-6 fatty acid found in foods. Linoleic acid can form arachidonic acid which is involved in the early stages of inflammation (inflammation has been linked to heart disease). But both linoleic and arachidonic acid also are involved in the formation of anti-inflammatory particles. Recent studies have found that people who ate omega-6 fatty acids actually had a lower incidence of heart disease and people with heart disease have lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids in their blood. Omega-6 fatty acids may help lower the risk of heart disease when they are used to replace saturated fats in our diets.

The American Heart Association recommends that adults try to get at least 5 to 10% of their daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids (approximately 12 to 22 grams per day, dependent upon your daily caloric intake).  Most adults are probably already consuming this amount by eating nuts, salad dressing, and from oils. Remember moderation is key. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids should be part of your overally healthy eating plan.

For more heart healthy info visit www.heart-strong.com