Paleo Lifestyle – How Can It Help Combat Depression?
Our Whole-selves Are Connected
It really doesn’t take an expert to work out that diet directly effects brain function, in the same way that it effects every other vital organ in your body. Lesser known is that diet also significantly affects mood and it’s for this reason that many experts on the subject of depression are becoming increasingly interested in how dietary changes can help improve mental well being.
As every year around 121 million people are affected by depression, it pays to be in the know about natural ways to prevent and combat this illness.
The Paleo diet, also sometimes called the cave-man diet, or the primal diet is simply a diet designed around eating foods that our Paleolithic ancestors would have thrived on many years ago. The Paleolithic period lasted for a very long time – around 2.5 million years and only ended with the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, which happened approximately 10,000 years ago.
This means that in evolutionary terms our bodies have in fact had very little time to adapt to some fairly huge changes in diet and lifestyle – namely the eating of cultivated grains, dairy products and processed foods. By going Paleo, you are choosing to return your body to a more optimal state of being, by providing it with the foods that it was originally designed to thrive on. Just as obesity and cancer are a problem of modern day Western society, so is depression – in the eyes of Paleo experts and many other doctors and scientists this is no surprise.
Some examples of Paleo foods are – beef, pork, lamb, poultry, game, fish, seafood (all free range or wild where possible) fresh vegetables and fruits, seeds nuts and oils (olive, coconut and avocado are all excellent).
Some examples of non-Paleo foods are – cereal grains, dairy products, legumes (such as lentils, peas, beans, soyabeans), refined sugars, excessive salt and any highly processed food.
Experts on the Paleo diet are constantly exploring connection between some of these harmful foods and depression, whilst people who are experimenting with removing them from their diets are seeing exceptional results.
It is a common misconception of Paleo that the practice focuses entirely on diet. In fact, a Paleo lifestyle extends much further than this and is important if you hope to see comprehensive changes in your life.
These are 4 key factors to extending the benefits of Paleo living further:
1. Low-level aerobic exercise
In recent years exercise trends have swayed hugely towards a fashion in chronic cardio workouts. People have come to believe in order to stay active, fit and healthy they need to work their bodies in this draining way. In fact, we are designed to do much less intense cardio activity and MUCH more low-level aerobic exercise, just as our primal ancestors would have done. Imagine how hunter-gatherers would have walked for hours seeking food and nutrients, with the occasional sprint and then try to replicate it in modern terms. This may mean walking to work, riding a bicycle at the weekends, using the stairs instead of the lift – all of these activities will have great effects on your physical and mental health.
2. Natural sunlight
Sunlight is a great way to stock up on Vitamin D and is also a great mood-booster. Aim to get in the sun daily. Many conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression are known to be exacerbated by a lack of natural sunlight, so like your Paleolithic ancestors take time outside as often as possible.
3. Good quality sleep
Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy body and a healthy brain. Without it the body does not get the chance to rest and repair. If you are looking to beat depression it is essential to get a good nights sleep, every night. Exercise and diet changes should aid good sleep, but it certainly does no harm to have a good ‘wind-down’ routine as well, which gets you in the mood for sleep before you put your head on the pillow.
Dancing, hula-hooping, being with friends – play means anything that gives you a sense of fun and exploration… (being plugged into the digital world doesn’t count!)
If you would like to know more about the Paleo lifestyle please take a look at our sister site the Paleo Network Alternatively please explore this site for further examples of how Paleo has helped others to combat their depression.