So you walk into the doctor’s office and explain that you have no energy, you feel sad, hopeless, you can’t sleep, and you have no interest in the things that used to interest you.
Your doctor would probably tell you that you’re depressed. And prescribe you an anti-depressant.
But, depression is just a label given to a collection of symptoms. It tells you nothing about what caused the symptoms in the first place.
Symptoms of depression can result from a whole host of reasons … emotional trauma, an autoimmune reaction from eating gluten, adrenal fatigue, low thyroid function, vitamin B12 deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, food allergies, inflammation in your gut from taking too many antibiotics that kill off the beneficial bacteria, high mercury levels, omega 3 fatty acid deficiency and insulin resistance, to name a few.
The diagnosis and treatment of each of those causes is very different.
Consider a few cases from my practice …
A 54 year old woman struggled for more than a decade with depression. She had tried several different anti-depressant prescriptions, with no relief and had gained twenty pounds over that time, at least partly due from the medications she was taking. We found that she had very high levels of mercury. Once she underwent detoxification for the mercury her mood improved, she was able to come off her anti-depressant and she returned to her normal weight.
A 42 year old man with a five year history of depression came to see me on a cocktail of different anti-depressants. He had also been taking a proton pump inhibitor for heartburn for close to fifteen years. When we checked his nutrient levels we found he was suffering from vitamin B12, B6 and folate deficiencies, most likely due to the long term antacid use that had depleted his stomach acid. His depression became a thing of the past once we replenished those vitamins and improved his digestion.
A 26 year old had been depressed most of her life, her low mood seemingly starting in early adolescence. Again, she had been put through a list of anti-depressants with no significant results. Determining which foods she was sensitive to resulted in the most difference in improving her mood. A couple months after having eliminated her food intolerances, her depression went away.
That’s just three examples of the dozens of potential causes for depression.
Taking antidepressants isn’t the answer to our growing mental health epidemic. We must work at addressing the root causes of depression, those underlying imbalances that cause the body to malfunction in the first place.
Here are seven steps you can take to begin rebalancing the systems in your body that may be contributing to depression:
- Check for food allergies or intolerances that may be a “hidden” source of inflammation in your body. Studies show inflammation in the brains of people that are depressed. This is the reason why anti-inflammatory drugs like Enbrel (normally used for autoimmune conditions) are being studied for the treatment of depression. But there is no need to resort to taking a drug. Why not start to decrease inflammation naturally, right now, by simply following an anti-inflammatory diet?
- Check for hormonal imbalances. When the adrenal hormones cortisol and DHEA are low we become depressed, often from the physical exhaustion that takes place. Up and down moods throughout the day, as well as irritability often reflect unstable cortisol levels. Using a salivary adrenal stress test we can assess these hormones and correct any imbalances to create more energy and more stable moods. Cortisol imbalances are often the triggering factor for thyroid imbalances so it is also important to have a thorough thyroid exam done if you are depressed.
- Have a vitamin D 25-hydroxy test. People with depression typically have significantly lower levels of vitamin D compared to otherwise healthy individuals. Supplementation should be based on your test results and dosed to maintain a plasma level over 75mmol/L. For adults, this will typically range from 4000 to 10000 IU per day.
- Supplement with omega 3 fats. In studies, fish oil has demonstrated antidepressant, antipsychotic, and mood stabilizing effects. The active ingredients in fish oil are EPA and DHA. In order to benefit mood, a fish oil must have a EPA:DHA of at least 3:1 (and a ratio of 4-10:1 may be preferred).
- Supplement with a high quality multivitamin that contains a low dose B complex. A blood test called homocysteine can be valuable to assess B12, B6 and folate levels. Studies indicate that people with depression have significantly higher homocysteine levels. Folic acid and vitamin B12 have been shown to lower homocysteine and improve symptoms of depression.
- Rule out heavy metal toxicity. Heavy metal toxicity, in particular mercury toxicity, has been correlated with depression and other neurological disorders.
- Exercise. Studies have shown that exercising for 20 minutes, six times per week at 60 to 70% of maximum heart rate resulted in significant improvements in mood, not to mention a 30% decrease in inflammation. (Maximum heart rate = 220 – your age; therefore a 40 year old’s target heart rate would be between 108 and 126 beats per minute.)
These are just a few of the most effective steps you can take to treat depression. The key is to address the underlying root cause(s). Once you figure that out the treatment becomes obvious.
Call the Wellness Blueprint Health Centre at (306) 781-2222 to learn more about how to identify the root cause of your depression. Dr. Esposito, ND is happy to offer you a free Healthy Mind Evaluation.