It’s normal to have periods of sadness after a tragic event or stressful situation. But if the feeling doesn’t lift after a few weeks, you might be experiencing the subtle signs of depression.

One of the hardest parts about depression is that symptoms aren’t always obvious. In fact, some early indicators may pass as normal reactions to problems in life. And, although it’s normal to have periods of sadness after a tragic event or stressful situation, if a gloomy feeling doesn’t seem to be lifting after a few weeks, you might be experiencing the subtle signs of depression.

The best way to figure out what’s going on is to track how you’re feeling, whether you think you’re going through a depressive period or not. “It shouldn’t be used for self-diagnosis, but a mood diary could help track your feelings, whether they’re up and down or fairly constant,” Rachel McCrickard, LFMT and CEO of Motivo, tells Woman’s Day. “They can help you track if a mood is persisting. And if something lasts longer than two to three weeks, you might want to schedule an appointment with a doctor or therapist.”

But what differences in your mood should you be looking for? Ahead, McCrickard lays out five subtle signs of depression that might surprise you.


McCrickard says these types of feelings are typical in reaction to traumatic life events — like a death or a pandemic. “That’s called adjustment disorder,” she says. “It’s when you’re having difficulty adjusting to a specific stressor in your life.” With adjustment disorder, feelings of hopelessness tend to fade once the stressor is gone.

“Depression isn’t dependent on circumstance, but there’s just a feeling of lowness,” McCrickard says. Instead of thinking “things will get better once this difficult time is over,” the feeling is that things will never ever get better. “That’s why depression and suicide are so closely linked,” she says. “If there’s no hope for things to get better, people can develop suicidal thoughts.” So if these feelings are lingering, it might be time to call a doctor.


Whether you’re swinging from joyful to sobbing or just feeling down most of the day, regular bouts of sadness and crying are a big sign of depression. “It can be mood swings or general malaise,” McCrickard says. “There are different levels.” And because everyone prevents sadness differently, this can be tough to pin down. Some folks may not be able to get out of bed, while others may be behaving completely normally in public, but breaking down in private. It can also manifest as a loss of interest in activities and canceling plans.


Like feelings of hopelessness, anxiety can crop up due to specific circumstances. But if you find yourself worrying for no reason, it could be a sign of depression. “It’s anxiety over things that are not happening right now, but that might happen,” McCrickard says. So if you’re generally worried about your child falling, or nervous about a loved one suffering some kind of accident, even though there is no evidence those things might happen, it might be a subtle signal that something else is going on. That anxiety can affect your sleep, too, in different ways. In order to avoid the anxiety, you might feel the urge to sleep all day. But if your anxiety tends to peak at night, you could be kept awake with overthinking.


Either end of the spectrum can be a sign of depression, according to McCrickard. “Overeating is a form of self-medication because food can be comforting,” she says. That’s why you might see weight gain in someone dealing with depression. On the other hand, McCrickard notes that depression can also cause a lack of appetite, so you might see people lose weight, too. “Even if they wanted to eat, they can’t,” McCrickard says.


Yes, depression can cause physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. “People have a hard time viewing the mind the way they view the rest of their body,” McCrickard says. “Pain is physical everywhere else in the body. It’s the same for your mind, too.” The pain can also be a secondary symptom to the other signs you’re having. “A lack of sleep can cause headaches,” McCrickard says. “Or if you’re not feeling well, you might not be eating properly, so you may experience stomachaches.”


Apr 15, 2020 Womens Day

Health experts warn that a lingering effect of the coronavirus pandemic could be a mental health crisis. While therapy and medications for stress and anxiety are often necessary, the foods you eat can also play a role in your well-being.

An American Psychiatric Association poll released in March found that 36% of Americans felt the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic was having a serious impact on their mental health. People were most worried about their finances, the risk of themselves or a family member contracting the virus, and the possibility of becoming seriously ill or dying.

All the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has increased stress and anxiety, leading to a greater demand for prescriptions for (and some shortages of) antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications.

While it’s dangerous to treat food as a substitute for medicine, eating for your brain health can help ease the impact of anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder, said Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist and author of the new book “This Is Your Brain on Food.”

“During COVID-19 and whatever lies beyond this time, we anticipate a significant surge of these disorders, specifically anxiety, depression and stress,” she told HuffPost. “So food becomes one mechanism [to feel better], since we all have to eat.”

People already focus their diets on other health goals, such as weight loss or heart health. As the coronavirus continues to upend our lives, eating for mental health can be just as important.

The gut-brain connection

The gut has been called the “second brain.” And we recognize the link between the two even if we don’t realize it: You may feel “butterflies in your stomach” when you’re nervous or “go with your gut” when you make an important decision.

Naidoo said the two are connected physically and biochemically via the gut-brain axis, the complex communications network that links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with intestinal functions.

