How I Naturally Cope with Depression & Anxiety. Part 3.
So there I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and PMDD, detoxing off of all of my antidepressants, because they weren’t working, and seeking God’s Word for help and deliverance. I was desperately trying to heal, to find help, and to be free. (You can read more about that in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series)
After much prayer, education, and medical advice, I decided, along with the support of my husband, doctor, and family, to take myself off of all antidepressants, and to try to heal depression and anxiety naturally. As I took myself off of Prozac and Wellbutrin, I found fourteen things that helped me to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Those same fourteen things have continued to help me as I live medication free, learning to heal naturally.
One of those ways, outside of prayer and time with the Lord, has been paramount in learning to heal from depression and anxiety naturally. That has been changing my diet, what I put into my body, and what I choose to make a part of my lifestyle.
Please understand before reading on, the contents of this article, such as text, comments, graphics, images, and other icontent contained in this article are for informational purposes only. Statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your personal physician before starting any fitness or exercise program or changing dietary habits. You can read our full disclosure HERE.
Please also understand that this is MY STORY, and I am sharing it for informational purposes only. I am sharing what is working for ME. I am not bashing medication. I am not telling you to get off of medication. If it is working for you . . . GREAT! Do whatever works for you. I am sharing, what worked for ME. If it encourages you to seek different forms of help, speak to your doctor and discuss your options.
Now that that is out of the way, how can diet help to manage depression and anxiety? Read on, Dear Friend.
STEP 1: A MIND OF YOUR OWN.
My husband and I were at the bookstore one afternoon searching for books on healing depression naturally, On the shelf, as if God Himself placed it there was a book, A MIND OF YOUR OWN by Dr. Kelly Brogan.
The subtitle is what got me, “The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives." Yes! That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to heal and reclaim my life, and I knew the Lord had put the answers out there. The Bible tells us He has given us all we need for life and godliness. Perhaps, this was a tool He would use to get me on the road to that life and godliness in HIM when it came to my health and wellbeing.
This book did just that. Let me share a bit of the authors words with you.
“We have been told a story of depression: that it is caused by a chemical imbalance and cured by a chemical fix—a prescription. More than 30 million of us take antidepressants, including one in seven women (one in four women in their forties and fifties). Millions more—maybe you—are tempted to try them to end chronic, unyielding distress, irritability, and feeling emotionally flat—trapped by an exhausting, unshakable inner agitation.
The human body interacts in its environment with deep intelligence. Your body creates symptoms for a reason. We usually suppress these symptoms with medication, but that is like turning off the smoke alarm when you have a fire going on. I get the allure of the quick fix cure via a drug. I used to believe in the magic pill. Then, after my residency and fellowship training, I took a sharp turn.
First, we have to ask why you are feeling the way you are feeling, and the sources of your symptoms may surprise you. It may be your food, your gut, your thyroid, or even your go-to pain reliever. I continue to be amazed at the power of the body to heal, after decades of abuse by our lifestyles, within time frames as short as thirty days.” - Kelly Brogan, M.D.
My Friend, this book changed my thinking in so many ways. She goes into some new-age principles toward the end which I replaced with the Word of God, but the beginning shows the beauty of God’s intricate design. How He formed our bodies so beautifully and put them together so miraculously. It showed me how God has given me the tools I need to heal and be delivered; I just wasn’t accessing them.
STEP 2: WHAT WOULD JESUS EAT?
The same day, at the same bookstore, was another book entitled, “What would Jesus Eat?” By Dr. Don Colbert. Its subtitle caught my eye as well. “The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great, and Living Longer.” YES! That’s what I wanted I wanted to learn how to eat well and feel great both physically and mentally.
Let me share with you the publisher's words.
“What if there were an ‘owner’s manual’ for the human body that came straight from the original manufacturer? Well, here it is - the first eating guide based on God’s teaching and Jesus’ example. The medical facts are in - if we eat as Jesus ate, we will be healthier.
Living as the perfect role model, Jesus wisely consumed whole-grain bread, pure water, and fresh foods that were low in fat, salt, additives, preservatives. His “primitive” diet proves flawless even in the 21st century with all its expanded food choices - they simply do not offer the nutrition Jesus’ diet does.
Whether you want to lose weight, prevent disease, eat more balanced meals, or adopt a diet designed with Biblical authority, What would Jesus eat? is for you.”
This book changed my life. I have it sitting on my desk at all times and refer to it daily. Dr. Colbert digs deep into the science of food, but also into the Biblical backing of why God created the food laws of Leviticus, why our bodies were not created to handle a western diet, how we can fight numerous diseases including cancer, and why Jesus ate what He ate. It was a fascinating read, and if you are curious about changing your diet, or just want to learn more about what the Bible says about food and dietary lifestyles, you must get this book today.
