According to The Depression Cure by Stephen S. Ilardi, PhD, there are 6 steps in his program to beat depression without using drugs. They are:
- Dietary omega-3 fatty acids
- Engaging activity
- Physical exercise
- Sunlight exposure
- Social support
This blog entry, however, is just going to point out some of the amazing things I read about the first step: dietary omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Ilardi calls it brain food. As an Alaskan, I immediately thought of wild salmon. I never would have guessed though, how much omega-3s impact our brain. Did you know that our brain is mostly made up of fat? 60% of the human brain is fat by dry weight. Most of the fat molecules in our brain are made up by the body, but some we have to get through diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fish, wild game, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables, all things found in abundance in the hunter-gatherer diet. Our distant ancestors ate five to ten times more omega-3 fat than we do. In fact, omega-3s have gradually disappeared from the American diet over the past century. (10)Why has the American diet changed so much from our ancestors? Well, first let me tell you that omega-3s come from algae, grasses, plants, where omega-6s come from plant seeds, nuts, grains. A healthy ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, to maintain a healthy chemical balance, is anywhere between 3:1 to 1:1. Our ancestors had an outstanding ratio of 1:1, but today in America we have a horrible 16:1 ratio!! (pg 67)
To explain why this drastic change has happened, lets look at our farming history. The majority of livestock in America today is corn or seed fed (omega-6s), instead of in the past, where they were grass fed (omega-3s). Fish and other meats in chain restaurants and in super markets are mostly all farmed, not wild. Also corn is in almost anything nowadays.
The shift to industrial agriculture or “factory farming” did not happen overnight, but it has monopolized American farming practices mainly because it is highly efficient in producing massive quantities of food at a relatively low cost. And one of the biggest culprits fueling the factory farm movement? You guessed it…CORN! Corn is a food that is heavily subsidized by the government, essentially meaning it is overproduced and incredibly cheap. So cheap, in fact, that it is chemically altered and used as a replacement for thousands of more costly ingredients. Corn is not only used as a sugar replacement (high fructose corn syrup) but also found in unsuspecting household products like chewing gum, craft glue, plastic bottles, and cell phones, just to name a few.. source: http://www.oneresult.com/articles/nutrition/great-beef-debateTherefore, we are getting way too many omega-6s, and not enough omega-3s. If you learn anything from this blog, I hope it is that you only eat wild fish/game and grass fed livestock or no meat at all.
So how does consuming too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s effect my mood, my sadness, and/or my will to live? Dr. Ilardi goes into great detail about the chemical imbalance it causes on our brain. I am not going to go into detail, but I do find it really important, so if you want the answer to that question, buy the book. Not only does the chemical imbalance effect mental illness, such as depression, but other wide spread diseases in the industrialized world: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, allergies, asthma, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and even many types of cancer. (pg 71)
Dr. Ilardi writes about the different groups of people in the world and their depression rates. This gives an example, and more proof, of how our diet is effecting our brains. For example, he brings up the Amish in America, who still live in their eighteenth-century way of life, but have the lowest rate of depression than any other group in our general population. Another example is the modern day hunter-gatherer, such as the Kaluli people of New Guinea highlands. One would assume that because they have a hard life, with no material comforts or medical advances that we have, they would suffer at least a little depression. Researchers that have studied these people have come to find that clinical depression is almost completely nonexistent among such groups. (pg 4-5)
Dr. Ilardi is not anti-medication, but he is a researcher and writes about many clinical studies that suggest that "omega-3s are among the most effective antidepressant substances ever discovered" (11).
British researchers recently studied a group of depressed patients who had failed to recover after taking medication for eight weeks. All study patients stayed on their medication as prescribed, but some also took an omega-3 supplement. About 70% of those who received the supplement went on to recover, compared to only 25% of patients who kept taking only the medication. (10)He also mentions there are many clinical studies that have been done on anti-depressant medication versus the placebo effect, and the comparison of the patients recovery rate.
Irving Kirsch, a clinical researcher at the University of Connecticut, petitioned the FDA for the results of every drug-company study submitted over a thirteen-year period (1987-1999) for six commonly used antidepressant medications: Zoloft, Effexor, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, and Serzone. Incredibly, he found that in 56% of these studies, depressed patients taking an antidepressant drug fared no better than those who took a placebo. Not surprisingly, the drug companies have never published most of these studies.(46)I could go on and on with more examples that he gives about medication, omega-3s and the brain, but I think you get the point. Omega-3s are essential to the human diet and clearly help a good % of depressed people. I have ordered the prescribed dose he discusses in his book, and I can't wait to start my regimen. I hope I will feel a difference, but again, no expectations. Just like the Dr. says "When it comes to treating depression, there is no one size-fits-all cure" (61). There is so much more that I read that I want to share, but if you have read this far into my blog, then you are obviously interested and should just buy the book. The information Dr. Ilardi writes is not just for depressed people, but for people who want to live a healthy lifestyle. Amazon reviews have said the same thing, but it's true. I am giving it a 5 star and I am only on page 88 of 278 pages.