1/26/15

lost your appetite since losing your spouse/partner?



Feel like nothing will ever taste good again?

Wish people would stop nagging you to eat when you just don't feel hungry?

If your spouse/partner has recently died, you probably haven't felt much like eating. It's not uncommon to feel a loss of appetite in the first month or so after a death, when your body as well as your mind is in a state of shock. Keep in mind that your appetite should slowly begin to return with time. In any case, always make sure your doctor knows about your recent loss and any prolonged problems you have with your appetite.

We came across the following article (excerpted here) and a slideshow on WebMD. Though not specifically about bereavement, they offer helpful information about coping with appetite loss due to depression and general stress:

Dietary changes can bring about changes in your brain structure, both chemically and physiologically. Those changes can improve mood and mental outlook. Here are 10 tips for eating if you or a loved one is recovering from clinical depression.


1. Eat a diet high in nutrients
Nutrients in foods support the body's repair, growth, and wellness. Nutrients we all need include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and even a small amount of fat. A deficiency in any of these nutrients lead to our bodies not working at full capacity – and can even cause illness.

2. Fill your plate with essential antioxidants
Damaging molecules called free radicals are produced in our bodies during normal body functions – and these free radicals contribute to aging and dysfunction. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E combat the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to tie up these free radicals and take away their destructive power.

Studies show that the brain is particularly at risk for free radical damage. Although there’s no way to stop free radicals completely, we can reduce their destructive effect on the body by eating foods high in powerful antioxidants, including:

Sources of beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato.
Sources of vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato.
Sources of vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ.

3. Eat “smart” carbs for a calming effect
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. We know that eating foods high in carbohydrates (breads, cereal, pasta) raises the level of serotonin in the brain. When serotonin levels rise, we feel a calming effect with less anxiety.
So don’t shun carbs – just make smart choices. Limit sugary foods and opt for smart carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which all contribute healthy carbs as well as fiber.

4. Eat protein-rich foods to boost alertness
Foods rich in protein, like turkey, tuna, or chicken, are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine boosts levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This boost helps you feel alert and makes it easier to concentrate. Try to include a protein source in your diet several times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy.

Good sources of protein foods that boost alertness: beans and peas, lean beef, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products, yogurt.

5. Eat a Mediterranean-type diet
The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish. All of these are important sources of nutrients linked to preventing depression.

A recent Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, found that rates of depression tended to increase in men -- especially smokers -- as folate intake decreased. The same increase occurred for women -- especially those who smoked or were physically active -- but with a decreased intake of another B-vitamin: B12. This wasn't the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression. Researchers wonder whether poor nutrient intake leads to depression or whether depression leads people to eat a poor diet.

Folate is found in Mediterranean diet staples like legumes, nuts, many fruits, and particularly dark green vegetables. B12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.

6. Get plenty of vitamin D
Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Researchers, though, are unsure how much vitamin D is ideal. There are individual differences based on where you live, the time of year, your skin type, and your level of sun exposure. Researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to improve as their levels of vitamin D in the body increased over the normal course of a year. The recommendation is to try to get about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day from food if possible.

7. Select selenium-rich foods
Selenium is a mineral that is essential to good health. In a small study from Texas Tech University, supplementation of 200 micrograms a day for seven weeks improved mild and moderate depression in 16 elderly participants. Other studies have also reported an association between low selenium intakes and poorer moods.

It is possible to take in too much selenium so that it becomes toxic. But this is unlikely if you're getting it from foods rather than supplements, and it can't hurt to make sure you're eating foods that help you meet the recommended intake for selenium, which is 55 micrograms a day. The good news is that foods rich in selenium are foods we should be eating anyway. They include:

Beans and legumes
Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
Low-fat dairy products
Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts)
Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

8. Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
We know that omega-3 fatty acids have innumerable health benefits. Recently, scientists have revealed that a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression. In one study, researchers determined that societies that eat a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids have a higher prevalence of major depressive disorder than societies that get ample omega-3 fatty acids. Other epidemiological studies show that people who infrequently eat fish, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, are more likely to suffer from depression.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad, and tuna), flaxseed, and nuts. Sources alpha-linolenic acid (another type of omega-3 fatty acid): flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.

1/22/15

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 2


In our previous post, we looked at how feelings of abandonment, anger, depression and anxiety can arise when you find yourself struggling through an illness without your spouse/partner being there for you.

The best ways to cope with these situations include:

a) Recognizing what is actually triggering these emotions.

b) Calling on family, friends or neighbors to stop by (just having someone in the house can be comforting), or run errands for you.

c) Reminding yourself, if you’re uncomfortable asking for help, that you would help others if they were in a similar situation.

d) Contacting the medical social services department at your local hospital for assistance in finding resources, such as support groups, home health aides, or other services.
Remember: you’ve developed coping skills during and after your spouse’s death and can now draw on them to make it through this period.

NOTE: Because your spouse’s death has left you more physically vulnerable, it’s important to let your doctor know about your loss. Some pre-existing medical conditions may be affected by the stress of recent circumstances.

1/19/15

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 1


The first couple of years following the death of your spouse/partner are, statistically speaking, likely to leave you more vulnerable to illness.

When illness does strike, whether it’s a common cold or something more serious, it can stir up an emotional reaction as well. Whatever comfort and support your partner once offered is no longer available to you.

You may find yourself saying:

“Why aren’t you here when I need you?” or “I took care of you but you’re not here to take care of me!”
It’s normal to feel abandoned, angry, depressed and/or anxious under the circumstances.

In our next post, we’ll give you the best ways to cope with these situations.

1/12/15

cooking for one; part 1: how do i cook for myself?




If you’re used to preparing meals for two, cooking for one can feel like an uncomfortable adjustment to make.

Or, if your late spouse/partner used to handle most or all of the cooking in your relationship, you may be at a loss as to how to manage meals for yourself.

In either case, we encourage you to acquire new skills.

While many people, especially men, resort to unhealthy snack foods, frozen dinners and/or meals out, learning some basic cooking skills can be a healthier, cheaper and ultimately confidence building alternative.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Purchase books or go online to learn about basic cooking skills or recipes designed for one.

2) Consider taking a class at a local culinary school and/or adult extension courses.

3) Ask a trusted relative or neighbor to show you how to prepare some basic recipes.

4) Have a friend or neighbor take you grocery shopping to familiarize yourself with neighborhood stores and how to select produce and meats.


Please share any suggestions or experiences you’d had in dealing with these kitchen dilemmas.

In Part 2, we’ll offer reading suggestions and useful online sites .