There are many reasons that any given person with depression might be depressed. Like all illness, depression can have many contributing causes, including past traumas and grief, chronic illness, an inability to perceive where one is “stuck” in life, toxic exposures, and many others. Unfortunately, in the conventional medical world most cases of depression – no matter what the cause – are treated the same way: medication. I do not presume to believe that medication is inappropriate for all people who suffer from depression. I recognize that many, many people have benefited from these prescription medications. I do believe, however, that the inclination of conventional physicians to rely on medication without considering possible causes of depression is inappropriate. It is my wish that within twenty years, both patients and doctors will be highly motivated to investigate some of the following factors that contribute to depression:
Food. Most people reading this article choose to eat organic food. This is an excellent place to start improving your health. Remember though: “organic” does not necessarily mean the food is nutrient dense. It only means that the food was grown without chemicals. Healthy soil, air and water are unfortunately rare these days, and I believe even organic food suffers.
Consider performing a food allergy panel. Most panels are relatively inexpensive and can identify foods that are causing inflammation throughout your body. Think of inflammation as being smoke from a wet log thrown on a fire. In this case, the smoke is inside your body, contributing to depression. If you choose not to pursue this test, then avoid all grains, processed foods and dairy for one week to see if your depression lightens.
Nutrient depletion. Several nutrients, especially B12, B6, sam-e and folic acid are involved in several metabolic pathways that affect neurotransmitters such as dopamine. If these depletions lead to an inability to make or to breakdown these neurotransmitters, depression can develop. Be wary of testing for these nutrients. Serum B12 values for example, fluctuate depending on supplementation and although it may reveal blood levels of B12, it does not divulge anything about how efficiently your cells are able to use B12. In other words, it is possible to have high serum level of these nutrients, but be metabolically deficient. Testing levels of markers such as transcobalamin and methyl-malonic acid are more accurate and readily available.
Methylation defects. Methylation is a hot top these days. Methylation describes the effect of genes and possible mutations upon critical cellular process that effect mood, detoxification, hormone and neurotransmitter levels, muscle function, development of cancer and other cellular processes. Defects in methylation called single nucleotide polymorphisms (or “SNiPs” for short) may play a definitive role in our sense of happiness. In fact, certain SNPs will affect the efficacy of anti-depressant drugs. Those who suffer from chronic depression or who have been unsuccessful at finding an effective medication would benefit by consulting a physician knowledgeable about SNPs.
Toxins. If you eat, breath or drink in this world, you are toxic. Some of us are better than others at detoxifying, but most of us could use some help. The list is seemingly endless, but common contaminants of our health include benzene, bisphenol A, DDT and heavy metals. Do these poisons effect our emotional health? You bet they do. Inexpensive tests are available to assess your body’s burden of toxins.
Lack of exercise. Admit it! We can all do better here. The fact is that nothing can bring you out of the blues more than physical activity. Exercise picks up our metabolism, reducing the obligation of the thyroid and adrenal gland to do the same thing; it allows us to detoxify though sweat and delivers oxygen to all of our tissues. Be sure to get at least 30 minutes in a day.
Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His new office is on 2612 Barnett Ave. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.