I'm auditing an Abnormal Psych course and the instructor brought up the role of nutrition in stabilizing moods. He suggested gluten was responsible for the considerable increase in anti-depressants and that glucose triggers "manic" behavior (like kids on candy).
After reading the clinical definition of depression, I'm inclined to agree with him. And, after reading a bit on the web about behavioral problems with glucose connections, I'm beginning to think all my friends with long-term pharm prescriptions should go Paleo.
Have any of you experienced being able to leave a long term "legal drug" habit behind? How long did it take you?
When I started the Eades's Protein Power plan in 2007, I was on Celexa and Depakote, and had been on some combination of various anti-depressants and anti-seizure meds since 2001. I felt different right away, and after a couple weeks decided to slowly wean myself off the pills by 1/8 per week (yes, I really cut them into tiny pieces to do that, lol). I kept the bottles just in case it turned out to be a bad idea, but I've been fine ever since without them.
I did have one interesting experience a couple years into my VLC/paleo/ZC journey, and that was when I tried the Kwasniewski Optimal Diet for seven weeks. To get my carb count up for the diet (he likes at least 60g a day, iirc, but it might have been more), I started eating a piece of rye toast every morning. For five days I ate the rye toast, and every one of those days I sat crying at my dining room table for a long time, making me late for work (that was one of the features of my depression -- bouts of sitting and crying for no discernible reason, feeling grief and despair while trying to get myself together to go out the door). And I was so used to that being a regular part of my life that I didn't even realize I was doing it! Or, rather, that I had not been doing it for a couple years and then suddenly started again.
So when I finally realized I was slipping back into depression, I immediately (thanks to the time I spent on Dr. Eades's blog) thought of the rye bread, and switched to a baked potato for my carbs. That was the end of the crying jags, the very next day. I still shake my head about the rapid return, and rapid stop, of the symptoms.
Of course, I went on to gain a buttload of weight during the remainder of the seven weeks on that diet, but that's another story. ;P
YES. I was on various pharmaceuticals for almost 20 years. For depression, then "Bipolar II" (which I think they're calling the Bipolar Spectrum now), Oh, and PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) Anyway, drugs weren't helping, but I was afraid to quit, afraid it would get worse.
Then, I stopped eating gluten. No more PMDD, no more brain fog, no more depression. Seriously. Amazing.
I stopped eating wheat first, early last summer, because I was running a lot and was having joint trouble, and suspected that wheat might be the culprit. The more I read online, and the less wheat I ate, the more I learned about the gluten-brain connection, and the more gluten I avoided. I had been tapering off Lamictal, because I felt once and for all it was just not working, and by July I was able to drop it completely. I was amazed to find myself feeling better and better anyway, while getting acquainted with my apparent gluten sensitivity, so by October I was completely off all traces of gluten.
I don't think my diet is dialed in completely, I suspect my gut still has some healing to do -- I get foggy and depressed from some things I eat/drink. But now I KNOW it's my diet, not some unknowable affliction that I can't control and thusly must rely on the hideous and corrupt pharmaceutical industry to get out of bed in the morning. What a nightmare.
I didn't mean to be Paleo, I started just quitting gluten, but then decided to try to heal my gut further by avoiding all grains and legumes. I had to re-think everything I thought I knew about nutrition, because I was a vegetarian for almost as long as I had mood problems. With the increased availability of non-factory-raised meat, (thankyou slow-food movement!) I made the choice to start eating animals again. It was the right decision.
I truly think the first line of treatment for all people with long-term refractory depression should be to cut gluten grains from their diet for 4-6 weeks. The thing is, IT CAN'T HURT. And those drugs? They CAN, and DO.
Yes, I used paleo to wean myself off of Wellbutrin. I have had to use WB a few times in my life, and I am grateful it is there if I need it. But I don't like to stay on it for long periods of time. The last time I was on it, I decided after about 6 months that I wanted to wean off, so I became very committed to paleo and dropped the Wellbutrin with no problem. Now I am in a bad place with paleo and am not following it as closely as I should, and it's no surprise that I feel some depression settling in. I know now that the first course of action is treating myself better through proper eating and finding more time for exercise rather than medicating. I also use Natural Calm, which if used every day does make a difference to my mood and takes the edge off my reactions to things in a good way. And even when bad with paleo, I am 100% gluten free, which I believe helps a lot. For me, depression begins with situational stuff and turns into something that needs to be unwound through medication and/or serious lifestyle hygeine (diet and exercise, finding inspiration in my work again, taking on a new challenge, etc).
First, great question. I'm like Ashley Roze with BPII - rapid cycle. I've battled with it for 20 years and had a horrid experience on meds when I was in my early 20s so I took myself off them. But I still battled hard-core depression with bouts of hypomania. In fact, last year the hypomania was pretty intense.
Now, I've been depression-free for about 3 months but I'm not totally healed. In fact, I'm still a bit on edge wondering when it will come back and in amazement about how I feel. Taking out the gluten was the factor. I'm convinced of it. I always knew there had to be a correlation between nutrition and my mental states. Like someone stated above, I got really bad when I went low fat borderline vegetarian.
As most of the posters, I'm still tweaking my diet to get dialed in properly. The exercise is also necessary and when I don't get at least 10 minutes in per day I feel a bit low but nowhere near what I used to feel.
Someone mentioned taking 5HTP for depression and I haven't tried it yet. I take Magnesium and Taurine and that seems to stabilize my mood even further. Paleo has absolutely empowered me in managing my BP. In fact, I can get to a hypmanic phase on my own without negative consequences or falling into other pole of depression. My life right now is in such a state that I would normally be horribly depressed and now, I'm totally able to deal with life outside the depression realm. I'm still amazed by this new found mental freedom.
