September 5-11th marks National Suicide Prevention Week. Find out which foods can help or be harmful for depression.
Tomorrow marks the fourteenth anniversary of the passing of my only sibling and though she didn’t commit suicide; she lived her life so recklessly that she might just as well have. She definitely suffered from some sort of depression and acted out in ways that were destructive to not only herself, but others as well. Over the years, she did get professional help to cope; then eventually would pull away again from family and friends into the abyss of self destruction. Ultimately, it was a car accident that took her life in the middle of the night at the age of 33 leaving three children under the age of 12 to grow up without their mother.
In this day and age where kids are being bullied at school and online more frequently, it’s important to stay connected. As a parent, it’s our job to know what our kids are doing and who their friends are to keep them safe. We personally use a tracking program called TeenSafe.com which monitors cell phone usage, websites visited, and text messages. I don’t stalk our daughters’ phone every day, but I do look on occasion for new people she is talking to and the tone of the conversations she’s having. One conversation she had in elementary school was with a classmate who was being bullied at school by other classmates. This person was reaching out to my daughter out of desperation and was even communicating their desire to not be “here” anymore . I spoke to my daughter about the text messages as she had instructed this child to tell their parents and the school. Thankfully the child took action and spoke to their parents, the parents had a meeting with all involved including the school and the issue was resolved. I did monitor the event the entire time as I was going to go to the parents myself, but there is a fine line with trust; especially with kids. This classmate trusted my daughter enough to reach out to her and if I went to this child’s parents before they were able to, they might have blamed my daughter for “telling on them”; which may have caused the classmate to spiral even more into depression. Look for the signs of depression including:
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Appetite or weight changes
- Sleep changes
- Anger or irritability
- Loss of energy
- Reckless behavior
- Concentration problems
- Unexplained aches and pains
Depression is a major risk factor for suicide and can make you feel like it is the only way to escape the pain. Here are some warning signs of suicidal behavior:
- Talking about killing or harming one’s self
- Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
- An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
- Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
- Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
- Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
- Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
- A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy
How can food help or hinder depression?
Though this should not be the only treatment for people who suffer from depression, studies have shown that some foods make us feel relaxed while others can act as stimulants. If you experience stress, anxiety or panic attacks, making some changes to your diet may help alleviate some of your symptoms. Here are some foods you may want to add to your diet to increase your mood, and some foods you may want to skip because they can increase stress and possibly cause you to feel depressed.
Foods that Help Make You Feel Better with Depression
- Tryptophan Rich Foods-Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps the brain produce a feel-good sensation by increasing the serotonin in the brain. Foods include turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, oats, cheese, soy, nuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds.
- Beef & Vitamin B Rich Foods-A deficiency in B vitamins such as folic acid and B12 can trigger depression in some people. You can take a vitamin B supplement or eat foods that are rich in B vitamins to help keep you feeling less anxious. Foods include beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs.
- Carbohydrates-Carbohydrates increase serotonin in the brain so eat foods like whole wheat bread or brown rice versus processed carbohydrates like white bread, sugar, candy or white rice. Whole grains take longer for the body to break down and release sugar into the bloodstream more slowly. Processed carbohydrates give you an initial rush which will rapidly drop your sugar levels leaving you feeling tired.
- Salmon-Salmon and other fatty fish containing Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines can enhance your mood.
- High Protein Foods-Feeling irritable or anxious can be caused by a lack of blood sugar so it’s important to eat small, protein packed foods every few hours. Protein helps stimulate the production of norepinephrine and dopamine which carry impulses between nerve cells. Higher levels have shown to improve alertness and mental energy. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils.
Foods that Can be Harmful for Depression
- Coffee & Caffeinated Drinks-Coffee and other caffeinated drinks like tea, soda and hot chocolate slow down the serotonin production in the brain; which causes you to feel depressed and irritable. It also acts as a diuretic which causes you to go to the bathroom more frequently leaving you feeling dehydrated; which causes you to feel depressed. Caffeine can also keep you awake; which leads to stress and anxiety if you don’t get enough sleep.
- Candy-Sugar is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and causes a jolt of energy. When the jolt wears off, the body increases its insulin production to remove the sugar from your bloodstream; which leaves you feeling tired and depressed.
- Alcohol-Alcohol is a depressant and is also a diuretic so it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. Drinking a glass of wine with dinner is fine, but drinking several bottles is not.
- Processed Meats-Eating processed meats like hot dogs and sausage, fried or fatty foods can cause anxiety or other mental health issues.
If you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Talk to family, friends or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK They are there to assist you in times of crisis and are also there to support survivors of suicide. Click here for a complete list of depression signs and symptoms.