The most common prescription drug used for depression is a type of anti-depressant called a Specific Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). These drugs work by inhibiting your brain cells from using the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin, too quickly. They also have many serious side effects and in my opinion very limited success. One of the most serious side effects from an SSRI is increased risk of suicide! Not exactly the results you were looking for, right?
Many people have experienced benefit from using 5-HTP to increase the brain's production of serotonin. 5-HTP has been shown to provide significant improvements in depression, equivalent to or better than prescription anti-depressants and with fewer, much more mild side effects, if any. Our version of 5-HTP, called 5-HTP Power also contains some adaptogenic herbs and other nutrients to enhance brain and body function.
But I also have to question, why are the neurotransmitters out of balance to begin with? With a little research we find that serotonin is found not only in the central nervous system but also the gastro-intestinal tract. In fact, 80% of the serotonin in the body is found in the digestive tract where it is produced by cells lining the intestinal walls.
Many other nutrient deficiencies are connected with depression including Vitamin A, the B-Vitamins, Vitamin D, zinc, etc. Coincidentally these are the very same nutrients that are missing when the digestive system in out of balance. How do you know whether your digestive system is out of balance? You would experience any number of digestive discomforts including gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, pain in the lower abdominal area, bad breath, tooth problems and more. By addressing these digestive issues you can get at the root cause of the depression rather than only treating the symptoms.
Cholesterol levels that are too low are another often ignored cause of depression. Despite what many doctors will tell you, the research shows that high cholesterol is only a risk factor (and a very weak risk factor at that) for men under the age of 50 with cholesterol levels over 300 points. For everyone else, high cholesterol levels are actually associated with greater longevity and less risk of cancer. And the side effects to artificially lowering blood cholesterol levels through the use of statin drugs are depression, reduced libido, increased risk of suicide, and more. Cholesterol is needed by the body to produce many important hormones including the neurotransmitters in the brain!
Vitamin D deficiency is another common cause of depression. Most people will tell you to just get out into the sun and your body will produce all the vitamin D you need. But did you know that your body will only produce one type of Vitamin D from sun exposure and it is formed out of cholesterol? Even then, here in the northern latitudes it is difficult to get enough exposure to adequately provide for the body's needs. It is much better, and in some cases crucial, to supplement with vitamin D in the diet. You also need to make sure that you are getting the proper ratio of vitamin A to Vitamin D as either one can be toxic without the other to balance it. The ratio of Vitamin A to Vitamin D should be 10 to 1. This can be easily acquired through a supplement of high vitamin cod liver oil. Unfortunately most commercial forms of cod liver oil are devoid of Vitamin D due to the processing technique. There is only one company that I am familiar with that has the proper Vitamin A to D ratio and that is the only brand we carry at Elder & Sage.
For more information on how to improve your health naturally call us at 616-242-1355 to set up an appointment.
Dr. Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND