A simple mineral may offer relief
Natasha Turner, ND
Patients with atypical depression responded favourably to treatment with chromium picolinate, a mineral closely involved in healthy blood sugar balance and insulin response. It is probably safe to conclude that most depressed patients with carbohydrate cravings and weight gain should receive chromium supplements. Good nutrition and exercise can also treat depression.
Chromium is a simple, affordable, and safe alternative treatment for depression, reports Dr. John P. Docherty, a neuropsychopharmacology expert at Comprehensive Neuroscience, Inc., one of the largest companies in the US that conducts clinical trials on the central nervous system.
Treatment for depression is typically through the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications like Prozac or Zoloft. But these drugs often have side effects, including sexual dysfunction, increased appetite, intensified carbohydrate carvings, and/or weight gain.
According to Docherty, in a study reported at the 2004 National Institutes of Mental Health, patients with atypical depression responded favourably to treatment with chromium picolinate, a mineral closely involved in healthy blood sugar balance and insulin response.
Mastering Mood Swings
Docherty studied 113 patients who were given 600 mcg of chromium picolinate daily for eight weeks. During this time, their mood swings, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, and the perception of weight gain markedly improved. Those with the strongest carbohydrate cravings experienced the most significant improvement in symptoms with chromium supplementation.
Other researchers have found chromium polynicotinate to be effective in the treatment of depression, important information for Canadians, as chromium picolinate is not available for sale in Canada because conflicting evidence suggests it might harm DNA.
The Happy Hormone
Relief from depressive symptoms and carbohydrate cravings may occur with chromium treatment because it acts on insulin to influence serotonin activity in the brain. Serotonin is our “happy hormone,” involved in mood, memory, food cravings, appetite regulation, and healthy sleep patterns. Not surprisingly, as serotonin levels decline, the incidence of depression and cravings for carbohydrates naturally increase.
After release of their findings, Docherty and his team of researchers further recommended that mental health professionals recognize carbohydrate cravings as a possible sign of a more serious underlying medical condition like atypical depression.
It is probably safe to conclude that most depressed patients with carbohydrate cravings and weight gain should receive chromium supplements. Good nutrition and plenty of exercise can also promote successful treatment of depression.
Recognizing depression is the first necessary step to recovery. Like most things in life, an awareness of the problem must occur before a solution can be found. A multi-faceted treatment approach should be built on trust that recovery is possible with proper treatment. As depression begins to heal, you may count your good days, but eventually, all your days will be good.
Signs of Depression
Depression symptoms may be experienced repeatedly over a few days, weeks, or months at a time and can include:
The most common form of depression, atypical depression, appears with mood swings, weight gain, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue, lethargy, and increased sensitivity to rejection.
Three-Step Action Plan
1. Stay active: Aerobic exercise has documented benefits in the treatment and prevention of depression. It reduces anxiety, improves mental clarity, and is most beneficial if consistently completed at a minimum of 24 hours to a maximum 48 hours apart.
2. Eat right: Strictly avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and foods that can cause allergies or sensitivities (such as wheat) because of their negative impact on brain chemistry. Depression is known to increase stress hormones in the body. Because skipping a meal is also a physical stress on the body that can exacerbate anxiety or depression symptoms, maintain stable blood sugar by eating a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates every three to four hours. For example, an apple with a handful of almonds is a good snack choice while salmon, brown rice, and steamed or stir-fried vegetables create an excellent meal.
3. Boost your nutrients: Daily supplementation with 4 to 6 grams of fish oil, particularly those higher in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), has been documented as beneficial for depression and anxiety. Increasing serotonin with 50 to 400 mg of 5-HTP each day may also be effective.