August 25, 2016

Dealing with Depression: Beet Juice Helps, but Nothing Beats Exercise

Last week, I began experiencing bouts of depression that were unusual for me. I was also seeing an uptick in my blood pressure (BP) readings, which was not unusual for me; for years, I’ve been on a BP roller coaster ride, with numbers all over the place. Those extreme pressure variations – with the consequences they bring – has been a regular theme on this blog.

I had used beet juice in the past to manage BP spikes, so I decided to give it another try last week. I drank my first glass of juice with coffee at my usual afternoon "happy hour." Then, about an hour later, I realized my mood was significantly brighter. When the same thing happened the next day, I decided to Google "depression" and "beet juice." 

Beet Juice and the Brain
I found reports that linked the two. Beet juice is a source of nitrates which have been shown to dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow to tissue, reduce demand of muscles for oxygen, and inhibit blood clots. Beet juice also is rich in red-yellow pigments called betalains, which display potent antioxidant activity. Beets are a good source of potassium and folate, both of which help regulate BP. 

Here are the two most-cited studies about beet juice:
  • study from Wake Forest University found that older people who drank 16 ounces of beet juice a day for two days showed greater blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, an area involved in skills like planning and problem-solving. A part of the brain particularly affected by Parkinson's, the frontal lobe is also associated with dementia and poor cognition.
  • 2015 study of beet juice and blood pressure found that older adults who drank a daily cup (eight ounces) of beet juice lowered their systolic pressure (the upper reading) by eight points on average, and their diastolic pressure by two to five points over four weeks. Results also showed Improvements in blood pressure functioning and arterial flexibility.

My Observations
I've continued to experience mood improvements after drinking beet juice. But I've also found that increasing the time I spend on tai chi and other exercises has an even greater impact on the depression.

Just admitting that I'm experiencing some depression is a major breakthrough for me. After a childhood and early adulthood living with a clinically depressed mother, I've been in a lifelong state of denial about any signs of depression. Me, depressed? No way.

Even now, I'm telling myself -- and others -- that this depression is a function of our horrible weather... Washington, DC’s hottest and muggiest summer ever. The heat  -- and especially the humidity -- have had an increasingly negative impact on me with each passing year. I love the fall in Washington, and by mid-September, I tell myself , I’ll be my usual Happy Schappi.

Every now and then, a thought breaks through the denial: Could it be that this depression is related to the increasingly negative impact my advancing years and  my Parkinson’s are having on the quality of my life?

I'm about to start working with a therapist on my end-of-life issues and that question will be on the agenda..

Stay tuned.


Penelope said...

Sounds great. How are you preparing the juice?

Charity Governance Blog Facilitator said...

Thanks for the beet juice tip. Do you think it's helping with your blood pressure also? Evidently it can temporarily lower blood pressure.

John Schappi said...

I am a world-class non-cook. I prepare the beet juice by pouring it out of the bottle. I order a six-pack of Lakewood's beet juice from Amazon.

As for blood pressure, it's hard to tell whether the beet juice has an impact because I use nifedipine when I get a big spike in my BP readings.