Nutritional Deficiencies & Mood Disorders: Do Supplements Work?

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Last year, during my major depressive episode, I figured that depression was such a recurring problem for me that it could not be merely psychological. I was noticing that certain foods would give me stomach aches or have me fall asleep, only to wake up super hungry after my nap! My body was often tired, even after having adopted a regular fitness routine from the age of 18. I thought that maybe my body was lacking nutrients, because, despite my exercising, I still had very poor eating habits and never saw food as my friend, but rather more like an enemy that mostly hindered my fitness goals. One day, I remembered that as a child my father would always tell me to eat fish because it made me smarter, and that would get me excited about eating it every time. So with that in mind, my excitement found me again as I went to work doing intensive research on the effects of food and nutrition on the brain. Countless–maybe some, needless–clinical appointments were booked in an attempt to find deficiencies, diseases or intolerances within my body. I had to know; my resolve was set to attaining full rehabilitation in mental, physical, and spiritual health if I was ever to get back on my feet again.

Scratching the Surface of Nutrition & Mood

The Second Brain

Let’s start with gut health. The gut is considered in science as a second brain in which 100 trillion bacteria and millions of microbial genes contribute to the health of the actual brain. (Kranjac, Psychology Today) This party of organisms is called gut microbiome. When gut health is compromised, not only does it put the body at risk of physical disease, but it also puts you at risk of neuropsychiatric/mood disorders. The gut becomes inflamed when we are chronically stressed and/or regularly eat pro-inflammatory foods (here’s a list), which worsens depression and anxiety. Dr. Emily Deans states in her column Evolutionary Psychiatry for Psychology Today:

Now the immune system works wonders and inflammation saves your life nearly every day from all the pathogens out there like the flu and strep, but chronic levels of inflammatory response also lead to all sorts of chronic disease, for example depressive disorders, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis…the gut microbiome plays a key role in regulating our immune response. Thus the make-up of our gut microbiome could make the difference as to whether we are sick or well, both mentally and physically. 

There is a lot to take in about the gut, like the fact that about 80-90% of serotonin (an important chemical in the body in charge of balancing your mood) is produced there. The gut microbiome can be improved by switching to more wholesome foods, increasing good bacteria (with the help of a probiotic or pickled food, for example), and lowering stress. This reduces chronic inflammation, which makes us feel better.

Vitamin D(efficiency)

Did you know that a lack of vitamin D can worsen or cause depression? A recent review of 14 studies done at St.Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Canada, found a correlation between depression and low levels of Vitamin D. What’s more, is the case for S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), where many people’s moods worsen during colder months, when the sun is not at it brightest and, by the afternoon, not present at all. The ray that carries vitamin D is the UVB ray,  and without enough of it, vitamin D stores can deplete. (Archer, Psychology Today) You need to go outside to get it, but a vitamin D supplement will also help to restore proper levels. Another study proved that vitamin D supplements successfully improved the moods of three depressed women after 12 weeks.

You Must Love Fat

You may or may not be aware of this by now, but Omega-3 fatty acid improves cognitive performance and decreases inflammation in the gut. Cognitive performance not only includes mood, but also memory and accuracy, among other things. In fact, some symptoms of Omega-3 deficiency include mood swings, tiredness, and poor memory–all very common symptoms of depression as well.

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My Experience so Far

I must admit, I am a little reluctant to share my experience. I don’t want anybody to start restricting their diet as I have for so many years, even after having learned this information. I’m working with a holistic nutritionist to learn how to balance out my meals and to change my rocky relationship with food. Since last year, during my “nutrition craze”, I have tested the above-mentioned research claims on myself. Paying close attention to how I feel after I eat something. Here’s my experience:

I know now why I love summer so darn much, and that’s because it makes me so happy. In the winter, it’s usually painfully hard, no matter how much sleep I get, to get up in the early mornings. I feel bitter and sad like I cannot seize the day. It’s winter right now, and the nutritionist got me to use Ddrops, which are helping my mood tremendously in the mornings. I found sugar to be an instant trigger for depression. I get terrible gas, stomach ache, and high levels of anxiety when eating a certain amount of wheat, so I keep it at a minimal. And, incorporating healthy fats into my diet has been the most beneficial thing for me thus far. It has allowed me to experience fewer mood swings over time, and now they happen very rarely. I also used to wake up highly anxious, like in a frenzy, but now that almost never happens. On top of eating foods like olive oil, coconut products, nut butter, and meat, the nutritionist has also recommended I use Genuine Health’s Omega-3+ Joy. They are big pills, and four per day is the recommended serving. To be honest, I’m never keen on taking these pills ’cause they’re so big, but they are worth it.

My relationship with food is being reconstructed. I’m going to give myself credit here and say I am halfway there. Disordered eating is an issue that has plagued my life and planted deep roots I was only recently aware of, and am now trying to pluck. It’s my hope that this information will prompt you to ask yourself some questions, and seek professional help from doctors, dietitians, and/or holistic nutritionists.

