Ive seen some threads about Paleo and depression but was wondering if anyone could expand upon how going Paleo in their life has helped any mental disorders they have similar to the ones listed. Im speaking about diet but also the way we were built to live (i.e sleep cycles, community, cut down on stimulus, etc...). These disorders run in my Dad's side on the family and I unfortunately also got them even though I didnt grow up around my Dad or half brothers (talk about nature vs nurture). I am trying to eat Paleo, take a boatload of supplements (omega 3, multi, tyrosine, sam-e, etc..) and have noticed that the more environmental Paleo factors I implement into my life such as more community, heavy lifting, and outdoor hikes the better I feel. My sleep still sucks and I often sleep 9 hrs a night and am still tired during the day (7 or 8 hrs and I cant function). Anyway, I was just hoping to gain more insight from any other Paelos out there who have conquered mental disorders.
asked byRyan (623)
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on May 08, 2010
at 08:56 AM
I suffered from a couple of major depressions through 1999-2001 and 2004-2005. I managed to weather them through antidepressants. What ended them was lots of weight and cardio the first time, and the second time was a divorce, change of employers, remarriage, and moving out of the city.
When I moved out to the sticks, I weighed 260 lbs (male 6'2", 38 at the time). I started getting outdoors more; messing around in the woods, foraging for wild foods, snowshoeing, hunting, gardening, archery, shooting, axe and tomahawk throwing, and fishing; in other words, engaging in a lot of paleoish activities.
By last November, I'd dropped to the low 230's, and my depression issues were history; I haven't taken antidepressants since 2005.
Then I went Paleo in January. I've dropped another seventeen pounds since then. I've noticed my ability to handle job stress has improved too; I'm still in the same stressful line of work, but it feels like I'm dealing better with stress and am calmer most of the time.
Based on my own personal experience/n=1 experimentation, I think that environmental Paleo factors such as the ones you mention, plus regular exposure to nature, fixed my depression issues. I think that Paul Shepard is right that living as closely to our evolutionary design parameters as possible is a major key to happiness. Eating Paleo is part of this; some people come to it through the diet first, I came to it through the hobbies first and then the diet.
I think that eating Paleo plus paleo-izing your lifestyle (or at least exercise patterns if you're stuck in urban surroundings and the closest you can get to nature is the neighbourhood park) is probably going to help with depression and anxiety issues. I've been meaning to do some serious reading on ecopsychology as a result. I think that the Standard American Lifestyle is probably about as bad for you as the SAD, and that the SAD is just part of a larger meta-complex of lifestyle factors that make us fat and unhappy and alienated. The more you Paleoize your life the happier and healthier you'll be.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going turkey hunting.
on March 07, 2010
at 01:44 AM
I'm convinced that many forms of mental illness, particularly things like depression, anxiety and insomnia, are caused in large part by not getting enough animal products in your diet -- particularly saturated fat, which is a precursor for a number of hormones that affect mood and energy.
One thing to watch for on the fatigue side is that after a while, Paleo can cause what used to be "subclinical" hypothyroidism to come to the surface. If you're tired all the time, even when you get plenty of sleep, I would highly recommend having your thyroid levels checked (although there's a whole art and science to getting that done the right way). You might also look at supplementing with a little iodine, particularly if you've stopped using iodized salt.
There are, of course, a number of other issues that can also be at play: everything from sleep apnea (snoring or a morning sore throat are common symptoms) to nutrient deficiencies. Magnesium is by far the most common nutritional deficiency, and correcting it often helps hugely, partly because it allows you to more fully relax, both mentally and physically. Eliminating gluten can help, too, by allowing leaky gut to heal, which then helps you absorb nutrients better while also reducing food allergies.
on March 07, 2010
at 09:50 AM
Anti-epilepsy meds are given to fend Bipolar Disease, so it follows that ketogenic diets should work roughly the same way -- in fact, many of those who don't respond well to the meds do respond to a ketogenic diet.
- "Ketogenic Diet & Bipolar Disorder"
- "What ketosis does to the brain"
- "Wikipedia on Treating bipolar disorder w/ a ketogenic diet"
The problem is to get into ketosis, even on lowcarb.
If you get too much protein, there's no ketosis (approx 1,5g/kg seems to be my limit), and if you do soft drinks (in particular with citric acid), there's also no ketosis for many. Some of this might be offset by eating a lot of coconut oil, specifically the MCFAs are burned(?) into ketones rather quickly.
Also, eating just once a day seems to hinder ketosis more than many smaller meals.
on May 09, 2010
at 06:34 AM
- The number one factor influencing my mental well-being is caffeine. I had to give it up to the extent that I will only drink decaffeinated coffee if I am going to partake.
- The more meat I ate the better I felt, in conjuction with eliminating grains.
