8 Factors that Influence Depression

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aturopathic medicine looks to find the root cause of illness. When a patient reports symptoms of fatigue, overwhelm, brain fog and/or depression, I look for what might be causing the patient to feel this way. Medical doctors often prescribe SSRI’s after diagnosing someone with depression. An SSRI is used to suppress the symptoms that someone is feeling rather than to treat the cause. SSRIs cause an increase in the amount of serotonin present in the body. However, it has been shown in many studies that depression is not a serotonin issue! (I’ll save this for a future blog).

Depression is a symptom of a bigger issue. It is a sign that there is something out of balance in the body. In order to eliminate depression, the cause of it must be identified and treated.  The following are 8 factors that may be causing you to feel depressed.

  • Anemia

Anemia is a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood. There are several causes of anemia that can be investigated. Anemia is common in women who are menstruating and specifically those with a heavy period. Some common symptoms of anemia are low mood, brain fog, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

  • Low Vitamin D

Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are depression, fatigue, weakness and bone pain. Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight and supplementation. It is important to have your vitamin D levels tested in order to know  the dosage of Vitamin D supplements required and for how long to take them.

  • Low Magnesium

The Health Canada website shows that 42.7% of all Canadians are deficient in magnesium, though some believe the percentage to be much higher. Some symptoms that may suggest you have a magnesium deficiency are headaches, tension, cramps, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, fatigue, restless legs, PMS, and infertility.

  • Under or Overactive Thyroid

Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect your mood. Your naturopath will look at the whole picture in order to determine if your thyroid could be contributing to your low mood.  TSH, freeT3, freeT4, and reverseT4, thyroglobulin antibody and thyroid peroxidise antibody should be tested.

  • Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenals are two small glands that sit at the top of your kidneys. These glands help to regulate cortisol, our stress regulating hormone. When you experience stress for a prolonged period of time, your adrenals become “fatigued” and are unable to produce enough cortisol to support your body. Low cortisol can lead to depression, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and less acute memory recall. A 4 point salivary cortisol test can be done in order to determine if someone is experiencing adrenal fatigue.

  • Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities cause inflammation in the gut and body. The most common symptoms associated with food sensitivities include gas, bloating, loose stool and skin related issues. Several studies have found a link between food sensitivities and mood. There are several ways to identify potential food sensitivities.

  • Blood sugar regulation

What and when you eat can affect your mood. When you skip meals or eat a large quantity of sugar without a protein, your blood sugar levels will spike. This spike will be followed by low blood sugar which can make you feel anxious and depressed. Eating 3 meals a day with two snacks is the best way to keep your blood sugar stabilized.  Try to include a protein in each meal (especially when eating sugar).

One study published in 2010 followed more than 65,000 women over a decade and showed that women with diabetes were nearly 30 percent more likely to develop depression. This heightened risk remained even after the researchers excluded other risk factors such as lack of physical exercise and weight.

  • Medication

Some medications can cause depression as a side effect.  They include beta-blockers, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines, birth control pills, stimulants, anticonvulsants, proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, statins, and anticholinergic drugs. These can be investigated by your naturopathic doctor.

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