One in every six Americans is taking an antidepressant or sedative. What’s behind this alarming statistic? Can a healthy fiber-rich diet including flax seeds help?
Research is beginning to show that a healthy fiber-rich diet including flax seeds could lower this percentage. (Flax seeds contain tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids, which increases serotonin production.)
Flax Seeds Symptoms of Depression
Every person will at some point in life feel sad or depressed. Sadness is a normal reaction to an event in life, such as the loss of a loved one, problems at work, or similar struggles. Being sad is a quite similar feeling of being depressed. Actually, there is no significant difference between those two.
So, what sets them apart? Sadness has an immediate cause, depression doesn’t. After the loss of a loved one or a divorce, for example, a healthy personality adapts within a reasonable time. Sadness that lasts long after a triggering event may be depression.
The most common symptoms of depression are:
- Loss of concentration and trouble with decision making
- Increased fatigue
- Problems with sleeping (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
- Eating disorders
- Feeling of emptiness
- Suicidal thoughts
Serotonin and depression
Serotonin is a chemical that plays a very important role in human behavior. It can be found in the brain and other nervous tissue. One of the most important functions of serotonin in mood regulation. Maintaining a normal concentration of serotonin will prevent significant mood swings.
In the case of depression, fluctuations in serotonin levels are apparent. However, it is not clear how exactly serotonin triggers depression. The conclusive answer to the question of the serotonin role in depression is yet to be found.
Omega-3 fatty acids and depression
Studies have shown that there is a link between the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and depression. Insufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the risk factors that can lead to symptoms of depression. That being said it is not completely clear why an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids is so important in preventing and treating depression. The most widely accepted theory is as follows.
Tryptophan and depression
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is very important in the human body. It should be consumed in as part of a balanced diet to maintain the normal functions (including the mental status). Tryptophan is used for the synthesis of serotonin which plays a crucial role in the regulation of mood. Lower concentrations of tryptophan can reduce the synthesis of serotonin, which may lead to mood changes and depression.
Flax seeds are rich in tryptophan and they are a great food source of this amino acid. Eating tryptophan-rich food will improve serotonin synthesis and provide a better “chemical environment” in the brain; which can reduce the symptoms of depression.
Flax Seeds Depression Treatment
If you think that you are depressed you should seek professional medical advice. Today, most patients with clinical depression use antidepressants and psychotherapy. However, there is a way to reduce symptoms of depression which doesn’t include medicines. An experienced functional medicine doctor would likely begin by looking at your diet.
A recent study, performed on mice concluded that “omega-3 fatty acids from flax seeds are a great natural remedy for depression”. In this study, mice were exposed to chronic mild stress which is known to cause depression. Depression biomarkers were measured before and after consumption of flax seeds and the results clearly showed that there is a strong link between flax seeds consumption and reducing of depression.
A separate study provided strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in reducing symptoms of depression in patients with bipolar disorder. However, it does not have any effect on the severity of manic episodes.
More evidence published in 2003 showed that an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids can be used to improve symptoms of depression.
Flax seeds can be consumed in a number of different ways. In order to achieve the health benefits of flax seeds, they have to be grounded (whole seed will just pass through intestines, acting as an insoluble dietary fiber).
You can add some grounded flaxseeds in your salad, oatmeal, yogurt, and other foods to help fight depression. If you are more of a meat person, you can use flax seeds as a coat for your chicken meat. It will add crunchiness to your chicken and help you with depression.
Sources of soluble dietary fiber, like flax seeds, need water to “do their magic”. Since they act as a sponge in our intestines, low water intake can lead to constipation and other digestion problems.
Keep in mind that, like all other seeds (and nuts), flax seeds are a relatively calorie-dense food. For example, 100 grams of flaxseed has the same amount of calories as 100 grams of chocolate or peanuts (approximately, 500 Kcal/100gr). In terms of macronutrients, flax seeds are high in both healthy fat and soluble fibers.