Dr. BlessingAnyatonwu, D.C., M.S.
The holidays are a time when friends and family come together to celebrate the holidays, it is a time of great joy but for some, but for people who don’t have family or close friends this can be a lonely time. There are people who suffer from the “holiday blues” or depression during this time. There are even studies that have disputed the common belief that depression and suicide rates increase during the holidays.
Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from depression
Only 33 % of Americans seek treatment for mental illness
African Americans are the least likely to seek help
Nearly 60% of older African Americans do not receive mental health services
It is normal to have short periods when you feel sad or down, for example after the death of a love one or loss of a job. It becomes depression when it starts to take over your life. Depression occurs when the brain is dealing with emotional issues that make it unable to cope with other activities that require your attention.
Signs of depression:
Loss of interest in daily activities
Weight loss or gain
Loss of energy
Inability to concentrate
Continuous thoughts of death and dying
Depression in the African American community is an issue that is rarely discussed; it has and still is a taboo topic. While others are comfortable “seeing a therapist” we suffer in silence because of the stigma that is attached to mental illness.
Mental illness is viewed as a sign of personal weakness by 63% of African Americans and only 7% of African American women seek treatment.
Altha Stewart states that “Black women are significantly impacted with mental illness but are reluctant to acknowledge it as a serious biological disorder.”
Seeking treatment should not be seen as a sign of weakness or lack of faith, it takes action and faith to confront and deal with issues that are affecting your health and well being.
The best way to combat depression is to acknowledge it and then seek appropriate care. Talk therapy is very effective and in some cases you may not need medication. It is important to talk to the appropriate health care professional so they can help you come up with the best treatment for your needs. There are things that you can do to help prevent and/or support you during your treatment.
1. Build A Strong Support System
This is one of the most important things that you can do. People with strong support systems recover from illnesses quicker people who don’t have a support system at all. When there is no one to lean on or confide in the person is isolated. Studies have shown that elderly patients who lived alone and has no support system had higher levels of inflammation and a greater risk of death. When there is nothing to live for, people give up hope.
2. Take Control of Your Diet
It is one of the most important things that we have control over. Eating nutrient dense, low calorie foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains provide our bodies with the nutrients that it needs to promote and maintain brain and overall health.
Avoid Trans fats
People who eat Trans fats regularly have higher rates of depression than people who eat healthy fats. Trans fats promote inflammation in the body and in the brain which can lead to dementia and depression. Trans fats are found in processed baked goods and pre packaged foods like crackers, cookies, cakes, doughnuts and French fries.
Eat foods rich in B vitamins
Adults who have diets that are deficient in B vitamins, especially B6 and B12 have a higher risk of depression when compared to adults who eat diets rich in B vitamins. Vitamins B6 and B12 create the precursors to the neurotransmitters that help regulate mood (serotonin and dopamine), low levels of B12 have been linked to sleep disturbances. Brain shrinkage has been linked to B12 deficiency.
Good sources of B6 include: beans, peas, fish, chicken, green leafy vegetables while B12 is found in meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Shellfish, fish, beef and lamb have the highest levels of B12.
Get Your Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are not produced by our bodies so we have to eat foods that contain these healthy fatty acids. Fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of omega 3’s and flaxseed and algae also contain these healthy fatty acids.
Adults who eat fish (baked or broiled not fried) at least once a week have lower rates of dementia and other mental illnesses. These fatty acids increase blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It also supports neuron health.
If you don’t like or can’t eat fish, you can take them in supplement form. I use Nordic Naturals and they have a wonderful selection of fish oil supplements without the fishy after taste. You can buy them at your local health food store.
Mushrooms are great sources of vitamin d and they’re delicious too. Other sources of vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids are rainbow trout, swordfish, salmon and tuna. If you don’t like mushrooms, just go outside and sit in the sun for 20 minutes. The UV rays from the sun convert 7 –dehydrocholecalciferol into vitamin d in our skin. If you decide to take vitamin d supplements go for vitamin D3.
Whether you are walking running or dancing, exercise is good for your mental and overall health. Regular exercise helps maintain health, produces feel good endorphins and helps increase dopamine and neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Exercise helps prevent brain shrinkage and it preserves short and long term memory.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression or mental illness, don’t suffer alone. Reach out to a trusted family member, friend and licensed health professional.
Dr.Blessing Anyatonwu is a health advocate, speaker and health care professional that believes that prevention is the best medicine. She is in private practice in Austin, Texas and provides nutritional counseling for clients through email and Skype. She works with clients who are tired of being told that drugs are the only answer to their health problems and helps clients come up with individualized plans for their health success. Send questions, comments and nutritional counseling inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org