By Dr. Natasha Turner ND
Recognizing depression is the first necessary step to recovery. The symptoms, however, may vary and be experienced repeatedly over a few days, weeks, or months at a time, including:
- changing sleep patterns–oversleeping or insomnia
- early morning waking or an inability to sleep in regardless of bedtime
- weight gain or loss
- loss of appetite or increased cravings for carbohydrates or sugar
- repeated negative thoughts
- increased use of alcohol or drugs
- failing to find enjoyment in previously enjoyable activities
- loss of motivation and withdrawal from friends and family
- poor concentration–an inability to watch TV or read
- mood swings
- some individuals may also experience heightened anxiety
- chronic low energy
- sensitivity to rejection or paranoia
- poor memory
The most common form of depression, atypical depression, appears with mood swings, weight gain, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, lethargy, and increased sensitivity to rejection.
Mastering Mood Swings and Cravings
Craving can be defined as an intense, conscious desire, usually to consume a specific drug or food. There is also a significant body of research that suggests it is causally linked to behaviour. For example, craving predicts relapse episodes in substance use and food cravings predict both eating and weight gain. As such, cravings are often considered an appropriate target for intervention.
According to a January 2018 study published buy City University London, Mindfulness Meditation has a long tradition of being used to address cravings. According to ancient Buddhist texts, craving leads to suffering but can be avoided through mindfulness meditation practice. More recently, mindfulness-based interventions have been used to explicitly target cravings with the aim of bringing about clinically relevant changes to behaviour.
Thankfully there is hope for natural mood relief. According to a study reported at the National Institutes of Mental Health, patients with depression responded favourably to treatment with chromium picolinate, a mineral closely involved in healthy blood sugar balance and insulin response.
The study involved 113 patients who were given 600 mcg of chromium picolinate daily for eight weeks. During this time, their mood swings, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, and the perception of weight gain markedly improved. Those with the strongest carbohydrate cravings experienced the most significant improvement in symptoms with chromium supplementation.
Our Happy Hormone
Relief from depressive symptoms and carbohydrate cravings may occur with chromium treatment because it acts on insulin to influence serotonin activity in our brain. Serotonin is our “happy hormone,” involved in mood, memory, food cravings, appetite regulation, and healthy sleep patterns. Not surprisingly, as serotonin levels decline, the incidence of depression and our cravings for carbs naturally increases. In fact, some researchers now recommended that mental health professionals recognize carbohydrate cravings as a possible sign of a more serious underlying medical condition like atypical depression.
A Four -Step Action Plan to Combat Cravings and Mood Concerns
It is probably safe to conclude that most depressed patients with carbohydrate cravings and weight gain should receive chromium supplements. Good nutrition and plenty of exercise can also promote successful treatment of depression. In addition to the use of supplements containing chromium, you can use the following four simple tips to prevent cravings and mood concerns:
- Stay active: Aerobic exercise has documented benefits in the treatment and prevention of depression. It reduces anxiety, improves mental clarity, and is most beneficial if consistently completed at a minimum of 24 hours to a maximum 48 hours apart. You should also add music to your workout – it’s proven to boost serotonin and dopamine – your feel-good hormones. Walking is of particular benefit for teens, as this study shows combining five minutes of meditation or mindfulness after walking had dramatic improvements on anxiety for the majority of teens in the study. In fact, it was just as effective as prescription medication. The secret is to walk long enough – for mood and weight loss – it must be a minimum of an hour in one session, versus broken up throughout the day. What a great way to get connected with your kids!
- Eat right: Strictly avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and try limiting foods that can cause allergies or sensitivities (such as wheat – most often the worst culprit for contributing to anxiety and depression) because of their potential negative impact on your brain chemistry. Because skipping a meal is also a physical stress on the body that can exacerbate anxiety or depression symptoms, maintaining stable blood sugars by eating a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates every three to four hours, can be very helpful. If a poor appetite or failure to eat on waking or during the day is a concern, get a meal replacement like Vitamin Complete – with a multivitamin or without a multivitamin, which provides a complete meal in a glass. It is especially important to have a balanced breakfast, free of starchy carbs and rich in protein, and to avoid skipping the 2 to 4 pm meal – as these two meals aid blood sugar balance and stress hormone balance – both of which are vital to serotonin balance, energy, sleep and mood.
- Boost your nutrients: In addition to chromium, daily supplementation with 4 to 6 grams of omega-3 fish oil or plant based oils and 2000 – 5000IU Vitamin D3 has documented benefits for depression, anxiety, craving control and fat loss. And for your chromium source, a perfect solution is Vitamin Chromium Complex. Take one to three capsules daily with food .
- Suck-up your serotonin: A new addition to our Clear Medicine dispensary, Insomnitol Chews contain the precursor to serotonin, 5 HTP as well as inositol and l-theanine to calm a busy mind. There is also the addition of melatonin to improve sleep. I suggest sucking one to three at bedtime. This is also the perfect solution for teens and young adults suffering from anxiety or depression.