Let me ask you this question -
So we read the Bible, we study, we pray, and we live the best we can to be an echo of Christ in this earth. We strive to His ideals because He is the ultimate role model. If we do this in every area of life, why not in how we eat? Why not emulate the way He ate?
This question got me thinking. So I dug deeper . . .
STEP THREE: I GOT RID OF IT!
I read Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book and Dr. Don Colbert’s book, and I was fascinated. The diet plan in Dr. Brogan's book lined up with the Biblical plan set by Christian doctor Don Colbert. Is science actually lining up with the word of God? In this case, and in these two books it seems to be.
The Lord confirmed what I needed to do concerning changing my eating habits to strengthen not only my physical health, but also my mental health. Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book gave the science, Dr. Don Colbert’s book, provided the Biblical design, and together, they formed a perfect union on what I needed to get rid of to help heal depression and anxiety.
1. ELIMINATE DIET SODA.
My Friends, you do not understand. I mean, you do not understand. I was ADDICTED to Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke. ADDICTED. I won’t even tell you how much soda I drank a day. It was embarrassing. The first thing that Steven and I did was eliminate all Diet Soda. We didn’t wean off it . . . We cold-turkeyed it, and it was HARD.
I had more withdrawal symptoms coming off of Diet Coke than I did coming off of Prozac! Heachaches, mood swings, cotton mouth, intense thirst, cravings, and the list goes on. It took two weeks of perseverance and encouraging each other, but Steven and I did it. We have not had Diet Soda in almost nine months. The cravings are gone, and we are a water-only family!
2. ELIMINATE ALL SUGAR & ARTIFICAL SWEETENERS.
Aspartame is gone. Splenda is gone. Sugar is gone. This change was not too hard for us, because Steven and I naturally don’t eat much sugar. I had gastric bypass surgery (You can read more HERE), and I don’t process sugar well so I don’t eat it. This step wasn’t too difficult.
Dr. Brogan explains the detriment that sugar and artificial sugars are to mental health. Do a quick Google search, and you will discover a treasure trove of information about the danger of sugar and artificial sweeteners. I eliminated all sugars and artificial sugars from my system. If I want to sweeten something now, I use pure honey or a bit of Stevia.
3. ELIMINATE ALL PROCESSED FOODS.
The famous nutritionist and Father of Fitness, Jack LaLanne, once said that when you go food shopping, you shop the perimeter of the food store. Most everything in the middle is junk. Think about what is located around the perimeter of your food store - fruits, vegetables, healthy dairy, meats, and seafood. All the “good stuff”. Coffee and olive oil are in the middle and that’s okay too!
An article published in Harvard Medical School by Dr. Eva Selhub says,
“Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.
Unfortunately, just like an expensive car, your brain can be damaged if you ingest anything other than premium fuel. If substances from “low-premium” fuel (such as what you get from processed or refined foods) get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.” (source)
Jesus didn’t have processed foods. He didn’t have the “junk food.” He couldn’t get a box of Twinkies or a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.
So, if Jesus didn’t do it, Steven and I made a choice, for our health, that we needed to be off of processed foods. How do you do that with all of the choices? One simple way . . . if the ingredients label is as long as your arm, the food is processed. Put it down.
STEP FOUR: ADD IT IN!
I eliminated a lot of what I ate in order to feed my brain the food that it needs to get well. Using the books above, and the word of God, I set out to add in foods that would be “premium fuel,” and would get my mind and body functioning the way God intended.
1. ADD the VEGGIES.
Especially the dark green ones. Kale, spinach, Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce - all of the dark leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation. Severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. We eat vegetables at every single meal; including breakfast. Onions, peppers, tomatoes, squash, and carrots are staples in our diet now that we’ve begun to eat as Jesus ate.
2. ADD the NUTS and SEEDS.
We added walnuts and almonds to many of our meals. Walnuts are the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3’s support brain function and have been proven to reduce depression and anxiety.
3. ADD the RIGHT FATS.
I don’t use any oil for cooking or salad dressing except for high quality extra-virgin olive oil. If you pick up Dr. Colbert’s book, “What would Jesus eat?”, he goes in-depth on the health benefits of olives and olive oil and the spiritual significance. Olive oil is found throughout Scripture; used in preparing food (1 Kings 17:13-14), and for making anointing oil (Leviticus 8:12).
Every once in a while we put grass-fed butter on a baked potato or toast.
