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Essential foods/supplements for Depression/anxiety, Paleo-Style?

by (5629)
Updated November 27, 2014 at 3:28 AM
Created November 21, 2011 at 4:35 AM

I know that many have had success in helping/treating/mitigating depression, ADHD anxiety and high-stress with a Paleo WOE.

I used to be very bi-polar, and have largely cured myself by cutting gluten, grains and sugar, as well as cutting back heavily on drugs and alcohol, and quitting smoking.

I worry about my girlfriend though, and as I am the meal-planner and primary grocery shopper, worry as well that I'm leaving something out that would help her deal with depression/stress/anxiety issues. She is a broadway actress and has a very high-stress life.

We primarily eat grass-fed beef, some whole roasted chicken, spinach/leafy greens, lots of butter, cream, ghee, bone broth when I can make it, mushrooms, garlic, black tea/mint tea, kefir/yogurt, lacto-pickles, avocados, sweet potatoes, some coconut products (though not as much as when we started eating this way). We avoid sugar, except for the occasional banana PWO or Haagen Dazs cheat.

We supplement with coQ10, astaxanthin, zinc/copper, D3, C w/ rosehips, Spirulina, Ginseng, St. John's Wort and Mg at night. We recently stopped using Norwegian Salmon oil at a dose of ~1000mg daily. Thinking about adding a Nootropic to our routine...

EDIT: Forgot to mention that we go to the gym together 2-3 times a week and lift heavy, and that she takes extra classes regularly, as well as ballet and jazz classes at Perridance, Steps, etc... We definitely are both very active.

Are there any things that you've found to be absolutely essential in making you feel more mentally sound?

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1523 · June 10, 2012 at 1:44 PM

ps i would suggest for here to look at both paleopepper.com and paleoforwomen.com :)

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1523 · June 10, 2012 at 1:43 PM

if you drink coffee, eat chocolate, tahini, avocados or anything else that is high copper i would definitely suggest not to take extra copper supplementally. high copper can lead to anxiety, panic and schizophrenia

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1523 · June 10, 2012 at 1:41 PM

i would suggest agains IFing, ESPECIALLY for females and ESPECIALLY for someone with anxiety and adhd issues, it just exacerbates adrenal stress and overproduction of cortisol...even if someone feels more energetic during these fasts, its is because the body is giving everything it has to maintain the energy while deteriorating itself. i have suffered from both ailments and did IFing...definitely wish i would have been wiser

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1457 · February 23, 2012 at 1:09 AM

When I am away from work I can go zero carb or even fast for 24+hr and feel very calm. However, at work, I cannot maintain low carb hardly at all without feeling like I'm about to snap.

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8933 · February 22, 2012 at 6:58 PM

Vitamin D sprays can replace some sunlight too.

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5629 · December 02, 2011 at 5:04 AM

According to alot of things I've read, IFing is incredibly powerful at restoring a proper body comp. Many people that IF swear they can eat whatever they want, including SAD foods...but I prefer to link it with Paleo eating for superior benefits. I already know from having switched to pure Paleo eating without IFing early on, that the benefits are huge from that as well.

Medium avatar
5629 · December 02, 2011 at 5:03 AM

According to alot of things I've read, IFing is incredibly powerful at restoring a proper body comp. Many people that IF swear they can eat whatever they want, including SAD foods...but I prefer to link it with Paleo eating for superior benefits. I already know from having switched to pure Paleo eating with IFing early on, that the benefits are huge from that as well.

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37187 · December 01, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Exactly. It's hard to believe I could have such a healthy relationship with food after many years of binge eating. Actually, I once did IF on SAD. I ate only one meal per day--at night after work--for 6 months and lost 50 pounds. Makes me wonder sometimes how much of my improvement this year is because of ancestral eating and how much is due to IF.

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5629 · December 01, 2011 at 8:13 PM

I love IFing. I do it everyday, so for me it's more Regular Fasting. Some days I only eat one meal.

