Five things doctors don’t tell you about depression

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Do you suffer from depression? People succumb to depression for different reasons. It’s important to look for the underlying cause of your depression. Consider these five:

1. Poor communication between brain cells

Depression happens when neurons in certain areas of the brain don’t communicate well with each other, or “fire.” This causes poor brain function and symptoms of depression.

Many factors cause poor firing in the brain, which I’ll talk about more in this article.

The primary question when you have symptoms of depression is, “What is causing neurons not to fire in areas of the brain associated with mood?”

2. Unstable blood sugar and depression

Blood sugar that is too low or too high can cause depression. Symptoms of low blood sugar include irritability or lightheadedness between meals, cravings for sweets, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., dependence on coffee or sugar for energy, becoming upset easily, and forgetfulness.

Symptoms of high blood sugar (insulin resistance) include fatigue after meals, constant hunger, cravings for sweets not relieved by eating them, constant thirst, frequent urination, difficulty falling asleep, and a big belly.

Both low and high blood sugar compromise the brain’s ability to stay fueled, with symptoms of depression often resulting.

The most common causes of unstable blood sugar are eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugar, skipping meals, and chronic overeating.

Sometimes relieving depression can be as easy stabilizing your blood sugar with a whole foods diet that consists primarily of produce and healthy fats and proteins, avoiding sweets and processed foods, and eating an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for your body.

3. Unhealthy gut

When gut health is bad, brain health suffers, often causing depression. If you have digestive problems, your gut may be playing a role in your depression.

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestine becomes overly porous, allows undigested food particles, yeast, bacteria, and other undesirable compounds to enter the sterile environment of the bloodstream.

Leaky gut triggers chronic inflammation in the gut, body, and brain, along with other health problems, such as food intolerances, pain, autoimmune disorders, skin issues, joint problems, and, of course, depression.

Also, too much bad gut bacteria (dysbiosis) has been directly linked with depression in studies. Many factors contribute to leaky gut and dysbiosis, including poor diet, alcohol, and chronic stress. Knowing what caused your gut problems will help you resolve them.

4. Poor circulation

If your fingers, toes, and nose are cold to the touch your brain may not be receiving enough oxygen due to poor circulation.

Other symptoms of poor circulation include weak nails, fungal nail infections, low brain endurance, and cramping in the hands and feet.

Low circulation deprives the brain of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients. Factors that cause low circulation include anemia, chronic stress, hypothyroidism, low blood pressure, smoking, and blood sugar imbalances.

5. Autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation

Autoimmune diseases — when the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue — can cause depression. Examples include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Chronic inflammation, such as in chronic joint pain, gut problems, or skin rashes, is also linked with depression.

These disorders inflame the brain, which hampers function and can cause depression.

The brain is also a surprisingly common place for an autoimmune reaction to take place, causing myriad symptoms including depression.

Don’t assume your depression is caused by an antidepressant deficiency. It’s best to discover the underlying causes and address those first. Ask my office for more information.

Moody and need meds or just a healthy, normal female?

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Do you feel you need anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications, or has your doctor said you do? Although true depression or anxiety disorders need management, many women are misled into believing they need treatment for what is actually normal behavior. Women are designed to be sensitive to their environments, emotionally in tune with their children and loved ones, and intuitive — traits that ensure survival. Women are also wired to express emotions and to pick up on the emotions of others.

Unfortunately, emotionality is not socially acceptable despite being a sign of good health in women. What is not so healthy is the constant pressure to apologize for and restrain emotionality for fear of being regarded as weak or hysterical.

Pharmaceutical companies, astute in the psychology of selling, spin this into sales targeted at women. In ads for antidepressants  93 percent feature a woman, usually a lonely single woman or stressed-out single mom. One in four American women take an antidepressant compared to one in seven men.

Women are more likely than men to express negative feelings through sadness and worry, which can be interpreted as a psychiatric disorder requiring medication. Men are more prone to express negative feelings as anger or through substance abuse, which are not as easy to address pharmaceutically.

Furthermore, when we paint depression and anxiety as women’s problems, men truly suffering from these problems are more likely to go overlooked. Women are almost twice as likely than men to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety.

Is it a lifestyle issue or a true disorder?

Many women turn to prescription drugs to help them manage feeling that are actually natural responses to unnatural stressors: chronic sleep deprivation, too little time outdoors, unhealthy diets, social isolation, over exposure to toxins and electric light, and over packed schedules. The human animal simply wasn’t designed to live optimally in today’s highly artificial, stressed-out environment.

Again, this is not meant to dismiss or minimize genuine depressive or anxiety disorders. But is your state of mind a reasonable response to your situation or a mental disorder? For instance, crying  which is seen as a sign of weakness, is actually a healthy way for many women to express sadness, frustration, fear, or other strong emotions. Women who take SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) find it’s difficult to cry. They also experience more apathy and indifference.

Natural approaches to sadness and worry

Unfortunately, we can’t wave a magic wand and remove the stressors from life. However, it’s helpful and important to prioritize basic biological needs: plenty of sleep, good nutrition, healthy socialization, physical activity, and time outdoors.

Also, many natural compounds can address brain chemical imbalances to help boost your mental well being and function. Adrenal adaptogens are herbs that help buffer the effects of stress on your body and brain. Dietary strategies that balance blood sugar and tame inflammation can also result in profound improvements in mood.

It’s also important, though, to know that what you’re experiencing may just be a part of being that finely tuned emotional instrument known as a woman.