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Fighting the Causes of Depression
*The Depression Epidemic
An estimated one in four individuals will suffer from major depression at least once in the course of their lifetime; antidepressant use has risen more than 300% in the last decade alone.
The depression epidemic has reached explosive proportions. Our lives are filled with unremitting stress; combined with nutrient-poor, high-fat diets, environmental pollutants, and toxins that build up in our bodies, it is no wonder that so many people suffer from neurotransmitter and system imbalances that can lead to depression symptoms.
* Antidepressant Use
Currently, the field of psychiatry is the only branch of medicine that regularly treats the outward symptoms of illness without exploring a possible cause.
Imagine having chest pains and being rushed to the emergency room; your physician, rather than stabilizing your condition and running tests to determine whether you have had a heart attack, gives you a medication for the pain and sends you home. After feeling better for a short time, your condition deteriorates and you end up in the hospital again, or worse.
While this is an exaggeration, the analogy applies. Too often, if you visit your doctor or psychiatrist and describe symptoms of depression, you will receive a standard prescription for an antidepressant - or multiple antidepressants - and be sent on your way. Even children are given combinations of powerful drugs after little more than a short interview about their symptoms.
Rather than getting at the root cause of the depression, antidepressants only serve to mask the warning signs of an underlying problem. Antidepressants can also deplete neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine leading to worsening of symptoms and even suicidal thoughts.
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If you have any of the following depression symptoms, especially if they last more than a week or two, there is a good possibility that you are suffering from depression:
- Sadness or hopelessness;
- Loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy;
- Significant weight gain or loss due to changes in appetite;
- Feeling tired all the time, or feeling that moving is too much of an effort;
- Inability to sleep, or sleeping too much;
- Restlessness, inability to remain still;
- Unfounded feelings of guilt or lack of worth;
- Problems focusing, remembering things, or making decisions;
- Thoughts of death and suicide.
In spite of the widespread use of antidepressants, 2 out of 3 patients still have many of these symptoms. In fact, only about half of those taking antidepressant drugs experience any reduction in their symptoms, while nearly 90% of users suffer from significant side effects: these may include fatigue, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, insomnia, and emotional flattening.
In short, antidepressants tend to cause more problems than they solve. There is a simple explanation for this: depression is itself a symptom, rather than a separate issue. Decades of research have revealed that a number of physical disorders often cause system imbalances which produce depressive symptoms; these conditions cannot be resolved through the use of antidepressants. In order to effectively treat the problem, it is critical to isolate the underlying cause or causes through laboratory testing.
* Health Problems that Cause Depression
To understand why various health problems can cause the symptoms that are collectively referred to as major depression, you need to understand how imbalances in body affect the function of the brain.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Our brains depend on a variety of nutrients, among them the B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and the Omega 3 fatty acids, to produce the neurotransmitters that regulate the way we think and feel. When we fail to get enough of these vital nutrients, whether in the food we eat or through supplementation, this can have a tremendous negative effect on our emotions, energy levels, ability to concentrate, sleep patterns, and many other important functions.
-Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Depression can result from imbalances in the levels of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. The emotions we feel are based on the release of neurotransmitters.
- Impaired Methylation: Methylation is a vitally important metabolic process which occurs in every cell of the body. This process, by which a methyl group (consisting of 1 carbon and 3 hydrogen atoms) is transferred from one molecule to another, is important to the manufacture of DNA and RNA.
Methylation also enables cell detoxification and hormone production; it helps to regulate neurotransmitters and synchronize neural networks, ensuring optimum nervous system function, cognition, and modulation of mood.
- Brain Inflammation: Inflammation is a significant factor in depression; inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease greatly increase the risk for depressive symptoms.
When the immune system is activated by inflammation, it triggers the production of regulatory proteins known as cytokines. These peptides activate the hyppthalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), creating a stress response.
Cytokines also increase the activity of the enzyme IDO, which acts to decrease serotonin and increase glutamate - often seen in patients with depression. The cytokine interferon is a often used in treating immune disorders such multiple sclerosis and hepatitis; immune therapy is a well-known cause of depression.
A variety of other health problems are known to trigger cytokine reactions, which ultimately result in symptoms of depression:
> Gluten allergies and other food sensitivities lead to the production of IgG antibodies, setting off an immune response;
> Infections such as Candida and small bacterial overgrowth are also linked to inflammation immune system activation;
> Heavy metal toxins in the body are a documented source of inflammation;
> Mold toxins found in the home or workplace can cause respiratory symptoms which in turn trigger an immune response, leading to depressive symptoms;
> Refined sugars are responsible for a multitude of gut complaints, including Candida (yeast) infections, and an increase in food allergies, which are associated with depression;
> Digestive dysfunction, a result of medications, yeast, malabsorption of peptides, and other bowel issues, is also known to cause inflammation. You may have digestive issues without even being aware of them.
