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Hangry March 1, 2020 Food first for depression?

1. Women’s rage is often medicalized.

A fascinating study by Siri Rebecca Hoogen for her master’s thesis (2006) uses a narrative structure to tell the story of four women responding to a flyer inviting women to talk about their use of anti-depressants.

The women had all been told about (and believed) the story about there being an imbalance in the chemicals in their brains, and that a prescription could fix it.

Hoogan writes, “I wanted to know what role this medicalized narrative would take when women spun their own stories of depression. I worried that acceptance of this culturally powerful narrative of medicalization would overwhelm the threads of disempowerment in their lives, and that women might neglect to recognize these threads as part of their stories—and, consequently, might neglect to see their own disempowerment as an issue to be considered in the context of depression, too.”

Long, winding tales show us lives of fraught relationships (their parents, their husbands and ex-husbands, their adult children or three-year-old), sexual abuse (age four) and sexual assault (age 15), social anxiety, perfectionism and anger.

“This correction of flawed brain chemistry is perhaps not empowering as it is enabling. It allows the person to continue living with the status quo by helping her to not feel emotional about events she would otherwise consider upsetting. In doing so, it promotes the depressive state of one narrative (“silenced” emotions) as its own “cured” state. […. Their rage was one of the] symptoms of a disease that needed “curing” (to be silenced). Indeed, the silencing of anger especially was a recurrent theme in the women’s narratives.”

2. Inflammation is linked to depression, and can be caused by inflammatory foods.

My new hero, Dr. Georgia Ede, writes, “We tend to think of psychiatric problems as “chemical imbalances” in neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and most psychiatric medications are designed to try to bring these brain signalling molecules back into balance.

“But what if we targeted inflammation instead? It is now well-established that inflammation plays a significant role in psychiatric disorders.

“As a psychiatrist passionate about the connection between food and brain health, I believe that the most powerful way to correct chemical imbalances in the brain is through food—because that’s where brain chemicals come from.”

“Which foods are most likely to set your brain on fire? The two most powerful promotors of inflammation in our modern diet are refined carbohydrates and refined vegetable oils.”


Refined carbohydrates include all processed sugars and starches—sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, flour, and most breakfast cereals are just a few of the foods in this category. […]Refined carbohydrates cause unnaturally high spikes in blood sugar, which are powerful promoters of oxidation and inflammation. When cells are flooded with too much sugar (glucose) all at once, the chemical pathways they use to process glucose become overloaded, causing free radical by-products to spill out into the surrounding area. Free radicals are like little bulls in a china shop, bumping into neighboring structures and DNA, damaging cells from the inside out (“oxidation”). Cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-alpha are then called to the scene as first responders (“inflammation”).”


“Vegetable” oils are oils extracted from seeds–these include soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, and many, many others. We were taught that these oils were healthy for us because they are cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and come from plants, but the truth is that they do not exist in nature, require industrial methods and often chemical solvents to extract, and are loaded with omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation and fight against the precious omega-3 fatty acids our brains need to develop properly and function properly every day. Vegetable oils are found in nearly every processed food in the grocery store—baked goods, salad dressings, chips, snack bars, soups, sauces, fried foods, mayonnaise, etc.”

I wish Hoogen had thought to ask the women about their diets, but it is likely they relied on the Standard American Diet, as they spoke about themselves or close relatives having diabetes and arthritis, CVD and Alzheimer’s. Some of the women lived in rural areas where it was difficult to get to a grocery store. One woman struggling with poverty issues got her meds as free samples from her local doctor.

I’m having local tenderloin basted in grass-fed butter tonight for supper. I wish I could magically hand out free samples of that.


Ede, G.  (2017.)  “Cooling Brain Inflammation Naturally with Food.” From

Hoogen, S.R. (2006) “Voice of the drug: Interpreting medicalized disempowerment in women’s narratives of depression. From


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