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by June Butlin(more info)

listed in depression, originally published in issue 32 - September 1998

Depression is a growing health problem and one of the least understood diseases. It affects adults and children of all ages and can be very serious. Untreated depression may lead to suicide, which in America, is the ninth leading cause of death and the third leading cause in teenagers.

There are two types of depression: reactive and endogenous. Reactive depression is understandable and is usually an appropriate response to a sudden life crisis. Symptoms may include: deep sadness, poor concentration, feeling out of control, frustration, helplessness, lethargy, nervousness and self- recriminations. Endogenous depression results has of the above symptoms, but is less understandable, as there appears to be no obvious cause.

Depression is linked with biochemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly Dopamine, Serotonin and Norepinephrine.

For example deficits in Serotonin can generate feelings of fatigue, despair and nervousness, and excess Norepinephrine can cause mania. This neurochemical connection has resulted in the creation of antidepressant drugs that doctors believe are the only effective means of treating depression. These drugs artificially keep an adequate supply of neurotransmitters available to brain cells to lift mood, optimism and tension.

Various drugs have been introduced since the 1950s, including: Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, Tricyclic Antidepressants and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. The SSRIs command a world market of about three billion pounds a year. The most popular, Prozac, is fast becoming the standard treatment for depression. Although these drugs are invaluable in some cases of serious depression, for short periods of time, all the categories of antidepressants have serious side effects. They produce withdrawal symptoms, interact detrimentally with other drugs, offer no long-term solution and 30% of people do not respond to any of these drugs. The drugs are also ineffective with children and young adults because the neurotransmitter systems have not matured in young children, and the hormonal activity in adolescents combats the effectiveness of the drugs.

If depression can be induced by a malfunction of the brain's chemistry it makes sense to look at nutritional modifications in the treatment of depression, both in terms of foods, and the physiological functioning of the body. The assimilation of quality nutrients is the only way to achieve the starter molecules for all the chemical reactions within the body.

An organic vegetarian/fish wholefood diet, accentuating foods containing vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folic acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, and Iron, should be followed and caffeine, tannin, alcohol, nicotine and sugar avoided. Amino acids, vitamins and minerals play a role in encouraging neurotransmitter synthesis, and many studies have shown that nutrients are as effective as drugs in producing beneficial results. Low levels of Norepinephrine will respond to Phenylalanine, Tyrosine, Methionine, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, Copper, Vitamin C, Folic acid and NADH. Serotonin defficiency will respond to Tryptophan, Vitamin B6 and Niacin. Herbal preparations such as Hypericum perforatum and Forskolin have also proven to be very effective in combating depression.

The key systems in understanding imbalances in physiological functioning are the digestive, metabolic, elimination, endocrine and immune systems:

Digestion – an inability to digest and absorb foods will lead to nutritional deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which are vital for neurotransmitter function. A toxic colon can produce substances such as Phenylethylamine, a rogue form of Phenylalanine, which can block neurotransmitter function.

Metabolism and Elimination – the urea cycle is the metabolic pathway for disposing of ammonia, the toxic substance from protein breakdown. If ammonia is not converted into urea and eliminated via the kidneys it leads to sub-optimum brain function.

Endocrine System – irregularities in the hypothalamus can cause hormonal problems and can affect blood glucose levels, thyroid function and the production of steroid hormones. These in turn can result in anxiety, depression and poor concentration.

Immune System – allergic reactions from yeast infections, a leaky gut wall and poor digestion can lead to immune responses causing disruption in brain chemistry and depression.

The nervous system itself needs a continuous supply of blood glucose, flexible cell membranes, oxygen and Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium to fire the nerve impulses.

The emotions are now scientifically proven to affect brain chemistry, as recorded in Candace B. Pert's excellent book, Molecules of Emotion. Researchers have found a link between depression and early childhood trauma. Individuals who have been subjected to trauma are more likely to be depressed in adulthood as their experiences are retained in their memories. They continue to release large amounts of a steroid called corticosterone which continues the stress response. Confronting the earlier trauma can reverse this process. The two main catalysts for this are being touched, hence the therapeutic benefits of "hands" on therapies. and feeling loved – possibly the most vital ingredient in any healing process. In the words of Emmet Fox:

"It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble;
How hopeless the outlook; how muddled the tangle;
How great the mistake.
A sufficient realisation of love will dissolve it all."

Ensuring that our bodies and minds are functioning at their optimum will greatly combat depression. We can influence the balance and harmony within the body are; relaxation, exercise, meditation, sunlight, breathing, managing stress, positive thinking, visualisation, spiritual issues and lifestyle factors. We also need to avoid pollutants, overly processed and chemically altered foods, the side effects of medical and recreational drugs and heavy metals.

* Next issue – a case study on anxious depression.

Books and Publications

Proof –Vol. 2 No. 1 – Depression: cutting through the darkness – Quarterly publication ISSN 1364 6931 Tel: 0171 354 4592
What Doctors Don't Tell You –Vol. 8 No. 11- Antidepressants – Monthly publication ISSN 1352 1241
WDDTY Guide to Mental Health Publication – Tel 0171 354 4592
Mental Health Not all in the Mind – Edited By Patrick Holford ION Press – 1975 – ISBN 1 870976 11 8
Depression and Natural Medicine – Rita Elkins – Woodland Publishing Inc. P.O.Box 160 Pleasant Grove Utah 84062 – 1995 – ISBN 1 885670 01 X
The Amino Revolution – Leon Chaitow ND DO – The Guernsey Press Co. Ltd – 1989 – ISBN 0 7126 1593 8
Molecules of Emotion – Candace B. Pert Ph.D. Simon and Schuster Ltd – 1998 ISBN 0 684 81981 3
The Healing Power of Foods – Michael T. Murray ND Prima Publishing PO Box 1260 BK Rocklin CA 95677 – 1993 – ISBN 1 55958 317 7


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About June Butlin

June M Butlin PhD is a trained teacher, nutritionist, kinesiologist, aromatherapist, fitness trainer and sports therapist. She is a writer, health researcher and lecturer and is committed to helping people achieve their optimum level of health and runs a private practice in Wiltshire. June can be contacted on 01225 869 284;


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