We are currently living in a world that will never be the same ever again. Covid-19 has taken the world by storm, and not in a good way. There are some of us who are blessed to be isolated from the world with our loved ones but others who are completely alone. Everyone in the world is dealing with this differently and everyone is in a different situation, either a happy one or a not so happy one. The rate of depression is increasing daily and there’s no surprise why. I thought that I would briefly touch on Depression as the world currently needs to know all they can about it.
Depression is known as a psychological condition which is characterized by negative feelings ranging from general sadness to complete despair. Using clinical guidelines, depression can be categorized into different forms. There are a lot of factors that can influence depression and the most common mode of treatment is psychoactive drugs that alter one’s brain chemistry to treat the underlying causes. Luckily for us, there are alternative treatment methods such as behavioural therapy, hormone restoration and natural options including B-vitamins and L-tryptophan which may help to alleviate the symptoms.
What are the risk factors?
Conventional risk factors – Genetics, trauma, comorbid conditions and a lack of social exposure.
Biological risk factors – Hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, oxidative stress, insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.
How do I know I have depression?
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. You have consistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, loss of interest in things and activities, irritability, feeling hopeless or worthless or both, having suicidal thoughts, changes in your sleep patterns, fatigue, inability to sleep, loss of appetite or overeating, neurotransmitter imbalances and difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that there are numerous people walking around feeling this way but don’t show it at all. They carry these feelings all on their own and pretend like everything is ok. Often, the person that is the loudest in the room is the most quiet on the inside.
Types of Depression?
Major Depressive Disorder – A combination of symptoms prevent the patient from functioning the way they normally would. They begin to struggle to sleep, study, work, eat, and enjoy previously pleasurable activities. This disorder can be once-off or recurring.
Dysthymia (Dysthymic Disorder) – This is also known as chronic mild depression and the symptoms aren’t as severe as major depression, but the patient can still not function normally. This usually lasts over two years and one can also experience episodes of major depression.
Psychotic Depression – This includes hallucinations, delusions, or withdrawal from reality and is a severe depressive illness.
Postpartum Depression – This type of depression affects between 10-15 % of women after giving birth. A lot of people confuse this with ‘baby blues’ which a mother may feel briefly after giving birth. This type of depression is characterized by a major depressive episode within the first few weeks after giving birth. Sadly a lot of women go untreated and lack support.
Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) – With this type of depression one experiences intense highs and then intense lows in their mood.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – This increases with the increase in distance from the equator. Depressive symptoms usually develop in winter and are gone during summer. A contributing factor is usually a Vitamin D deficiency.
How would one treat depression?
There are several classes of medications that can be used to treat depression. Most antidepressants work by altering the signalling within the brain. Antidepressants do improve one’s mood, but they do so temporarily and artificially. When using antidepressants, you run the risk of the brain adapting to their presence, which leads to the need for a stronger dose and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
Another treatment that is used widely for the treatment of depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This type of therapy is usually reserved for patients who have suicidal tendencies, psychotic depression or have not responded to other treatments.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is another treatment method used in treating depression. This type of treatment is based on the belief that depression is closely linked to negative thinking, and the goal of this treatment method is to replace negative thinking with positive thinking.
Physical activity definitely works well in the treatment of depression as it helps to boost the mood by releasing endorphins which are our happy hormones. Some studies have shown it to be as effective, if not more effective, as medication.
Eating away depression?
Diet plays a role in depression? What!
Surprisingly, various aspects of your diet can affect depression. If you consume too many foods containing omega 6’s, there is an increase in inflammation in the body which plays a role in depression. Ideally, one should stick to the RDA of omega 6’s and increase the amount of omega 3’s in the diet, as they play a role in mood management. If you are not sure how many of each you are consuming, rather use a supplement in order to manage your amounts exactly. Omegas can help address depression symptoms as well as help prevent reoccurrence. Foods which are high in omega-3’s include salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, as well as flax seeds, and some nuts.
Limiting sugar intake in order to keep blood sugar levels stable is also a great approach when treating depression.
Diets that focus on reducing inflammation are beneficial in the treatment of depression and are beneficial to the entire body in general.
Supplementing for depression
Magnesium is a coenzyme for enzymes in the body, and is important for blood sugar regulation and calms the nervous system. You can find this in green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and seafood.
L-tryptophan depletion can cause depression in humans and is essential for the brain to synthesize serotonin. You can find this in salmon, poultry, eggs, spinach, seeds, milk, soy and nuts.
Folic acid is a bit of a two in one as it relieves depression on its own and enhances the effect of antidepressants as well. You can find folic acid in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, breads, cereals, rice and pasta.
Vitamin B12 consumption should be taken into consideration in the event of depression as a deficiency can be a reversible cause of depression among other disorders. Vitamin b12 is found naturally in animal products.
Vitamin B6 is a coenzyme for the production of most neurotransmitters, but it is especially essential for the synthesis of serotonin as well as enhancing one’s mood. You can find Vitamin b6 in pork, poultry, fish, bread, wholegrains, eggs and vegetables.
Antioxidants have shown to help buffer nerve cell damage and also serve other functions in brain health. You can find antioxidants in prunes, berries, walnuts, green tea and pecans.
Curcumin is a phytochemical derived from turmeric and has a positive influence on one’s mood.
St. John’s wort is a medicinal herb which is regularly used to manage neurological and psychiatric disorders, including depression. It has shown to normalize an overactive hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and stress response.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient involved in brain function and a deficiency of this nutrient has been linked to depression. You can find Vitamin D in fatty fish, foods fortified with vitamin D, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
Zinc is known to regulate the nervous system and studies have shown that the lower your zinc levels the worse your depression can be. You can find zinc in oysters, crab, lobster, meat, poultry, mushrooms, kale, legumes and whole grains.
Depression is a very personal thing, and people have a right to decide which method of treatment works best for them. Unfortunately, depression treatment is not a one size fits all, what works for one person may not work for another. Especially now, we need to look out for depression symptoms and reach out to those around us in order to identify depression and help each other get through it. If you have depression or know someone who does, seek out help in order to find your positive path of happiness.