Ok, I'm going to give some background before I get to the point, which is that I think Paleo has helped, but not completely relieved, my symptoms of depression:
I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for about 7 years when I started getting really depressed in college. I gained weight and started isolating myself socially. My parents were pretty worried and wanted me to start medication, but I kept telling them I didn't need it.
Then, after my freshman year of college, my father died. I was devastated, and I had a hard time doing anything except having angry thoughts. I went on medication, and - after trying several different anti-depressants over the next few years - settled on Wellbutrin for the next 8 years. It raised my heart rate into the range of tachycardia and I had years of insomnia, but it made me feel like a human being again. I could function, I didn't spend too much time crying, and I still had a sex drive (unlike on all those other medications). I lost weight, started exercising, was successful at work, and fell in love.
When I got married three years ago, I had to quit my job, and it took a long time to find another one. In the meantime, I gained all my weight back and became totally miserable again - like a person my husband didn't even know. I started a clinical trial on a new anti-depressant, and it was a bonafide disaster. My weight soared 15 pounds in two months, and I hated myself at a level I never thought possible. I seriously contemplated suicide…so I went back to the Wellbutrin.
Six months later, I was still miserable, although I was able to function again. Without telling my husband, I decided I was going to quit the medication, because I didn't feel like it was helping. I was doing CrossFit 4-5 days a week, but I still didn't have a job, and I just couldn't lose weight. Finally, I got a job, and my self esteem started to improve. I was doing ok without the antidepressants, and I started counting calories and tracking my food and exercise on mynetdiary.com. At the same time, I decided I needed to start eating some fish, as I just wasn't getting enough protein to support muscle growth.
Say what you want about calorie counting: if you're diligent, it works. I lost 35 pounds in five months, and I started feeling human again. While I was losing weight, I started researching the Paleo lifestyle, and I realized that it made sense to me. I waited until I reached my goal weight to start adding meat into my diet (because I didn’t want to halt my really successful weight loss). I cut out all grains except my morning cereal and cut way back on sugar, and then I went strict Paleo after I got to my goal weight.
That was about three months ago, and I’m feeling ok. I’m totally functional, but even at a size 4, I still don’t like myself. My heart rate and blood pressure are much better, and my cholesterol is even lower than it was as a vegetarian (128 vs. 152). I don’t cry much anymore, but I still wouldn’t consider myself happy. I’m staying off the drugs, and I don’t feel like I’ll need them again. But I do miss the feelings of actual happiness that I used to have from time to time on Wellbutrin.
Has Paleo caused or maintained my ability to stay off drugs? I’m not sure. It could be having a job, or losing the weight, or maybe my chemical imbalances from college just aren’t around 10 years later. Either way, I’m going to continue experimenting with optimizing the diet, and see where I go from there. Intellectually, I believe the diet will help me. Emotionally, it’s hard to have faith that I can really find a way to be truly happy again. I hope I can maintain a standard of emotional living that I want without having to resort to potentially dangerous drugs.
And now you know what there is to know about me!
My depressive moods, which have affected me all my adult life (I'm 38), and in recent years were re-diagnosed as bipolar II, were always improved when I consumed less carbohydrate. But it was never really cured until I went to a meat-only diet. The difference between VLC and ZC for me was way out of proportion to the actual carbs consumed, and has been nothing short of miraculous. It happened within about 2 weeks, and was as obvious to my husband as it was to me. I've been off all meds for years now, and happier and more stable than ever as an adult. So for me this is something beyond merely the paleo aspect.
No. I've been on them for the better part of 25 years. They are, in large part, the reason I ended up at over 300 lbs. But they also saved my life. I have major depression which is a progressive brain disease and my diet has not cured me of this one. I have tried over the years to go without but to no avail. My last attempt was this past year when I went 6 months without. At this point in my journey my diet is as close to perfect as it has ever been or probably ever will be yet I crashed big time. I'm fairly well resigned to being on them until the day I die and I'm o.k. with that. No I'm more than o.k. I am grateful beyond measure that I have a drug that will sustain me as the drug I take does. Taking pharmaceutical drugs is not a personal failing. I think a good diet can go a long way curing a lot of ills but it does not cure all disease for all people. That is not the fault of the diet nor of the person. Some things just are what they are and there is no one or nothing to blame.
Paleo/low carb didn't get me off of meds for clinical depression - Vitamin D3 supplementation did. I can't believe that after years of therapy and Prozac and Buspar, and even 5-HTP for the past 10 years (which worked better than the prescription drugs ever did w/ no side effects) none of my doctors thought to try Vitamin D to see if that would do something. Yet that's exactly what fixed it for me (plus the low carb diet, but I'd been doing that off and on for the past 10+ years). My severe depression is now completely gone, it's incredible.
I was on depression meds for about 8 years, had crippling depression. When I look back to when it started, it was when I went low-fat vegan. I believe my brain was starving. Now that I eat plenty of fat, all symptoms of depression have disappeared.
I was on all sorts of stuff for bipolar type 2, then ADHD. Then just depression and ADHD. I got off the meds 2 years ago but I still had seasonal depressive episodes and still had trouble with ADHD. I just sort of dealt with them as a normal day to day feeling.
I can say the depression is gone; I haven't had a bout in 6 months which is when I went gluten free WAPF and then 2 months later paleo. I still have issues with my Concentration but I don't get goofy and hyper like I used to. It might be age an having a kid but I think it's the diet. I keep waiting for my summer depression cycle to come Back and it doesn't. (usually I get depressed in the summer and late winter.)
I'm hoping another 6 months and my ADD issues will go away. Though, I think those symptoms will be helped when I'm a low enough weight to really excercise hard again.
(writing this on a phone so here is my preemptive apology for any typos above.)
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