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A diet lacking in essential nutrients can increase the risk of depression. Eating a varied and healthy diet can help to treat depression.
Depression is a prevalent mental health illness throughout the world, causing negative thoughts and behaviors in those who experience it.
Many people with depression seek natural treatments for their symptoms, in one form or another. While there is no specific diet to treat depression, what a person consumes may play a role in managing its symptoms.
What's the link between diet and depression?
Links between diet and depression were misunderstood until recently. Many factors contribute to depression symptoms, and there are dietary considerations for each of them.
A recent study posted to BMC Medicine demonstrated that a group of people with moderate to severe depression improved their mood and signs of depression by eating a more healthful diet.
The study was the first to prove that diet alone could reduce depression symptoms.
The dieters followed a specific program for 12 weeks that included one-on-one counseling with a dietitian.
The treatment diet encouraged eating whole foods while discouraging things such as refined foods, sweets, and fried food.
Dieters showed greatly reduced symptoms when compared to other groups. In addition, more than 32 percent of participants experienced remission, so were no longer considered depressed.
Important foods and nutrients for depression
The following foods and nutrients may play a role in reducing the symptoms of depression.
Selenium can be a part of reducing symptoms of depression in many people. Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods.
Selenium can be found in supplement form or a variety of foods, including whole grains, Brazil nuts, and some seafood. Organ meats, such as liver, are also high in selenium.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with many mood disorders, including depression. It is important to get enough vitamin D to help in the fight against depression.
This vitamin is obtained easily through full body exposure to the sun, and there are also many high-quality supplements on the market that contain vitamin D.
Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel.
Omega-3 fatty acids
In a study posted to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers observed that populations that do not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids might have higher rates of depressive disorders.
Good sources of omega-3s may include:
cold water fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel
flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds
nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
The quality of these foods can affect the levels of omega-3s they contain.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids may increase the level of healthful fats available to the brain, preserve the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells, and keep the brain working at the highest level. In turn, this can reduce the risk of mood disorders and brain diseases occurring.
Antioxidants have become popular as they fight free radicals. Free radicals are damaged molecules that can build up in different cells in the body and cause problems, such as inflammation, premature aging, and cell death.
The brain may be more prone to this type of damage than other areas of the body. As a result, it needs a good way to get rid of these free radicals and avoid problems. Foods rich in antioxidants are believed to help reduce or reverse the damage caused by free radicals.
Everyday antioxidants found in a variety of whole foods include:
vitamin A (beta-carotene)
These nutrients may help reduce stress-related symptoms of psychiatric disorders.
Some B vitamins are also key in mood disorders such as depression. Vitamin B12 and folate, or vitamin B9, have both been linked to a reduced risk of mood disorders.
Sources of B vitamins include:
Fortified cereals may also contain vitamins B12 and folate. Other foods that have folate in them include:
dark leafy vegetables
fruit and fruit juices
meat and poultry
Eating a varied diet is an easy way to ensure there is enough folate in the diet.
Zinc helps the body perceive taste, boosts the immune system, and may also influence depression. Zinc levels may be lower in people with clinical depression, and zinc supplementation may also improve the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Zinc is found in supplements. Foods, including whole grains, oysters, beans, and nuts, are also good sources of zinc.
High-quality proteins are the building blocks of life. Getting adequate protein is essential for everyone, but some forms of protein, in particular, may be more helpful for people with depression.
Foods such as tuna, turkey, and chickpeas have good levels of tryptophan, which is needed to form serotonin.
Serotonin deficiency was once thought to be a major cause of depression.
We now know that the link between serotonin and depression is very complex, but it does seem to influence depression in many people. Including foods rich in tryptophan in a diet may help relieve symptoms.
Foods to avoid
Just as certain foods and nutrients may be of benefit to people with depression, there are also some that should be avoided.
For people with depression that is linked to anxiety, it may be important to avoid caffeine. Caffeine can make it difficult to sleep and may trigger symptoms of anxiety in many people.
Caffeine also affects the system for hours after it is consumed. It is best for people with depression to avoid caffeine if possible, or reduce consumption and stop consuming it after noon.
Though occasional alcohol drinking is seen as an acceptable distraction, it may make depression symptoms worse.
Excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of panic attacks or depressed episodes. Alcohol also alters a person's mood and may turn into a habit, which could influence depression symptoms.
High-calorie foods with few nutrients in them may also influence depression symptoms. Foods high in sugar and refined carbs can promote a crash, as the energy from them is depleted. This can make a person feel mood swings or energy swings.
Nutrient-dense whole foods are a much better approach to balancing mood and energy levels.
