Life has its good days and its bad days. Circumstances can create times, sometimes extended periods of time, when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel; when solutions don’t come quickly and we become discouraged and even lose some of that fighting spirit. Times like these can happen when we experience monumental changes or a loss in our life of a job, a loved one, or when we move away from friends and family. But for the most part, we find our own way of bouncing back into our regular routines and life carries on for us again. This is the normal rhythm of life that none of us can sidestep for very long.
Some of us are just naturally better at bouncing back. Some of us might like to talk it out with friends while others work it out in their own mind and can carry on. Some of us have established routines and rituals in our life that we can turn to when times get difficult such as faith-based practices, physical exercise and/or extended support networks.
However, when a dejected state of mind persists along with feelings of sadness, discouragement and hopelessness; when your activity level drops and your ability to function on a daily basis declines accompanied by unresponsiveness, apathy and insomnia, this could be the basis for a diagnosis of clinic depression (major depressive disorder).1
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEPRESSIVE ILLNESS?
Depression becomes an illness, or clinical depression, when the feelings described above are severe, last for several weeks, and begin to interfere with one’s work and social life. Depressive illness can change the way a person thinks and behaves, and how his/her body functions. Some of the signs to look for are:
WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?
The medical community is uncertain of the cause of depression. What they do know is that there is no one cause of depression and that it is usually a combination of factors that lead to clinical depression. For instance, a biochemical imbalance in the brain or a pessimistic view of life in general, and the happenings in your life, can lead to depression. It is also thought that people with a family history of depression may be more likely to experience it at some point in their lives. The good news is clinical depression rarely evolves into a permanent state of being. Please remember: only a fully qualified medical professional can/should make this diagnosis.
TYPES OF DEPRESSION
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
Weather often affects people’s moods. Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life. Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.3
Post Partum Depression
For every woman, having a baby is a challenging time, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for many new mothers to have mood swings after delivery, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next. These feelings are sometimes known as the “baby blues”, and often go away within 10 days of delivery. However, some women may experience a deep and ongoing depression which lasts much longer. This is called postpartum depression.4
Depression in Women
Major depression can occur in 10 to 25 per cent of women — almost twice as many as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women — particularly during times such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy and postpartum, miscarriage, pre-menopause, and menopause.
Depression in Men
Men with depression typically have a higher rate of feeling irritable, angry and discouraged. This can make it harder to recognize depression in men. The rate of completed suicide in men is four times that of women, though more women attempt it.
Depression in Children
A child who is depressed may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative or grouchy, and feel misunderstood. Because normal behaviors vary from one childhood stage to another, it can be difficult to tell whether a child is just going through a temporary “phase” or has depression.
Depression in older Adults
Some people have the mistaken idea that it is normal for older adults to feel depressed. Older adults often don’t want to discuss feeling hopeless, sad, a loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities, or prolonged grief after a loss.5
HOW IS DEPRESSION TREATED?
The two most prevalent treatments for this most treatable of mental illnesses are medication and psychological counseling, including self-help groups. This second treatment can be referred to as “talk therapy”.
So, if depression is considered the most treatable of mental illnesses, why do more people not seek help? Many people may not realize that what they are feeling and experiencing has a name and a well-established treatment regime. Others may defer seeking treatment because of the unfortunate social stigma that can be associated with mental illnesses. Many of us tend to shy away from someone suffering with depression because we are unsure in ourselves of how to act or what to say. But very simply, what someone with depression needs the most from those around them, and their doctor, are consistent support, patience and encouragement. Loneliness and isolation can severely exacerbate the problem.
People who are depressed may react strongly to things you and I see as simple or small matters. A wrong word here or an oversight there could trigger an uncomfortable outburst. Try to be patient and non-judgmental. If you are in the position of supporting someone with depression, let him or her know they are not alone.
HELP THE BODY, HELP THE MIND
The funny thing about the body is that it takes what you think literally. It interprets thoughts as actualities. For example, you’re waiting outside a classroom to take an exam. Naturally, your anxiety level rises the longer you have to wait. You begin to doubt everything you’ve learned and your ability to recall it.
These increasingly distressing thoughts send messages to the body that there is danger – real or perceived. Your sympathetic nervous system is thrown into action, sending cascading hormonal messages to your body. Your heart pounds, your breathing becomes rapid, your eyes dilate, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and all this happens to help you “fight or flee”. Unfortunately, it also blocks the part of the brain where your ability to recollect comes from.
The hypothalamus, also part of a very old system in our bodies called the limbic system (the “emotional-visceral brain” – the center for many drives and emotions such as thirst, appetite, sex, pain and pleasure), secretes hormones that cascade through our pituitary gland, our thyroid gland, our adrenal cortex and round and round in our bodies.
The effects of sympathetic nervous system activation continue until its hormones are destroyed by the liver. The widespread and prolonged effects of sympathetic activation help explain why we need time to “come down” after an extremely stressful situation, real or perceived. 6
But as we know, our bodies wear out after time especially if we continually stress certain parts of our bodies, such as our adrenal glands.
