Depression is a common condition that according to the DSM iv can give rise to:
- Poor appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain.
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping habit.(hypersomnia)
- Physical hyperactivity or inactivity.
- Decreased interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive.
- Loss of energy. Fatigue.
- Feeling worthless–guilty and ashamed of being a loser.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
An American Government study that was ran in the Washington Post stated “Antidepressants fail to cure the symptoms of major depression in half of all patients with depression, even if they get the best care. Antidepressants have serious side effects that include suicidal thoughts, weight gain and personality changes.”
Another study compared a group of people with depression who were divided into 4 groups. The first group was put on antidepressants alone. The second group had psychotherapy alone. The third group had to work out with exercise coaches twice a week. The forth group was the control group and they were put on a placebo alone. The study continued for a year. After the first month the group doing exercise had the best results by far, next came the placebo group, then the psychotherapy group and lastly the group on medication. The results stayed the same for the rest of the year. The results are a quite a shocker!
What is Depression:
Almost everyone has at some point in their lives experienced “the blues”. We all feel sad in the face of significant loss, whether that is the loss of a job, a loved one, or an adored animal companion. Watching the news or reading the newspaper on most days is enough to trigger the blues. True depression is much more serious than a temporary disappointment or sorrow. People who are depressed can feel a profound and persistent sadness in the absence of an identifiable external cause. The symptoms extend beyond melancholy mood to sleep disruption and loss of appetite and energy. It affects the whole body, changing the way we think and behave, often damaging our physical health as well as our emotional state. It can leave us debilitated, unable to work, maintain relationships, or deal with other responsibilities. Although external factors play a role, depression and other mood disorders arise primarily from subtle imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Depression can strike all ages and races, both sexes and all socioeconomic groups. Twice as many women suffer from depression as men. Millions of depression cases are never diagnosed or treated. Untreated major depression can last for 6 months to a year, with recurrences becoming more frequent and severe. Major depression is the leading cause of disability in society and ranks just behind high blood pressure as the most common chronic condition doctors see. Every year many people commit suicide as a result of depression. The condition costs society a fortune.Depression is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed problems. Many doctors treat the obvious symptoms of depression, such as poor appetite, insomnia, and headaches, but overlook the real problem. Left untreated, depression can become more frequent and severe, leading to physical and emotional suffering, loss of job and relationships, and even to suicide.
Medical textbooks describe depression as a mood disorder, lasting at least 2 weeks, that produces exaggerated, inappropriate feelings of sadness, worthlessness, emptiness and dejection. To feel upset because of a job layoff, a broken marriage, a bankruptcy, or the loss of a loved one is a normal response to an unhappy event. Our feelings of sadness are proportional to our loss and this reactive depression goes away with time. Major depression often strikes for no apparent reason. It doesn’t seem to be caused by outside events. The black mood grows from within. This darkness can last for weeks, months, or even years, making it impossible for us to carry on our normal lives. Symptoms may include:
- Profound, persistent sadness.
- Profound, persistent irritability.
- Unexplained crying.
- Loss of self esteem.
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, pessimism, worthlessness. guilt and emptiness.
- Dwelling on past mistakes.
- Changes in sleeping patterns.
- Changes in eating habits.
- Unexplained weight gain or loss.
- Unexplained headaches, stomach upset, or other physical problems that are not helped with standard treatment.
- Social withdrawal.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Memory difficulties.
- Inability to concentrate.
- A slow down in in physical movements.
- Thoughts of suicide or death.
- Suicide attempts.
The symptoms may come in any combination. Mildly depressed people may gain weight as they seek comfort in favorite foods, while those more profoundly depressed may lose weight as sadness deadens their appetites. Sleep patterns may also be affected this way. Some depressed people have difficulty falling or staying asleep, while others sleep more than usual and awaken feeling tired.
Causes of Depression:
We know that several neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin help regulate our moods and keep us happy. Depressed people tend to have lower levels of these three. Why do these mood regulators fall in some people, but not in others? Genetics plays a role. Depression tends to run in families. Men with chronic low cholesterol tend to depression. Many environmental toxins can trigger depression. People who are pessimistic, easily overwhelmed by life or have low self esteem are more likely to suffer from depression. Some people have large reserves of happy neurotransmittors in their brains that keep them safe while others have just enough to barely keep a smile on their faces. Biochemistry plays a huge role in the condition. If you have large reserves of certain nutrients, you get through troubling times with minimal difficulties. Stress is linked to depression. Certain states of immunological signaling can lead to depression.
Doctors and psychiatrists have numerous drugs at their disposal. I will name some of them and their common side effects:
Tricyclic antidepressants:headache, dry mouth, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, fatigue, weakness, drowsiness, nervousness, anxiety, excessive sweating, tremor, insomnia, weight gain, “sweet tooth”
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors(MAOIs): dizziness, restlessness, tremors, dry mouth, constipation,difficult urination, blurred vision, “sweet tooth”.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors(SSRIs):nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, anxiety, drowsiness, insomnia, headache, increased sweating, increased or decreased appetite, and decreased sexual drive.
Antidepressant medications, while helpful to some people, are not panaceas. Some studies have shown that drugs are of no value in about one third of depression cases while the above mentioned studies found this to be the case in half the people treated. When you have one problem, why complicate matters by taking toxic chemicals?
