I know many of you reading this may suffer from depression. And you may take an antidepressant to help control your symptoms.
But antidepressants aren’t without their own pitfalls. A common side effect is weight gain. Some would say it’s a small price to pay for regaining your mental stability. But gaining weight can also put you at risk for developing a whole host of other health problems.
In fact, authors of a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry wanted to determine if taking an antidepressant increased your risk of developing diabetes. To figure this out, researchers analyzed the medical data of 165,000 men and women who took antidepressants to treat their depression. Were these patients more likely to get diabetes?
Serious side effects for some users
After analyzing data, researchers found that long-term use (more than 24 months) of antidepressants in moderate or high daily doses increased a patient’s risk of developing diabetes.
The antidepressant/anti-anxiety drug Paroxetine (Paxil) was the worst offender. Men and women who took 20 mg/per day or more of Paroxetine for at least 24 months experienced a four-fold increased risk of developing diabetes.
On the other hand, patients who only used antidepressants for a short amount of time (less than 12 months) or who used lower daily doses did not increase their risk of developing diabetes.
Here’s the good news: while long-term use certainly seems to increase your likelihood of developing diabetes, a short-term stint may not cause a problem. So if you must resort to a prescription drug to help with your depression, keep it as short as possible. Furthermore, if you experience mild or occasional symptoms, you may also want to consider dietary causes of your depression.
Can certain foods cause depression?
Yes! In fact, in my practice, I found that mild depression was often caused by uncontrolled high blood sugar. You see, when you eat a jelly donut, it causes an intense sugar rush. Your blood sugar spikes off the charts. Your brain then sends an urgent message to your pancreas to crank out more insulin to control the sugar surging in your blood.
But because your blood sugar went up so fast and so high (as will happen with sugary foods), your pancreas secretes way too much insulin. As a result, your blood sugar comes crashing down. In fact, it crashes too far. And then you have low blood sugar.
Not surprisingly, at this point you may feel a craving for more sugar to boost your levels back up. And so begins a vicious cycle. But when this happens day after day, year after year, your body begins to exhibit very real symptoms, not the least of which is depression.
So if you’re feeling slightly depressed, try eliminating sugar and simple carbs like white rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread. Instead, go for meals with plenty of protein.
The secret of omega-3s
Speaking of good protein, wild salmon is one of the best if you’re prone to depression. That’s because it contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study published this year, women who have the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids improve their depression by nearly 30 percent!
Now — if you don’t eat a lot of salmon, I’d recommend a high-quality fish oil supplement. But, remember fatty acids increase free radicals in your body. Left unchecked, these molecules can cause cancer and disease in the body. So always take some extra antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium along with the fish oil to neutralize the free radicals.
Using some common sense
In closing, if you must take an antidepressant for longer than 24 months, it’s probably a good idea to boost your physical activity as well. Not only will you get all those "feel good" endorphins from the workout, it will also help control your weight and stabilize your blood sugar.
And please remember that depression can be a debilitating disease. Make sure you seek the help of a mental health professional if your symptoms last longer than two weeks.
Dr. Allan Spreen
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