The Quick Fix to Happiness

“Unhappiness will only last as long as we let it”

In this age of high speed technology and life in general we have all grown accustomed to expecting instant results and gratification.  There are many claims that indulge this desire for instant relief and we usually buy into them but are often times disappointed by the results.  Promises like, “take this pill and you will lose weight within days”, “take this one week coarse and you will be rich in a month,” ‘Use this product and you will instantly have the home of your dreams,” “use this cream and your wrinkles will miraculously disappear, and most appealing but concerning is the claim that if you take a pill you won’t feel depressed.

Depression is a medical illness, just like heart disease or cancer, not a flaw in character or a weakness and just like any other illness we need to explore underlying causes.  The first step however, in preventing depression and often the most difficult is to recognize the symptoms.  The symtomtology often associated with depression will vary in severity and duration; impaired concentration, inability to experience pleasure, increase self-critical thoughts, sleep disturbance (insomnia or excessive sleeping), fatigue or loss of energy, decrease or increase of appetite, feelings of guilt, helplessness and or hopelessness, thoughts of suicide, increased isolation, change in personality.

If someone experiences 5 or more of the above symptoms for more than two weeks they may be silently suffering from depression. These psychological factors contributing to depression can be so overwhelming that an individual may feel powerless and believes there are no other options available but to take a pill to make it go away.

Although the medical advancements in mental health have been encouraging and for the most part beneficial to the health and wellness of society it is our insatiable need for a quick fix that we have, as a culture, overused prescription medicine as a panacea for unhappiness.   Rodger Murphree, D.C. sighted that “1 in 3 doctor visits by women now involve a prescription for an antidepressant medication, And 1 in 10 American women take at least one antidepressant drug.  Americans now spend more money on antidepressants than the Gross National Product of two-thirds of the world’s countries.”

It is important to note that I am not saying that the use of anti-depressants are not an appropriate and effective therapeutic intervention for the debilitating symptoms associated with depression but that through our overuse we may be overlooking other contributing factors and options that could eliminate the symptoms of depression. It is wrong for us to assume that when we are feeling sad or anxious that the problem is isolated to our brain.   An imbalance in our brain chemistry can occur due to various reasons and therefore we do ourselves a tremendous disservice to only treat depression with antidepressants and not to explore other contributing factors.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a gage to warn us that we are running low on a particular nutrient just as a car let’s us know that a component of the its mechanics/fluids need attention. And how interesting that when the red light brightens our dashboard we tend to panic and get the car in for service right away.  Unfortunately our “red lights” show up with signs and symptoms that can be so vague often times they are completely overlooked until one day we find ourselves in health crisis.  One body system compensates for another until the body becomes so depleted and challenged to the point of frank illness/sickness. There is overwhelming research supporting the importance of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids for mental health.

An article titled “Vitamin B Complex in Human Nutrition” authored by Dr. Judith DeCava, PhD, discuses the lengthy list associated with B vitamin deficiency.  B vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B12 and Folic acid.  “At the top was mild to severe depression”.  The list went on:  “forgetfulness, vague fears, uneasiness to panic, mood swings, rage, morbid thoughts, hostility, restlessness, apprehensions, constant feeling that something dreadful is going to happen, suspicions, instability, anxiety, mental confusion, noise sensitivity, inability to handle stress, hearing noises, loss of memory, nervousness”, not to mention the physiological components of vitamin B deficiency. Inositol, another part of the B vitamin, is remarkably effective against depression and panic attacks.  Being water soluble, B Vitamins are not stored in the body, therefore, it uses what’s available, what’s not used is eliminated. The adrenal glands need huge amounts of B5 and B6 to deal with stress.  Anyone not have stress?

Vitamin C deficiency has also been associated with chronic depression, fatigue and vague ill health.  Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is being considered by some researchers as being more of a hormone than a vitamin.  Studies have shown that people who live in the northern parts of the country, (latitude north of Atlanta Georgia) are more prone to experiencing depression. Taking a walk for 20 minutes a day allows the body to make its own vitamin D.

