Monday, July 27, 2009

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder that can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is more than a passing mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness, and it cannot be willed or wished away.

A depressive disorder involves the body, mood, and thoughts. People who are depressed cannot "snap out of it" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for months or years. Treatments such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy can reduce and sometimes eliminate the symptoms of depression.

Depression Statistics
  • Depressive disorders affect 20 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. This includes major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.
  • Everyone will at some time in their life be affected by depression -- their own or someone else's, according to Australian Government statistics. (Depression statistics in Australia are comparable to those of the US and UK.)
  • Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants. At least four percent of preschoolers -- over a million -- are clinically depressed.
  • The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23%.
  • 15% of the population of most developed countries suffers severe depression.
  • 30% of women are depressed. Men's figures were previously thought to be half that of women, but new estimates are higher.
  • 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness.
  • 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help.
  • 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment.
  • 92% of depressed African-American males do not seek treatment.
  • 15% of depressed people will commit suicide.
Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 -- and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease.

Depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder and costs employers more than $51 billion per year in absenteeism and lost productivity, not including high medical and pharmaceutical bills.

Three of the most common forms of depressive disorders are:
-- Major Depression
-- Dysthymia
-- Bipolar Disorder
Even within these types of depression there are variations in the number of symptoms, their severity, and persistence.

Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list below) that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Some people have a single episode of depression, but many have episodes that recur.

Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression that lasts a long time but involves less severe symptoms. If you suffer from dysthymia you probalby lead a normal life, but you may not be functioning well or feeling good. People with dysthymia may also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.

Bipolar Disorder (also called manic-depression) is another type of depressive disorder. Bipolar disorder is thought to be less common than other depressive disorders. If you have bipolar disorder you are troubled by cycling mood swings - usually severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). The mood swings are sometimes dramatic and rapid, but usually are more gradual. When in the depressed stage, a person can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic stage, the individual may be overactive, over-talkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior, sometimes in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. A person in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state, where the person is out of touch with reality.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Foods That Fight and Prevent Depression

Here are some foods that help to fight or prevent depression:
Brown rice
Cod liver oil (Vitamin D)
Wild salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids: Research has shown that depressed people often lack a fatty acid known as EPA. Participants in a 2002 study featured in the Archives of General Psychiatry took just a gram of fish oil each day and noticed a 50-percent decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disorders, unexplained feelings of sadness, suicidal thoughts, and decreased sex drive. Omega-3 fatty acids food sources include walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and oily fish like wild salmon and tuna.

Brown Rice: Contains vitamins B1 and B3, and folic acid. Brown rice is also a low-glycemic food, which means it releases glucose into the bloodstream gradually, preventing sugar lows and mood swings. Brown rice also provides many of the trace minerals we need to function properly, as well as being a high-fiber food that can keep the digestive system healthy and lower cholesterol. Instant varieties of rice do not offer these benefits.

Brewer's Yeast: Contains vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Mix a thimbleful into any smoothie for your daily dose. This superfood packs a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals in a small package, including 16 amino acids and 14 minerals. Amino acids are vital for the nervous system, which makes brewer's yeast a no-brainer for treating depression.

Cabbage: Contains vitamin C and folic acid. Cabbage protects against stress, infection and heart disease, as well as many types of cancers, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. There are numerous ways to get cabbage into your diet; toss it in a salad instead of lettuce, use cabbage in place of lettuce wraps, stir fry it in your favorite Asian dish, make some classic cabbage soup or juice it. To avoid gas after eating cabbage, add a few fennel, caraway or cumin seeds before cooking. Cabbage is also a good source of blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber, and the raw juice of cabbage is a known cure for stomach ulcers.

Whole-grain oats: Contain folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamins B6 and B1. Oats help lower cholesterol, are soothing to the digestive tract and help avoid the blood sugar crash-and-burn that can lead to crabbiness and mood swings. Other whole grains such as kamut, spelt and quinoa are also excellent choices for delivering brain-boosting nutrients and avoiding the pitfalls of refined grains such as white flour.

Things to Avoid
Processed foods: You should avoid foods that contain refined flour, sugar, HFCS, and trans fats, i.e. processed foods, fast foods, most packaged foods, moost lunch meats, etc.

Beverages: You should avoid soda, diet soda, and most bottled fruit drinks. You should also avoid coffee because of the caffeine.

Drugs: You should avoid alcohol and tobacco. In addition, some commonly prescribed drugs -- such as antibiotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, pain killers, ulcer drugs, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, anti-Parkinson's drugs, birth control pills, high blood pressure drugs, heart medications and psychotropic drugs contribute to depression. If you are taking any of these, don't quit them without talking to your doctor; but be aware that they may be contributing to your condition by depleting your body of depression-fighting vitamins and minerals.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sleeping Tips for Insomnia (No Drugs)

Insomnia problems include: you can’t get to sleep; you wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t go back to sleep; and, waking up too early, between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., and you can’t get back to sleep.

Common causes of insomnia include poor eating habits, too much caffeine, too much alcohol, too much tobacco, nutritional deficiencies, blood glucose imbalances, physical pain, improper breathing, anxiety, stress, depression, and the lack of exercise.

