Some natural approaches at the bottom for you to look over.
What causes depression?
Depression may also be caused by numerous biochemical and physiological factors. If you are depressed for no apparent reason, or if depression following a loss does not begin to improve after a few weeks, you should seek medical attention.
A state-licensed N.D. (naturopathic physician) or an M.D. who practices orthomolecular or functional medicine can help you verify that none of the following factors - any of which can negatively affect brain chemistry - is contributing to your depression. For more information on locating a qualified physician in your area, contact the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Physicians who practice orthomolecular and functional medicine can be located via www.healthcomm.com
It's not all in your head
Any of the following can cause biochemical imbalances in brain chemistry that can result in depression:
A nutritionally poor diet. Refined foods; pesticides, chemicals, additives in foods; excess sugar and caffeine consumption. A diet largely composed of refined foods does not provide the nutrients necessary for proper functioning of numerous bodily systems, including the brain and nervous system. In susceptible individuals, pesticide residues and food additives can be neurotoxic. Just one example - the chemical, aspartame (trade name, NutraSweet) has been shown to alter brain chemistry in sensitive individuals to the point of causing epileptic seizures.
Foods to which you are allergic or intolerant. For example, wheat protein has been shown to alter brain chemistry in sensitive individuals, inducing brain fog and/or depression.
Hormonal imbalances. Normal functioning of endocrine can be disrupted by stress, environmental toxins, diet, excessive exercise. For example, women are at much higher risk for depression at certain reproductive points, such as menstruation, menopause and immediately after giving birth.
Stress. Excessive flight or fight responses, the Type A personality, free-floating hostility ? all result in the frequent secretion of stress hormones. Stress not only suppresses the immune system, but can affect brain chemistry in susceptible individuals, disrupting normal serotonin signaling and leading to depression.
Excessive or insufficient sleep. Most people need eight hours each night. Consistently getting several hours more or less than your optimal sleep needs can disrupt circadian rhythms, leaving you feeling groggy, foggy, depressed. Bright light ? lights from street lamps, rooms adjoining your bedroom, even light from a digital alarm clock that shines in your face ? can disrupt melatonin production leading to sleep disturbances and depression.
Lack of exercise. Non-exercisers are three times more likely to experience depression than regular exercisers. Exercise increases not only dopamine but endorphins ? neurotransmitters that create a sense of well-being.
Environmental toxins. Solvents and heavy metals such as aluminum, cadmium, mercury and lead are neurotoxins. Example: "Silver" dental amalgams contain mercury and may be neurotoxic in susceptible individuals.
Intestinal parasites. Parasitic infection can cause mental/emotional symptoms including brain fog, feelings of impending doom and depression.
Candidiasis - an overgrowth of yeast in the gut. Excessive consumption of sugar or refined carbohydrates can stimulate overgrowth of candida. The yeast's metabolic byproducts can affect brain chemistry.
Hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every cell of the body. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause exhaustion and depression. Other signs of an underactive thyroid include hair loss, obesity, edema, infertility, irregular menstrual bleeding, fibrocystic disease, chronic fatigue and reduced immune function.
SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - depression caused by lack of exposure to sunlight in susceptible individuals. SAD typically occurs in winter in northern latitudes, especially in frequently overcast locations, e.g., Seattle. If daily exposure to at least 15 minutes of natural sunlight is not an option in your area, consider using full-spectrum lights in rooms where you spend the most time.
Hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar deprives the brain, one of your most fuel-hungry organs, of glucose. Usually due to inappropriate diet.
Drugs - Prescription drugs, such as antihistamines, anti-hypertensives, anti-inflammatory agents, birth control pills, corticosteriods, tranquilizers, sedatives and antidepressants, have all been found to cause depression in susceptible individuals. In terms of legal drugs, alcohol is a brain depressant, increases adrenal hormone output, interferes with many brain processes, and disrupts normal sleep cycles. Nicotine stimulates adrenal hormone secretion, including cortisol. Caffeine causes anxiety, panic disorders, depression, nervousness, palpitations, irritability and recurrent headache in sensitive individuals.
Imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitters. When the level of serotonin, the brain's mood-elevating and tranquilizing neurotransmitter, is too low, depression results. This is the biochemical derangement that antidepressant drugs try to control, but these drugs should be your last resort for numerous reasons. Antidepressant drugs take over a normal function of the body. They do nothing to correct the real underlying cause of the problem.
The real question is: "WHY are serotonin levels too low?" An imbalance in neurotransmitters may be caused by any of the above biochemical and physiological causes of depression. An imbalance in neurotransmitters is NOT due to a Prozac deficiency! Antidepressant drugs have serious, sometimes deadly, side-effects. Safe, effective natural alternatives are available that help the body re-establish normal neurotransmitter balance.
A link between food and mood can be traced to neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Complex carbohydrates as well as certain food components such as folate (folic acid), magnesium, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and tryptophan may decrease symptoms of depression.
We believe that it's possible to manage and/or improve certain conditions through what you eat. When we create "Mega-Recipes" for an ailment, we strive to include the maximum number of the nutrients that are shown to have benefit for that ailment. We also expect the Mega-Recipe to contain at least 25% of recommended intakes for those nutrients. See the list of recipes that have met our criteria for this ailment.
What You Should Eat & Why
Consuming foods that are high in tryptophan along with foods high in complex carbohydrates will help enhance the proper absorption of typtophan more effectively. Carboydrates may also boost serotonin activity in the brain. Foods that are often referred to as "comfort foods" tend to be high in complex carbohydrates.
Leading Food Sources of complex carbohydrates: Broccoli, Rice, brown, Potatoes, Blackberries, Pasta, wheat, Squash, winter
Because folic acid is often deficient in people who are depressed, getting more of this vitamin through foods may help. The vitamin appears to have the ability to reduce the high levels of homocysteine associated with depression.
Leading Food Sources of folic acid: Asparagus, Beets, Spinach, Avocados, Brussels sprouts, Bok choy, Cabbage, Savoy, Beans, dried, Chick-peas, Soybeans, Lentils, Oranges, Peas, fresh, Turkey, Broccoli
Magnesium is a mineral that may ease symptoms of depression by acting as a muscle relaxant.
Leading Food Sources of magnesium: Spinach, Chocolate, Pumpkin seeds, Oysters, Sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Avocados, Quinoa, Almonds, Barley
Based on niacin's well-recognized role in promoting sound nerve cell function, some experts recommend this B vitamin for relieving depression as well as feelings of anxiety and panic. Most B-vitamin complexes contain niacin in sufficient amounts for this purpose; they also offer the mood-enhancing benefits of other B vitamins.
Leading Food Sources of niacin: Rice, brown, Chicken, Pomegranates, Tuna, Lamb, Wheat, Turkey
omega-3 fatty acids
Certain omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial for depression. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega 3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid that is the building block of human brain tissue. Low levels of DHA have been associated with depression.
Leading Food Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, Trout, Tuna