Depression – The Naturopathic Approach
Due to the many stresses of life, many people experience emotions of depression at some point in their life. Clinical depression, however, is an ongoing and intense state of sadness or absence of pleasure that continues after the stressors are no longer at play. The challenges that those with depression face can affect the quality of everyday life.
Those who have been diagnosed with depression usually experience some or all of the following:
- Constantly feeling low and worthless
- Struggle to feel a sense of happiness (particularly from things that once made them happy)
- Change of appetite
- Sleep problems
- Significant weight loss or gain
Whilst depression can significantly impact a person’s mental and physical wellbeing and their quality of life, it is important to remember that help is available. Our Naturopaths utilise a ‘biopsychosocial’ model in the treatment of depression, which means they understand that the cause of depression is multifactorial, with many interrelated factors at play. Our team of Naturopaths work alongside other health professionals such as psychologists, counsellors, and GPs, to ensure the best possible outcomes for the individual.
Biochemical Imbalance – a common cause of depression
One of the most suggested possible causes of depression is called the monoamine hypothesis.
This suggests that an imbalance in the production of neurotransmitters in the body contributes to the development of depression. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers produced in the body, which have specific actions that regulate our mood, sleep, and motivation.
The most common neurotransmitter imbalance with depression is low levels of serotonin. Over 90% of serotonin is found in the gut, and more and more research is confirming the link between the health of the gut and the health of the mind. The types and levels of bacteria in the gut have been shown to play a role in the production of serotonin.
“The brain-gut axis is a bidirectional communication system between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin functions as a key neurotransmitter at both terminals of this network. Accumulating evidence points to a critical role for the gut microbiome in regulating normal functioning of this axis.” (O’Mahony et al. 2015).
An imbalance in reproductive hormones can also contribute to depression. Research suggests that estrogen levels can alter mood and behaviour. Most notably, low estrogen levels can increase the risk of depression. This is an important consideration in women who present with depression, particularly menopausal women.
Testing the body’s levels of neurotransmitters, hormones, and the compounds that are used to make these important body chemicals, is an important step in determining the underlying cause of depression. Nutritional and herbal compounds can significantly help to balance neurotransmitters and hormones in the body. Diet also plays an important role, as neurotransmitters and hormones are actually made from nutrients obtained through the diet. Our Naturopaths consider all of the possible factors that contribute to biochemical imbalance.
As well as this, your practitioner will consider other possible causes of depression, such as:
Genetic links to depression, such as the MTHFR gene
Chronic inflammation (caused by disease, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and/or substance abuse)
Stressful life events and/or lack of support
This integrated approach enables your practitioner to formulate an individualised treatment plan that provides relief of symptoms while also addressing the cause, through scientifically-proven nutritional and lifestyle treatments and time-proven traditional naturopathic methods.
Take control of your health by learning about the potential underlying causes of depression and natural treatment methods that help restore balance. Book in for a FREE assessment consultation with one of our experienced Naturopaths today.
O’Mahony SM, Clarke G, Borre YE, Dinan TG, Cryan JF. Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behav Brain Res. 2015;277:32–48