Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Link Between Carbohydrates and Depression

It's Wellness Wednesday. And this is my first post under my new M/W/F posting plan.

I've actually been thinking about the topic of carbs and depression for over a month. Today is the day I'm sharing what I've learned and observed.

For starters, a little background information is in order. Every fall for the past 10+ years I've had mild bouts of Seasonal Affective Dissorder (SAD). Sometimes the depressive funk would last longer than just fall/winter. In the beginning I didn't recognize my symptoms as being depression. Mostly because I got out of bed, didn't spend the day crying, and generally functioned. But I was constantly fatigued and irritable. In 1999 my family practice doctor had me try anti-depressants. They made a big difference, but they didn't solve everything.

If you've been reading my past posts, you know that I decided to have a new set of medical eyes look at my list of physical complaints. This doctor said that my problem was carbohydrates and recommended that I start a low-carb diet.

That was at the end of August. In past years I've experienced mild SAD symptoms beginning in late September, even when I've been on anti-depressants. But this year has been different. No fatigue. No disrupted sleep patterns. It's been a wonderful fall.

I've come to believe that the reason is my reduced carbohydrate consumption. My theory goes like this . . . In the past I'd eat fewer carbs in the summer months because I didn't like to heat up my oven to bake. Then, as the weather would cool down, usually in September, I'd go back to using the oven. I'd bake breads, cookies, casseroles, potatoes. You get the idea -- carbohydrates. This year, however, I stopped eating most carbohydrates. And it's made all the difference.

If you're interested in learning more about the connection between carbohydrates and depression, I suggest you read Potatoes, Not Prozac. It goes into great detail on how serotonin is created and how carbs play a big role. But be aware that the book isn't really about getting off anti-depressants. It's more about breaking the sugar addiction cycle.

I also happened upon this article from the Scientific American, January 1989. It is entitled, "Carbohydrates and Depression," and it is great reading! It influenced me to ask my doctor about using light therapy instead of prescription meds to treat my SAD. I began light therapy (using a broad spectrum lamp I purchased at Shopko) on October 17th, and followed my doctor's advice for weaning off my anti-depressant. I've been medication free for over a week. So far, so good!

I also read a Mayo Clinic article on using lights to reduce S.A.D. ( I've seen a reference to the book, Lights Out: sleep, sugar, and survival, but I haven't read it yet.

Do you have any experiences with SAD or depression? What have you found helpful? I'd be interested to hear from you. Please comment here or e-mail me at Thanks for taking the time to read this post. -- Christie

Menu for Tuesday, November 4th

8:20 AM
8 oz. non-fat yogurt, no sugar added (15)
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese (5)
small gala apple (15)
1 1/2 oz. colby jack cheese (1)

12:40 PM
salad shrimp, 6 oz.
2 Tbsp. cocktail sauce (6)
salad greens & ranch dressing (8)
24 pistacios (2)
20 almonds (1)

5:00 PM
Italian pasta sauce (7)
6 meatballs (6)
2/3 c. green beans (4)
2 celery stalks w/ 2 Tbsp. natural PB (8)

8:00 PM
2 c. herbal tea

Total net carbs: 78


Flashlight Girl said...

Personally, I'm thinking of moving to Arizona or even just St. George. Rainy days are just awful.

Suko said...

You are on the right track, Christie! Diet is definitely linked to how we feel, to our serotonin levels. Natural mood enhancers are of course better for us. My favorite "antidepressant" is a long walk with my dog in the morning. Of course, sun is plentiful here in CA! :)

Christie said...


Funny, walking my dog lifts me too. And when the weather here allows, I take her on short bike rides. I like to call it 'Bliss on a Bike.'

Charlie Hills said...

Good news on the low-carb benefits. Atkins in his book talked about DRDs or Diet-Related Disorders: problems that people don't even remotely associate with birthday cake suddenly find themselves cured when the cake stops. It's not a panacea, but it's a great feeling when it pays off.