Depression as an inflammatory disease
Did you know that depression is considered an inflammatory disease? Recent studies have linked good mental health to an anti-inflammatory diet that is low in junk food and rich in whole foods (1,2). In fact, the same therapeutic diets that are linked to lowering inflammation and the risk of heart disease have also been associated with better moods. For example, there is a strong link between the Mediterranean diet and a decrease in depressive symptoms (3).
Starting the Day on a Positive Note
Though starting the day with the proper nutritional components is helpful, most typical breakfast foods take hours to break down and absorb. Unfortunately, that time lag means that they can only play a minimal role in enhancing the initial hours of the day (4).
The body is more likely to utilize nutrients quickly if they come into the body already broken down. Also, the faster the body recovers from the sleep state, the more nutrients it can extract. Some of the most important nutritional components to replenish upon waking up include:
- Electrolytes to enhance nerve/muscle action
- Water to correct sleep induced dehydration
- Vitamin B Family to replenish the adrenal glands
- Healthy fats to supply the body with fuel
Other helpful components that can significantly enhance mornings include:
- Compounds that have a direct effect on the central nervous system
- Medicinal mushrooms: To regulate blood sugar, stress hormones, and the immune system.
- Adaptogenic herbs: to regulate stress hormones
- Nervine herbs: to ensure a balanced mood during periods of stress.
- Providing enough steady fuel to promote satiety and, thus, more steady blood sugar levels
What makes a good breakfast?
Outside of the physiological and endocrine possible reasons for not wanting to get out of bed, depression is one of the leading reasons for not wanting to get out of bed (5). Mood-boosting recipes are those that contain lower levels of sugar, more healthy fatty acids, anti-inflammatory whole-foods, and foods that fight oxidative stress. Those foods are more likely to reduce brain fog, enhance gut health, and promote healthy mood regulation for the rest of the day (6).
How can foods decrease symptoms of depression?
The best breakfast is one that does not increase blood sugar. Though we may see dessert for breakfast as a possible choice, diets that spike blood sugar are linked to faster crashes.
Fatty fish may not sound like your typical breakfast, but it is one of the most filling anti-inflammatory foods that provides your body with healthy fats.
Nut butters (almond butter and peanut butter): Butters can maintain satiety and prevent the body from being stressed by high-sugar meals.
Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest roots that provide the body with bulking fiber. Fiber is key for gut health
- Don't disturb the blood flow
- An excessively dense breakfast may make you tired
- Watch out for blood pressure
- Salty meats and high-protein meals may contribute to blood pressure irregularities
- Track your depressive symptoms
- You would be surprised at how many correlations can be made between mood and diet, once tracking takes place. Keeping track of symptoms can help you achieve your goal of better mental health
- A word on healthy foods
- Just because a food is healthy for everyone else, it doesn’t mean that it must agree with your body
- Avoid the sugar
- Opt for no sugar, as opposed to less sugar. sugary foods
- Weight your stress levels
- Never have a huge breakfast before a presentation or a job interview
If Fast Absorption IS What You Seek, Go Small!
It is always best to start small to have fast, efficient, and non-taxing nutrient absorption. Green juices and smoothies make up for the most efficient nutrient absorption because they almost skip the digestion step entirely.
The fact that the components are broken down so small and that the nutrient density of the meal is so high means that the body can easily absorb as many nutrients as possible in a short amount of time. Another unique feature of greens and plant-based foods, besides their nutrient density, is their complete nutrient profile. Greens contain a wide variety of naturally balanced electrolytes, vitamins, and phytonutrients. As a bonus, greens pack all their nutrients in a high-quality, balanced, naturally alkaline medium.
Waking Up The Nervous System With Oxygen
Mushrooms, like probiotics, are a rapidly growing area of natural medicine research. Many animal trials and cellular studies point towards the capacity of cordyceps to improve brain function and learning (7). Additionally, the prominent anti-inflammatory power of the mushroom and its ability to enhance neurotransmitter levels point towards its possible role in improving the mental capacity of the elderly. Increasing oxygen levels may mean better endurance and physical performance for younger individuals (11).
Waking Up The Nervous System With Neurotransmitters
The beautiful Lion's mane mushroom is one of the most studied mushrooms. Science demonstrates the mushroom's capacity to enhance the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (12). Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter of stimulation in the brain and is responsible for making short-term memories.
Lion's mane has been demonstrated to have good potential as an enhancer of memory for those with neurodegenerative diseases.
Lion's mane is known to be a high-quality mushroom for cooking, which means it can be made into a tasty part of our diet and can be extracted to work as a natural ingredient that helps the brain (13). Studies demonstrate improvement in cognitive ability, better brain function, and an overall improvement in mental capacity for both the aged brain and the brain affected by neurodegenerative disease! (14)
WAKING UP THE BRAIN TO MORE ENERGY
Reishi is a mushroom traditionally used as a tonic for those suffering from fatigue (15). In animal models of Alzheimer's disease, it improves cognitive function and speeds up the growth of neural progenitor cells. Also, the unique terpenoids in reishi are being looked at as a possible way to treat a number of diseases that damage nerve cells (16).
Though the benefits of reishi as an enhancer of cognitive health are still in their preliminary stages, reishi proves to be a valuable tool to reduce fatigue for those suffering from chronic illnesses like cancer. A clinical trial shows that reishi may help improve the quality of life for people with cancer by making them feel much less tired overall (17).
Reishi mushroom can be a healthy tonic that can improve overall health by making you feel less anxious and helping you sleep better. Studies have also shown that it can give people more energy and make them stronger (18).
The Importance of Proteins
Proteins are the building blocks of almost every part of the body. Filling up on proteins means more building, better satiety, better endurance, and faster recovery. The best proteins are complete proteins, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids that the body cannot synthesize on its own.
Complete proteins do not need to come from an animal source. Complete proteins can be obtained by pairing two incomplete plant proteins to get all the essential amino acids. On the other hand, some rare plant proteins come with the complete list of essential amino acids checked. One such protein is hemp protein.
Hemp protein contains a profile that is very similar to that of meat, with the exception of having a balanced alkaline quality (19). Additionally, hemp is considered one of the great sources of omega-3s which are anti-inflammatory and supportive for mental health.
a word on sleep
The body depends on the quality of sleep and the capacity to rejuvenate to initiate a healthy start to the day. Factors that impact sleep quality include:
- Level of alertness upon going to bed
- Directly affecting the ability of the brain to detox during sleep
- State of the gastrointestinal system
- Directly impacting the capacity of the liver to detox the body during sleep
- Level of toxic metabolites in the muscles/ blood
Research demonstrates that brain cells literally decompress and move further apart during sleep, making it easier for the body to remove toxic metabolites. The buildup of toxic metabolites in the brain is a natural component of healthy metabolism, and sleep is a physiological state during which clean-up is facilitated (20, 21).
The biggest issue with sleep is that for many, sleep is no longer restful or efficient! Efficient sleep follows the natural sleep cycles and is terminated at the end of a natural sleep cycle where the brain is in a state of light sleep as opposed to deep sleep. Therefore, entering the sleep cycle with a busy mind usually results in more shallow sleep and less chance for the body to rejuvenate fully.
Another factor that significantly reduces sleep quality is sleeping on a full stomach. While it is understandable that some cannot eliminate eating after 6:00 PM, any food left in the stomach during sleep results in the body's attention, in the form of blood flow, being directed towards the stomach and the digestive process. In such case, blood flow is more likely to skip essential areas such as the nervous system. Thus, one is less likely to wake up fully rejuvenated.