Nutrition and Depression:
Many factors can contribute to the development of depression. In some cases it is mainly biochemical and this should be checked via blood and or hair analysis. A person with MTHFR could be a prime candidate for nutrient deficiency caused depression. Check up on this as a possibility. Psychological issues may predispose another individual to depression. What triggers your tendency to depression ? Is it a stressful event, a bereavement, loss of a job or breakup of a relationship. Counselling is a way of investigating what the emotional triggers are.
Remember that alcohol dulls our inhibitions, but it is a depressant in the long run. Limit yourself to one drink a day if you use it as a relaxant. What is your daily intake of caffeine? There are many sources of caffeine commonly used eg coffee, tea, cool drinks, chocolate/cocoa and many over the counter medications. Poor nutrition is often a cause among the poor and elderly people. Different nutrients play a role in regulating mood. A deficiency in a few nutrients can cause depression. In a British double-blind study of hospitalized elderly patients, supplementation with a daily protein/micronutrient drink improved symptoms of depression.
There is a direct link between mood and blood sugar balance.The more uneven your blood sugar supply, the more your mood goes up and down. A high sugar intake has been implicated in aggression, problems concentrating, fatigue, anxiety and depression. The body often tries to raise blood sugar by increasing cortisol. Elevated cortisol can cause depression. Insulin resistance can contribute to neurotransmitter deficiencies leading to depression. People who eat a lot of bread and or other carbohydrates (pasta, rice, cakes, puddings) may have depression. Fructose and lactose malabsorption should be considered as a potential contributing factor in patients with depression. Malabsorbed sugars in the gut block tryptophan absorption in the gut, thereby decreasing serotonin synthesis.
Aspartame and/or Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) consumption have been reported to cause depression in individuals.
A diagnosis of candidiasis should be considered in depressed patients who have had recurrent vaginal yeast infections or a history of treatment with antibiotics, oral contraceptives or systemic glucocorticoids.
Those with high levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid found in the blood, will have double the rate of depression present. This goes more for women than men. The ideal level is below 7. Homocysteine levels indicate how good your body is at methylation, a critical biochemical process in the brain and body. The nutrients that help normalise overmethylation and high homocysteine are B2, B6 (P5P form), B12 (methyl form), Folic Acid (methyl form), Zinc Picolinate, Magnesium Glycinate and TMG while undermethylators need other nutrients. Read my blog on methylation on this site for further information.
Ensure that food allergies are not the cause of depression. Environmental chemicals can also result in depression. Petrochemical byproducts can cause depression.
Natural Supplements that Fight Depression:
Scientific studies and clinical experience show that natural remedies and supplements can help alleviate depression. Do not try all of these at once. It is best to try one at a time and estimate how much it is working. In cases of extreme sadness or hopelessness seek help immediately. I usually test to see which of these are needed by the individual from the very outset. I have not given any doses because that is a totally individual matter. For example SAMe or Tryptophan may help some individuals or hinder healing. This is because we are all biochemically different and it is risky to self medicate or try to work out dosages on your own after reading an article such as this. Dosage needs to be tailored to your needs and feedback should be carefully monitored.
- SAMe-can be stimulating and should be used with caution in those with bipolar disorder, hyperactivity or schizophrenia.
- L-Tryptophan .Do not conbine these with SSRI antidepressants. You could end up making too much serotonin.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B12
- Folic Acid-the 5-MTHF form, not normal folic acid which is synthetic.
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B3
- D and DL-Phenylalanine
- Acetyl-L- Carnitine
- Phosphatidyl Serine
- Hormones.Levels of thyroxine, Progesterone, Pregnenolone, Testosterone DHEA and melatonin need to be checked out. Bio identical hormones may be needed to raise lowered hormone levels.
- Herbs: St Johns Wort, Bacopa Monniera, Damiana, Kava kava, Oat extract, Passion flower, Schisandra, Siberian ginseng, Skullcap, Valerian, Withania, Ginkgo Biloba, Rhodiola Rosea, Bach Flower Remedies.
Cardiovascular exercise, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, pilates can be very helpful. Spending time outdoors has been shown to dramatically improve people’s mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression. Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening or simply taking your exercise outdoors. Tai chi and Qi gong are traditionally practiced outdoors.
Meditation and Relaxation:
Calm and balance the stressed individual.
EFT / Tapping:
EFT is a powerful self help method based on research showing that emotional trauma contributes to mental disease. Clinical trials have shown that EFT is able to rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once the distress is reduced or removed, the body can often rebalance itself and accelerate healing. EFT can detoxify emotional baggage and reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors. An EFT study involving 30 moderately to severely depressed college students was conducted. The depressed students were given four 90 minute EFT sessions. Students who received EFT showed significantly less depression than the control group when evaluated three weeks later. I prefer to combine EFT with journaling, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga exercises, CBT and NLP.
Massage, shiatsu, acupuncture, kinesiology, reflexology, polarity, quantum touch, reiki and many other hands on body techniques help depression.
Sunlight and Sunbathing:
These have proven to be very helpful to some individuals.
An approach which has different remedies for different kinds of individuals. Aurum metallicum is an example of one such remedy.
With so many natural healing approaches available, people have many avenues open to them when dealing with depression. In my experience drug treatments are rarely needed if natural healing methods are used properly. Trust and patience make all the difference to the outcomes of the treatments.