- Vitamin D supplement 5,000 IU daily. I also try to get out in the sun a lot.
- Heavy lifting really helps. I find that aerobic activity isn't enough.
- Having positive relationships really helps.
on March 07, 2010
at 01:30 PM
As I comment somewhere else; I??ve Asperger??s. Best results with keto + n-3, B6, magnesium. Sunlight and movement helps too. The more fat I eat the better is my sleep. High dosage magnesium before bedtime is also helpful.
on March 07, 2010
at 03:51 AM
There is a tremendous volume of information that ties depressive illness to gluten intolerance. Ron Hoggan once wrote an article on this:
Ron's book Dangerous Grains gets into this is more detail.
on March 07, 2010
at 09:03 PM
SOrry I can't really answer this except without my own personal experiences... I am experimenting with Paleo as a pseudo-cure for my mild depression and monthly mood swings. Honestly, this diet has made my swings occur less frequently (only been on this for 3 months). I don't know how to cure my stress though. I read somewhere that the low carb diet makes people more angry, but then again that was because people were limiting their calorie intake. Overall, I eat the same amount of calories as I did before, but low carb and high fat and protein. Stress is hard to reduce, and I haven't completely incorporated an exercise regime. I eat 100% paleo, but my lifestyle is 100% stressful because I am a senior in college trying to get healthy and get a job in a terrible economy. Overall I am happier eating this way because I don't get hungry, but I still get stressed out and have anxiety problems. I recently started drinking coconut milk and I seriously get really calm when I have it, probably because of the slightly sweet high fat content. Perhaps you should drink something with lots of fat before going to bed? Needless to say, there are ways to clear the mind before sleeping, and high-fat things help calm me. I might also add here that I have a family history of severe depression, bipolar, post-partum, and I am doing my best to beat the odds.
on March 07, 2010
at 02:44 AM
on November 04, 2011
at 10:19 PM
I think that some people who have depression/anxiety don't do well without carbs/low carb, carbs like potatoes rise your insulin level and this is good for serotonin in your brain, I haven't explained it properly but tryptophan can more easily get into the brain with the Potatoe being ingested, I have found myself that I get palpitations in the evening if I VERY LOW carb which goes away if I eat a Banana or potato.
on May 08, 2010
at 03:11 AM
Summary: Conquered no, improved yes, research ongoing.
Hi Ryan (you don't seem to have been here for a while, but maybe my answer will help others), as I try to answer your question, I hope you don't mind if I ramble on about my experiences. If you have AD/HD, you will understand! :)
I have chronic low-level depression (Dysthymia) and AD/HD (predominantly inattentive--i.e. I'm not hyperactive, though some would beg to differ). Sometimes a touch of anxiety but that's the least of my worries (pun unintended). I only learned about the AD/HD a couple of years ago and I'm in my 40s. I'm currently on Wellbutrin for AD/HD, though it might be helping the depression as well. I'm also taking fish oil, vitamin D and tyrosine, and I've seen a decent amount of improvement. I've also tried Dexedrine and Adderall. Dexedrine helped a bit, but it was high doses of Adderall that really seemed to make my brain feel "dialed-in". Unfortunately the side effects from Adderall were really nasty.
Anyway, I haven't completely figured out how to manage my symptoms with diet, but I know cutting wheat and corn has definitely helped even out my mood. About 10 years ago, I did a food challenge and learned I'm sensitive to wheat, cow dairy, eggs, oranges, corn, soy, beans in general (especially garbanzos), and processed sugar. Some of these things create physical symptoms, some create psychological ones, some both. The symptoms are mild enough that I can get used to them--that is, I feel moderately crappy all the time just like most Americans!
At the time I hadn't heard of paleo, so on the challenge I ate lots of veggies, meat, fish, rice, quinoa, and fruit. And I was calm and clear-headed as I've ever been. As you probably know, it's hard to avoid all those things, so it's rare I've been 100% pure, but I do think of wheat as poison. Unfortunately I have a mean carb addiction (carbs seem to be a common self-medication for AD/HD, from what I've read, and of course there is the ever-popular emotional eating) so there are periods of sticking pretty closely to a low-carb or paleoish diet vs. frequent cheats of wheat and sugar (and, yikes, Smartfood popcorn and Ben & Jerry's). I also tend to self-medicate with coffee, though with frequent use it seems to disturb my sleep (I can easily sleep after consuming coffee all day, but the quality of the sleep is poorer and I don't feel rested).
I use light therapy in the mornings in the winter, which seems to help some (though actual sunlight is better!) and though I get a lot of exercise because I bicycle everywhere, I seem to do a lot better, mood-wise, if I get in some longer moderately paced rides every week. The exercise especially seems to help with anxiety.
