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Depression and Anxiety Nutrition Strategies, part 1 of 3

My friend Shari called me last week. “Guess what. My friend Emily was totally normal, and has been in mental hospitals for 12 years now. They found out a few months ago that it was the MEDS they started her on that made her crazy. She’s been off them for two months and she’s just FINE.”

What a tragedy. Shari continues, ”Twelve years ago, she had two men who wanted to marry her. College-bound. Totally normal. She had everything going for her. But they put her on one drug after another and she was suicidal and psychotic.”

I’m a former mental health professional and have a master’s degree in social work. So let me make this disclaimer: you don’t want to go off your psychotropic drugs without careful supervision. Emily’s experience is not everyone’s experience. I bet her getting off those drugs was careful and gradual. Psychotropics are no laughing matter, and the transition ON or OFF can be scary.

Some of them are class C narcotics, and others are narcotic central nervous system depressants. SSRI’s, the most commonly prescribed, cause sexual dysfunction, increased risk of bone fractures, drowsiness, nausea, weight loss or gain, renal impairment, suicidal thoughts, and 15 other symptoms. And, two meta-analyses of dozens of clinical trials (2008, 2010) for those drugs did not meet the criteria for a “clinically significant effect.”

For people upside down in a mental health crisis, a drug may be a lifesaver. People who want to kill themselves don’t have the wherewithal to sit down and problem-solve the actual life circumstances that seem overwhelming, let alone make major dietary and lifestyle changes.

But is the prescription a lifelong crutch, rather than a temporary sanity-saving measure while you figure out the actual PROBLEM and solve it? That I have an issue with. I know plenty of people who have been on psychotropics for a decade with no effort by them or their doc to solve the problems.

I also take issue with the dispense-it-for-every-little-complaint M.O. of too many docs. It should be a temporary, desperate act, putting someone on these hard-core drugs, while the doc helps get at the core causation. Not a first line of defense at the first sign of trouble!

The following discussion are my thoughts and should not be construed as medical advice. Please see your qualified practitioner for individualized help with depression or anxiety.

Mental health has its roots in biochemistry. And food is the fuel of our biochemistry, of course, causing it stability or instability. Does it not, then, make sense, that food can play a major role in good mental health?

It certainly has, in mine. I was born anxious. Oldest child. Type A. Red personality. Overachieving stereotype. All that stuff.

As a small child, I had stressed- out, sobbing meltdowns if I got a B on my report card or made a mistake in a piano performance. If I let someone down, or if someone didn’t like me.

I have struggled with anxiety my whole life. It is completely managed and no longer costs me sleep or causes any trouble. The past 10 years, it is where I want it. It is a good thing, when it is managed. That is: it fuels my constant drive to build things, learn and grow, help good causes, and GO-GO-GO. My anxiety no longer makes me cry or wrecks my well-being.

The only exception, before I QUIT COLD TURKEY, used to be when I’d eat sugar, or especially corn syrup. Eating something with HFCS in it sets me back for days—I wake up having panic attacks for 5 days after eating a handful of Junior Mints!

Why? Because sugar burns out adrenal glands, and virtually everyone living in the modern age has heavily taxed adrenal glands even WITHOUT sugar.

So let’s talk about things you can do, nutritionally, if you suffer with depression or anxiety. I start a nine-item list in my next blog entry.

 

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