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5629 · December 01, 2011 at 4:21 PM

I used to take fish oil at a dose of about 1g a day, but stopped as an n=1, but I haven't noticed too much of a difference in myself.

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2889 · November 22, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Look at the studies on depression and O3s and become "unshocked."

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2565 · November 22, 2011 at 12:26 AM

I do have some experience actually, cause I've experienced depression and my brother has as well. Both of us went through hell because at the time we were ignorant and took antidepressant meds. Once my mind become clear enough and I started to wake up out of the mental coma I did lots of research about what depression is and what things cause it or exacerbate it. Getting off of the drugs was an extremely painful experience but in the end it was worth it. I realized people don't become depressed because of a deficiency of drugs, so there must be a way to treat it naturally.

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 10:53 PM

Yep...that sounds about right. Hard for me to give up the sauce though. Not necessarily because I need it, but because I enjoy the taste, wine, craft cocktails, what have you. I'm also a bartender...ha, so there's that.

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5629 · November 21, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Not too sure about #1 there...especially for us atheists/wiccans/agnostics/satanists/etc... But the rest sounds pretty good, with the exception of the 10:00pm thing. We mostly work in bars, so we have a more nocturnal schedule...but have definitely scaled it back from about 5am to about 2am regularly, and I'm usually up by 11am.

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1659 · November 21, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Sunlight, sleep and deep breathing!

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4347 · November 21, 2011 at 5:38 PM

I can comment as to my own experiences doing some of those things... Gluten/dairy/sugar removal made the biggest difference (to me, anyway). Cutting most caffeine and all alcohol, at least for me, has also been helpful. Vit. D and B were lowest for me at my most depressive state, and as long as I keep both those levels up I'm a little better. Whenever I cheat with booze, dairy, and sugar I start up with depression and anxiety again... which becomes a wicked cycle.

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 5:12 PM

We eat alot of sashimi pretty regularly, and I try and steer VERY clear of farmed fish.

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5629 · November 21, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Great answer man. Did you have some experience with these kinds of mind-states?

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 5:10 PM

This article by Ray Peat really shocked me into stopping the O3: http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 7:56 AM

We used to have a TBsp of coconut oil about every day, but really tapered off. Used to drink alot of coconut milk in fruit and yogurt smoothies too, but backed that off as well. Maybe I will reintroduce the coconut products...

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12702 · November 21, 2011 at 7:16 AM

Paleo definitely improved my mental health but I still had problems with anxiety. I felt much better after throwing more carbs into my diet. These days, sweet potatoes are my jam.

I think there's reason to believe very low carb diets aren't optimal for mental health, at least among some people.

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1457 · February 23, 2012 at 1:09 AM

When I am away from work I can go zero carb or even fast for 24+hr and feel very calm. However, at work, I cannot maintain low carb hardly at all without feeling like I'm about to snap.

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2565 · November 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM

Foods and supplements that have helped me and/or others reduce anxiety and stabilize mood are:

-green tea or l-theanine

-5htp

-krill oil

-cutting out all gluten and dairy in the diet. This is important if you're allergic to them or even if you aren't because their breakdown products have been shown to bind to opiod receptors and have addictive effects. They also increase inflammation, which has a detrimental effect on mood and can cause depression if it becomes chronic

-taking a probiotic. This one may seem less obvious but research shows that there's a link between overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut and depression and other mental problems.

-reducing sugar in the diet. This varies by degree according to the individual.

-cutting out all sources of caffeine. Caffeine raises cortisol levels, and chronically elevated cortisol levels are a major factor involved in depression.

-vitamins B and C- needed for synthesis of neurotransmitters

You've already got a lot of these covered so you're on the right track. I would say chronic stress and inflammation are the two big ones to watch out for because so many things can cause both of those (see related questions on ph about them). Exercise is important too since it has antidepressant effects, as well as 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If both of you are fine now, don't change what you're doing unless/until either of you feels some symptoms of anxiety and depression coming back. Then maybe try some of these other things. Good luck.

