Do you, or someone you know, suffer from depression?
Everyone can feel a little flat from time to time, it’s a relatively normal feeling when life can be overwhelming.
Stress, finances, jobs, and family are probably the major triggers for stress in general which may then cause a person to reach exhaustion.
For the most part, this low feeling may only be a temporary feeling.
This is not the case when someone has depression.
What is depression?
Depression is when the blue feeling hangs around for weeks or months at a time. It affects people in different ways, but generally is an otherwise happy moment doesn’t make you feel cheerful – such as scoring a new job, spending time with friends and family – then it may be that you have depression.
This condition is often triggered by stressful situations but for some can just creep up on them without the person realising it. For some, depression may last a few weeks and for others it can be months. Ether way, people who suffer from it describe it as any of the following:
“Nothing makes you smile”
“You feel like a ghost”
“Worthless with no future”
According to health statistics from 2012 in New Zealand more than half a million people have been diagnosed with depression. Linked with depression is anxiety where more than 200,000 people suffer from anxiety including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive complusive disorder or phobias. These disorders impact upon a person’s ability to carry out a day to day activity and normal functioning and so can affect employment, relationships, sleep and overall health.
Signs of Depression:
Signs of depression are really varied but here is a list of something of things that may occur:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Disrupted sleep, insomnia or for some – oversleeping
- Feelings of worthlessness, low self esteem
- Feeling numb
- Brain fog
- Crying for no apparent reason
Anyone can get depression, adults, elderly even children. The latter is particularly worrisome. I attended a seminar on depression and low mood a wee while back and the statistics around this were quite sad.
It is believed that depression is beginning to skyrocket amongst teenagers due to the high use of social media.
FOMO or “fear of missing out” was a term I learnt that day which was completely new to me (being old school) but apparently FOMO is a major concern amongst teenagers.
A recent survey completed in Australia shows that one in two teenagers experience FOMO directly relating to the impact of social media.
And what bothered me the most from that seminar were the stats around children as young as 8 reporting as experiencing FOMO and depression and/or anxiety.
Depression can also affect people who have chronic conditions such as cardiovascular issues (particularly following a major cardiac event), auto-immune conditions, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s or dementia), chronic inflammatory diseases such as Arthritis or back pain.
Interestingly, it’s also one of the key symptoms for people who have irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disorder.
So, how does depression actually function in the body and therefore impact the body?
There are various biochemical process that could be causing the low mood.
One of the more traditional neurotransmitters that are considered for depression is serotonin which is why often the first port of call of pharmaceutical medication is usually an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (medication that helps to increase levels of serotonin in the brain).
So this has long been the first call to action where someone presents with depression.
But as you will soon see Serotonin is only a small part of the biochemistry of depression and it still seems up for debate whether focusing on serotonin is the way to tackle it.
Evidence from the last 10 years or so also indicates that serotonin is an important energy regulator which is why fatigue may be a strong symptom of depression.
Long term it can cause damaging effects to the mitochondria (energy-producing part of every cell of our bodies) so may, in turn, make it really difficult to feel the energy to do any exercise which we now know is actually really good for not only our cardiovascular health but our brain health too.
Serotonin also impacts upon Glutamine and GABA receptors in the brain which essentially help to control the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters (literally think excite and inhibit).
In an otherwise healthy person, GABA is supposed to soothe and “de-stress” the brain, and often what can be seen in depression are low levels of GABA.
It has also been noted that in severely depressed people Glutamine levels may be elevated and this may be a contributing factor to compulsive type behavior or irrational hyper behavior sometimes associated with depression or other brain disorders. Pharmaceutical medication is usually prescribed where it is suspected that these neurotransmitters are being affected.
Stress is a major factor for triggering episodes of depression.
And let’s remember that stress is a biochemical process to factors such as physical stress (broken bone, surgery, tissue trauma), emotional stress (psychological), environmental stress (allergies, intolerance’s, pollutants/toxicity) so literally stress can come from anywhere and trigger the exact same biochemical mechanism in the body.
Stress unfortunately impact upon all of the above neurotransmitters in some way so figuring out ways to deal with stress is an absolute foundation to long term mood health.
Stress also promotes inflammation in the body and what is now known is that with depression inflammation can affect the parts of the brain causing key areas to lose their tight structure therefor impacting upon function.
The hippo-campus amygdala is affected impacting upon learning, memory and emotional context as well as the pre-frontal cortex involved in stable emotions and executive function. And this is where you can see some of the key symptoms associated with depression such as brain fog, irritability, crying without reason…
What can you do?
This article is in no way disputing the use of pharmaceutical medication.
It has its place for sure for some people to get some sense of normality so they can begin their road to feeling better.
So these suggestions should be regarded as complementary or integrative to what might already be prescribed.
Or, for those who are wanting to find a way to get off medication due to side effects or similar then please do try and of the following.
As I always say, a road to a healthier you means that nutrition is the absolute foundation for improving your long term health.
A diet that has reduced or no processed foods that is high in vegetables from all the colours, good quality protein (amino acids for neurotransmitters) and most importantly healthy dietary fats (essential for brain structure and function) will ensure that the body is getting the right range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are vital for gut health and brain health.
Turmeric and Essential Fatty Acids’s
As a potent and natural anti-inflammatory nutrient, turmeric has some really great new research in its use for depression and low mood and anxiety.
Use turmeric with a good quality Essential Fatty Acid Supplement such as Omega-3 Fish Oil or Flaxseed oil which is also crucial for supporting brain health.
Research indicates that magnesium deficiency may be a contributing factor to depression as it is involved in not only the structure of the brain, but function via neurotransmitters and also production of energy. There are some great publications showing how magnesium supplementation may have a positive effect for people with depression.
These are herbs that help to support adrenal function – that is stress – which will ultimately help with energy as well. These herbs are very good at “dampening” down the feelings of stress so may be helpful for anxiety also as well as giving the body some stamina to carry out normal daily activities.
St Johns Wort
There is some evidence to suggest that this herbal extract may support increased serotonin levels, therefore, helping with depression. It is certainly a popular product for this reason.
If a person is already taking an anti-depressant they should not take St John Wort.
This is another nutrient that may help to increase serotonin but again if a person is already taking an anti-depressant they should not take 5HTP at the same this.
Time product may also help with sleep because serotonin is involved in the sleep/wale cycle.
Different B Vitamins play a role in different ways in depression such as for neurotransmitter function, energy production, brain structure and more.
And of course, during time of stress the adrenal glands use up B-vitamins so deficiency may be a contributing factor in depression.
There is now a lot of evidence to show that in people with depression there is usually a vitamin D deficiency.
It is called the “sunshine” vitamin for a reason. In order for the body to make Vitamin-D from sunshine, the sun needs to be shining over 50 degrees above the horizon.
So, here in New Zealand, the sun does not shine over this minimum during March to September (North Island) and March to October (South Island).
Vitamin D is important for brain health and as food sources of vitamin D are very minimal, supplementation is essential during winter.
If you have any nutritional or supplementation questions around depression, come in and chat to our friendly staff or ask any questions over chat box.
If you need any other outside help or concerns don’t forget to contact places like:
Which have some great information regarding all aspects of depression.