Depression, Stress and Your Blood Type: A Q&A With Dr. Ginger Nash
Dr. Ginger Nash is a naturopathic physician who worked with Dr. D’Adamo at the Center for Personalized Medicine. We are fortunate to have her insight into the connection between blood type and stress and depression.
Q: Are individuals of certain blood types more susceptible to different types of depression or anxiety? What causes this?
A: One’s blood type can certainly predispose an individual to different ways of responding to stress and balancing mood. This is because the gene that codes for ABO blood type also affects other genes in close proximity that control things like dopamine metabolism, cortisol levels, and other processes that will affect the entire nervous system’s coordination. For example, Type B needs additional nitrogen rich foods and supplements because their bodies lack the ability to produce a compound called nitric oxide to the extent that the other blood types do. Nitric oxide helps coordinate the nervous system, immune system and cardiovascular system. We know that when you are stressed all three of these systems are put under more strain.
Another important factor is the stress hormone cortisol. Type O produces the least amount and Type A produces the most amount of cortisol. When cortisol is continually over-produced it can cause adrenal exhaustion and the corresponding symptoms of depression and fatigue. Type O’s reaction to stress can cause an overproduction of adrenaline which can make them more susceptible to anxiety when stressed. But again, long-term imbalances can create more depression from burn out of the nervous system as well.
Q: What role does everyday stress play in depression?
A: Certainly Type A, with their naturally higher levels of cortisol, are particularly prone to problems from “everyday” stress. As the adrenal glands pump out more and more cortisol they eventually tire out, causing the person to have a quicker response to minor stressors. Type O’s are more prone to problems that arise from an inability to clear stress hormones from their system quickly; it takes more to get a Type O stressed but it takes more to de-stress them as well. That’s why they require more vigorous exercise, whereas Type A can do a lot with yoga and Tai Chi for cortisol balance.
Q: What suggestions do you have for individuals of each blood type to alleviate stress and/or depression?
A: So as I just mentioned, Type A does better with activities that clear cortisol from their systems, like yoga and Tai Chi. Type O does better with more vigorous exercise that clears a class of stress hormones called catecholamines from their bodies. Type B can also benefit from more calming exercises especially if they are prone to depression in the family. AB’s benefit from routine and anything that keeps their immune system functioning properly like eating and going to bed at the same time, routine cleansing, and avoiding extremes in terms of lifestyle.
Q: Are there any foods that may have mood enhancing benefits? What about supplements?
A: Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids have shown benefit in people struggling with depression–fatty fish would be a good source of DHA and EPA. Also, many nuts and seeds that are beneficials in your diet are rich in essential fatty acids. Things like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. Foods rich in Vitamin B12 and folic acid, in addition to supplementation (Methyl 12 Plus™ is great), are also beneficial. Brewer’s yeast, brown rice, oats and animal proteins that are good for your GenoType would be recommended. Some studies have shown a benefit from regular dark chocolate consumption on mood. This is probably due to their flavonoid content. Green tea is also rich in beneficial flavonoids that have benefits for many reasons, but among them is mood as well. In addition, green tea is rich in a naturally occurring amino acid, L-Theanine, which has calming effects on the nervous system. So green tea is good for depression and anxiety, which often go hand in hand.
Supplements I often recommend are B-complex, especially ones that contain pantethine (B5), methylcobalamine (B12), pyridoxine (B6); and essential fatty acids. Cortiguard® (especially for Types A and B) and Catechol® (especially for Types O and AB) are helpful in managing everyday stress. There are also some wonderful herbs to manage mood, most famously St. John’s Wort, Rhodiola, Bacopa and Holy Basil according to one’s GenoType. Sometimes I will use amino acids that act as precursors to certain neurotransmitters but again, these are highly specific recommendations based on a number of individual parameters. Things like tyrosine, 5 hydroxytryptophan and the aforementioned L-theanine can be very helpful for many people.