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2565 · November 22, 2011 at 12:26 AM

I do have some experience actually, cause I've experienced depression and my brother has as well. Both of us went through hell because at the time we were ignorant and took antidepressant meds. Once my mind become clear enough and I started to wake up out of the mental coma I did lots of research about what depression is and what things cause it or exacerbate it. Getting off of the drugs was an extremely painful experience but in the end it was worth it. I realized people don't become depressed because of a deficiency of drugs, so there must be a way to treat it naturally.

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Great answer man. Did you have some experience with these kinds of mind-states?

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3
4347 · November 21, 2011 at 5:38 PM

I can comment as to my own experiences doing some of those things... Gluten/dairy/sugar removal made the biggest difference (to me, anyway). Cutting most caffeine and all alcohol, at least for me, has also been helpful. Vit. D and B were lowest for me at my most depressive state, and as long as I keep both those levels up I'm a little better. Whenever I cheat with booze, dairy, and sugar I start up with depression and anxiety again... which becomes a wicked cycle.

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 10:53 PM

Yep...that sounds about right. Hard for me to give up the sauce though. Not necessarily because I need it, but because I enjoy the taste, wine, craft cocktails, what have you. I'm also a bartender...ha, so there's that.

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445 · February 23, 2012 at 12:16 AM

Hi I just wanted to mention that St. John's wort has been shown to inhibit P450 enzymes which are an important part of drug metabolism. If you are taking any other drugs, OTC or prescribed, make sure they are not affected by the St. John's Wort. Otherwise, you might have some serious toxic side effects from abnormal/incomplete metabolism of the drug.

http://biopsychiatry.com/stjohnp450.htm

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4124 · February 22, 2012 at 6:34 PM

I do not know how to answer this briefly. It is a huge subject. For me, my food plan and supplements are vital, as are proper rest, sunshine, avoiding unhealthy stress, such as difficult people, too many EMFs, fluorescent lights, fragrances (petro-chemicals), etc.

I eat beef, beef fat, pastured butter, liver, brains, yoghurt made from cream, fresh and dried herbs, and a few plants. Current vegetables tend to be lettuce and parsnips.

I avoid FODMAPs, nightshades, high salicylate, oxalates, and nuts/seeds/their oils. I don't drink coffee or eat chocolate (alkaloids). Of course, no alcohol or tobacco.

I take magnesium, CLO, EPO and Vitamin E, nutritional and brewer's yeast, Vit. C and D, iodine, PicMins minerals, extra zinc. I take the D and CLO with a bit of pastured butter.

I eat no packaged, prepared foods, except for beef bacon. Avoiding preservatives, additives, and mystery ingredients is key.

I do yoga and eat yoghurt to increase GABA.

I eat 20-30gCHO/d, 50-75g/PRO/d, and usu. 120-150gFAT/d (per Dr. Jan Kwasniewski's Optimal Diet recommendations.)

This food plan has given me a poise, calm, and ability to smile and enjoy life which, before eating this way, I could not imagine would be possible.

Here is a page on Ketogenic diets and Mental health, in case it is of use:

Mental Disorders and Diet

Did you know a healthy diet is critical to your mental health? In fact, many physical and mental disorders are caused by a disruption in the digestive process and compromised intestinal health. When your digestion is sick, it's likely all of your body systems will get sick, including your brain. How Digestion is Linked to Mental Health

Your digestive tract is just a long tube which is open at both ends. To protect itself from toxins and bacteria from the outside, your digestive tract or "gut" is coated with a layer of healthy bacteria, much like the grass which covers healthy soil. This bacterial layer of healthy and essential "gut flora" has many critical functions.

For instance, healthy gut flora:

act as physical and chemical "guards" against the unhealthy, toxic bacteria and other toxic substances which you ingest with your food maintain and protect the lining of your intestinal tract are necessary for the normal digestion and assimilation of nutrients, especially fiber manufacture many different types of vitamins and other substances that your body depends on for good health When the health of the intestinal lining is compromised, the healthy bacteria take a hit, and this allows the populations of toxic bacteria to increase and further degrade the health of the gut.

