The Following Article Is By Jon Barron Dated July 18, 2005
Why Do We Get Depressed In The First Place?
Depression is the body's way of forcing us to recognize that something is wrong. For a simplified explanation, if you set your hand on a hot burner, it burns the skin and sends painful signals to the brain, reminding us to remove our hand. Similarly, when we suffer a deeply emotional trauma or situation, the brain tells us to fix the problem and sends your brain "alerts" through a series of emotion reactions, one being depression. If the alerts continue, one can fall deeper into a depressed state until action is taken to prevent further emotional trauma.
It seems, however, that today's psychiatric community is too "impatient" to encourage us to go through this process naturally. According to health experts, they now define "major depression" as someone having "the blues" for more than two weeks. Right!! If anyone has had a death in the family, a major illness, a mid-sized financial set-back, or an emotional break-up -- which includes the entire population -- then according to health experts, all of us should be on antidepressant drugs at some point in our lives. (Geez, that should be good for sales.) The bottom line is that getting over a major life-altering situation in just two weeks is the exception rather than the rule.
Hey, if any of you are on antidepressants, or were at some time, it's not hard to understand why. Doctors and the mass media scare us with their statements such as "depression is associated with abnormal functioning of the brain." We are then bombarded with all the details about the deficient neurotransmitters in the brain and our dysfunctional synaptic cleft. Ahh! "Sounds like brain damage. Sure, give me some pills, quickly!" Wait a minute. They forgot to explain that we still have no conclusive evidence as to why people have the chemical imbalances in the first place. Did our brain just suddenly change or were there outside circumstances that caused it? Did our thoughts, reactions, and emotions cause the imbalance? Were nutritional factors involved? Did we suddenly experience a major hormonal change such as PMS or Post Partum Depression? If so, nine times out of ten there are other remedies available besides drugs -- remedies that do not share the devastating side effects associated with those drugs.
Instead of automatically popping a pill when we are sad, perhaps we should find ways to correct the underlying problem in our bodies so it can heal itself. It may take a true leap of faith, especially when the mind wants to focus on the negative, but the success after the fight of making ourselves content might be worth it. As some say, being happy is a choice! The more you work at it, the better you get.
I want to reiterate that this does not mean we should look at any problem as insignificant or that ignoring a feeling of sadness, confusion, exhaustion, or lack of interest in daily activities is going to make the feelings go away. Actually, ignoring depression could simply exacerbate the problem. An emotional injury is like a physical injury: it takes time and attention to heal. A walk on the beach, a laugh with a friend, or simply taking a deep breath can go a long way. We can also follow certain, more natural remedies to help our bodies heal. These include dietary modifications, daily exercise, supportive treatment with vitamins and minerals, and selective supplementation.
Vitamin And Mineral Therapy
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause depression and correcting these deficiencies is often a safe, fast, and inexpensive way to relieving depression. Note: alcohol, smoking, stress, and excess sugar accelerate the depletion of many key antidepressive vitamins and minerals from the body, as does depression itself. Isn't that a kick in the head: depression begets depression? Deficiencies in any of the following vitamins and minerals can contribute significantly to depression:
- Vitamin B6
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Trace Minerals
Supplementing with amino acids is also a way to help relieve depression. These include:
- SAMe S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe) is a naturally occurring amino acid found in every cell of the body. It has a wide range of benefits including protecting the liver and cardiovascular system. In addition, it has antidepressant action equal to and faster than FDA-approved drugs, and is essential for the synthesis of melatonin. It also assists with sleep disorders, particularly those which are induced by the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs.
- Phenylalanine Phenylalanine is an amino acid that is used by the body to make the neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is believed to be in short supply in the brains of people who are depressed. There is some evidence that taking in extra phenylalanine allows the brain to make more norepinephrine. There are several studies that indicate that phenylalanine may work as well as antidepressant drugs. Although the studies are inconclusive, the anecdotal evidence is strong, and there are virtually no known side effects, so it's worth trying.
- Theanine Anxiety is a close cousin to depression, and the two often go hand in hand. Many people report that L-theanine works as well as prescription anti-anxiety medications, but L-theanine is not addictive or habit-forming.
- 5-HTP 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body and is the final step in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. 5-HTP is special in that it can cross the blood brain barrier. It is extracted from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, an African tree that is grown mostly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The extraction process uses alcohol and produces an oily solid. The oily extract is then purified into a dry solid. 5-HTP can also be made synthetically in the laboratory. The final product is the same as the one made by the body. 5-HTP has gained huge popularity in the treatment of insomnia, depression and obesity (among other uses). Today, 5-hydroxytrptophan is considered a safe and effective treatment for these conditions.
For the vast majority of people bothered by stress or depression, a well designed herbal formula made from high quality herbs can prove remarkably effective. Look for an herbal formula that contains herbs such as:
- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) as a standardized extract and is licensed in Germany and other European countries as a treatment for mild to moderate depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. Sometimes called "Nature's Prozac," St. John's wort helps relieve stress, anxiety, and tension. In Germany, it is the most popular antidepressant, outselling Prozac 3-1.
