It’s one thing to feel down or sad once in a while. As a victim of chronic stress however, your mood and energy can be depressed most of the time, causing fatigue and stagnancy.
Zest for life? No way. It’s a struggle to get through the day.
It is not fixed by bubbly people telling you to “cheer up” either. It’s not always just a state of mind; it’s also a state of physiological dysfunction.
More often than not, hormone problems are a chief contributor to depression. Strengthen you core functional systems and prevent depression.
If you feel regularly sad, gloomy, unmotivated, blue, unhappy, or even hopeless and desperate, you are not alone. Current estimates put depression as one of the more common illnesses; recent statistics suggest that one in every 20 persons may be depressed1. In this age of increased burdens from the environment, lifestyles that defy nature, and weakened family structures, is it any wonder?
The brain and hormone systems will only tolerate so much. Eventually they become weakened and overall health is compromised. It’s a form of being sick, without immediate danger (in most cases) and no need for pharmaceutical drugs, except for extreme cases of intervention. Remember, you didn’t get sick because you were not taking drugs… Tap into your body’s natural powers and support yourself through preventive methods like functional lab testing and good nutrition.
Depression is much more than a sociological condition. While there are many risks, including loss of friendships, inability to perform in the workplace, or even suicide, the effects that depression have on health runs deep, decreasing longevity and increasing the risk for illnesses and diseases. A positive attitude is essential to good health; poor health can cause negative attitudes…a vicious cycle that is an aspect of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
What is Depression?
Depression is not a well-defined illness. A typical list of symptoms – like this one from the Centers for Disease Control2 – suggests that depression is made up of the following:
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment
What makes many wonder if they are clinically depressed is that the above symptoms are not all that uncommon. We can all think of times in our lives where we experienced some of these symptoms. Think about how long these symptoms have been going on and how they affect your life. Are your symptoms so severe that they are now changing your life? For example, you may be fatigued, but are you so fatigued that you are not making it to work, or able to play with your children, or go for your weekly bike ride? When your symptoms start to affect your life and they have lasted longer than four weeks, then it is time to consider that depression may be a problem for you.
The Stress Connection
Our bodies were designed to handle stress as a short-lived event and not a full time occupation. The body’s stress adaptation response was designed for another time than the one we are living in. Imagine you are walking in the woods and you come across a grizzly bear. This is where your stress response makes sense: You need stress hormones to help you climb up a tree or run away from the bear. The problem is that our modern lives are filled with bears that are not really bears. Our “bears” come in the form of television news, bad drivers, money worries, toxic exposures, food intolerance, parasite infections, and much, much more.
This accumulative stress lays waste to the body’s core functional systems, especially the HPA glands. The HPA glands manufacture many hormones, but the main hormone that is released during the stress response is cortisol. When our HPA glands are constantly pumping out cortisol because our bodies think that the woods are full of grizzly bears, the HPAs get fatigued. Fatigued HPA glands make conditions like depression more possible. A necessary part of dealing with depression is obtaining functional lab testing using salivary hormone analysis to inform you about your HPA health status and therapeutic needs.
What to do About Depression
There is much you can do to help with your depression. Most people obey their insurance provided doctor and take drugs. A good way to get out of an immediate crisis? Yes, but a terrible way to manage or fix the problem.
Standard Medical Treatments: The standard medical treatment consists of antidepressant pharmaceutical drugs which manipulate brain chemicals (neurotransmitters: like serotonin, dopamine).
Some of the common antidepressants are:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOs): Nardil, Parnate, and Marplan.
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): Elavil, Norpramin, Tofranil, and Pamelor
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft.
- Aminoketones: Wellbutrin.
SOME COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF THESE DRUG TREATMENTS: Fatigue, dizziness, loss of libido, weight gain, headaches, nausea, dry mouth, vomiting, excessive sweating, tremors, drowsiness, and inability to sleep.
Integrative Depression Support: The integrative approach to depression combines functional lab testing, lifestyle inventory and modification, therapy, and supplementation:
- Check to see if your HPA glands need help: A functional assessment of you HPA health is essential. Always. Salivary hormone testing is the most meaningful lab data you and your healthcare provider can access. The results will guide a logical plan intended to help you regain your strength.
- Check if you are low on vitamins: Low folic acid, vitamin B-12 and iron have all been shown to cause depression. Get Support HPAs.
- Get off the couch: It is safe to say that if you are depressed, you probably don’t feel like exercising, but exercise (being in motion with or without resistance) is one of the keys to kicking depression. Exercise not only reduces stress, it has also been shown to dramatically improve depression. Stretch, walk, run, dance, just use your body before it gives up on you. But remember, don’t exercise too hard or too much. If your HPA glands are not up to it, this will cause further damage.
- Get plenty of sleep! Your body’s physical and psychic regeneration occurs between approximately 10 pm and 6 am. Cortisol levels need to come down so human growth hormone can be released to do work. If you are not sleeping, you are not healing.
- Chill Out: If stress and anxiety are a large part of the reason why you are depressed, seek out ways to help you deal with stress more effectively. Meditation, prayer, therapy, and acupuncture are some of the methods that have been shown to help people learn to cope with the stressors of daily life. See our recommended relaxation aids.
- Make sure you are getting enough EPA/DHA: Our brains are made up of fats and when we put poor fats into our bodies, we get poorly functioning brains. The best source of EPA and DHA is fish oil.
- Boost brain chemicals: There are a variety of natural substances that boost serotonin and other brain chemicals, including 5HTP, valerian, lemon balm, and passion flower. Be sure to eat a balanced diet and supplement with B vitamins and minerals. Check out Deproloft, a supplement for depression from Thorne Research.
1 Depression Affects More Than 1 in 20 Americans: CDC, Susan Jeffery. Accessed at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/580108
2 CDC Feature: Depression. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/depression.htm