Depression and Nutrition/supplements

Updated on November 09, 2012
T.W. asks from Winter Park, FL
9 answers

I have read through a few recent questions on depression and many people suggest that diet and exercise help tremendously. I believe I suffer from mild depression, especially in the winter months. I just get moody and very negative, and then I get over it. I've never mentioned it to my doctor but have had my thyroid tested, it's normal. I already exercise a lot and eat what I *think* is a healthy diet...lean meat, whole grains, fruits, vegetables. I drink water and coffee. I have been thinking about diet lately...are there certain foods that I should be eating more of or trying to steer clear of? How about St. John's Wort? Any good references on diet and depression would be appreciated. Thanks.

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answers from New York on

I hear you. Me too. Exercise really does boost the "happy hormone," but you don't want to over do it either. I eat mostly vegetarian and just have meat 1-2 X per week. Somedays I do eat seafood. I also like to exercise, but I do it after super for at least 45min.-60min. of "heavy duty" exercise/cardio. (Weights every 2-3 days.) Dancing really lifts up the spirits, so if you can get a dance workout video or follow one on youtube, it helps a lot. I find what else helps me is to accept the fact that I will get "down in the dumps" every now and then, and that is normal; eventhough, I can crash pretty heavily. I give myself an oportunity to complain for X-amount of time, then stop and tell myself no more. Then I distract my brain with some other activity like cleaning, gardening, playing video games, reading a really good book that can carry me away, baking, answering questions on Yahoo answers that aren't related to depression, etc.

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answers from Norfolk on

If you tend to get this way in the winter months, it might be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
You get less sunshine so you are short on vitamin D and make less serotonin.
Supplements can help, but so can getting some bright light every day.
They have SAD lamps - I have one on my desk - and it helps me keep the winter blues away.
Google it - there are lot's of suggestions for preventing it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Get your D level checked. More and more research is coming out on how very important this is to just about everything...mood is high on the list.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

The reason excercise helps is because it reduced cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a stress hormone from the adrenal gland. Hormonal imbalances are responsible for depression. HIGH cortisol levels specifically. Yes, thyroid is also known for its affect on depression when it is not functioning right. But if someone has low or high thyroid , there is almost always (cancer aside) an underlying adrenal issue because it is the adrenals which FEED the thyroid it's hormone that it uses to function. Thyroid test perameters are very very loose. Many people have thyroid issues but test out normal. The perameters are so loose people are pretty damn bad by the time it actually registers on the test.

Be careful about vit D. The main role of vit D is to increase absorption of calcium in the kidney. For people with low adrenal hormone output, vit D would not be wise at all, as the low hormone levels increase blood calcium already. These people can end up with hypercalcemia real fast.
usually when people test out low on D levels, all they need is magnesium to get that D level up. For people with high cortisol or aldosterone hormones, holy basil, PS, Mangesium , calcium, lugols iodine and zinc are all great.
The reason vitamin B works so well on mood is that it feeds the adrenals, and the nervous system both.

Blood sugar levels also come into play. Did you knwo that cortisol is what regulates blood sugar? (and sleep, and stomach acid, and body PH) Very low blood sugar swings (hypoglcemia) can cause depression, and I would guess that high blood sugar swings (diabetes)would as well. The blood sugar has a tremendous effect on mood. People who snap into anger fits, or who have crying jags, or who are manic, or who are alcoholics, should all look closely at blood sugar levels with an A1C1 test. (alcohol affects blood sugar- these people self medicate with out even knowing it).

I would ask my doc for a SALIVA cortisol test to see where the cortisol levels are at.There is a huge push to get people into therapy, but, truly, depression and other personality disorders, are most of the time-rooted in a physical imbalance in the body, usually hormonal in nature.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lexington on

Best bet... consult with an Integrative medical doctor who will test hormonal and nutritional levels and check you for food sensitivities. Some nutritional levels can be checked inside cells (SpectraCell) since some genetics can hinder that process (such as MTHFR (B vitamins) and VDCR (vitamin D)).