Avocado is another fat that I eat daily. Avocados contain healthy fat that your brain needs to run at peak performance. Its oleic acid is what gives your brain energy to function correctly.
4. Add FRUITS.
I was not a big fruit eater before this new lifestyle. Mainly because, jumping from diet to diet, especially the low-carb ones, they tell you FRUIT IS BAD! I am learning the right fruits, in the right amounts are not bad for you. Our main source of “sugar” comes from fruit. Fruit is our dessert most evenings. I’ve especially added the berries; blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries as they are some of the best antioxidant foods available. Pomegranates and apples are also family favorites!
5. Add BEANS and SEEDS.
We add flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds to most of our breakfast meals. They are rich in those omega-3 fatty acids that help support brain function. Hummus, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are now a part of our daily diet. Beans are mentioned throughout the Bible, and “lentils” were commonly consumed in Israel during bible times. Beans are high in soluble fiber and high in protein - both which help the brain to stay healthy.
6. Add WHOLE GRAINS or GLUTEN FREE.
No more white bread for us. Every grain we eat is now a whole grain. Whole-grain pasta, brown rice, steel cut oats are now a part of our diet. It is incredible that our culture is jumping on whole-grains because these breads and grains are readily available in most food stores. Sprouted-whole grains are the best.
Recently, I was told by my doctor I needed to eat a gluten free diet. I feel drastically better eating gluten free. My husband and son still eat the whole grains and nothing “white”. But for myself, and per doctors orders, I am gluten free.
STEP FIVE: FINDING A LIFESTYLE.
I took all of this information, all of the changes I made in my eating and found that it most resembles the Mediterranean Diet. I have a Pinterest Board devoted to this health-style if you’d like to check it out.
I don’t call eating the way we eat a “DIET.” Diet has a horribly negative feeling to the word, doesn’t it? We aren’t on a diet. We have changed our lifestyle. Dr. Don Colbert calls it THE MEDITERRANEAN HEALTH-STYLE in his book mentioned above. Steven and I like that.
Both of the books I spoke about in this article recommend the Mediterranean way of eating optimal health. Essentially, we are eating as Jesus eats and we are not turning back.
DO YOU MISS THE OLD DAYS?
I don’t miss the old days at all! I can count three times where I have had a bite of something sugary (once was a meringue at Christmas! LOL) I have not missed my old lifestyle one single bit.
You know, My Friend, I’ve been waiting for that moment where I “go off.” You know what I mean. That one day when you buy all the chips and donuts and have a Netflix and snacks day! I’ve been waiting for it, but it hasn’t come. I no longer desire the way I used to eat. I no longer want the cakes and the candies, or the French fries. Those things no longer fulfill me.
The world will tell us we need to eat a certain way, but like most everything the world tells us, it goes against God’s word. It is a counterfeit form of His righteousness. I found that when I eat what Jesus ate, I am fulfilled. Isaiah 58:11 says, “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” That's how I want to live. I want to be a well-watered garden whose waters do not fail.
DO I FEEL BETTER?
At the same time I changed my diet, I stopped drinking soda and got off of antidepressants. So my body was in a bit of a state of shock. I didn’t know what I was feeling and what was causing me to feel the way I did.
Now that things have “settled down,” I definitely feel better. There is no anxiety about food anymore. I don’t crave anything. I am satisfied. My mind is so much clearer than it was on the antidepressants and eating all the “junk.” I no longer have that brain fog, and I can think straight.
Do I still have moments of depression, anxiety, and mood swings - yes, at times. But I am getting better at coping with those seasons, and I have hope that brighter days are ahead.
We all want the quick fix, don’t we? We all want the magic pill. I’ve discovered there is no such thing. This new lifestyle (health-style) is helping me walk on my Road to a Miracle. It may not happen overnight, but I’m not going down any other path.
My Friend, I am thankful that you read my story. I hope to encourage you with my testimony of how I am healing naturally from depression and anxiety. It goes without saying, there is no condemnation here. You do what is good for you. BUT, if what you’ve been doing isn’t working anymore, if you feel convicted that this is maybe the way to go, I offer this alternative.
Talk to your doctor. Buy the two books I mentioned above. Your life’s purpose is not to be sick and tired. You have options. God gave us LIFE and life ABUNDANTLY. (John 10:10). We can live full of life in Jesus.
I have been on this journey for nine months at the time of writing and will update you on how I’m doing. But for now, I can say that I feel better physically than I have in twenty years, and mentally, I am further along on my Road to a Miracle than I was eight months ago.
WITH ALL MY HEART,
E R I K A