More than 20 clinical studies have been completed using several different St. John's wort extracts. Most have shown antidepressant action equal to standard prescription antidepressant drugs, without the side effects. St. John's Wart is now being studied in the first U.S. government-sanctioned clinical trial, a three-year study sponsored by the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, based in Washington, D.C.
Probably the greatest testament to its efficacy is how it has been attacked in the press as "dangerous." The case against it is that it seems to heighten the dangers associated with MAO1 inhibitors, if you are currently using such drugs. But this is a marvelous piece of propaganda double-speak that transfers the danger from the antidepressants, where they belong, to St. John's wort, which merely brings those dangers to the fore. George Orwell would be proud!
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) extract is currently being used as an alternative for elderly patients with depression resistance to standard drug therapy. This is because depression is often an early sign of cognitive decline and cerebrovascular insufficiency in elderly patients. In one study, 40 patients, ages 51 to 78, with a diagnosis of resistant depression, were randomized to receive either Ginkgo biloba extract or placebo for eight weeks. Patients in the ginkgo group received 80 mg of the extract three times daily. During the study, patients remained on their antidepressant drugs. In patients treated with ginkgo, there was a decline in the median Hamilton Depression Scale scores from 14 to 7 after four weeks. This score further reduced to 4.5 after eight weeks. There was a one-point reduction in the placebo group after eight weeks. In addition to the significant improvement in symptoms of depression for the ginkgo group, there was also a noted improvement in overall cognitive function. No side effects were reported.
- Valerian Root For centuries, Valerian has been used to treat nervous tension and panic attacks. A wonderful herb, Valerian is calming and quieting to the nervous system.
- Kava Kava is the herb of choice to relax the body, relieve stress, to combat mild to moderate anxiety, and for relief from headache and back pain. Kava is now recognized by many doctors as an alternative to drugs like Xanax and Valium. (And, as might be expected for something that works so well, Kava kava is under false attack.)
- Lobelia is an extremely powerful anti-spasmodic and a sedative. It helps improve breathing dramatically by dilating the bronchial tubes -- great for asthmatics.
- Passionflower is remarkably effective as a sedative to calm nerves that get on edge.
- Black Cohosh First used by the American Indians, Black Cohosh works to soothe the body by reducing the rapidity of the pulse. Black Cohosh also works internally to help soothe any nervous disease or spasm.
- Skullcap, Hops, and Catnip Three herbs that have a long history as marvelously effective herbal tranquilizers, sedatives, and sleep aids.
- Mulungu Researchers have validated the traditional use of Mulungu for anxiety and stress, where it was shown to alter anxiety related responses.
And Let's Not Forget About Bio-Identical Hormones And The Role They Play In Your Health.
This is particularly important since women experience clinical depression twice as often as men. Over the years I have been recommending progesterone créme to women, it has picked up the nickname from many of them: "The Happy Créme." Any time progesterone levels drop such as during the monthly cycle, immediately after giving birth, or all the time if you are in a state of estrogen dominance, depression is a likely result. Using a good progesterone cr'me can provide an almost instant turnaround in attitude.
And while we are on the subject, lets talk about post partum depression. Its real. During the weeks leading up to birth, progesterone levels have soared to levels 10 to 20 times normal. No wonder women seem to glow during pregnancy. But immediately after birth, progesterone levels plunge to almost zero. No wonder so many women experience extreme, even psychotic levels of depression. Simple supplementation with progesterone créme will resolve the depression over 90% of the time. In fact, any doctor who recommends antidepressants for post partum depression without trying progesterone créme first, should be named as an unindicted co conspirator since they truly share the blame for any psychotic incidents that may result.
A growing body of evidence suggests that testosterone levels drop as much as 40% in men between their early 40s and early 70s. And for 10 to 15 percent of all men, those levels will dip below normal even as early as their 30s if there is stress, depression, personal life changes or medications. This in turn causes a decrease, not only in sexual desire and performance, but also in the competitive drive to succeed and accomplish in life -- which is frequently experienced as depression. In women, excessive estrogen in the body causes a reduction in testosterone levels, which leads to a similar decline in sexual desire and performance and a similar reduction in "life drive." Again, frequently experienced as depression.
In conclusion, depression can be common, but should not be taken lightly. A good, healthy program of daily exercise (which stimulates endorphins), low sugar foods, replacing depleted vitamins and minerals, and proper supplementation can go a long way to helping us feel better. And, it is not a bad idea to tell friends and family who have kids on antidepressants that simple dietary changes and supplementation may be all that's needed. Lastly, the mind is a powerful tool, and for those who are going through hard times, and if you haven't already done so, you might want to read Chapter 15 of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors (you can download a free copy at www.jonbarron.org) to see how you can reprogram the mind so that it more positively affects your body. And no matter what happens, remember: bad times eventually pass!
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