The basis of the “gut-brain romance,” as Naidoo writes in her book, is the vagus nerve, a central part of the nervous system that controls mood, immune response, digestion and other bodily functions. It’s also a main connector of the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. Stress can inhibit the vagus nerve, impacting gut microbiota and upsetting gastrointestinal conditions.

The central nervous system also produces dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals that regulate mood and process thought and emotion. Serotonin deficiency, in particular, can cause anxiety and depression, and about 90% of serotonin receptors are found in the gut.

The gut-brain connection explains why what we eat affects our mental health. “It’s not just as glib as you are what you eat, but that specific foods have either a positive effect or a negative effect,” Naidoo said.

Deanna Minich, an Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner and functional medicine nutritionist, also emphasizes the importance of diet to control inflammation in the body. “Having a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet reduces the other dysfunctional and even inflammatory ‘noise’ in the body that can be at the root cause for symptoms or disease,” she explained.

Foods that can aid mental health

Most of the key nutrients needed for brain and gut health are found naturally in foods, so it’s usually best to choose foods over supplements, Minich said. But dietary supplements can fill in any nutrient gaps ― just talk to a health professional first.

For the best results, a nutritionist can tailor your diet to your individual mental health needs. But Naidoo said there are three categories of foods that everyone needs more of to help reduce stress and anxiety.

1. Prebiotics and probiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible components naturally found in the gut that promote the growth of good bacteria, while probiotics are the live good bacteria in the gut, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Prebiotic and probiotic food sources are a very good basis to start regulating your gut health and therefore your mental health,” Naidoo said.

Yogurt with active cultures is a top source of probiotics, along with fermented foods like miso, kimchi and kombucha. Sauerkraut, buttermilk and some cheeses, such as cheddar, mozzarella and Gouda, are other good sources. Prebiotic-rich foods include beans, legumes, oats, garlic, onions, berries and bananas.

2. Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain valuable prebiotics, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For example, magnesium, found in avocados, nuts and salmon, and vitamin C, found in broccoli, oranges and kale, can help reduce anxiety.

Fruits and vegetables are also natural sources of fiber, which can relieve anxiety. But only about 10% of American adults consume the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They’re really good food for your gut bacteria,” Naidoo said. “When your good gut bacteria is fed by these nutrients, they thrive. And by thriving, they help your mood, help you feel better so that your chances of inflammation are lower.”

3. Spices

Spices are calorie-free and flavorful, and their impact on brain and gut health is often overlooked. One of the best spice combos is turmeric with a pinch of black pepper, Naidoo said. Black pepper activates the curcumin compound in turmeric, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

“Putting turmeric in a shake, a smoothie or soup is an easy way to go,” she said. “You really only need a quarter teaspoon a day with a pinch of black pepper, and it targets anxiety, depression and many other conditions.”

Dried oregano, curry powder, chili powder and cumin seed are other spices with high antioxidant levels.

Foods that can hurt mental health

Fried foods, processed foods, trans fats, nitrates and foods high in salt, saturated fat and refined sugars can worsen depression, anxiety and stress.

“If you’re eating processed foods and fast foods every day, that’s basically making the bad gut bacteria thrive, and that’s when you start to run into problems with inflammation,” Naidoo explained.

Too much caffeine and alcohol may also make you feel worse mentally but are usually OK in moderation. Drinking 400 mg per day or less of coffee shouldn’t have an impact on anxiety, Naidoo said.

People respond to alcohol intake differently, but generally, four drinks a day for men and three for women is considered heavy drinking.

How to start eating for your mental health

To shift your diet with mental health in mind, Naidoo suggests starting small. Trying to change too much too fast can be overwhelming and diminish results. “Slow and steady change over time will start to build that healthy gut and basically start to build on the healthy nutrients that are good for your brain,” she said.

Begin with a diet self-check. Write down what you ate over the past 24 to 48 hours, circle the foods that are unhealthy, and then decide on one simple change you can make. You don’t necessarily have to give up some of your favorite less-than-healthy foods, though.

“I’m a big believer in not only nutritious food, but delicious food,” Naidoo said. “If you happen to be an ice cream person, that’s completely fine. Have it on your treat day. I don’t call it a cheat day because that’s a negative connotation. It’s a treat — enjoy it and move on.”

How long the changes will take to make you feel better depends, Minich said. It could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days or months.

Taking steps to improve your diet for your mental health is especially important today, she said, as the effects of the pandemic will persist. Concerns over jobs, finances, food insecurity, gaps in children’s education and more will take a toll.

“A healthy diet can help mitigate or buffer one from these types of effects as it sets the stage for a beneficial gut microbiome and less inflammation, both of which are tied to mood, anxiety, depression and even sleep,” Minich said.

Source: by: Erica Sweeney

    © 2019 by Mystical Hummingbird Publications