The sympathetic nervous system originally functioned to assist us once we remembered that saber tooth tigers were not cuddly playmates but rather saw us as appetizers or the main course. In today’s world, when we stress over things, this system still goes into action. Sadly, it is usually unnecessary. There are no saber tooth tigers except in our mind. Perceived danger creates the same physiological response in the body as real danger. What you’re thinking and feeling is translated, via your mind, to your body. Hense, what we call “butterflies” in our stomach.
As we have already seen, there is a lengthy list of symptoms that uphold a diagnosis of clinical depression. Let’s take a look at a few to see how you can support your body, to help your mind, if you have been diagnosed with even mild clinical depression. For more information on vitamins, minerals, etc., you can visit our Index – CLICK HERE. Always confer with your consulting physician before undertaking any health therapies that have not been prescribed by him/her.
1. Feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless, sadness or grief; staying calm.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, Goats Weed) – Used for centuries to treat mental disorders, nerve pain, as a sedative, as a treatment for malaria and as a balm for wounds, burns, and insect bites. Today, it is used for depression, anxiety and/or sleep disorders. There is scientific evidence that St. John’s wort is useful for treating mild to moderate depression.
Side effects and cautions include increased sensitivity to sunlight, anxiety, dry mouth, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache or sexual dysfunction. Research shows that it interacts with some drugs including antidepressants, birth control pills, cyclosporine, digoxin, indinavir, irinotecan, Warfarin and related anticoagulants. 7
5-HTP (L-5-Hydroxytryptophan) – Helps to promote healthy mood balance, relieve symptoms of Fibromyalgia, reduce the severity and duration of migraine headaches, helps in weight management, and is used as a sleep aid.
Do not use if you have scleroderma. Some people may experience drowsiness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. 8
Vitamin B5 ( the “anti-stress” vitamin) – May be helpful in treating depression and anxiety. Necessary for proper functioning of the adrenal glands.
- Increase in energy, endurance and well-being
- Rejuvenation, increased sexual performance
- Enhanced immune function, and anti-tumor properties
- Reduced pain and inflammation (injuries, arthritis)
- Antioxidant properties that fight free radical damage
- Cardiovascular protection
2. Sleeping more or less than usual.
Valerian (root of the plant) – acts as a sedative, good for anxiety, insomnia, nervousness and stress. Usually taken at bedtime as a sedative.
Melatonin – A natural hormone that promotes sound sleep. For occasional use only. Do not give to children.
Vitamin B5 – A stamina enhancer.
Calcium and Magnesium – Taken together, these minerals have a calming effect and are used regularly by the nervous system.
3. Eating more or less than usual.
The PGX plan has been clinically shown to help end the cravings and hunger that make you eat more, and more often, than you know you should. Willpower? You don’t need it with PGX. Appetite control and a feeling of satiety make all the difference when you’re trying to control your weight. PGX helps reset your metabolism and virtually changes the glycemic index of foods. You crave less, burn more fat and your body redefines the way it handles insulin.
Vitamin B1 – Important for carbohydrate metabolism and proper digestion with a positive effect on normalizing appetite and supporting proper muscle tone of the intestines and stomach.
4. Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
Vitamin B1 – Important for cognitive activity and brain function; forgetfulness can be a sign of B1 deficiency.
Vitamin B3 – A memory-enhancer.
Vitamin B5 – Involved in the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals used to relay signals between a nerve cell and another cell). One example of a neurotransmitter is serotonin (5-HT).
In the central nervous system, serotonin plays an important role as a neurotransmitter in the modulation of anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, sexuality, appetite, and metabolism. 9
Vitamin B6 – Necessary for normal brain function; depression and impaired memory may be symptoms of B6.
5. Decreased sex drive.
Vitamin B3 – Aids in the synthesis of sex hormones.
“Sexy” Foods: Strawberries, blueberries, raw sauerkraut, pomegranates, cherries, pumpkin, black beans, asparagus, dates, oats, spinach, kale.
“…nutritional deficiencies and poor eating habits adversely affectyour hormones, glands and organs. But with just a little care youcan easily eat your way back to a great sex life.”
from You Are What You Eat
Dr. Gillian McKeith
6. Loss of energy, feeling very tired, loss of interest in activities
Vitamin B1 – Has a positive effect on energy.
Vitamin B5 – Stamina enhancer.
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells, the prevention and treatment of anemia and immune system regulation. Methylcobalamin is the active form of vitamin B12 that acts as a co-factor for methionine synthase in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, thus lowering blood levels of homocysteine. Methylcobalamin acts as a methyl donor and participates in the synthesis of SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), a nutrient that has powerful mood elevating properties. Each delicious natural cherry- flavoured sublingual tablet provides 1000 mcg of methylcobalamin B12 along with 500 mcg of Folic Acid.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
1. Barron’s Dictionary of Medical Terms – definition of Depression.
2. Canadian Mental Health Association
3. Canadian Mental Health Association
4. Canadian Mental Health Association
5. Center for Addiction and Mental Health
6. Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology – Seventh Edition, Elaine N. Marieb
7. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, N.I.H., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
8. Health Canada
9. Wikipedia – search “serotonin”.