Depression is not proven to be a chemical imbalance in the brain. – Kelly Brogan, Holistic Psychiatrist
What is Depression?
According to Mayo Clinic, depression is “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.” When symptoms of depression or “sadness” are ongoing and cannot be linked to an specific life event, or when the event as resolved, but the depressive mood has not, this may be a sign that there is a physiological basis for the depression and that the mind-body chemistry is no longer balanced. However, everything is connected in the body, including the gut-brain axis. Therefore, it is imperative to take a holistic approach when addressing the depression symptoms. Basically, this means addressing the entire mind, body, spirit connection.
Depression is the most common psychiatric illness & leading cause of disability worldwide.
What Factors Lead to Depression & What are the 5 Depression Biotypes?
- Undermethylation: low serotonin activity
- Pyrrole Disorder: genetically determined imbalance of B6, Zinc, and B3 vitamins; low activities of serotonin, GABA & NMDA; urine test diagnostic, triggered by emotional stress or oxidative stress
- Copper overload: high norepinephrine activity; SSRI’s ineffective
- Folate deficiency: excessive activity of serotonin due to an epigenetic mechanism; adverse reaction to SSRI’s
- Toxic Metal Depression: low GABA, low glutamate activity at NMDA receptors, Zinc deficiency; SSRI’s ineffective
- SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which is a class of antidepressants that work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain
- A 2005 study by Gershon found 90% of serotonin receptors are in the gut along with 95% of our serotonin. Thus, loss of serotonin in the lining of the stomach can create symptoms of depression and anxiety. Read more here.
- SSRI’s can cause homicidal, suicidal ideation and mania episodes
- There is a strong association between SSRI’s and school shootings
Other Factors to Consider for Depression
- Excessive Sugar & Caffeine Use
- Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies
- Environmental Toxins/Mold
- Food Allergies/Sensitivities/Celiac
- Drug interactions
- Illness/Chronic Stress
- High Histamine
- Digestive Malabsorption/Gut Issues
- Blood Sugar Imbalances (too much caffeine/sugar)
- Essential Fatty Acid Deficiencies
- Unresolved Trauma
All of these above issues create imbalance in the body, as well as low grade inflammation, which should be addressed before committing to a medication.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
- Withdrawal from activity; isolating oneself; silent and unresponsive around people
- Continual fatigue, lethargy; sleeping too much, using sleep to escape reality
- Lack of motivation, boredom, and loss of interest in life; indecisiveness
- Feeling helpless, immobilized; inability to concentrate
- Insomnia/Early morning insomnia (waking up early/unable to fall back asleep)
- Lack of responsiveness to good news; an “I don’t care” attitude
- Ongoing anxiety; suicidal thoughts or plans
- Easily upset or angered, lashing out at others; unusual impatience, hostility
- Self-destructive behavior (including promiscuity); lack of interest in sex
- Loss of interest in people and activities previously considered important
- Loss of appetite or binge eating (Larson, 2006)
Labs Tests to Determine Depression
- Blood Sugar Panels
- Thyroid Panel
- Vitamin D3 (levels<35 ng/ml are considered deficient)
- Homocysteine Levels
- Iron/Ferritin (check for Anemia’s)
- Hormones (testosterone/estradiol, progesterone, pregnenolone, DHEA)
Supplementation for Depression
- Essential Fatty Acids – Walnuts, Hempseeds, Flax, Grass-fed Beef, Wild Fish.*(If supplementing: 1 g EPA/DHA as been shown to improve depression)
- B Vitamins – Wild Fish, Organic Poultry, Jerusalem artichoke, Leafy greens.*(If supplementing: B complex or multiple vitamin with high levels of B vitamins)
- Vitamin C – citrus fruits, papaya, acerola, red bell pepper, rose hip tea.*(If supplementing: Ester-C with bioflavonoids is more beneficial)
- Vitamin D3 – testing should be done by doctor; 50 ng/ml is optimal. Read more about Vitamin D here
- Minerals – Nettle Tea, Mineral Broths, Leafy Greens, Green Powders. *(If supplementing: food-based multi-mineral, make sure calcium and magnesium are at a 1:1 ratio)
- Probiotics – fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, beet kvass. *(If supplementing: 20-50 billion organisms, 10-12+ strains)
Lifestyle Interventions for Depression
Stress management and addressing past traumas should be highly emphasized when healing the body of depression. Because chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol levels (high levels of cortisol, which are seen in every type of depression, negatively affect the uptake and production of serotonin) and potentially cause adrenal fatigue. A stress management plan is essential in reducing symptoms of depression. Techniques such as yoga, acupuncture, journaling, meditation, deep breathing, walking in nature, Tai Chi and swimming are all great ways of reducing stress in our lives. By reducing the stress, one reduces blood pressure and cortisol, which allows the body to effectively heal
Herbs + Tea Recipe to Improve Depression
- St. John’s Wort (do not combine with SSRI’s)
- Ashwagandha (do not combine with SSRI’s)
- Oregano leaf extract
- Gingko Biloba
- Siberian Ginseng
- Schisandra berry
Lose the Blues Tea
- 2 parts skullcap
- 2 parts blue vervain
- 2 parts passion flower
- 1 part lemon verbena
- 1 part hibiscus flowers
Books to Consider Reading & Websites
“A Mind of Your Own” by Kelly Brogan, M.D.
“Depression Free, Naturally” by Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D.
“Adrenal Fatigue” by James L. Wilson, N.D. D.C., Ph.D.
“The Mood Cure“ by Julia Ross, M.A.
www.kellybroganmd.com – Kelly Brogan’s website and support program
www.healthrecovery.com – Joan Mathews Larson’s website
www.moodcure.com – Julia Ross’ website
www.stopthethyroidmadness.com – articles regarding thyroid and depression
*All information, content, and material of this blog is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the diagnosis, and/or medical treatment by a qualified physician.
Mayo Clinic Staff. July 07, 2016 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/definition/con-20032977
Gershon, M. (1998). The Second Brain. (p. 17). New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers
Bauman, E. (2015). Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook, Part 2. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College
Mathews Larson, J. (2006). Dissolving biochemical depression. Healthy Recovery Center. Retrieved from: http://www.healthrecovery.com/HRC_2006/Depression_06/D_sadness_inside_you.htm
Brogan, K. & Loberg, K. “A Mind of Your Own.” New York: NY, Harper Wave (2016)