Highly processed or refined oils, such as safflower and corn oil, are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. Having too many omega-6s in the diet can cause an imbalance in the body that may promote inflammation in the brain and influence depression symptoms.
Other factors that play a role in depression
There are other factors that link to both diet and depression and play a role in this mental health illness.
Emerging research has shown gut bacteria to play an integral role in major mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disease. A 2016 meta-analysis reported that probiotics, in both supplement form and in fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir, resulted in significant reductions in depression.
More research is needed to identify the therapeutic value of specific strains, but so far Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium show potential.
Obese people may be more likely to be depressed, and depressed people are more likely to become obese. This may be due to hormone changes and immune system imbalances that come with depression.
Spending time outdoors and at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly have been shown to improve mood and depressive symptoms.
Some people with depression also have substance abuse problems. Alcohol or other drugs can interfere with sleep patterns, decrease motivation, and alter a person's mood.
Sleep may also play a role in depression. The body's natural sleep cycle creates mood-altering chemicals to match the time of day.
Altering this natural cycle may affect how well the body can use these chemicals.
Most adults respond well when they get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, though the number varies from person to person. It may also help to reduce exposure to blue light, during the hours leading up to sleep. Blue light is emitted by electronic devices and low-energy light bulbs.
Outlook and when to get help
Changing the diet to relieve the symptoms of depression is a promising step in treatment. It should not be seen as the only step needed, however. Working directly with a doctor before changing anything in a treatment plan should always be the priority.
There are also many support groups to help people move to a healthful diet and to keep people's morale high, as they fight depression.
Fruits and vegetables are a pivotal part of a healthful diet, but their benefits are not limited to physical health. New research finds that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption may improve psychological well-being in as little as 2 weeks.
Increasing fruit and vegetable intake may benefit psychological well-being.
Researchers at the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand found that young adults who were given extra fruits and vegetables each day for 14 days ate more of the produce and experienced a boost in motivation and vitality.
The researchers recently reported their findings in the journal PLOS One.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, adults should aim to consume around two cups of fruits and around two to three cups of vegetables daily.
One cup of fruits is the equivalent to half a grapefruit or a large orange, and one cup of vegetables is proportionate to one large red pepper or a large, baked sweet potato.
As part of a healthful diet, fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
In recent years, studies have suggested that fruit and vegetable intake may also improve mental health.
Increased motivation, vitality with higher intake of fruits and vegetables
The researchers enrolled 171 students aged between 18 and 25 to their study, and they were divided into three groups for 2 weeks.
One group continued with their normal eating pattern, one group was personally handed two additional servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (including carrots, kiwi fruit, apples, and oranges) each day, while the remaining group was given prepaid produce vouchers and received text reminders to consume more fruits and vegetables.
At the beginning and end of the study, participants were subjected to psychological assessments that evaluated mood, vitality, motivation, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and other determinants of mental health and well-being.
The researchers found that participants who personally received extra fruits and vegetables consumed the most of these products over the 2 weeks, at 3.7 servings daily, and it was this group that experienced improvements in psychological well-being. In particular, these participants demonstrated improvements in vitality, motivation, and flourishing.
The other two groups showed no improvements in psychological well-being over the 2-week period.
Furthermore, no improvements were seen in symptoms of depression and anxiety in any of the groups. "The majority of research linking depression to dietary patterns has been longitudinal, meaning that possible differences in ill-being may be established over a much longer period of time rather than our brief 2-week period," note the authors.
Still, the researchers say that their findings indicate that increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables through personal delivery may lead to rapid benefits for psychological well-being.
The team concludes that:
"Providing young adults with high-quality FV [fruits and vegetables], not texting them reminders to eat more FV and giving them a voucher, resulted in improvements to their psychological well-being over a 2-week period.
This is the first study to show that providing high-quality FV to young adults can result in short-term improvements in vitality, flourishing, and motivation. Findings provide initial validation of a causal relationship between FV and well-being, suggesting that large-scale intervention studies are warranted."
Shoulder blade pain can occur for numerous reasons, and we are going to look into those causes along with the symptoms, treatments, and exercises that can help improve shoulder blade pain.
The shoulder blades – known as the scapula – are two triangle-shaped bones located at the top of your back. The scapula is connected to the humerus (upper arm bone) and clavicle (collar bone) along with the muscles of the upper back, neck, and arms.
Shoulder blade pain can be experienced above, within, over, or under the shoulder blades, as well as in-between and below the shoulder blades.
As mentioned, there are numerous reasons for shoulder blade pain ranging from mild causes like muscle strain to more severe like lung conditions or tumors.
