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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

Relief from Depression: Finding the Physiological Causes

Apr 27, 2014 01:38AM ● By Susan Chapman, ARNP

The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming… Spring is definitely in the air! So the winter-time blues should be gone and we should have a skip in our step like Pepe le Pew, right? Well, that would be ideal however, unless you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression knows no season. It’s there with no regards for whether it’s cold and cloudy or bright and sunny. If you can look around and realize you have a pretty good life but are still spending time in tears or wondering “what’s the point”, THAT is depression.

Depression is not always linked to traumatic events in life and while it does run in families, we have the tools to find out exactly what that connection is. Case in point, there is a genetic defect (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase “MTHFR”) that affects a person’s ability to absorb and use folate. Why is this defect significant? Folate is necessary to process medications used for depression. Depression has also been linked to low folate and low vitamin B12. If our folate levels are low and we have the defect that prevents us from utilizing standard folate then we don’t stand a chance combating depression, even if we are taking pharmaceutical medications to treat it.

Believe it or not there are many biological reasons for depressive symptoms. Some are commonly known, some are not. Most of us are aware that hormones play a part in mood changes of peri-menopausal and menopausal women. Did you know that low testosterone can mimic some of the symptoms of depression in men? They may experience a lack of motivation, disinterest in normal activities, fatigue and low libido. If low testosterone is the issue, it can be remedied. It does require intervention with a prescription (a naturally occurring hormone) that offers various health benefits in addition to mood.

Perhaps you have heard about the significant connection between gluten and depression. What’s all the hype about? While gluten does not directly cause depression it does trigger an inflammatory response within the gut that releases substances from certain cells in our immune system. These cells can enter the brain causing inflammation that can lead to depression. Many people are not aware that the gut is the biggest producer of serotonin, our ‘feel good hormone’ above even the brain. When the gut is off-balance, mood is off-balance.

Integrative medicine focuses on finding out the ‘why’ of illness and dysfunction. It seeks to treat the cause and not just the symptoms. In integrative psychiatry we apply the bio-psycho-social-spiritual method of providing health care. We seek to find the physiological causes of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. By peeling back the layers of the onion we often find treatable reasons for depression or anxiety. This allows us to treat the condition at the source and sometimes prevent patients from relying on our script pads for relief.

Susan Chapman is an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner with almost 15 years of experience and a background that includes working in neonatal intensive care units, psychiatry, family practice, women’s health, geriatrics and cardiology. Most recently she has obtained her diplomate status, the highest level of certification, within the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine with the focus on Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy and wellness.