Mar 222013

depressionDepression shows no mercy. According to the World Health Organization, it affects people of all ages, races, and nationalities and is one of the most costly of all disorders, largely because it disables people who would otherwise be productive. Similar to other chronic illnesses, depression can be caused by several factors and may be characterized by many different symptoms. An estimated 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences depression severe enough to require medical attention, with women twice as likely as men to develop depression.

An individual can experience and suffer from a combination of psychological and physical symptoms that are a significant change from their prior level of functioning. This can be devastating and often affects every aspect of that person’s life. There is often great fatigue and apathy, an inability to enjoy once-pleasurable activities, disturbed sleep, increased or decreased appetite, and a low sex drive.  In addition, depression can also leave its sufferers feeling worthless, hopeless, guilty, irritable, or angry.

One repercussion of depression is that whether experiencing one or more of it’s symptoms or even just a touch of the blues, it can impair the immune system, and in serious cases, often go hand-in-hand with other chronic illnesses. It can also be deadly as some individual’s with severe cases have constant thoughts of death and suicide. Although it is often normal and healthy at times to experience sad moods in response to a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, a major depressive episode is characterized by untimely sadness that persists or is out of proportion with its apparent cause.

Depression can be caused by a number of factors, including constant tension and unresolved stress, genetics, chemical or hormonal imbalances, chronic illness, poor diet, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, and even inadequate sunlight.


A depressed individual will usually experience several of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to enjoy things
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings, at times characterized by unexplained weeping
  • Feelings of apathy, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, irritability, or guilt
  • Sleep problems (either insomnia or sleeping too much)
  • Appetite disturbances (eating too little or too much)
  • Headaches, backaches, and digestive problems
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Increased anxiety
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Root Causes

Any of the following can cause depression by itself, but most depressed people are affected by more than one factor:

  • Tension and stress
  • Unresolved emotional issues
  • Chronic illness or pain
  • Neurotransmitter imbalance
  • Hormonal imbalance, especially after childbirth or as a result of oral contraceptives and other synthetic hormone medications; commonly occurs with PMS and menopause
  • Preexisting conditions—most commonly, hypoglycemia, anemia, sleep apnea, low adrenal function, and thyroid gland malfunction
  • Alcohol and recreational drug use
  • Poor diet
  • Food allergies
  • Nutritional deficiencies (particularly of B12, folic acid, B6, B1 tyrosine, tryptophan, and omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Medications, including corticosteroids, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics, and some pharmaceutical antidepressants
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Fungal overgrowth
  • Sleep disturbances

Dietary Recommendations

Depression is often caused by inadequate nutrition. Even if that’s not the primary cause, a sound diet will help create healthier brain chemistry. Eat a good diet balanced with complex carbohydrates from sources like whole grains, vegetables, and legumes. Complex carbohydrates are high in serotonin, a deficiency of which can cause depression and insomnia. Soy, lean poultry, eggs, nuts (walnuts are excellent), and seeds are excellent sources of protein.

Consume cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and cod, three times a week. You also need to keep your sugar levels regulated, so instead of eating three large meals a day, try five to six smaller ones. Consume at least 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily. This is a good source of fiber and essential fatty acids. Sprinkle it on a salad or mix in a shake.

Food to Avoid

Many depressed individuals have hidden food allergies. Any food is a potential allergen, but wheat is the product most often linked to depression. Dramatically reduce or eliminate your intake of hydrogenated and saturated fats, which only increase fatigue and sluggishness. Caffeine and refined sugar may make you feel temporarily better, but your body soon “crashes” from the high, leaving you even more exhausted or irritable, so it is best to avoid these altogether. They also deplete vital nutrients from your system.

Alcohol is a depressant, so avoid wine, beer, and liquor. If you are so unhappy that you feel you need alcohol, talk to a qualified health practitioner. You may have a drinking problem—or you might be headed for one. If you’ve been following a diet that’s high in saturated fats and refined sugars, or if you’ve unknowingly been eating foods that have caused allergic reactions, some or even all of your symptoms may be caused by toxic buildup. Your practitioner can help recommend a detoxification program that will help cleanse your body. If you feel sluggish and dull, and if your practitioner has ruled out an underlying disease as the cause, a three-day juice and liquid fast may refresh you.

Exercise and meditation can be used to relieve stress which in turn can help with depression. A simple 20-30 minute brisk walk can do wonders and also help your body to eliminate toxins.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from depression it is highly recommended that you seek professional help from a qualified practitioner. It is important first to be sure that there are no underlying illnesses (such as a thyroid problem). It is best to work with a practitioner who embraces natural therapies and will work with you in finding the cause of your depression and help you meet your goals towards better health.

Note: Be cautious in using certain antidepressant medications as some can cause an individual to have suicidal tendencies.

With proper counseling, dietary and lifestyle changes and properly recommended natural remedies that fit your needs, a qualified practitioner can help guide you through a safe and rewarding healing process.