Depression and anxiety have undoubtedly affected all of us at some point in life. Whether it be a friend, a loved one, or from personal experience, they are issues that affect millions of people daily. In fact, depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Before my wellness journey began, long bouts of depression were not uncommon for me and I have struggled with anxiety for my entire life. The symptoms can be debilitating, both mentally and physically, and it can feel like moving mountains to get anything done. While modern medicine has its time and place, the side effects that come with ever-profitable antidepressants can often outweigh their benefits. Now here’s the good news: there are natural remedies for depression and anxiety that can truly alleviate your symptoms. The key is finding the true cause of the chemical imbalance. Here’s what could be at the root:
- Your microbiome is imbalanced.
You may be familiar with the new buzz phrase, ‘gut-brain connection’— and its popularity is for a good reason. Your microbiome is a complex yet delicate ecosystem of over one thousand species of bacteria lining your entire digestive system; yet is responsible for so much more than digestion alone. Not long ago, neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA were thought to be made solely in the brain. Recently, these chemicals were found to be produced primarily in the gut. It’s estimated that around 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. What does this mean? An imbalance of bacteria (too much of the harmful bacteria and not enough of the beneficial) can cause your gut to send alerts to your brain that something is amiss—in the form of depression symptoms.
- Your thyroid isn’t functioning adequately.
Your thyroid gland is responsible for secreting hormones that regulate a whole slew of vital processes, including energy levels and metabolism, and it’s imperative to your body’s overall well-being. When your thyroid gets out of whack, you may very likely start to feel, well—whack! Before getting to the root of my health issues, I experienced symptoms of chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, and constant brain fog that I eventually found to be linked to my overactive thyroid. An underactive thyroid can also result in many negative mental health symptoms, and it is continuously linked to depression.
- It’s a nutrient deficiency (or two).
Vitamins B12, D, and Iron are all common culprits when it comes to deficiencies that can trigger depression symptoms. B12 plays a starring role in nerve function and mood regulation. Vitamin D has a range of essential functions, including regulating mineral levels in the blood and maintaining dense bones. Iron is vital in getting oxygen to your cells. A deficiency in one or more of these nutrients can lead to a lack of those “happy” chemicals, resulting in a feeling of lethargy, weakness, and a severe dip in motivation and energy.
- Your blood sugar is unstable.
Your body is constantly working hard to regulate your blood sugar tightly. A dozen different hormones influence these levels, and your diet and lifestyle do, too. Excess sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause a sharp spike in blood sugar, while excessive drinking, hormone deficiencies, and certain medications can lead to dangerously low blood sugar. Since the brain runs on glucose, blood sugar fluctuations can quickly result in depressive symptoms.
- You’re drinking too much.
Many of us are over-drinking without intending to (especially in these stressful COVID times). One standard drink is considered a 1 oz shot of spirits, one beer at 4% alcohol, or a glass of wine just under six ounces. The US Department of Health and Human Services suggests no more than one standard drink per day for women and two for men. In the long term, drinking much more than this can dull specific brain receptors, requiring more neurotransmitters to feel normal. Without the extra neurotransmitters, both anxiety and depression symptoms can begin to take over.
- It’s in your genes
With an estimated 30,000 genes in the human genome, mutations are bound to exist, and they aren’t uncommon. One such gene mutation, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), produces an essential enzyme that catalyzes mood-regulating neurotransmitter production. Recent studies have found a link between the MTHFR mutation and depression, and some researchers suggest screening for the gene in patients with depression. In some cases, folate supplementation may be a good option for MTHFR mood disorders.
Being a holistic nutritionist, I believe that to be truly healthy, all areas of health and well-being need nurturing. That includes the mental and emotional areas of life. Feeling down, angry, fearful, or tearful is normal from time to time. These emotions are part ofcome with being human, and working through them rather than around them is essential for healing. Depression in the long-term, however, is its own beast. The ongoing debilitating symptoms can be your body’s way of alerting you that an area of your health needs attention and care. That’s why finding your root is essential in the management of symptoms and overall wellness.
If you suspect nutrient deficiencies or hormone imbalance are a potential cause of your symptoms, I suggest you speak with your doctor about specific testing. If you suspect it could be any of the other causes, I invite you to book a one-on-one session with me, where we can do a deeper dive into your history and partner on your wellness journey to vibrant, energized living!
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional before starting any treatment.