Here are some ideas to use to help improve the quality of your sleep.

Lifestyle changes:
  • Establish a consistent a regular daily routine and bedtime ritual, e.g. the same meal times, the same bedtime, the same pre-bed activities.
  • Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated. Maintain a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom.
  • Take a hot bath 2 hours before bedtime -- it increases your core body temperature, and when it abruptly drops when you get out of the bath, it signals your body that you are ready for sleep.
  • Ensure you have a quality firm bed that properly supports your body’s frame and a quality pillow to properly support your neck.
  • Listen to calm music, or read something spiritual to help to relax. Do not read anything stimulating, such as a mystery or suspense novel.
Nutrition changes:
  • Try an herbal drink with magnesium and calcium to help relax you. Do not eat (especially processed grain and sugar carbohydrates) less than 2 hours before going to bed. These foods raise your blood glucose and inhibit sleep. Later, when your blood glucose drops too low, you may wake up and not be able to go back to sleep.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake and avoid it altogether four to six hours before bedtime. Reduce your intake of alcohol, tobacco, and other stimulants especially in the evenings.
  • Eat a handful of walnuts or drink a glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile or fennel tea to soothe your nervous system 15-20 minutes before going to bed.
Sleeping tips:
  • Try to sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible. When light hits the eyes, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of the pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin.
  • Note: The body operates on the 24-hour cycle (12 on, and 12 off), which is called “Circadian Rhythms”. When it gets dark, the body clock stimulates the pineal gland, which produces melatonin to enable sleep. Bright light or sunshine shuts off melatonin production and inhibits sleep, causing insomnia.
  • Sleep on your back – it’s the best position for relaxing, and allows all your internal organs to rest properly. If you must sleep on your side, do it on your right side, not your left. Sleeping on the left side causes your lungs, stomach and liver to press against your heart. If possible, do not sleep on your stomach. It causes pressure on all your internal organs including your lungs, which results in shallow breathing. It can also cause a stiff neck and upper back problems.
  • Try to avoid watching too much TV just before going to bed. TV is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep.
  • If possible, avoid using a loud alarm clock, which can be very stressful on the body when it is awoken suddenly. If you are getting enough sleep, an alarm clock should not be necessary.

Reference: Death to Diabetes Website 

The 7 Keys to Beat Depression Without Drugs

You can beat depression without the use of drugs/medications, by focusing on the following areas:
  1. Nutrition
  2. Detox
  3. Exercise
  4. Emotional Support
  5. Stress Management
  6. Spiritual Health
  7. Sleep/Rest

My Story of Beating Depression

If I have learned anything, it's that depression has no face, color, or gender; it could happen to anyone, and it happened to me.

Since October 31, 2007, I am happy to say that I have been free from all prescription drugs, clinical depression and a battle with insomnia. I am grateful to God that I made it. And, I am grateful to so many people who helped me during my journey to a full recovery. Now I can share my story with others to let them know that they can be free to live again.

I have had a lot of losses in my life that have left me feeling hopeless and in much despair, and I felt that I was in the valley of the shadows of death after losing my family - the people who matter the most to me.

Starting on October 5, 1959, I had my first great loss with the death of my 5-year-old sister, who died of bronchial pneumonia. The losses continued in March 1986 with my father passing due to a massive heart attack. January 1996 brought the accidental death of one of my brothers, followed by the deaths of my baby brother, and another brother in 2000, just 87 days apart from each other.

Then in January 2005, my 10-year marriage ended in divorce. It was a very hard time emotionally for me, and I felt that, one by one, I was losing the people that mattered most to me.

My eating and sleeping habits changed, I lost weight and my lacking job performance led to my wages being reduced. It wasn't long until I found myself filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and I had a hard time holding it all together.

By June 2006, I found myself with seven nights of no sleep at all and I knew something was definitely wrong. Though I tried to cover it up at work, the owner knew my behavior and weight loss were not normal and told me not to mess around with this serious problem. I could no longer hide that I was battling with depression and we discussed my getting help.

My family psychiatrist placed me on a variety of drugs over the next couple of months, including an antidepressant that treats clinical depression; a sleep aid to treat the insomnia; and, a drug to treat panic disorders. I also attended general counseling with the Catholic Charities of Sharon, PA twice a month until February 2008.

Thanksgiving Day 2006 brought upon more devastating deaths, with the loss of my mother to a massive heart attack. The following year my baby sister passed in August 2007 of colon cancer.

With just one brother and one sister still living, I hit rock bottom and the sleep aids no longer worked. With God's help, and help from my ex-wife and several friends, I overcame the drugs and the depression -- by focusing on superior nutrition, a calming herbal drink, and exercise. A friend also brought me a calming herbal drink, which I used twice a day.

With all of these changes, my mind became renewed and I slowly was able to get back to normal sleeping patterns within a month.

My hope is that I will be able to help people the way I was helped when I needed it.

How to Help:
1. Subscribe to my blog.
2. Join me on Facebook.
3. Please let me know what topics or concerns you have with depression and insomnia.

My Email: or