Redefining Depression – Not just a holiday disorder
Depression – Misunderstood & Puzzling?
It would be hard to find a topic that affects more families in this country than depression – or one that’s so puzzling to deal with.
Depression is so misunderstood and seemingly beyond the realm of the common person to comprehend – it’s also the condition we so often just turn over to pharmaceutical drugs.
Nothing will make you ever feel so powerless as having a loved one, a child, spouse, parent etc, suffering through a bout of depression.
Besides being so difficult to treat it comes with the added stigma that the person is abnormal or even “crazy”. Often the whole family begins to retreat from society, powerless to help and often clueless about anything that might change the situation.
It’s not uncommon then for the whole family to become slightly depressed as the family dynamic arises from this feeling of helplessness.
My motivation for commenting on this subject is not to come across as an expert in the field because I’m not. I’ve helped a few people with this during my active time as an herbalist by sticking to my basic training in Three Treasure herbalism and making basic dietary changes.
Amazing results by just changing a few simple things
I’m not claiming to have cured anyone but have seen some amazing changes in people using herbs and nutrition. I’ve seen some get off of anti depressants using these same principles and so I’m going to suggest the basics here as I feel this is something simple and self empowering that’s missing from the typical western medical approach to depression.
This isn’t much different than the approach to most other issues on this site and that is correcting existing imbalances to allow for a return to homeostasis. The theory exists that the brain developed over time as a response to seeking homeostasis. It would then make sense that anything that made it easier to do this would be good for it and the opposite would also be true.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is sorely lacking in basic nutrients for the brain and loaded with chemicals that create inflammation. The combination is extremely disruptive to normal brain function and when added to long-term stress it’s a recipe for disaster. Throw it all together and inflict it on a teenage body whose trying to find it’s way in the midst of enormous changes in hormones and relationships and it’s hard to see how anyone would make it out untouched. Add this to the tendency to experiment with alcohol and drugs and you can see how the brain might be in constant survival mode – chronic stress!
It usually doesn’t happen overnight
I don’t want you to think I’m focusing on teenagers but merely pointing out a segment of the population that is high risk. You also have to realize that depression is similar to a chronic illness in that it usually doesn’t happen overnight. It may seem like it sometimes but the truth is that you have been experiencing extreme deficiencies of nutrition for extended periods of time. Your brain can no longer cover for the lack of basic fuel to run properly and a stressor puts you over the edge.
At this point an anti depressant may be needed in extreme cases but using one without trying to correct your imbalances will merely lead to a lifelong dependency on drugs.
Shouldn’t a multi-faceted complex situation be dealt with in a manner that looks into the various issues behind it, instead of simply throwing a pill at you? “Try this and see how you feel”.
That same pill may be associated with suicides and hallucinations. Over half the men that use them experience erectile dysfunction. Sounds depressing to me.
Nutrition and Depression
Nutrition has to be a factor in this scenario. How else could we ever reach a point where 40% of the country is said to be clinically depressed? 20% are on antidepressants, of which 25% have serious side effects.
Are these numbers real or exaggerated to create a need?
With the advent of televised advertisement for drugs, anyone can be led to think they need treatment for something long before they finish their bowl of popcorn.
Since most anti depressants work by lowering or boosting certain brain chemicals it’s easy to see that nutrition can help.
The only way your brain makes chemicals in the first place is through your diet. The difference is that when you eat nutrient rich food your body has a system by which it uses them for multiple purposes.
When you take a drug to artificially stop or alter a process to manipulate the amount for specific purposes in the brain some other part of the body suffers. Why? The same chemicals run other processes in the body. The big three, dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, all have receptor sites elsewhere in the body. Serotonin for example stimulates peristalsis in the colon. Disrupt it and now you need another drug for constipation.
First you have to realize your brain is part of your body and treat it as such. It requires certain nutrients to work and maintain equilibrium. Switch to a diet based on whole foods.
- This is not a time to be on a low fat diet.
- Some of the best nutrients for brain activity are in fatty foods—eggs, nuts, seeds and fish.
- Avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners as they disrupt brain chemistry and cause inflammation.
- Pesticides and other environmental toxins all help create toxic blood and combined with inadequate nutrition can overload the brain.
- Find your food allergies and avoid them. Eat a good source of protein as it’s needed for making dopamine and various hormones.
See my other previous posts on food in my blog —
A couple of suggestions
The best nutrients are amino acids, omega three fish oils, Vit D, antioxidants, multi vitamins and adaptogenic herbs. Don’t try to do it on your own, see a qualified health practitioner and get help. I strongly suggest finding a doctor who specializes in Bio-identical hormones. One of the most common results of poor nutrition and stress is unbalanced hormones. Work on this one, eat well and supplement and you’ll be shocked at how good you might feel in a few weeks. Hormones are like your own internal computer chips. You can’t remove a few of them and expect the rest to work.
Exercise. Seems simple but we all forget it. You evolved on the move and lack of movement negatively affects every level of health. Countless studies show that walking as little as one half hour a day worked better than most antidepressants.
This falls right in line with Chinese herbal therapy that emphasizes moving Chi as essential in dealing with depression. Getting back into the flow of life and discovering what you’re passionate about is part of the whole aspect of Three Treasures herbology. Shen is our higher nature and reflects our mental, emotional, and spiritual development.
Shen disturbance is a condition that can result in insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, forgetfulness, irritability and a general loss of vitality and physical health. Sounds a lot like stress to me. It’s no small wonder that a lot of Shen tonics are actually adaptogenic herbs that regulate the stress response and directly effect how you see the world.
Inflammation associated with depression
Hardly anything is more depressing than having a long-term illness, especially one that no one can figure out. Stress may not have caused it but it sure plays a role in the healing process. Most chronic conditions are linked to excessive inflammation and since elevated stress hormone causes inflammation it’s also associated with depression.
Long-term inflammation changes your metabolism and may damage blood vessels, tissues, bones and internal organs to the point of triggering chronic disease. This same inflammation can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain and lead to depression. Inflammation and depression have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and dementia. What comes first? It’s the old chicken and the egg story all over again.
You are not alone
I’ve just noticed that for a topic that I feel inadequate about addressing I sure have gone on a bit. I just want you to know you’re not alone, it can pass, and there is help. Eating really well and with intelligence can speed the process.
Hang out with uplifting friends and drop toxic relationships and know that someone holds you dear to their heart.
Please let me know what you think and leave your comments below.
I’ll shut up now and leave you with a favorite poem.
My Brilliant Image
One day the sun admitted,
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
The Infinite Incandescence
That has cast my brilliant image!
I wish that I could show you
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing light
Of your own Being!