5 min|Dr. Taylor Green
Supporting Depression and Mental Health Through Integrative MethodsWellness, Nutrition, Mind Health, Health, Gut Health, Heart Health
Embracing inner resilience with natural remedies
Please note: Depression is a serious medical condition and can require medical attention. If you suffer from depression, please call your health care provider for diagnosis and a treatment plan that works for you.
With the days being shorter and darker, it is not uncommon for many of us to feel a dip in our mood. It is completely normal, even healthy to feel sad, as life naturally has its ups and downs. In fact, our ability to fully experience our emotions is imperative to letting them go and processing the world around us. However, when these feelings of depression persist and begin to negatively affect our functioning and relationships, it is okay to seek help.
Despite that fact that depression is one of the most common mood disorders, the stigma surrounding mental health is still very much real and prevents up to one half of those suffering with the condition to seek help and thus suffer in silence. It’s something our society often tip toes around – avoiding its proper acknowledgement due to a lack of understanding.
Symptoms of depression
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, pessimism
- Lack of motivation or loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
- Weight gain or loss
- Body pain & headaches
- Irritability & anxiety
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Digestive problems
- Suicidal tendencies
What causes depression?
Its cause is a complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality, and environmental influences. Contributing factors include:
- Gut dysbiosis: Most of our neurotransmitters are produced by bacteria in our GI from the food we eat. In fact, up to 95% of serotonin is made in the gut.
- Genetic predisposition: mutations in methylation pathways hinder adequate methylation, which is needed to make neurotransmitters and hormones necessary for healthy mood.
- Nutrient deficiencies: low levels of B12, iron, essential fatty acids, folate, magnesium, and vitamin D are associated with mood disorders
- Thyroid and other hormonal issues
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Medications & antibiotics, recreational drugs, alcohol use, caffeine
- Food sensitivities & allergies, particularly gluten and processed sugars
- Environmental toxins
- Chronic stress
- Childhood and significant adult trauma
Naturopathic Treatment Options
The primary goals in the treatment of depression are to restore the nervous system, correct hormonal and nutritional imbalances, and reduce inflammation & toxic load.
A balanced mind starts with a balanced diet. Focusing on lean protein, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables provide the nutritional building blocks needed for a healthy mood. Remove foods that trigger inflammation and cause blood sugar fluctuations such as refined sugars, trans fats, vegetable & seed oils, processed meat, and excessive alcohol. Identifying food sensitivities is important as these cause chronic low-grade inflammation and contribute to a leaky gut. Wild fish are particularly high in omega-3 fats and vitamin D. Pumpkin seeds, poultry, eggs, leaky greens are rich in vitamins and minerals such as zinc and tryptophan. Fermented foods contain probiotics for a happy gut flora. See nutritionist, Rhiannon Lytle’s blog for more diet tips!
The most under-utilized antidepressant! It releases “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Numerous studies have shown that exercise is equally effective as antidepressant medications in mild – moderate depression.
Nature for Nurture
Just 20 minutes of time spent in nature is enough to significantly impact our mood, and reduce cortisol levels (our primary stress hormone). These benefits continue to last for hours after the nature experience. 30 minutes of sunlight exposure also helps to boost our vitamin D levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids with a high EPA:DHA ratio (at least 60% EPA) have been shown again and again to have a dramatic effect on mood disorders. Zinc acts as a cofactor for over 100 enzymatic pathways in the body and aids in proper neurological communication. SAM-e, B12, B6, and folate supplementation may be options for those with methylation abnormalities or with dietary deficiencies. L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, and L-tyrosine are amino acids that are precursors to serotonin and dopamine. Additionally, vitamin D is a key player in hormone function, with many of us being deficient living at a northern latitude.
St. John’s Wort has been traditionally used as a natural anti-depressant for years. Other herbs include lemon balm, passionflower, ginseng, Ashwagandha and rhodiola. Note: St John’s Wort should never be used in conjunction with pharmacological antidepressants.
Decreases stress, pain, and restores the nervous system.
Meditation & Practicing Gratitude
Meditation up-regulates serotonin and GABA levels to promote positive mood, inducing a state of calm and allowing for perspective. Practicing gratitude by dedicating a few minutes each day to write down what you’re grateful for and why.
Reach out to a friend, family member, or health care provider. Social support and a sense of community are imperative to our mental wellbeing. Take up hobbies and activities that give you a sense of purpose and joy.
So, let’s open the conversation and lift the taboos that surround mental health.
This way we can begin to expel the myths and misconceptions of depression. It is only then that those suffering with depression can truly feel safe in being honest with themselves and others about their condition and effectively work towards reclaiming their mental, emotional, and physical health. Know your options and contact a Naturopathic Doctor for an individualized treatment plan appropriate for you.
- Brogan, K. (2017). A Mind of your Own. Harperwave.
- Gaby, A. (2017). Nutritional Medicine. Conrod, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.
- Just 20 minutes of contact with nature will lower stress hormone levels, reveals new study. (2019, April 4). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedailiy.com/releases/2019/04/190404074915.htm
- Netz, Y. (2017). Is the Comparison Between Exercise and Pharmacologic Treatment of Depression in the Clinical Practice Guideline of the American College of Physicians Evidence-Based? Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8. Doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00257
- Okereke, O.I., Reynolds, C. F., Michoulon, D., Chang, G., Cook, N.R., Copeland, t, …Manson, J. E. (2018). The VITamin D and omega-3 TriaL-Depression Endpoint Prevention (VITAL-DEP): Rationale and design of a large-scale ancillary study evaluating vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplements for prevention of late-life depression. Contemporary Clinical Trials, 68, 133-145. Doi: 10.1016/j.cct2018.02.017
Dr. Taylor Green
Dr. Taylor Green has always been fascinated by the intricacies of nature, the human body and health sciences. For her, health is not defined by the absence of disease, but the balance between mind, body, and environment.