The mineral deficiencies related to depression include magnesium that can contribute to confusion, apathy, weakness and insomnia.  Calcium deficiency can affect the central nervous system, producing symptoms of nervousness, apprehension, irritability and numbness.  Zinc can also produce the previously mentioned symptoms, and if copper in the body increases to toxic levels this can result in paranoia and fearfulness.

Depression can also be a symptom of chronic iron deficiency.  Manganese is needed for the proper utilization of the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C.  What an web of interactions between nutrients!

Omega III fish oil has been making the press in nutrition publications for its role in mental health.  When looking at fish oil, the label usually reads “EPA/DHA”.  The EPA works wonders on inflammation, the DHA is brain food.  A study by the National Institute of Health points that low levels of Omega III as a factor in the risk for depression.  Studies point to a possible links between low DHA and memory loss, visual disorders and other various neurological dysfunctions. Aside of nutritional deficiencies, other consideration should be ruled out.

A condition that needs to be ruled out is low blood sugar.  A study, by Stephen Gyland, M.D., found that of twelve hundred hypoglycemic patients, 86% were depressed.  The signs and symptoms of Hypoglycemia and Depression are one in the same.  Both conditions exhibited nervousness, irritability, exhaustion, depression, drowsiness, insomnia, constant worrying, mental confusion, rapid pulse, internal trembling, forgetfulness, headache and unprovoked anxieties. Proper management of hypoglycemia via diet can make a tremendous difference.

A healthy digestive tract function can assure proper assimilation of nutrients.  In consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD) high in refined carbohydrates and low in protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber and essential fatty acids (fish oil) the digestive tract can become putrefied.  Once this happens proper absorption of nutrients becomes increasingly difficult.  Another factor to consider is the overgrowth of yeast, also known as Candida.  The patient with this condition has a long history of repeated antibiotic use, and is prone to yeast infections or oral thrush   Yeast produces a byproduct that is very neurotoxic to the brain.  People with this problem appear depressed, tired, anxious and spacey.  They tend to crave refined carbs and unfortunately fall into a vicious cycle of a deeply stemmed yeast infection being fed by the craving for refined carbs.

Amino acids, found in protein, serve as neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers between the brain cells. The functions of neurotransmitters govern our emotions, memory, moods, behavior, sleep and learning abilities.  Again, proper digestive tract function is vital for assimilation of these amino acids.

The overlap of symptoms of vitamin/mineral deficiency can make it difficult to pinpoint the exact nutrient deficiency.  Having a balanced diet, taking a good multivitamin/mineral formula, getting adequate protein for the essential amino acids and taking fish oil can help minimize the symptoms of nutrient deficient depression. If symptoms persist, rule out a blood sugar problem. Also consider testing the amino acid status to determine what makes your body chemistry tick. There are FDA approved specialty labs, that can measure the EPA/DHA levels in the body. Testing for Candida is also available.  Take a proactive step to improve your health!

Our intention for the reader is to look beyond the diagnosis of depression and to consider that perhaps there are underlying health issues contributing to his/her depression.  Depression is a serious condition and measures to ensure treatment are vital, be it with medication and/or counseling.  Take a good look at yourself and consider if a nutritional evaluation  wouldn’t be of benefit to you.

Colleen Stroup, LPC, NCC owner of Orchard Hills Counseling Center,  is a licensed and national certified psychotherapist.  Her counseling philosophy is one of wellness with an emphasis on teaching people to thrive and be successful.  Elia Acuna, D.C., DACBN is a chiropractor and is certified by the American Clinical Board of Nutrition.  She is owner of Achieve Health Chiropractic and Clinical Nutrition located at 111 East Indiana Ave. Maumee Ohio.  Office hours are by appt.  (419) 740-3099.

This information is for educational purposes and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.