Brandon Carpenter: Fighting Depression With Nutrition
The link between diet and mental health is something Brandon Carpenter has had to discover for himself. Throughout his student years at Illinois Central College, Brandon suffered from major depression. He felt drained, plagued by exhaustion, depression and hopelessness. His condition was so severe he once lost 34 pounds in just four days and had a panic attack so intense, he blacked out while driving. Brandon recalled feeling so profoundly anxious that he often felt he was having a heart attack. His depression had taken over and was threatening his life. Though he was taking prescription medications and receiving therapy, Brandon was hospitalized several times following suicide attempts. Brandon had all but lost hope in ever feeling good again, when his college instructor suggested he consult a physician for dietary advice concerning mood.
At the time, Brandon was drinking several cans of Mountain Dew for breakfast, eating pizza, French fries, chips, and candy throughout his day, and his dinner was often Hot Pockets."I was not eating any fresh fruits or vegetables," said Carpenter.
Though seeking help, Brandon's diet had never been considered. That's where Dr. Jill Carnahan, a family physician certified in holistic medicine, stepped in.
"The mind-body relationship is scientifically documented. An imbalance in the body can lead to mood disorders and emotional disorders. When we heal the body, the mind can often come along with it. Teens eat diets with bad-mood foods including lots of sweets and starches. That does dramatic things to blood sugar levels that shoot up and down. It wreaks havoc with mood," said Carnahan.
Initially, Brandon admitted, he was skeptical that a change in diet could really help him. After three weeks of adhering to his new diet regimen - which included avoidance of foods which had came up positive on an allergy test - he was unsure of its effectiveness. Yet, his determination to rid himself of depression was so strong, he decided to keep it up regardless. By the eight week mark, Carpenter said, he felt a significant difference.
"Depression used to be something I had all day, every day, seven days a week. Now, it's occasional and something I can deal with."
Since he's started, Brandon has been able to reduce his medication and hopes that someday, he'll be off it completely. Yet, Dr. Carnahan cautions those looking to switch off their medications and to use diet to treat their depression:
"Drugs can be appropriate and needed. Psychosis, bipolar and severe depression are conditions for a psychiatrist. I never recommend anyone just stop medication, but for some mood disorders, before starting on drugs that affect brain chemistry in a strong way, look at diet and something natural."
Your Diet Affects Your Mood