Over the past several months, I have been trying to keep you all healthy with loads of supplements that support the immune system and act as anti-virals. I, personally, have never been this compliant with taking all of my supplements! We all want to avoid getting sick, or at least minimize the effects that any virus could have on us. But the real elephant in the room is mental health during this time. How can we take care of ourselves to protect our mood?
I have been worried about those with a bad home life, people with difficult relationships, and those that have abusive spouses or parents. I have been worried about those with anxiety, those who struggle with depression, and substance abuse. Mental illness can certainly be amplified in a situation like this.
I also worry about everyone else. Because this is a crazy situation that is hard for even the most stable people to handle gracefully. These are hard, scary, lonely times. We have to work extra hard to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and to reach out to people we know to struggle.
Before this pandemic, the CDC estimated that 1 in 10 Americas had clinical depression. Now, health experts are predicting a surge in depression due to the pandemic, which means even more people are suffering.
So, what do we do? How do we get through this successfully?
So, what do we do? How do we get through this successfully? First, we need to go back to our pillars of health. Second, we can support ourselves with some more supplements (!). And finally, we can hold ourselves and others with empathy and compassion.
I sometimes feel like a broken record, but that is because the pillars of health are so essential in keeping us healthy. A healthy, whole foods diet is going to provide nutrients that are important for the proper functioning of our entire body, including the nervous system and digestive system, which play key roles in mental health.
I always recommend starting with a Paleo-type diet, which is free from most inflammatory foods. There is ample evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet reduces depression risk. While I would not say that any one diet is perfect for everyone, I do think that a Paleo diet is the most nutrient-dense. There are many resources on how to start (and follow) a Paleo diet. My favorite way to start is Whole30, and you can look on the internet for an abundance of Paleo recipes, including most of the recipes featured on my website!
Daily exercise, adequate sleep, stress management, and social interaction are also part of the pillars of health. Do your best to make these a priority. These are especially important right now.
Part of the reason why this pandemic is so difficult is that we are unable to have the kind of social interactions that we are used to having. In fact, there was a study of over 30,000 people that showed that social isolation is worse than smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So please, try to maintain your relationships through the phone or video chats as much as possible. You can see how important our social life is to our survival, not only when it comes to mental health, but also to physical health.
It is difficult to generalize supplements and nutrients for depression and anxiety because each person is different. However, there are a few very safe nutrients that I will mention here that you can take. If you are really having a hard time, please reach out to me and I will help you on an individual basis. I am currently seeing patients both in person and by phone.
I must caution you that there are two natural supplements often recommended for depression that require cautio:, 5-htp and St. John’s Wort. I strongly advise AGAINST taking 5-htp and St. John’s Wort if you are on any other medications. These two supplements interact with other medications and should only be taken after consulting a Naturopathic Doctor or other medical professional who is familiar with these types of supplements/herbs.
Vitamin D is an excellent place to start when thinking about mental health. It is extremely common for people to be deficient, as the only way to get vitamin D is from the sun, and most of us are neither outdoors enough, have enough skin exposure to raise our vitamin D levels, and/or wear sunscreen, which blocks vitamin D production. Deficiency can contribute to depression, as well as immune insufficiency, so repleting your vitamin D gives you double benefit right now. I do recommend that you have your vitamin D levels checked, as that will guide dosage and ensure that you do not get your levels up too high. I like this vitamin D with K2.
Folate, B12, and SAMe can be effective for depression as well. Again, I think that testing these nutrient levels before treatment is best, but these are relatively harmless and can have a large impact on mood.
Essential Fatty Acids play an important role in brain health and inflammation. These are safe to take and can be immensely helpful.
These nutrients are a great place to start. Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or to the pharmacy to place an order.
Finally, please remember to treat yourself and others with more kindness than usual. We are all going through a hard patch, and the social connections we have and can make are especially important. Make an effort to give yourself more love, forgiveness, and care.
Stay well everybody! With love,