Unlike John R, above, my AD/HD symptoms did not instantly go away by tweaking my diet. I have a pretty severe case, so though I think many AD/HD diagnoses could be vastly improved merely through diet, I think I've got some more complex neurochemical issues going on. Mental health issues from mild to severe also run through my family. It's only fairly recently that adult AD/HD has gotten any attention, so for now I am my own guinea pig. I'm not against taking medication, but I know figuring out my ideal diet is still a huge part of managing my symptoms, and the other health benefits are important too.
Anyway, this week I started a 30-day paleo challenge--no sugar, no fruit, no nuts, no dairy, no booze, no coffee or black tea (green tea before noon is OK), plus getting plenty of sleep. I eat plenty of fat, (happy critter) meat, fish and veggies. Fat/Protein/Carbs average 70/19/12%. Today was day seven and though the SAD brain fog was gone, my focus and mood were definitely lacking something and I was fairly fatigued. I have been eating a lot of eggs (happy chickens but fed some grains), and I suspect that I need to cut them out too, woe is me.
I resorted to having a 12-oz breve (1 shot of espresso with steamed half-and-half) today, which improved both my mood and my focus immensely. It was tasty too! Since the Adderall worked so well for me, my brain obviously needs some sort of "speed" boost, and I would love to figure out a non-medication, non-caffeine way to get it. I also wonder if I'm one of those people who needs a few more carbs to function well, but that might be wishful thinking from my carb addiction. I know if I stick to my guns on the paleo challenge my brain will straighten itself out somewhat, but as a scientific experiment, I've introduced too many variables to give you a definitive answer. The bottom line is, I'll get back to you. :)
I'd recommend The Mood Cure as well. She recommends Sam-E but I haven't tried it--how do you think it is working for you? Like Rick mentioned above, I'm going to look into the subclinical hypothyroidism and magnesium. I may also try 5-HTP, but that starts to sound like a heck of a lot of supplements, though I believe Ross says you only need to take some of these until your symptoms improve, then you maintain it with diet. Yep, brain chemistry--happy happy joy joy.
Does one need to apologize for posting long posts here, just go with it, or strictly avoid them? Are there any word count guidelines? As you can see, I'm a bit hyperfocused on diet and my symptoms right now! Though I do add white space for my fellow ADDers!
on March 11, 2010
at 07:39 AM
As far as the sleep and ADD end of things, ZMA (zinc, magnisum supplement), a good fish oil +/krill oil, and vitamin D (D3 oil based, 5000 iu per day for me) have done a ton for my quality of sleep and ADHD.
ZMA basically is a relaxant that helps you get deeper sleep, and it also has enough MG + Zn to knockout most deficiencies
Fish oil + krill oil help with the whole omega 3:6 balance but also seem to help me concentrate a lot (but it takes a lot of fish oil, I believe most of the clinical studies had it at about 4grams combined EPA and DHA per day which is anywhere form 5-10 fish oil pills a day)
Vitamin D, apparently most of us don't get anywhere enough of, first most noticeable affect on me was I stopped having a stuffy runny nose every time I slept = better sleep overall
combine these with paleo and a lot of issues just suddenly become less or nonexistent
on March 08, 2010
at 02:09 AM
I'll second the recommendation for saturated fats. Animal fats are best: lard from happy pigs is fantastic; omega 3 fish and fish oils also especially good for improving brain function; duck fat also tasty although usually from veggie fed; tallow/suet goes well with meat but I think a little harder to digest; butter OK if you do dairy.
Just consider that Native Americans dried lean meat, pounded it into bits, then added lots of fat to make pemmican. And I recently discovered an article that said tribes of the Northwest would render the fat of a certain fish (a kind of smelt, or candlefish) and used it 'like butter' when eating other fish. This rendered oil/spread was so valuable that it was traded to other tribes that lived further away from the ocean. Point here is that traditional societies probably knew what they were doing in terms of how to eat for overall health of body and mind. This means high fat (65-75% calories), healthy amount of protein (most of the rest), minimal carbs.
Eating this way always puts me in a better mood with more stable, confident energy. It's good that you are already on to the Omega 3s which are very beneficial to the mind on a variety of levels. If you are getting 9 hours and still tired then some people might ask about how long you have been eating this way (everyone has adjustment period) # of calories, caffeine, amount of fruit/sugar/alcohol/carb, etc ... there are lots of other factors. Also personally I take magnesium at night for better sleep and if gray skies during the day will take some vitamin D and/or eat some dark green veggies.
best wishes, J.
on March 07, 2010
at 05:38 PM
Take the food intolerance suggestions very seriously.
have you been checked for anemia? many celiacs are diagnosed after presenting with unexplained anemia.
grain free does not equal gluten free. there can be plenty of gluten in supplements, for example
on March 07, 2010
at 01:02 PM
There are a ton of correlations to poke at in the research. Celiac (gluten intolerance) is correlated with autoimmune diseases like Addison's and Hashimoto's; a person with Addison's (for instance) has chances of depression 2x the general population, chances of bipolar 2.5... Type 1 Diabetes has a whole bunch of similar... there are studies suggesting a connection between schizophrenia and gluten consumption... etc., etc.
