How lifestyle changes can help ease depression

How lifestyle changes can help ease depression
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Wil Wheaton may be your longtime favorite because of his role as Wesley Crusher on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or as himself on “The Big Bang Theory.” But what you may not know is that in 2018, the 46-year-old spoke at a National Alliance on Mental Illness conference and declared: “I live with depression and anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling with Mental Illness Federation.”

Chronic depression affects around 8 percent of American adults, and it causes folks to have functional difficulties at work and home more than any other chronic disease, including diabetes and arthritis. Fortunately, Wil has found ways to ease the burden. So can you.

If over a two-week period you’ve experienced changes in your mood and are having cognitive and physical symptoms — such as trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, agitation, poor concentration and problems with communication — talk to your doctor about getting therapy and medical attention for your depression. You can take charge of health behaviors and turn your mood around.

Nutritional Upgrades

A 2017 paper in Psychiatry Research looked at 21 studies from 10 countries and found mounting evidence that eating a diet loaded with “fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression.” In Dr. Mike’s book “What to Eat When,” he suggests eating mood-lifting, omega-3-rich salmon and ocean trout, and peanuts, which are high in tryptophan, a building block of the positive-mood hormone serotonin.

The researchers also found that eating an unhealthy American diet of red or processed meats, high-fat dairy, sweets and deep-fried potatoes was associated with increased risk of depression. Makes sense. Those are highly inflammatory foods and inflammation is related to depression.

In addition, a recent paper in JAMA found that when those who were both obese and depressed were put on a weight-loss program with problem-solving therapy for depression (and, if indicated, antidepressants), they shed more pounds and reduced depression significantly.

Breaking the diabetes and depression link

Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, and 25 percent of those folks will experience depression. Their symptoms happen more often and last longer (92 weeks versus 22 weeks) than in the general population, according to a study published in Diabetes Care.

Research also indicates that inflammation as well as a poor diet, lack of exercise, skipped medical appointments and not following prescribed medical treatments may account for the fact that people with depression are more likely to develop diabetes. Abnormal bacteria in your gut caused by bad food choices may predispose you to both depression and diabetes.

Being aware of the damaging duo can help, as can joining support groups for diabetes and depression, getting medical care for depression and working with a diabetes educator to help you stay on your diabetes treatment regimen and nutritional plan.

Stress management

To ease depression, try the one-two approach: exercise and meditation. Aerobic exercise (30 or more minutes, five days a week) is proven to ease depressive symptoms, reduce levels of stress hormones and help control diabetes, especially when combined with smart nutrition. Daily meditation (go to for instructions) can ease stress, which in turn reduces the inflammation that’s associated with depression. We suggest two 10-minute sessions, morning and evening.

In addition, one study discovered that people who practiced mindful meditation (using mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques) for two and a half hours a week increased their gray matter density, while another study found that just 30 minutes a day increased gray matter in the hippocampus, the brain area associated with emotion, memory and the autonomic nervous system. People who suffer from recurrent depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus.

Depression is a disease that can be treated with therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. Take the opportunity to enjoy the proven benefits. “Make it so!”

Side effects of medications can come from inactive ingredients

The 2006 movie “Fast Food Nation” is a fictionalized account of what it takes to bring hamburger from farm to drive-thru — and the hidden “ingredients” that horrible slaughterhouse practices add to the meat.

Now, a new study tells the real story about ingredients that often are hidden in your over-the-counter and prescription medications as they go from lab to pharmacy or retail shelf. It turns out that inactive ingredients such as gluten, peanut oil, lactose, certain sugars and food dyes, which are used to help bind, stabilize or boost absorption of medications, often are triggers for gastro problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, as well as allergenic or sensitivity reactions.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine looking at ingredients in prescription and nonprescription medications found that in most instances, inactive ingredients account for more than 50 percent of a medication — and sometimes up to 99 percent! Currently, the Food and Drug Administration requires companies to include an additive warning only for peanut oil and says the amount of other inactive ingredients is next to none. But if you’re someone with a food allergy or sensitivity, a little can still be a lot.

So if you’re having a nontypical reaction to a medication, ask a pharmacist or doctor about the inactive ingredients in all versions of the drug, including various generics. Many may have different inactive ingredients. If all versions contain a problematic inactive ingredient, consider ordering a custom formulation from a compounding pharmacy. If it allows you to take needed medication, it could be an important option.

Sugary drink marketing

Q: My son and his bicycling and skateboarding buds have fallen under the spell of marketing campaigns for sodas and power and sports drinks. I can’t get it through their heads that these companies aren’t really concerned with their health or athletic prowess. Any tips on how to convince them they’re being used?

Pamela B., Los Angeles

A: Yes, we have an idea or two, if you can get your son and his friends to sit still and listen for a minute.

Consider these facts: According to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco, R.J. Reynolds (Camel cigarettes) and Philip Morris (Marlboro cigarettes) bought the beverage product lines Hawaiian Punch, Kool-Aid, plus a few more, and modeled their sugary beverage marketing strategies after their very successful cigarette marketing strategies from the 1960s and 1970s. Those ad campaigns built brand-name allegiances with young smokers. Remember Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man? These marketing people know what they’re doing, and they are very successful at selling people things that are not in their own best interest.

Around 1983, R.J Reynolds, after successfully marketing Hawaiian Punch, introduced the first juice box as the “handy little carton (with) it’s very own straw.” Sales jumped 34 percent, according to industry documents released by the UCSF Documents Library. Phillip Morris created the Kool-Aid Man mascot that also targeted kids.

Marketing sugary beverages to children has long-term consequences: It puts kids at high risk for obesity, as well as premature metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Once you run this info by the kids, make sure to offer them alternatives. Make home-made fizzy water or still water with natural flavoring from slices of lemons, limes or oranges; or buy electrolyte replacement tablets with no added sugar or artificial colorings (they make them these days) for effective hydration during long, hot summer days at the skate park.

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