It's like a line of dominos. Once the good bacteria are reduced, the first domino falls, the gut wall becomes compromised, and very bad things begin to happen.

Once the bad bacteria get a foothold in the gut, the cellular lining of the digestive tract gets inflamed and can't function properly. The digestion and absorption of nutrients becomes impaired. Once digestion is compromised, food particles aren't broken down properly, and the gut begins to "leak". Undigested fragments of food particles flow into the body cavity.

These foreign molecules, especially if they are grain or dairy based peptides, result in an inflammatory and autoimmune reaction within multiple body systems, including the blood-brain barrier.

Once these toxins get into the brain, mental disorders such as autism, depression and schizophrenia can develop. In addition, because digestion is compromised, nutrient and micronutrient deficiencies occur, and these aggravate the body and brain further.

What Causes the Digestive Failure That Results in Mental Disorders?

Poor gut health is a function of the world we live in today, and the standard American diet and medical practices so common in our daily lives. Natasha Campbell McBride writes about this in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia. She writes that some of the most common factors involved in gut health and mental disorders:

Diet can have a direct effect on gut health. A diet high in carbohydrates, especially refined and processed sugars and starches can seriously degrade gut flora. Sugar and starches are the perfect food for toxic bacterial species, parasites, and yeasts, all of which can overwhelm the healthy bacteria in the gut. Fiber from a diet high in wheat and other grains can degrade gut flora and set the stage for bowel inflammation, cancer and other digestive issues. Antibiotics, which are much more prevalent in the food supply today. Commercial beef, pork and chicken operations routinely use antibiotics, which infiltrate the flesh of these animals. Commerical fruits, vegetables, nuts and other fresh food stuffs are sprayed with antibiotics. If we develop an infection, the doctor prescribes powerful antibiotics. All of this antibiotic exposure not only kills the bad bacteria but the good bacteria in our guts as well. Drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, steroids, and contraceptives can compromise gut flora, especially if used frequently over long periods of time. Sleeping pills, heartburn medication, neuroleptics, cytotoxic drugs and other powerful drugs can also compromise gut health. The gut health of your parents also has an impact. Babies are born with a sterile gut, and breastfeeding from a healthy mother helps the baby's gut get populated with the right type of flora. If the mother's gut is compromised, she will pass on those unhealthy bacteria to her infant, and if the baby is bottle fed, a whole other set of unhealthy bacteria is introduced. There are many studies which link neurological and mental disorders to the health of the gut:

This study reported that patients with celiac disease, a gut disorder associated with wheat gluten allergies, were 51.4% more prone to develop neurological disorders such as ataxia, chronic headaches, developmental delays, hypotonia, learning disorders and ADHD. This study discusses the behavioral effects and persistent depressive symptoms in patients with untreated celiac disease. And this paper discusses the prevalence of neurological disorders in those with celiac disease. So as you can see, keeping your "gut flora" in good shape is a critical part of staying healthy, both physically and mentally.

The ketogenic diet has a very beneficial effect on mental disorders because it eliminates the sugars, wheat and other grains which are known to effect mental and neurological health.

In fact, sticking to a low carb, ketogenic diet has been shown to be an effective depression treatment, because it gets you off the blood sugar roller coaster associated with a high carb diet.

Low carb diets have also been shown to relieve the symptoms of schizophrenia, and help those with bipolar disorder.

The GAPS diet, one version of a grain free, lower carb diet is being used very successfully to treat ADHD, autism, and other neurological disorders.


