This condition of the mind is not simply a state of mind. Mind and body are a whole, part of the human organism, physically and chemically. What happens down below is mirrored by the functioning of the mind, what happens up above is driven by the body.
Depression, and with it anxiety, is a condition that is becoming more and more common, in most western countries, in many age strata. It often impairs normal life, it leads to lack of sleep, and this in turn entails more brain dysfunction. Recently a research found that lack of sleep compromises the ability of the brain (managed by the amygdala) to regulate emotions and biases cognitive processing. In fact sleep has a vital role in maintaining a good emotional balance in life. Most of the daytime events and stresses and micro-traumas are processed during the deep phase of sleep and people who do not sleep properly and swims in and out of light sleep cannot achieve this “cleansing” process and accumulate negative effects from the bad experiences of the day.
Depression and anxiety, as well as insomnia, are usually treated with psychotropic drugs, which come with a heavy load of side effects among which are memory loss and cognitive impairment.
It is now suggested that depression, along with other mental conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s, is due to a condition of inflammation of the brain. Inflammation and its brother oxidation are natural processes that intervene in the body as repair mechanisms, but when over-stimulated - by over damage created by toxins, stress, food - can become dangerous (http://www.puravita.co.nz/#!Oxidation-explained/c1phc/54f39f460cf252098041fb0b). Most chronic diseases, and even cancer, are now considered by many scientists as being caused by the process of inflammation.
What causes inflammation to the brain? Infections, stress, toxins in the environment, bad food, i.e. trans-fats, an imbalanced equilibrium of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids, rancid fats, additives and refined sugars among the biggest culprits. However, a lack of basic nutritional components such as some amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), vitamins and minerals can be a cause of food-driven depression not only because of inflammation but becuse they also lead to deficiency of important co-factors in the production of neurotransmitters (the communicators of neurons and the regulators of the brain function).
For example, vegans and vegetarians would be at risk to becoming deficient in serotonin (the good mood hormone-neurotransmitter) because they lack one of its precursors, tryptophan, which is found in animal products such as egg, meat, fish. Lack of serotonin would lead to depression but also to sleep difficulties since melatonin, the sleep hormone, is produced from serotonin. Lack of melatonin entails also brain inflammation, since it is normally works as antioxidant for this major organ.
The process is self-reinforcing: lack of proper food leading to depression and lack of natural anti-oxidants, which in turn would increase the inflammation of the brain and worsen depression….
Depression can be caused also by lack of another co-factor, tetrahydrobiopterin, which is involved in the synthesis of both serotonin, melatonin and dopamine (the other happiness hormone-neurotransmitter). For the production of tetrahydrobiopterin, vitamins B9, B12 and C are needed.
Other components of serotonin that are at risk of being under-assumed with food are vitamin B6, iron (also often at deficiency levels in vegetarians and vegans) and copper. Serotonin is also produced in the gut, therefore a good gut microbiota health is necessary to prevent depression.
Also stress causes oxidation and inflammation, by overproducing adrenaline and noradrenaline, which can deplete the reserves of vitamins B3 and C, and as a consequence become oxidized and toxic to the brain, causing depression.
Thus, if the inflammation comes from the food we eat (or do not eat) and the environment we live in, and inflammation causes brain dysfunction and depression, then the solution is not in synthetic drugs, which come with loads of toxins that need to be cleaned by the liver, the skin, the lungs. It has been shown also that the most popular antidepressants cause more depression and suicidal thoughts and do not have clinically significant benefits compared to placebos.
The solution is to be found in natural, unprocessed, fresh food rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for both making the neurotransmitters our brain works with and the antioxidants to protect the brain itself from oxidation and inflammation.
Omega 3 found in fatty fish and flax seeds are great anti-oxidants for the brain.
Curcumin found in turmeric is also an excellent anti-oxidant and neuroprotective. It also enhances the production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which modulates creation of synpasis (connections among neurons), neurons genesis and growth. Curcumin can modulate this BDNF as well as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine and thus is involved in mood and behavior regulation and can be as effective as psychotropic drugs. Turmeric should be eaten along with pepper and fats in order to enhance its absorption.
The most well known antidepressant herb is St. John’s wort, along with Lavender and Oats.
An excellent antioxidant herb for the brain is Gingko, which helps in enhancing mental performance, memory, cognitive function as well as blood flow to the brain.
Sleeping and calming herbs that help fight stress and anxiety and support a good sleep are Passionflower, Lemon balm, Valerian, Hops, Californian poppy.
Sleeping essential oil mix to spray or diffuse in the room: lavender, rosemary, chamomile, ylang ylang, orange, patchouli.
Behavioral changes to relieve depression:
Alex Pietrowski, 2015. The real cause of depression may have nothing to do with your mind, in The Journal of Natural Medicine, issue 20.
J. Sayer, 2015. Turmeric found superior to Prozac and pain-killers for PMS, in The Journal of Natural Medicine, issue 20.
Katherine Smith, 2015. Nutrition and mood, The Journal of Natural Medicine, issue 20.
Yelena Sukhoterina, 2015. Antidepressants do not work: the “forgotten” Study, The Journal of Natural Medicine, issue 20.
H. Callaghan, 2015. Just one night of lost sleep scramble your emotions, The Journal of Natural Medicine, issue 20.