The subject of depression or anxiety comes up almost daily with patients, friends and family. Some studies say more than 50% of us will suffer from depression at some point during our life. Why is this so? Is it the stress and pressure of our too busy, too demanding lives; poor quality diets, or the ever increasing toxins in our food and EMFs in our environment? Although all these things may be contributing, what I want to share with you are some answers to the question:
What can we do to help ourselves and our loved ones struggling with depression?
Please realize that depression is not a choice. You cannot simply “buck up”, or distract yourself with new interests, or “throw yourself into your work”. It is true, however, that thoughts do, to some degree, create our mood. And we can learn to change our thoughts. There is an extensive set of research data showing that CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, learning to think differently, is effective for depression.
I cannot begin to cover all of the possible causes and treatments for depression in this short space but let’s consider some of the medical and nutritional causes that can be easily overlooked.
Low thyroid. I have frequently found patients who have suspected that they are low in thyroid for many years, but have been told by many doctors, that they have normal thyroid function. In some cases a carefully chosen and monitored thyroid replacement can change their energy, mood and life.
Low or excess adrenal function. Due to chronic stress many of us have low cortisol, while some of us continue to produce excess toxic levels of cortisol. Both have very deleterious effects on our brain and mood.
Low testosterone, estrogen or progesterone. As men age their testosterone levels decrease they may lose their vitality, joy of life, and mood along with their libido. Women, as they go through the menopausal transition, often have a low testosterone and may have similar issues. When estrogen drops mood can decline dramatically for some women. Low progesterone predisposes to anxiety and insomnia.
High Insulin and sugar highs and lows. Eating less sugar will feel like a struggle at first but if you get off it you will feel better. Eating sugar raises your insulin level and a chronically elevated insulin is inflammatory. An inflamed brain is not a happy brain.
Methylation defects: Deficiency of methylB12, 5 methyl folate, vitamin B6 as pyridoxal 5 phosphate, or SAMe insufficiency can all contribute to depression. In an individual case, these critical nutrients can be needed in much higher quantities than are available in even the best diet. They have a pivotal role in the production of brain neurotransmitters essential for mood stability.
Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency. The brain needs omega 3, in particular DHA for development and maintenance. 65% of our brain is fat and ¼ of that is DHA. Eating cold water small fish like sardines, or wild ocean salmon can improve DHA levels. A highly purified omega 3 oil, taken daily, can improve brain function and help resolve depression.
Vitamin D Deficiency of vitamin D is rampant even in sunny California. A low vitamin D can predispose to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Brain allergies to food. Most often the proteins in gluten and dairy are the culprits in an inflammatory reaction in the brain. A trial of 3 weeks or even better 3 months off these foods will show you if this is your issue. These reactions may not show up on any test!
Mercury poisoning . Chronic low grade exposure over a lifetime or an unknown large exposure can lead to a sudden or a gradual decline in your mental function and mood. You will never know unless you look!
Brain inflammation A hidden localized infection such as a smoldering dental or bone infection, or small bowel overgrowth, can be causal by sending a chemical message of inflammation to our brain. Also a total body infection with chronic Lyme, Babesia, Epstein Barr or many others can make us depressed .
Low Serotonin. Serotonin is the brain chemical that gives us a sense calm equanimity and a positive feeling about our lives. We can raise serotonin several ways. Regular exercise is one. 5 Hydroxy- tryptophan,(5HTP) can taken as a nutritional supplement, and is the natural nutrient our brain turns into serotonin. I have used this with many patients in my practice and have found it to be safe. Speak to a physician before you begin this if you are taking medication for depression.
Low Dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of reward, like satisfaction in a job well done, or pleasure in a wonderful meal. With low dopamine one may feel apathy, a sense of just not being interested in anything. L-Tyrosine is the amino acid found in all protein food that our brain uses to make dopamine and can be found as a nutritional supplement.
If you are struggling with significant depression or anxiety please seek professional help.