Reasons for the common cold of the brain
Do you know someone who suffers from depression? Of course you do. In fact, chances are that you have been clinically depressed at least once in your life. For many people, depression is like the common cold in that it comes around regularly and can be completely debilitating. If you present symptoms of depression to a physician, chances are that you will be put on antidepressant medications, which may save your life or provide enough respite to give you the energy to pursue help in other directions. Even though I am passionate about natural alternatives to medications, I recognize that medications are critically important in some situations and to some people.
At the same time, however, we might remember that depression is a symptom, not necessarily an illness. It is the sign that something has gone awry in your body’s normal biochemistry, so before (or in tandem with) seeking a pharmaceutical solution, it is imperative to answer the question, “why?”.
Here is an incomplete list of possible biochemical, physiological, and nutritional reasons for depression:
Adrenal exhaustion / long-term stress / unresolved anger, fear or other emotions
Progesterone deficiency and/or estrogen dominance
Low blood sugar
Fatigue and/or lack of sleep
Nutritional deficiencies in one or more of the following nutrients: essential fatty acids like omega-3 or omega-6 fats, magnesium, chromium, zinc, one or more of the B complex vitamins, or protein (or specific amino acids like l-tryptophan)
Inadequate calorie intake
Food sensitivities / allergies (called cerebral allergies)
Lack of bright, natural light (Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD)
Parenthetically, research shows that talk therapy combined with other therapies work better than either therapy alone. In other words, talk with a professional while you are pursuing these other options.
So what are we going to do about this? In a perfect world, when you present to a physician with the symptom of depression, he/she would explore each of these issues and make sure that all biochemical or nutritional imbalances are resolved. That would solve the vast majority of depression cases without pharmaceuticals. But this is not a perfect world, and most doctors do not spend the time to delve into the problem with such thoroughness (and most people frankly would not spend the money on it anyway).
But you are responsible for your health. You may be called upon to help someone who is depressed. I would take this list in hand and explore each one thoroughly. For some, you will need the aid of your doctor. For others, you will need the assistance of a nutrition professional. Still others you can resolve on your own. Yes, it will take time, perseverance, and some money but you may be able to discover the cause of and the obvious solution to one of life’s most challenging problems.
Carol is a certified lifestyle educator at the offices of Dr. Alan Gruning in Fort Myers. She owns the Island Nutrition Center on Sanibel. she can be reached at 239-472-4499.