Are “Seeds” Associated with Depression & Anxiety?
What’s wrong with some grains and seeds
Much of the plants that we rely on in our diet are grains or seeds. They are efficient and can be profitably fed to animals as well as produced in a wide variety of processed foods – think soy, corn, and wheat. Unfortunately, they are not the cornerstone for a healthy diet, something that, as nutritionists, we spend a great deal of time discussing with our patients.
“Leaves” Are Very High in Nutrients & Good Fat
Leaves provide nutrients such as antioxidants and phytochemicals that cannot be found in certain seeds. Interestingly, leaves also produce fat – especially omega-3 fatty acids – that vital nutrient that we associate with fish consumption.
Guess where the fish get it from – a plant (algae). An essential fatty acid named alpha-linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid found in all green plants. If you didn’t know that green plants contained fat, don’t worry, you are in very good company! Seeds on the other hand tend to contain more of the essential fatty acid of the omega-6 variety.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Do An Amazing Number of Good Things for You
Omega-3s are important for the nervous system (mental development and IQ), they prevent blood clotting, they are mood stabilizers, they encourage weight loss and they are anti-inflammatory, making them important in not only diminishing chances of heart disease and stroke but causes of mortality of all types.
(Reference: Joseph Hibbeln, et al., “Healthy Intakes of n-3 and n-6 Fatty Acids: Estimations Considering Worldwide Diversity,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006; 83 (suppl): 1483-93.)
Deficiency of Omega 3’s Can Cause Depression
Falling levels of omega-3 are associated with depression, suicide, and learning disabilities.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids Create Inflammation
Omega 6’s are primarily involved in rigidity, clotting, and inflammation. While we need our body to provide these functions to some degree when they occur in excess such problems as blood clots, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s may ensue. While supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil has proven beneficial, dietary changes must also occur concurrently.
Do I Have to Change My Diet?
Here at Root Cause Medical our clinical nutrition department is frequently asked by patients if they can simply “take a pill” instead of having to change their diet. Our answer is a consistent “no” with the explanation that while the micronutrients found in supplements are very important, they can never outweigh the vital necessity of the macronutrients found in food.
Omega-6 fatty acids bring home this point in that they counteract the effects of omega-3s. Therefore simply adding omega-3s in a supplement while leaving unchanged one’s consumption of omega-6s such as certain seeds, seed oils, processed foods, and foods made from animals raised on grains, will not be very beneficial. Without diminishing omega-6s from one’s diet, little health gain will be achieved.
Our Diet Doesn’t Consist of Good Fats
To give you an example of the quantity of omega-6s that have infiltrated our diets- a full 9% of the calories in the American diet come from an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid, most of it from soybean oil. (Reference: “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan).
We Could Lower Our Use of Dangerous Drugs
The researcher Joseph Hibbeln, cited above from the National Institute of Health, conducted population studies correlating decreased omega-3 consumption with many conditions including depression and suicide. He further stated that the billions of dollars spent on anti-inflammatory drugs are likely spent to undo the negative effects of too much omega-6 in our diet.
He went on to state that: “The increases in world omega-6 consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression and cardiovascular mortality.”
How Are Low Fats Diets Dangerous?
The advent of low-fat diets coincided with an increased incidence of depression and anxiety. Why? Two reasons we see here at the clinic are that the low-fat diet doesn’t have enough good fat in it to produce the hormones the body needs to keep mood stable. Remember, hormones are made from fat.
Secondly, with 40% of the population likely being gluten sensitive, all those refined glutinous grains that were consumed because they were low fat, only served to fuel the fire of those patients with gluten intolerance. Not only were they less able to absorb fat from their intestines, but the inflammatory nature of gluten to the nervous system can result in symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
What are Good Fats?
While everything should be consumed in moderation, adequate good fat is not only beneficial but absolutely mandatory for health and hormonal balance. Such good fats include olive oil, coconut oil, fresh nuts, avocados, olives, flax seeds, eggs, and cold-water fish.
In summary, hormones are made from fats but all fats are not created equal. Omega-3 fatty acids are known as mood stabilizers while their cousin, the omega-6s, creates the opposite effects of depression and anxiety.
One would have to have been living under the proverbial rock to not have heard of the benefits of fish oils but, as mentioned above, supplementation without a simultaneous decrease of the “bad” omega 6s is insufficient to get the job done.
Plants Actually Provide Good Fats
Plants (organic, dark green variety) are a wonderful source of nutrients including omega 3s. As you add more of them into your diet you may very well find that cravings for processed foods and refined sugars diminish. We see this occur every day in our patients.
The shift from leaves to the seeds we’ve been discussing affects more than the levels of omega-3s and 6s, it also contributes to the excess calories, sugar, and refined carbohydrates of our unhealthy diets. There is a laboratory blood test that measures the essential fatty acids (both 3s, 6s, and 9s).
The nutritionists here at Root Cause Medical have been utilizing it for many years. It can be very helpful to precisely determine any imbalances of these critical nutrients and what strategy to take to normalize them. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Do you need help with your health?
We have the tools to discover why you may be having trouble with a weakened immune system. It’s not difficult as long as you’re ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. We will hold your hand through the changes and make each step of change an easy one.
For more information, call Saratoga: (408) 542-0354 or Clearwater: (727) 339-6008
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC. CCN
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr Vikki Petersen is a public speaker, author of two books, several eBooks and creates cutting edge content for her YouTube community. Dr Vikki is committed to bringing Root Cause Medicine and its unique approach to restoring health naturally to the world.