I have Addison's and had depression and ADD diagnoses for years; the ADD went away within hours after removing gluten from my diet, the depression after a few weeks. I was diagnosed with celiac last year, and we suspect that I've had it since age 3 and that it was probably the root cause of the Addison's.
In celiac forums you'll see discussions about what the first signs of an accidental glutening are for different folks. They vary widely, but for many, it's a rush to the bathroom; for me, it's a mood crash. There's no question of a connection between gluten and depression in my case.
on November 21, 2011
at 06:28 PM
Seek after Jesus Christ. Read the Bible. Pray.
Get in community. Be with people. Love on people.
Eat/drink healthy - lower sugar intake, lower caffeine intake, up carbs, and drink water (half your weight in ounces daily)
Get adequate restful sleep. Try to get to bed @ 10:00pm - 10:30pm for best restful sleep.
Exercise - get outside, walk, and be amazed at God's creation.
When feeling depressed or anxious - take organic Niacin (vitamin B3). But read and follow the link first.
Let me know if it helps and cures your anxiety/depression!
on July 08, 2011
at 07:13 PM
I know my ADHD has been cured by Paleo and LOOK OMG YOUR BLOG IS THE AWESOME!
Seriously though, I find myself with a greatly improved capacity to focus (especially when IF'ing), however it doesn't completely rectify my personal issues with ADHD. However, I do find my personal coping mechanisms (being able to catch myself before impulses strike, "looking before leaping", etc) seem to be more effective now that I'm not sick all the time.
And, anytime I miss sleep, or eat bad food, or neglect getting outdoors (like recently with our tropical stormy weather) I find those coping mechanisms and ADHD issues spring up rather quickly again.
on July 08, 2011
at 10:44 AM
i would higly reccomend to seek a psychiatrist, or a coach, a spiritual place/peace or something else for the mind ! looking for ALL the answers to humans needs in foods is simply too ... yeah true bad food DO HAVE something to say to how you feel in general and are capable of beying healthier and i myself can feel a difference when im on holiday and eating crab my bloodsugar is bad and so is my mind.. but if you eat paleo and try searching, experimenting it migth help for you, i just would in a freindly way reccomend finding peace in yourself too, know it sounds stupid but i have been deppressed, and cured. take my advice, or just leave it (please dont scream or yell or use your anger against me ust because my answer here is different)
on March 09, 2010
at 08:01 PM
I would highly recommend reading "The Mood Cure" by Julia Ross. She has a lot of great information in there about why sugar & flour based diets contribute to mood instabilities. Interesting, the diet that she suggested is very similar to Paleo (though it does allow a bit more grain like quinoa than Paleo), and I believe she also talks about how fat has been demonized and how it is actually good for you. It is a great book to read to understand the physiological effects of sugar, flour, processed foods, etc on your brain. Interestingly, they found out about this when trying to help drug addicts, and found that drug addicts that cut sugar & flour from their diet were 10x more likely to stay sober.
I myself also have suffered in the past from mild depression. The one major depressive episode I had, my naturopath had me eat a high protein diet (at the time I rarely at chicken or fish, and didn't eat any red meat, and ate WAY too much processed food). Within a week I noticed a big difference. After reading the Mood Cure, I fully understood why meat was so important (serotonin is made from amino acids, which are proteins and are best found in meat), and so began eating red meat again. If I'm feeling low, I notice a big improvement if I eat meat.
As far as supplements go, I actually highly recommend 5-HTP. 5-HTP is converted to Seratonin. I used it when I needed it (prior to Paleo), and find it extremely helpful. I haven't found Tyrosine very useful, but perhaps I have different brain chemestry needs. Ross does mention it (and many other supplements) in the book.
Oh brain chemistry. How much fun we have together.
on March 08, 2010
at 02:20 AM
I've been on Wellbutrin 3 times in the past. The last time I decided to go off, I knew that I had to make a serious commitment to long-term paleo/primal if I wanted to succeed. And I did commit. And I did succeed. :) It's been well over a year now. One thing that intrigues me a lot is what Rick says above about thyroid issues. I have also occasionally battled really horrid fatigue, the last memorable bout being right before I started Wellbutrin for the last time. I have been experiencing this fatigue again lately and I am mystified, as my diet is excellent and I am sleeping 8 hours a night. Could be stress...starting a new business while being a student and mom of 4. But it just doesn't seem right to me. Might have to look into getting my thyroid levels checked.