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Resources
Archer, Dale. “Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 July 2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression.
Deans, Emily. “The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness, and Disease.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Apr. 2014, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease.
Heyes, J.D., Your depression may be due to vitamin D deficiency https://www.naturalnews.com/039643_depression_vitamin_d_deficiency.html
Kranjac, Dinko. “Mood Disorders and the Disrupted Gut Microbial Milieu.” Psychiatry Advisor, 29 Sept. 2016, http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/depressive-disorder/mood-disorders-and-the-disrupted-gut-microbial-milieu/article/525983/.
McIntosh, James. “Serotonin: Facts, What Does Serotonin Do?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 29 Apr. 2016, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248.
Zehring, Brad, DO, The Importance of Nutrition  in Psychiatric Treatment, http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/practice-management/the-importance-of-nutrition-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/400073/
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5 Ways Pilates Helps Depressed Elderly Women

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Philenia is the owner of Pathos Pilates. Pilates is a great way to de-stress while strengthening the body. You can get a 2-week FREE trial at Pathos Pilates, with unlimited access to workout videos and exclusive content. Sign up as VIP here!

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The concept that exercises such as Pilates and Yoga can be therapeutic for the mind and body is a modern-age idea that is only recently starting to be researched further by doctors, experts and scientists as these industries grow. Already, a rather decent sized study conducted in Korea found that there were many benefits of Pilates on depression and ego in elderly women.

The Pilates approach to exercise has an interesting connection between the mind and the body, due to the uniqueness of its approach, which we will explore further.

In this blog post, we look at the correlation between age and whether Pilates can have an effect on the elderly who face issues surrounding death, health and sudden changes in their lifestyle which may cause issues such as lack of self-confidence, anger, communication and negative responses to challenges.

Statistics about Depression in Elderly Men & Women

According to approximately 74 studies (that analysed 487,275 men and women of ages 61-72 years old) that were carried out between 1955-2005, it has been found that at any one time about 10-20% of elderly experience depression. They found that the highest rate of depression was in India (the biggest population in the world) which averaged between 13-35%, compared to the rest of the world which had an average rate of 5.4%.

This same research stated Australia had the lowest rate of depression, since that finding however it has increased, with approximately 10% of elderly in Australia experiencing depression. Unfortunately, no studies in the African continent have been undertaken, furthermore, a lot more in-depth studies are required in this decade as the social and lifestyle climate of the world has changed vastly since 2005.

Issues Elderly Women Face

The average life expectancy is 68.5 years for men, and 73.5 years for women, thus leaving women without a spouse for an average of 5 years. Exposure to uncertainties such as separation from their spouse through death, death of friends or colleagues and age-related health issues can collective cause elderly women to experience psychological anxiety and depression should they not have the tools to adapt to environmental changes.

Pilates helps Elderly Women gain Confidence, Positive Communication, Optimistic Responses and Anger Management Control

A study was carried out with the intention to understand the impact that Pilates, a low-intensity physical activity, can have on ego resiliency & depression. This research was conducted using elderly women between the ages of 61-72, who had never undertaken a Pilates class.

A study was carried out in Korea with 148 Elderly women. They answered questionnaires before and after the study, were advised not to do any other physical activity over the 16 weeks and had never attended a Pilates class before.

The benefits of Pilates on depression and ego in elderly women was drastically positive. The effects on the emotional competence as well as physical capabilities of the women in the study group found on completion of the study a stated below. The results were determined using a 5-point Likert Scale e.g ‘strongly agree (5 points) to strongly disagree (1 point).’

Self-Confidence:

Self-confidence was the testing component to measure ego and initially had an average of 3.57, which dramatically increased by 16.53% to an average of 4.16 by the end of the study.

Communication Efficiency:

Communication efficiency increased at a steady rate of 5.3%, where the preliminary questionnaire achieved an average of 3.37, the final average was 3.55.

Optimistic Trait:

The optimistic trait also had a steady increase of 4.63% from average 3.45 to 3.61 by the end of the study.

Anger Management:

Anger management had a large increase also, where the average was 3.13 initially it increased by 12.78% to 3.53 by the end of the 16 weeks.

Depression:

Depression dramatically decreased by 12.59%, from 2.86 down to 2.5.

Benefits of Pilates on Depression and Ego in Elderly Women

Although the above information shows that after only 16 weeks of Pilates, three times a week, clients can feel the psychologically positive and calming effects of Pilates, a further study showed that only 12 weeks was required to reach this state. Imagine what 1 year of Pilates could do…

 In summary, the elderly women who participated in the study responded better to challenges as their self-confidence increased, they were also able to communicate more positively than they did before the program. Furthermore, their capability to respond to a situation in an optimistic light and their ability to control anger improved, whilst depression dramatically decreased by 12.59% (this is a massive find). Thus showing that Pilates can contribute to improving emotional competence as well as physical capabilities.

Why would any of this matter? 

With a healthy ego, body and mind we are able to maintain balanced views of our lives, set clear goals for ourselves, exhibit and maintain inner strength & self-confidence against challenging ordeals. The benefits of Pilates on depression and ego is not just for elderly women, this is an exercise that is able to be practiced amongst all ages and genders, the same benefits are reaped by all who practice Pilates, however, more studies are required to be carried out as this industry continues to grow.

If you like these sorts of blog posts like, share and comment your thoughts and other areas you would be interested to learn more about.

References: 

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3221135/

(2) http://resources.beyondblue.org.au/prism/file?token=BL/0647

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5091068/

This post was originally published at Pathos Pilates.