Dr. Emily Deans' blog, Evolutionary Psychiatry is devoted to brain health. She has much good information on food, supplements and brain function, how what we eat affects how we feel and function, etc. This is from her Basic Premise page:

My overarching theory is that our bodies and brains do best in conditions for which they are evolved. I dig up scientific information and present it in that context. I may not be right, and that's okay too. However, I feel that by studying evolutionary medicine, we come closer to the answers for optimal conditions for health and vitality. The basics of evolutionary medicine are simple: don't eat very much fructose, omega-6 rich industrial vegetable oils, grains (such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, quinoa, oats, corn, etc.), or processed "fake" food in general. Eat as much local, farmstand, grassfed, pastured, wild-caught as you care for. That's vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, eggs, fruits, and high-fat dairy, red wine, and dark dark chocolate in moderation. Also, get plenty of sleep and play. While a very healthy diet can be mostly plant-based, I do contend that it is exceedingly difficult to get by on a strict vegan diet due to lack of B12, zinc, phospholipids, K2, poor omega 6 to 3 ratio, and other issues.


Also Emma Davies at the FailSafe diet blog, has a great post on GABA:

Here is the basic page on the FailSafe diet, which I have found to be of great help in pinpointing which categories of foods trigger unwanted symptoms, and which foods within those categories.


There is much, much more which could be said. I hope this is good for "starters". I wish you happy success! :)

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1000 · November 21, 2011 at 4:56 AM

Caffeine free is the first recommendation, so no black tea. Then just experiment with how sugar and starch affect the symptoms of depression. Don't take supplements regularely but maybe only when you feel like it. But even Paleo can't really tame depression, it's really a son of a bitch, but what else has had more progress than Paleo in this regard.

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2889 · November 21, 2011 at 9:32 AM

O3s, at a dose of @ 1-1.5 grams of EPA+DHA/day (typically 3 or more grams of fish oil) have some solid research behind them...

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 5:10 PM

This article by Ray Peat really shocked me into stopping the O3: http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml

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2889 · November 22, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Look at the studies on depression and O3s and become "unshocked."

Medium avatar
5629 · December 01, 2011 at 4:21 PM

I used to take fish oil at a dose of about 1g a day, but stopped as an n=1, but I haven't noticed too much of a difference in myself.

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360 · November 21, 2011 at 5:51 AM

Coconut oil, it really works for weight loss and depression. google coconut oil and depression, you will be amazed. I cook everything with coconut oil and I make sure I get 3-4 T per day, supplementing with a product called Calm, which is magnesium helps , St. John wort is also good for depression.

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 7:56 AM

We used to have a TBsp of coconut oil about every day, but really tapered off. Used to drink alot of coconut milk in fruit and yogurt smoothies too, but backed that off as well. Maybe I will reintroduce the coconut products...

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37187 · December 01, 2011 at 4:39 PM

I've had anxiety issues all my life. Until very recently.

Just eating ancestrally didn't generate major changes but IF (intermittent fasting) sure did. Basically, the longer it's been since I ate the calmer I am. If I'm busy I can actually forget to eat at all now because there are no cravings or anxiety. Now, that took a few months to occur but IF was definitely the change that made the difference.

I even have a hypothesis about it. I have an exquisitely sensitive nervous system, which I can only accept. I have a history of migraine, nervous stomach, hypersensitivity to light, sound, touch. If someone tried to tickle me as a kid, it made me cry it was so awful. And I've mentioned in another thread that I have a strong startle reflex. Get the picture?

Okay, not eating for 22-24 hours at a time greatly reduces the stimuli with which my system must cope. Pulse is slower, GI tract calms noticeably, even my overdrive brain settles into what I'd call a normal alert mode.

If you haven't tried it yet, do some reading and think about it. If you decide to try it, don't expect immediate results. As I said, I'd guess 2-3 months before I enjoyed the full effect. You can find your own optimal eating window, but recently I'm finding that I work best on a cycle that's longer than 24 hours. If I eat in the morning one day, it will probably be afternoon the next and evening the next. Or, sometimes, I may eat at the same time a number of days in a row. I let my body and my activities when/if I eat.

For full info, I'm also in weight loss mode. Not because I'm "dieting" but because this lifestyle has allowed me to gradually let go of my excess body fat, particularly around the middle--which never happened before on diets.

