Nearly 40 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Approximately 4.4 million children (ages 3-17) experience anxiety and approximately 1.9 million are riddled with depression. These are heartbreaking statistics.
What's even more frightening is the overprescribing of drugs to "fix" the problem. 1 in 6 Americans take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Because these medications can be addictive and difficult to wean off of, many times medicine ends up becoming a life long solution.
Now in no way am I attempting to undermine the seriousness of mental illness. Some people really may need medication to adjust the chemical imbalances in their brains. However, we have such a tendency as a culture to look for a quick fix. We pop pills to mask the symptoms; but never address the root of the problem.
Oftentimes, there is a physical or spiritual reason why we experience depression and anxiety, and consequently; a physical or spiritual solution. I will address the spiritual aspect of this next week but for now I want to discuss three changes we can make physically if we are struggling with anxiety or depression.
Check Vitamin D and Magnesium levels
Since vitamin D levels are crucial for supporting healthy brain function and keeping seratonin levels high, deficiency in this vitamin will have a direct effect on one's mental state. Studies have shown that those with depression have low vitamin D levels, and those with lower levels are at a greater risk of depression.
Have you ever experienced sadness in the winter months, when sunshine is at an all time low? If so, it is most likely because your vitamin D levels were not adequate. Sadly, most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. This is due to lack of nutrients in the standard diet, as well as the chemicals in sunscreen, which prohibit the body from being able to produce vitamin D in the sun.
Magnesium is also a huge factor. I stumbled across the link between magnesium and anxiety a while back, and it has been a game changer. I take mine before bed because it helps me to get a good night's sleep as well. If I forget to take my magnesium, I can literally feel it in my body. My anxiety levels rise, and it affects my attitude as well.
I recommend seeking out a functional medicine doctor (one who treats the body holistically) to test the blood's levels of magnesium and vitamin D. Daily supplementation is usually necessary, though the amount will vary from person to person. Also, to be sure your body will produce Vitamin D in the sun, make the switch from traditional sunscreen to red raspbery seed oil (natural SPF of 25-30).
Study upon study continues to reveal the relationship between cell phone use and anxious and depressive thoughts. This is due to a number of factors; social media being a big trigger. The toll it has taken on our mental health, and especially our children's mental health, is astounding. The constant comparison trap that many people get sucked into is destroying our mental health and well being.
This affects many teenagers as well. A major study of over 1 million high schoolers showed a direct correlation between high amounts of screen time and greater instances of psychological problems.
The use of electronic devices is literally re-wiring the way our brains process information. This constant over stimulation of our minds makes it impossible for us to rest and just be... leading to feelings of anxiety and depression.
In addition to this, the negative frequencies emitted by our electronics can and do affect our mental state, as well as doing damage physically. I've spoken more in depth about EMF's and how to protect yourself here :
So if you are experiencing anxiety or depression, unplug! Set limits for phone use and consider taking a break from social media for a while to see how it affects your mood. Studies show that those who drastically reduce their time on social media (or quit altogether) see improvements in their overall well-being within just a few days.
Regulate gut health
There is a proven connection between the brain and the belly. Our microbiome (the complex variety of good and bad bacteria that lives inside our body) is a major factor to consider when dealing with anxiety or depression. Lack of good bacteria and overgrowth of bad bacteria contributes greatly to mood disorders such as these.
We can help to restore balance to our microbiome by avoiding the overuse of antibiotics and eating foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics. As well as this, we must avoid foods high in Omega 6 fatty acids, and instead eat a diet rich in in Omega 3 fatty acids. The standard American diet is the reverse: high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3. This leads to an imbalance of gut bacteria, inflammation, and a plethora of health problems, both physical and mental.
Here is a list of foods to consume and also what to avoid for optimal gut health:
Foods high in prebiotics: chicory root, garlic, jeruselum artichoke, dandelion greens, onions, asparagus, bananas, apples, cocoa, flax seed, jicama.
Foods high in probiotics: cultured yogurt, kefir, sourkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha, some raw cheeses.
Food high in Omega 3's : daily supplementation with a high quality fish oil supplement, certified extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish such as mackerel or salmon, oysters, sardines, flaxseeds.
Alcohol, margarine, soy, and any products that contain the following oils -soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil.
By consuming gut-healthy foods and avoiding inflammatory oils, the balance in our microbiomes will begin to shift in a healthier direction. As this balance shifts, it will improve our mental health as well.
Remember, these suggestions are not always a quick fix! It takes commitment to holistic healing as we give the body time to build up nutrients, remove toxins, and repair itself; as it was designed by our Creator to do. It will take much more effort and dedication than popping a pill, but our minds and bodies will thank us in the long run!
Stay tuned for next week as I discuss the spiritual aspect of anxiety and depression.
And if you ever need help on your personal wellness journey, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Stay healthy friends!
Obligatory Disclaimer :
I am not a doctor. All information and resources found on this blog are based on my research, experience, and what I have seen work for my family and for others. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. I encourage you to consult a holistic doctor or nutritionist before making health changes, especially any changes relating to a specific health condition. Always consult a physician before making any changes to medication. Do not rely solely on this information to make medical diagnoses or determine treatment. Use this information as a general guideline to healthier living and a starting point for your own research.