- Hormone imbalances: Improper levels of thyroid hormones, adrenal, sex hormones, and insulin can affect the way we feel and behave.
-Street Drugs and Certain Prescription Drugs Can Cause Depression: Prescription drugs, such as antihistamines, anti-hypertensives, anti-inflammatory agents, birth control pills, cholesterol lowering medications, corticosteriods, tranquilizers, sedatives and antidepressants, have all been found to cause depression in susceptible individuals. Alcohol is a 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. Drugs like Ecstasy damage the serotonin transporters.
* Depression Tests help determine factors contributing to depression
In order to properly treat your depressive symptoms, it is important to know exactly which cause, or causes, are responsible. Lab testing can narrow down the source of the problem and help to determine the course of treatment which will most effectively address your individual needs.
- The neuroendocrine profile is a great place to start. It can detect adrenal, hormonal, and neurotransmitter levels and pinpoint any deficiencies which may be linked to depression symptoms; The NeuroScience Targeted Amino Acid Therapy Program is an effective means of addressing hormones and neurotransmitter imbalances. This test will determine if an imbalance is present and what should be used in order to combat the neurotransmitter imbalance that disrupts your body's hormone regulation.
-Celiac Profile-Celiac disease is a permanent intolerance to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. It is well documented to cause many mental health problems such as depression, mood swings,and attention issues.
A thyroid profile tests for levels of thyroid hormone to determine whether thyroid dysfunction is a contributing factor;
- Breath testing can detect bacterial overgrowth which may indicate digestive issues such as Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and irritable bowel syndrome;
- IgG food allergy testing can confirm the presence of antibodies produced by food allergens; Undetected food allergies can cause mood disorders and lead to the development of auto-immune diseases.
- A digestive stool analysis can find problematic issues with metabolic function, digestive enzyme activity, immune function, and nutrient absorption; Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut can cause a disruption in the brain's neurotransmitter balance.
- Urine peptide testing can reveal the presence of proteins that have a known association with neurological imbalances and psychiatric issues;
- An intestinal permeability test can detect leaky gut, a fairly common problem which has been linked with many mental health problems, including autism and depression.
- Organic acids testing detects the presence of acids which are associated with metabolic activities such as detoxification, microbial activity in the intestines, and neurotransmitter breakdown.
Natural Cures For Depression
Treating the Health Problems that Cause Depression
Once you have determined the contributing factor or factors causing depression symptoms, your health care practitioner can work with you to design an individualized treatment plan which focuses on correcting deficiencies and imbalances, removing allergens, detoxifying the body, and increasing digestive health. There are many reported cures for depression but the best and more lasting approach is to treat the causes of depression.
Your depression care regimen may consist of one or more of the following elements:
- Dietary changes to include whole, organic foods - including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein;
- Neurotransmitter support to balance the neurotransmitters which regulate mood;
- Probiotics for digestive support;
- Methylation cofactors to promote methylation and prevent the loss of methyl groups;
- Multivitamins to correct vitamin deficiencies;
- Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation;
- Specially formulated depression supplements.
* Be Proactive - Get Healthy and Stave Off Depression Symptoms
If you suffer from depression or any other mental health complaint, adopting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward achieving a natural cure for depression by relieving your symptoms and improving your overall sense of well-being.
- Good nutrition is always important; as noted earlier, eating a healthy diet can improve digestive function and correct nutrient imbalances that may be causing your symptoms.
- Exercise is important for everyone. Regular physical activity has a multitude of benefits; it can help control your weight, improve your self-esteem, regulate neurotransmitter production, improve sleep habits, control diabetes, improve heart health, and increase your endorphin levels. All of these can help to eliminate the
symptoms of depression.
- It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of stress relief. Stress hormones disrupt neurotransmitter function, depress the immune system, and promote cardiovascular disease. Finding a regular activity to help you relax and recharge is vital to your overall health and can help you to keep depression at bay.
Many Natural Cures for Depression act by strengthening the same biochemical pathways that medicines use to treat depression. St. John's Wort has been shown to act in part by increasing the activity of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Other natural cures for depression work on metabolic pathways that conventional medications do not utilize. These include catecholamine, methylation, and serotonin pathways, omega-3 fatty acids, and second messengers such as Inositol. Other natural depression cures include lifestyle changes such as improving nutritional status, exercise, stress reduction, improving sleep, and limiting exposure to food additives, pesticides and other toxins in our environment.
It is up to you to make the effort necessary to overcome the problems that are causing your depression. By self-advocating and ensuring that your health care providers are doing everything they can to pinpoint the source of your depression, rather than masking it with powerful drugs, you can greatly improve your quality of life and achieve a natural cure for depression.
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