Causes of shoulder blade pain
Below are 27 different causes of shoulder blade pain to help you narrow in on what may be causing your pain.
Muscle strains, muscle contusion (bruise): Overuse of the muscles surrounding the shoulder can result in shoulder blade pain. Other causes of muscle strain are changing workout routine, overusing the muscles, lifting heavier weight than what you are used to, or sleeping in one position for too long.
Disc disease: Compression of nerves in the neck due to a collapsed or displaced disc can result in shoulder blade pain. You may also experience pain in your neck, or tingling or numbness down your arms to your fingers.
Heart conditions: More commonly seen in women, shoulder pain can be sometimes a result of a heart condition. Heart attacks, pericarditis, or aortic dissection can cause pain in the left shoulder.
Fractures: It is quite difficult to fracture the scapula, but it is possible. Fractures of the scapula commonly occur as a result of a car accident or fall and can lead to shoulder blade pain.
Shingles: Shingles is an infection from the chickenpox virus. This type of shoulder blade pain is often a burning sensation followed by a rash.
Bone metastases: Bone metastases occur with the spread of a cancerous tumor. The shoulder pain is often a result of the spread of breast, lung, esophageal, and colon cancer.
Lung conditions and tumor: Lung conditions like pulmonary emboli or a collapsed lung along with lung tumors can contribute to shoulder blade pain.
Arthritis, osteoarthritis: Arthritis or osteoarthritis can affect the scapula causing shoulder blade pain.
Snapping scapula syndrome, broken scapula, scapular cancer: There are conditions that solely affect the scapula, such as snapping scapula syndrome, broken scapula, and scapular cancer, leading to pain.
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a bone disease, which causes the bones to become thin and fragile. The scapula can be affected by osteoporosis resulting in pain.
Abdominal conditions (GERD, stomach disorders): Sometimes, a shoulder blade pain can result from stomach and digestive issues. This type of pain can occur in the right shoulder and is a result of gallstones, peptic ulcers, and liver disease. Ailments that lead to pain in the left shoulder blade include pancreatitis.
Gallbladder disease: A gallbladder attack can cause pain under the right scapula and the pain can radiate from the upper abdomen to the shoulder.
Liver disease: Liver disease can lead to pain under the right shoulder because the liver is located under the right rib so the pain radiates to the shoulder.
Overuse of shoulder muscles: As mentioned, the overuse of shoulder muscles, whether through exercise or work, can cause pain.
Sleeping the “wrong way”: Sleeping for prolonged periods of time on one side or simply sleeping at an odd angle can cause shoulder blade pain.
Nerve impingement: If your shoulder blade pain radiates down your arm it could be a result of nerve impingement. You may also experience a burning sensation in your hand.
Rotator cuff injury: This injury is most common among athletes and affects one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff.
Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine, which can cause pain between the two shoulders.
Paget’s disease: Paget’s disease is a chronic viral infection of the bones which can cause shoulder blade pain.
Brachial neuritis: Brachial neuritis is a rare neurological condition without a precise cause. Symptoms of brachial neuritis include sudden, severe burning pain above the shoulder.
Whiplash: Whiplash is a strain or sprain of the upper neck muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Pain can begin at the neck and radiate downward.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is characterized by allover pain with unknown cause. Fibromyalgia patients are known to have tender points and shoulder blades are among those tender points.
Pleurisy: Pleurisy is inflammation of the lung membrane caused by a viral infection.
Enlarged spleen: An enlarged spleen can cause left shoulder blade pain, which can worsen when breathing in and out.
Frozen shoulder: Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule, which wraps the shoulder joint. The condition can take years to heal, but can be aided in physiotherapy exercises.
Avascular necrosis: Avascular necrosis is bone death as a result of limited blood supply. Symptoms include deep, throbbing, and poorly localized pain around the shoulder that can radiate down to the elbow.
Symptoms of shoulder blade pain
The symptoms you experience depend on the cause of your shoulder pain. Pain can be sudden, chronic, temporary, burning, radiating from one area to another, and appearing in different parts of the shoulder. Shoulder blade pain can also cause numbness or tingling, and pain can become worsened when lying on the shoulder or breathing.
Another symptom of shoulder blade pain is crepitus, which is a grating sound when the shoulder moves or when it is pressed.
Pain under right shoulder blade
Pain under the right shoulder can have minor or severe causes. Causes which typically result in pain under the right shoulder include using a computer mouse, carrying a child on the right side, incorrect posture, sleep positions, heart attack, gallbladder attack, liver disease, breast cancer, and arthritis.
