Depression

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Depression is not something to underestimate. It is a real pathology that reduces quality of life and increases the risk of mortality.

It is defined as one of the major health concerns and causes of disability worldwide. Unfortunately, its occurrence is currently increasing.

What are the causes of depression?

Depression can be the result of different causes, such as:

  • loss of relatives and friends
  • stressful events
  • illness
  • divorce
  • loneliness
  • particular life events (i.e. a birth)

Moreover, there are some personal traits such as low self-esteem and high self-criticism that can increase the risk of suffering from this pathology. Finally, people with a family predisposition for depression have a higher risk of developing this condition.

The Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterised by several common features and symptoms. The principal ones are psychological, such as:

  • persistent low mood and sadness
  • low self-esteem
  • incapacity to make decisions
  • absence of motivation
  • inability to cope with problems or unexpected life events
  • suicidal thoughts
  • anxiety

Physical symptoms are also present and include:

  • change in appetite
  • aches and pain
  • lack of energy
  • tiredness
  • low libido
  • insomnia

Usually, a person does not experience all these symptoms together. However, more than one symptom can be present at one time and can persist for several weeks or months. Depression usually severely affects different aspects of the everyday life, making it difficult to interact with people, work efficaciously and have a happy family life.

Usually, people do not want to talk about their private life and disclose their problems. However, often it is very important to talk with others and express their feelings and their fears.

One of the first important steps to cope this pathology is to become conscious of being depressed, react and ask for help.

What are the treatments for this pathology?

There is a large spectrum of depression forms: from light forms to very severe forms. Based on the severity of the symptoms, different treatments exist among which include:

  • self-help
  • talking therapy
  • A lot of medications are available; they can be very useful to alleviate the symptoms. However, they can have a lot of side effects, and patients can suffer from addiction.
  • mental health teams

Other Important Factors to Consider

Diet

Diet plays a very important role in the management of this pathology.

Usually, depressed people have a low sense of appetite, struggle to eat a healthy and balanced diet and often lose weight. On the medium-long term, this can cause health concerns, negatively reflect on depression, and worsen the symptoms (tiredness, lack of energy).

For this reason, depressed people are strongly advised to eat a balanced and healthy diet containing all the macro and micronutrients needed by the human body.

It is shown that micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, play a very important role in the management of depression symptoms and are involved in the physiopathology of this disease.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats and fish seems to have antidepressant properties. This is also true of a diet (such as the Mediterranean one) that is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Moreover, from a recent study, it appears that coffee and tea consumption is associated with a low risk to suffer from depression. This is thanks to the effects of caffeine in both drinks.

Vitamin B

Depressed people are recommended to have the correct intake of vitamin B. In fact, people with depression have a higher risk of having low plasma levels of these vitamins.

Vitamin B is a group of water-soluble vitamins that are present in good amount in both plant based and animal based products. Vitamin B complex contains all of the B Vitamins.

Omega 3

Omega 3 is defined as an essential fatty acid that we must consume through the diet. Good sources of Omega 3 are oily fish, oily seeds, and nuts. Beyond all the positive health consequences that Omega 3 has on human health (i.e. maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels (EFSA)), it also seems to exert, thanks to its role in neurotransmission, some positive effects on people suffering from depression. Omega 3 is ofter found with Omega 6 and Omega 9 to make up Omega 3 6 9.

5-Hydroxy Tryptophan (5-HTP)

It has been found that depression is often linked with a decrease in the level of neurotransmitters (i.e. dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline). For this reason, it could be useful to introduce Tryptophan into the diet, as the precursor of neurotransmitters. There is some evidence to prove that the administration of 5 HTP or Tryptophan supplements could be useful in comparison to a placebo to alleviate the symptoms of depression. However, more research in this field is needed.

Dietary Supplements

There are a number of different products on the market that aim to alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve mood. Even if their efficacy is not proven, a lot of people use these supplements (often in combination with other treatments) and find them useful. The more common are:

Physical Activity

Different studies have shown the importance and the effectiveness of exercise to reduce the symptoms of depression [3]. In particular, it was recently found that people following the level of physical activity suggested by WHO (People aged 19-64: 150 min at least every week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity) respond better to treatments for depression (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).

Other Habits

A lot of people suffering from depression start to use different substances such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. They often start to use these products to feel better and to forget their problems. Unfortunately, these substances only worsen the symptoms of depression and they exacerbate and aggravate the consumer’s health.

  1. Ahmadian-Attari, M. M., Noorbala, A. A., Khoshdel, A., Kamalinejad, M., & Taghva, A. (2015). Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cholesterol Have a Main Role in Antidepression Diet of Iranian Traditional Medicine. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 2156587215614703.
  2. Grosso, G., Micek, A., Castellano, S., Pajak, A., & Galvano, F. (2016). Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of depression: A systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of observational studies. Molecular nutrition & food research60(1), 223-234.
  3. Hallgren, M., Nakitanda, O. A., Ekblom, Ö., Herring, M. P., Owen, N., Dunstan, D., ... & Forsell, Y. (2016). Habitual physical activity levels predict treatment outcomes in depressed adults: A prospective cohort study. Preventive Medicine88, 53-58.
  4. Miki, T., Kochi, T., Kuwahara, K., Eguchi, M., Kurotani, K., Tsuruoka, H., ... & Nanri, A. (2015). Dietary patterns derived by reduced rank regression (RRR) and depressive symptoms in Japanese employees: The Furukawa nutrition and health study. Psychiatry research229(1), 214-219.
  5. Muszyńska, B., Łojewski, M., Rojowski, J., Opoka, W., & Sułkowska-Ziaja, K. (2015). Natural products of relevance in the prevention and supportive treatment of depression. Pol49(3), 435-453.
  6. Null, G., Pennesi, L., & Feldman, M. (2016). Nutrition and Lifestyle Intervention on Mood and Neurological Disorders. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 2156587216637539.
  7. Webster-Gandy, J., Madden, A., & Holdsworth, M. (Eds.). (2011). Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics. OUP Oxford.
  8. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/depression/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  9. http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/depression.aspx

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