My husband and I were both suffering from stress-related depressions. St. Johns Wort helped my husband but did nothing for me. I needed more of the nutritional route to restock my depleted stores. I used SAM-e and TMG. Methylated B vitamins were needed (I got tested at some point - they help with methylation involved in mitochondrial function see: ) Funny story - my regular doctor had trouble sleeping and went to an integrative doctor for help, got tested and was also found to have an MTHFR problem and got on methylated B vitamins... it did help!)

For winter blues--SAD--we use our "happy lights" as we call them - Full spectrum lighting. My younger daughter has been using a light box for YEARS. She even uses it a little in the summer when we have days of rain. Both light and dark are important, and of course sleep is critical:

Exercise. Yes. It works as well for some people as an antidepressant. It sure is healthier!

My kids' mood and cognition are affected by gluten AND dairy. (

Vitamin D and Omega-3s can affect how well your body can use thyroid hormone:

By the way, I tried many antidepressants and had trouble with each before I went healthy route. I wish I had known sooner what my needs were. But I really wish I knew what my children's needs were before we went on the psychiatric merry-go-round. Once things got really bad, we had no choice, but... it's a long story.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yes! Just got an email about this very thing today--women, depression and natural healing. If you google "flo living" that is the name of the organization that has this type of info--they offer lots of free info and last year I did a "food study" with them. Their mission is to treat women's health "complaints" (everything from low libido, depression, to endometriosis, ovarian cysts and infertility), naturally.


P.S. here's a link to their latest blog post, on this very topic...



answers from Binghamton on

When a doctor says your thyroid is "normal", that may not actually be true. There is a lot of debate right now about what a good TSH value is. Some doctors still say anything below 5 is normal, but my doctor says anything above 2 is too high. Just some food for thought. I spent a good 15 years feeling off and gaining weight despite exercising and eating healthfully, and now that I have found someone to treat my hypothyroidism, I feel like a new person.



answers from New York on

I too have the same problem at first i thought it was hormanol and my gyno suggested birth control to even it out with diet and excersice or accupuncture.


answers from Boston on

Be very careful about taking a particular nutrient (e.g. St. John's Wort) - single nutrients are not absorbed by the body - so you get minimal results for heavy investment financially. Moreover, it's very easy to get yourself in trouble by taking "natural" things and guessing at quantities. A friend of mine wound up in the hospital doing this - her blood pressure dropped to 0 twice, once at home and once in the hospital. The cardiologist was really ticked off that she tried to self-medicate with things that had not been well formulated.

99% of the time, you don't know where the supplement was made, what regulations apply in the country of manufacture, what the absorption level is (pills: 15-30% at best), and what else is in there in terms of fillers and additives. "All Natural" means nothing - it's not a well defined term, and not every natural is good for you - think snake venom, toadstools, arsenic. And most of the health food store clerks don't have any education in this area. They'll sell you what's popular or what was featured on a TV show, or what gives the store the highest profit margin.

Our diets are insufficient no matter how "well" we eat - soil depletion, GMO, after-harvest processing (e.g. the gas our vegetables are exposed to so they don't rot between field and table), and much more. You'd be shocked if you went back into the produce area of your grocery store and got a chatty produce manager to tell you what goes on.

I have done really well with depression management (weaned off my meds with my doctor's approval and blessing) but I work with food scientists and a heavily research-based approach using clinical data and not just jumping on a bandwagon with the ingredient of the month. It's comprehensive, and it's patented which means it's been proven safe, unique and effective. You will find practically nothing out on the open market that has been patented (maybe an ingredient or two, but not the whole formula - and that's what makes it so much safer). If you use only food supplements and no drugs (meaning there is no warning label required on your supplement) then you will do much better.

Let me know if you want more help.

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