Pain under left shoulder blade
Common causes of pain under the left shoulder blade include injury, aging, wrong sleeping position, cold or flu, dislocation, frozen shoulder, fracture, bursitis, torn rotator cuff, compressed nerve, trigger points, inflammation, heart attack, gallbladder attacks, and pneumonia.
Pain between the shoulder blades
Common causes of shoulder blade pain experienced in-between the shoulders are poor posture, herniated discs, gallbladder disease, heart attack, inflammation under the diaphragm, spinal stenosis, cervical spondylosis, osteoarthritis, and facet joint syndrome.
Shoulder blade pain diagnosis and treatment options
If shoulder pain does not go away within a few days, you should see your doctor as it could be an indication of a more serious injury or ailment. Your doctor will perform MRI scans in order to see what is going on with your shoulder to determine if medical intervention is required or home remedies will suffice.
Some treatment options for shoulder blade pain include stopping the pain-causing activity and resting, keeping proper posture, practicing scapular retraction exercises, applying cold and hot compresses, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, practicing acupuncture, wearing a sling, getting massages, taking medications like painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications, getting treatment for underlying illnesses like heart or lung conditions, arthritis, and other infections, which could contribute to shoulder blade pain.
Stretches for shoulder blade pain
Here are some tips, stretches, and exercises you can perform in order to help shoulder blade pain.
Improve your work station: Ensure feet are flat on the ground and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, back is straight, arms are bent at the elbow at 90 degrees, monitor is at eye level, and your mouse is close to your keyboard.
Correct your posture: Ear, shoulder, and hip joint should be aligned when sitting with good posture. Shoulders should not be slouched and your head should not be tilted.
Massage the area: Lay your shoulder on the massage ball and roll on it with the weight of your body.
Stretch the shoulders: Intertwine your fingers together, lean back, and hunch your upper body as far back as possible, push your hands as far away from you as possible, while looking down. In this position, you can move around to feel other areas of the upper back become stretched.
Stretch the thoracic spine: Have a foam roller underneath your shoulders and lay on it. Keep your ribs downward, but don’t arch your back too much. Keep your hands behind your head in order to support it. Roll gently on the roller.
Do a chest stretch: Stand in the middle of a doorway with each hand forward flat on the side of the door frame. Gently lean into the door frame and feel your chest opening up.
Strengthen postural muscles: Stand up against a wall with your back touching. Have your arms bent at the elbow, hands facing up, palms outward (you should look like a W). Lift your hands above the head to make yourself into the letter I, hold, and return back to the W.
After completing any type of exercise, apply heat packs to the area to further relax the muscle.
Lyme disease and Zika virus are known as zoonotic diseases, meaning they come from animals and spread to humans. Both illnesses are currently on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide, so it’s important to have a good understanding of each in order to effectively protect yourself and your family.
Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites, while Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes. Both can lead to very serious conditions and complications.
Lyme disease can be contracted in the U.S. where the habitats for the ticks that spread Lyme disease can be found. Zika, on the other hand, is mainly spreading through the Central and South America, and although there are some American cases, too, there is no local transmission, as of yet.
Lyme disease or Zika virus: Which one is more dangerous?
Although Zika virus is constantly showing up in news headlines, you should probably be more concerned about Lyme disease. Zika virus is a more serious threat if you are travelling to countries with the infected mosquito. Lyme disease, on the other hand, is locally transmitted, so if you’re not careful you may actually develop Lyme disease way before you even run the risk of contracting Zika virus.
The prevalence of Lyme disease is growing, though providing any particular estimates is difficult for the CDC as many cases go unreported or are misdiagnosed for another condition.
Zika virus poses the largest threat to fetuses and pregnant women, but Lyme disease can actually develop into a chronic illness for those infected. On the other hand, Zika virus does not have a cure or any treatment available, whereas Lyme disease does. Still, the risk of complications rises with the delay of Lyme disease treatment.
It’s hard to say for sure which one is necessarily more dangerous, but overall Lyme disease poses a larger risk – right in your own backyard.
Lyme disease vs. Zika virus: U.S. prevalence
There are roughly 30,000 Lyme disease cases reported annually, but it’s not an accurate reflection of how many cases actually occur, as these are only incidences reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In order to improve data collection on Lyme disease, the CDC has set out two different studies known as Project 1 and Project 2. Project 1 estimated 228,000 cases of Lyme disease through laboratory testing, and Project 2 estimated 329,000 cases of Lyme disease based on medical claims information from insurance databases.
There are no locally transmitted cases for Zika, but the U.S. has reported a total of 820 cases accounting for those who have travelled overseas. There are ongoing talks that Zika virus mosquitoes may end up in the Southern U.S. or even along the East coast as a result of global warming.