Medium avatar
5629 · December 02, 2011 at 5:03 AM

According to alot of things I've read, IFing is incredibly powerful at restoring a proper body comp. Many people that IF swear they can eat whatever they want, including SAD foods...but I prefer to link it with Paleo eating for superior benefits. I already know from having switched to pure Paleo eating with IFing early on, that the benefits are huge from that as well.

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37187 · December 01, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Exactly. It's hard to believe I could have such a healthy relationship with food after many years of binge eating. Actually, I once did IF on SAD. I ate only one meal per day--at night after work--for 6 months and lost 50 pounds. Makes me wonder sometimes how much of my improvement this year is because of ancestral eating and how much is due to IF.

Medium avatar
5629 · December 02, 2011 at 5:04 AM

According to alot of things I've read, IFing is incredibly powerful at restoring a proper body comp. Many people that IF swear they can eat whatever they want, including SAD foods...but I prefer to link it with Paleo eating for superior benefits. I already know from having switched to pure Paleo eating without IFing early on, that the benefits are huge from that as well.

Medium avatar
5629 · December 01, 2011 at 8:13 PM

I love IFing. I do it everyday, so for me it's more Regular Fasting. Some days I only eat one meal.

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1523 · June 10, 2012 at 1:41 PM

i would suggest agains IFing, ESPECIALLY for females and ESPECIALLY for someone with anxiety and adhd issues, it just exacerbates adrenal stress and overproduction of cortisol...even if someone feels more energetic during these fasts, its is because the body is giving everything it has to maintain the energy while deteriorating itself. i have suffered from both ailments and did IFing...definitely wish i would have been wiser

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1720 · November 21, 2011 at 6:23 PM

  1. Seek after Jesus Christ. Read the Bible. Pray.

  2. Get in community. Be with people. Love on people.

  3. Eat/drink healthy - lower sugar intake, lower caffeine intake, up carbs, and drink water (half your weight in ounces daily)

  4. Get adequate restful sleep. Try to get to bed @ 10:00pm - 10:30pm for best restful sleep.

  5. Exercise - get outside, walk, and be amazed at God's creation.

  6. Get the "Linden Method". I got the download version ($99). It has helped me TONS!
    http://www.panic-anxiety.com http://www.stopworry.com http://www.charles-linden.com

  7. When feeling depressed or anxious - take organic Niacin (vitamin B3). But read and follow the link first.
    http://www.foodmatters.tv/_webapp_417125/How_to_Take_Niacin_-Vitamin_B3-_for_Depression_and_Anxiety

  8. Let me know if it helps and cures your anxiety/depression!

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Not too sure about #1 there...especially for us atheists/wiccans/agnostics/satanists/etc... But the rest sounds pretty good, with the exception of the 10:00pm thing. We mostly work in bars, so we have a more nocturnal schedule...but have definitely scaled it back from about 5am to about 2am regularly, and I'm usually up by 11am.

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1373 · November 21, 2011 at 2:48 PM

If it were me, I'd cut out the whole chicken. I've noticed unbalanced omega sixes and threes throw me into a mental tailspin - my moody manic anxiety returns with full force whenever I eat almonds or even unpastured eggs. If you love a cheap whole chicken, eat the lean bits covered in pastured butter and feed the skin to a dog or a cat. If you make bone broth, use bones from pastured ruminants instead of poultry. Maybe add in more salmon if you stopped taking the salmon oil?

Medium avatar
5629 · November 21, 2011 at 5:12 PM

We eat alot of sashimi pretty regularly, and I try and steer VERY clear of farmed fish.

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10 · November 21, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Do you drink caffeine? If so, I would start there (eliminate it).

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8979 · November 21, 2011 at 5:39 AM

Green tea is a great mood-lifter.

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11697 · November 21, 2011 at 5:25 AM

Go for a multi-vitamin all-arounder, and make sure you eat offal too.

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