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A Healthy Diet Can Help Prevent Depression

by Dr. Aihan Kuhn, CMD, July 17, 2017

A healthy diet can play an important role in preventing and healing depression. A vegetarian or partial vegetarian diet is more effective in the healing process because of the avoidance of animal products.

A survey conducted in both China and the United States discovered that high amounts of animal products in the diet affects the mood and can cause mood swings which could trigger depression. Just think of each animal's temper: giraffes and tigers have totally different tempers, as do coyotes and rabbits. A meat diet is more yang and a vegetarian diet is more yin. A healthy Chinese diet is more yin while the American diet is more yang. If your body constitution is more yang, you need to eat more yin-type food. Some Americans eat in excess which contributes to many health problems. Avoidance of excesses in alcohol, meat, dairy, sweets, salt, and fat will help to balance your diet. Loss of that balance can result in liver disease, colon cancer, weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and digestive problem. Here are some suggestions for a healthy diet:

  1. Eat a partially vegetarian diet. This means you eat less meat and more vegetables. Although you may think a complete vegetarian diet is healthier, you will not be getting the variety of food required to meet the body's nutritional needs. In addition, a completely vegetarian diet does not provide you the feeling of fullness that prevents people from overeating. Some people with a vegetarian diet eat too much cheese, which can cause a weight issue.
  2. Eat a variety of foods, including foods you like and foods you may not like as well. If you eat a variety of many kinds of food, you'll have a balanced diet. This provides a wider range of nutrition to our body and helps it maintain normal functions. Many people take vitamins instead of eating a variety of foods. The vitamins derived from natural foods have a better absorption rate and causes no side effects. Taking too many vitamin supplements can cause side effect.

A varied diet is good for the digestive system. The stomach releases different enzymes when certain food is ingested. If you are a picky eater, your stomach is not producing all the enzymes, and your body may become sick when a food you tend to avoid is introduced to the body. For example, I had a patient who was on vegan diet and after a while she became anemic. Her doctor recommended that she eat red meat. Guess what? When she ate red meat, she became very sick and her stomach began to seriously malfunction because it could not produce the enzyme for digesting red meat.

  1. Eat in moderation. Overeating is a big problem in this country, particularly during the holiday season. Holiday gatherings may be a lot of fun, but we often leave feeling bloated, tired, or even sick from overeating. Eating in excess causes blockage in your digestive system, which in Chinese medicine includes stomach and the spleen. These two organs are very important in maintaining energy level and immune function. If you do feel tired after overeating, you might think that eating more will give you energy, but that is not the case.
  2. Eat natural foods and avoid processed foods. Food loses nutrition when it is processed, so you might be lacking in certain vitamins and minerals if your diet consists largely of processed foods. Most processed foods contain preservatives, which do not allow digestive enzymes to break down food properly. This may explain many allergies, especially food allergies.
  3. Avoid eating late. Eating late contributes to weight problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insomnia. Two hours before bedtime you should only drink water and not eat. You burn fewer calories at night because your circulation, of both energy and blood, is much slower. You should have no stimulants and let your body rest.
  4. Drink more water and tea. For many people, a good part of their liquid intake comes from soda and juice, but too much sugar can cause the pancreas to malfunction, leading to diabetes and other health issues. In the human body, biochemical work in a chain of cause and effect, similar to the functioning of the Chinese organ and meridian system, where one part of the body can affect another part of the body. If you have diabetes, you most likely have other problems too.
  5. Eat food to suit your personal constitution. A person with a yin-type constitution should eat more yang-type food, and a person with a yang-type constitution should eat more yin-type food. Those with a neutral body constitution can eat both types of food. Certain conditions call for one type of food over another. For example, women in the hot-flash stage of menopause or people with hemorrhoids (yang) should avoid hot spicy food. On the other hand, those suffering from Raynaud's syndrome, or arthritis, which get worse in cold weather (yin), you should eat more hot spicy food.

For your reference, below is a list of common yin and yang foods.

Yin and Yang Foods

Yin Food

Yang Food

Fruit
Apple
Banana
Pear
Persimmon
Cantaloupe
Watermelon
Tomato
All citrus

Fruit
Cherry
Citrus pel
Date

Vegetable
Lettuce
Radish
Cucumber
Celery
Button mushroom
Asparagus
Swiss chard
Eggplant
Spinach
Summer squash
Chinese (napa) cabbage
Bok choy
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Sweet corn
Zucchini
Amaranth
Kelp and all seaweeds

Vegetable
Mustard greens
Winter squash
Cabbage
Kale
Onion
Leek
Chive
Garlic
Scallion
Parsnips

Nuts, seeds, legumes, or grains
Soy milk
Soy sprouts
Tofu
Tempeh
Mung beans and their sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts
Millet
Barley
Wheat and its products
Wheat grass and barley grass

Nuts, seeds, legumes, or grains
Sunflower seeds
Sesame seeds
Quinoa
Walnut
Pine nut
Chestnut
Spelt
Sweet brown rice
Oats
Rye
Buckwheat

Herb and spices
Peppermint
Dandelion greens and root
Honeysuckle flowers
Nettles
Red clover blossoms
Lemon balm
White peppercorn
Cilantro
Marjoram
Kudzu

Herbs and spices
Cayenne pepper
Dried ginger root
Cloves
Nutmeg
Spearmint
Hot peppers
Fennel
Dill
Anise
Caraway
Cumin
Sage
Rosemary
Basil
Parsley

Other products
Spirulina; wild blue-green algae
Oyster-shell calcium
Yogurt
Crab
Clam

Other products
Butter
Anchovies
Alcohol

The above is an excerpt from Tai Chi for Depression: A 10 Week Program to Empower Yourself and Beat Depression by Dr. Aihan Kuhn, CMD, OBT

Aihan Kuhn, C.M.D., is a Chinese medical doctor trained in both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She is a graduate of the Hunan Medical University, Changsha China. In China, Dr. Kuhn practiced OB/GYN in Chinese hospitals (1983-1988), studied Tai Chi and Chi Kung (since 1978) and returns each year to advance her training in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts.


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