Depression is a common condition that often impairs day to day functioning. It is a mood disorder that affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression may require long term treatment and can often be managed by the use of herbal medicine, nutrition medicine, diet & lifestyle intervention and counselling.
What causes Depression?
The most common cause of depression is an imbalance of neurotransmitters including (commonly): serotonin, dopamine, GABA and noradrenaline. Other causes and contributing factors of depression (as listed below) are thought to cause depression by alternating and interfering with the functioning of these neurotransmitters.
Depression can also be caused by:
- Environmental influences (including financial distress, relationship problems, abuse and the passing of a loved one)
- Pre-existing conditions (for example, certain types of cancer)
- Prescription medications
- Recreational drugs
- Hormonal imbalances
- Nutrient deficiency
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Adrenal dysfunction, poor blood sugar regulation and hypothyroidism are also thought to play a role in depression
The signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest, motivation and pleasure
- Significant appetite or weight loss or weight gain (5% change)
- Insomnia or hypersomnia and changes in normal sleep pattern
- Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate every day
- Feeling of worthlessness
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
What are Neurotransmitters and how do they work?
Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body, they transmit signals throughout our nervous system (neurons or nerve cells) and have many actions from telling your heart to beat – to telling your stomach to digest. They typically affect our sleep, mood, weight and concentration.
When neurotransmitters are in balance, so is our body. But when they are out of balance conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia prevail. The neurotransmitters that are most important in the case of depression are Serotonin, dopamine, GABA, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
All of these neurotransmitters play a huge roll in mood, energy and motivation and thus it is easy to understand how a deficiency or imbalance in these can cause depression. These Neurotransmitters are produced by amino acids (the ‘building blocks’ of protein) Therefore, if there is a protein deficient diet (or a deficiency of the essential amino acids that our body cannot produce) there will often be issues with neurotransmitter production, efficiency and utilization.
Dietary tips for treating symptoms of depression.
Ensure that there is enough good quality protein in your diet; this includes organic sources of meat, dairy products, seafood, eggs and some nuts, seeds and legumes. If you are a vegetarian ensure that you are properly combing your proteins. The daily protein requirements are between 0.8-1.2gm of protein per kilogram of your body weight.
Essential Fatty Acids
Ensure there are enough essential fatty acids in your diet. The best source of these include oily fish, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Avoid anything that stimulates the nervous system or is toxic to the nervous system. This includes caffeine, alcohol, sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Be aware, treatments for acute depression can differ as the underlying cause may be unique to your situation. There are many herbal supplements, dietary and lifestyle choices, nutritional supplements and flower essences that are available to support depression and mood swings.
For quality advice on treating the cause of your depression, please talk to your Naturopath or health professional.
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Naturopath, Nutritionist & Medical Herbalist
Shani is our highly qualified and passionate Naturopath located in Mooloolaba. A member of the Complimentary Medicine Association of Australia, Shani has been successful in treating many conditions, both physical and emotional. Supporting her patients to create and maintain a balanced & healthy lifestyle.
Shani has experience is all aspects of Naturopathy with a special interest in:
- Stress Management
- Emotional Imbalances
- Poor Sleep patterns
- Immune Support & Correction
- Allergies & Diet