Although we do not like to talk about it, depression is a major problem in America. According to statistics, one out every ten of us will suffer from depression at some point in our lives. 16 million people (that's 6.9% of the population) had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. And each year, the number of people being diagnosed with this disease increases by 20%. With numbers like this, it is safe to say that depression is a disease that affects almost all of us in some way, whether that is personally or within our circle of family and friends.
One of the worst things about depression is that the very symptoms of the disease (fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, tension for isolation) make it difficult for the sufferer to seek help and look for alternative options. Think of this in comparison to something like cancer, where it is very common for the newly diagnosed patient to seek multiple medical opinions and scour the internet for natural cures. There is something about cancer and diseases like it that provoke a fighter's mentality. But unfortunately by its very nature, depression typically takes the fight completely out of the individual.
The good news in all of this is that there are natural and effective treatment alternatives for people suffering from depression. Although it is given one broad name, the truth is that there are many different causes, presentations, and symptoms of depression. Therefore, what works to help one person may be completely ineffective for someone else. But when you take the time to get the entire story, treat the whole person, and work together to implement new life skills, the results can be quite remarkable. Below I have outlined the 3 most important steps in the natural treatment of this growing disease.
Rule out or treat physical causes:
In order to have an effective treatment, it is very important to either rule out or treat any possible physical causes that may be contributing to a patient's depression. There are MANY physical conditions that can cause depression, some of which are acknowledged by traditional medicine and some of which are not. I would like to talk about a couple of them in more detail:
Nutritional deficiencies: Low levels of many different vitamins and minerals as well as essential fatty acids (omega 3's) are associated with depression. It is particularly important to check for low vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid in depressed patients. These three vitamins are commonly depleted by stress as well as by the use of oral contraption. Unfortunately, traditional labwork is not the most accurate way to test vitamin levels. This is because these labs only look at the serum level of nutrients, which is the amount of nutrients floating around in your bloodstream at the specific time of the blood draw. A more accurate way to test for nutritional deficiencies is to test the level of nutrients that are actually inside your blood cells. This type of testing shows exactly how much of each vitamin the body has actually absorbed and is able to use.
Additionally, due to a genetic deficiency known as the MTHFR genetic defect, some people are unable to convert the folic acid they ingest into the active and usable form known as L-methylfolate. While this defect can lead to a host of different metabolic problems, it is particularly important in depression. This is due to low folic acid results in the body from producing adequate levels of serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. Spectracell Laboratories is a great laboratory that accurately tests for nutrient deficiencies and MTHFR genetic defects through the blood. The information gleamed from these tests allows physicians to prescribe highly accurate and specific nutritional therapies that can have a substantial effect on patients' health.
Adrenal Imbalance: Both elevated and depressed levels of adrenal hormones, particularly cortisol, can cause symptoms of depression. If cortisol levels are too high, this can inhibit the body's ability to convert tryptophan to serotonin. On top of the significant mood changes that serotonin deficiency can cause, serotonin is a direct precursor to melatonin, a hormone that is vitally important to sleep. Excess cortisol also inhibits thyroid hormone production and can lead to hypothyroidism, another condition that can cause symptoms of depression. Low levels of cortisol are also associated with mood changes, depression, and fatigue. The most accurate way to test adrenal hormones is through the saliva. Salivary testing measures the biologically active component of these hormones, and, because it can be done at home, it allows for precise measurement of hormones at different times of the day and / or month. This gives the physician a complete picture of how much hormone the body is actually able to utilize and how that hormone level fluctuates based on bodily rhythms.
Hypothyroidism: The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism-fatigue, sadness, brain fog, difficulty thinking, and inability to lose weight-are some of the very same symptoms of depression. For this reason, it is very important for anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should have their thyroid checked before starting any sort of anti-depressant medication. It is important that the doctor runs a full thyroid panel (TSH, Free T3, Free T4, thyroid antibodies) and not just TSH, because many cases of hypothyroidism can be missed otherwise.
There are too many metabolic causes of depression to go into detail about each one, but here is a listing of other important conditions to rule out and / or treat if necessary if you are suffering from depression:
Pituitary, parathyroid, or sex hormone imbalance
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Lifestyle choices: lack of exercise, sunshine, and / or sleep
Other diseases: heart and lung diseases, neurological disorders, anemia, etc.
Homeopathic medicine is often very helpful in treating depression and anxiety. Homeopathy is a very safe and gentle system of medicine that can have very deep healing effects when used correctly. Because it works differently than traditional medicines and supplements, it can be challenging to explain exactly how the remedies work.
Dana Ullman summarized homeopathy beautifully in his Huffington Post article on the homeopathic treatment of depression. He stated that, “the promise behind homeopathy is that symptoms of illness are not just something” wrong “with the person but are actually efforts of their bodymind to fight infection and / or to adapt to stress. to inhibit or suppress symptoms, very small and specially prepared doses of medicinal substances are individually prescribed to a person for their unique ability to cause an overdose in the similar symptoms that the sick person is having. sick person, the medicine supports and augments the body's defenses. ” (1) In other words, while many other types of medicine treat the disease itself and all the symptoms that disease comes with, homeopathy treats the sick person individually.
No matter how you treat depression, healing from this disease will never occur in isolation. One of the worst parts about depression is that it lies to you. It tells you that you are alone, that no one understands you, and that you are unfixable. But this is not true. It can be an incredibly difficult and challenging step to ask for help, but if you do I promise that you will find family members, friends, and health professionals who will gladly step in to support you.
Beside opening up to friends and family, working through the mental, emotional, and spiritual causes of depression with a qualified mental health profession is incredibly valuable. Many councilors teach techniques that interrupt and alter the negative thought patterns that often occur in the brain of depressed patients. They also serve as a non-biased, non-judicialal sounding board for thoughts that a depressed individual may not be comfortable sharing with anyone else. As with any chronic disease, healing from depression is a long term and multifaceted process. In my experience, the people who achieve the most substantial and lasting healing are those that combine physical treatments with mental, emotional, and spiritual growth practices.