Difference between Zika virus and Lyme disease: Signs and symptoms
Zika virus symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, headaches, and muscle pain. Many Zika patients will not experience any symptoms, so they remain unaware of the virus, which increases the risk of transmission to others. Furthermore, Zika incubation period is still not known well, but researchers estimate it is anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Early signs of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and erythema migrans rash, which looks like a bull’s eye. As the disease progresses, symptoms can worsen into severe headache and neck stiffness, with additional rashes, arthritis accompanied by severe joint pain and swelling, muscle loss in the face, intermittent pain in the tendons, joints and bones, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, dizziness or shortness of breath, nerve pain, shooting pain, numbness or tingling, and problems with short-term memory.
Comparing Zika and Lyme disease: Causes and transmission
Lyme disease is caused by a bite from the Ixodes scapularis, or deer tick. These ticks are not inherently infected with Lyme disease, but rather they get it from feeding on an affected animal. These ticks can be found in wooded lands and prefer damp areas underneath the trees. Because ticks are so tiny, it is difficult to notice that they are on you, let alone that they are biting you, so it’s important that you cover your body and check yourself every so often if you are going out for a hike.
Tick populations are higher in the East, Midwest, and West coast, but can be found all across the U.S.
There is some debate about how long it takes for a tick to infect a person. Some experts suggest it’s up to 24 hours from attachment, and others believe it’s even less than that. Essentially, the longer a tick is attached to you, the higher your risk of Lyme disease is.
Zika virus are transmitted through bites of mosquitoes from the Andes species. These mosquitoes typically lay their eggs near standing water and are quite aggressive during the day, but can also bite at night. Mosquitoes pick up the virus after biting an infected person and continue to transmit it to other individuals through bites.
Zika transmission can also occur from mother to fetus, sexual contact, and blood transfusions. Once you are infected, you become immune to that virus.
Zika vs. Lyme disease: Risk factors and complications
Risk factors for Lyme disease include spending long hours in grassy, woody areas (especially in the East, Midwest, and West coast), having exposed skin as ticks can easily attach themselves to bare skin, and failing to remove ticks properly once detected. Furthermore, the quicker you remove a tick from your skin, the lower your risk of contracting Lyme disease will be.
If Lyme disease is caught early, antibiotics can be given immediately to reduce complications, but if treatment is delayed, chronic complications can arise, including fatigue, arthritis, joint pain, headaches, short-term memory problems, numbness, Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis), heart problems, including slow or irregular heartbeat, and depression, which can be set off by living with the complications of Lyme disease.
Risk factors of Zika virus include being bitten by an infected mosquito (which is more likely if you visit a country where these mosquitoes thrive), having sexual intercourse with a person who is infected, and being pregnant, as you can pass the virus on to the fetus, leading to birth defects.
The biggest complications resulting from Zika virus are birth defects in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Although much research has come to light revealing an association between birth defects and Zika virus, additional research is still required in order to fully understand the mechanisms behind this association.
Additionally, complications are more likely to arise in pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant. If a woman is trying to get pregnant or is pregnant, the CDC advises that they avoid areas with known cases of Zika and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites. This can be done by using a mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and long pants, and staying indoors as much as possible.
For women living in Zika-ridden areas, the use of condoms is highly recommended as an alternative to abstaining from sex. The same protocol should be considered if a male has visited a Zika-ridden country and has returned – he should refrain from sex for at least eight weeks. If a man has been diagnosed with Zika, sex should be avoided for six months.
Difference in Lyme disease and Zika virus: Diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosing Lyme disease involves looking for the erythema migrans rash, which is reported in 70 percent of Lyme disease cases. Your doctor will also evaluate your symptoms and confirm the diagnosis with blood work.
For Lyme disease treatment, your doctor will put you on a regime of antibiotics, which may be taken for several weeks. It’s important that you completely finish your antibiotics, even if you start feeling better. Take note that some antibiotics may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you should avoid being out in the sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
Zika virus is diagnosed by examining the patient’s medical history, asking if they have recently travelled abroad, and running blood tests to look for viruses in the blood.
Because there is no vaccine available for Zika, you must utilize alternative prevention methods in order to lower your risk of contracting the virus. Prevention tips for Zika include:
Stay in air-conditioned and well-screened homes.
Reschedule outdoor activities and avoid high times for mosquitoes.
Wear protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants, hats, socks, and shoes.
Use mosquito repellent.
Reduce mosquito habitat options – remove standing water, which can be found in fountains, buckets, etc.
Treatments for Zika virus include getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking medication to reduce fever and pain. Do not take anti-inflammatory or aspirin to treat Zika virus.