Depression: A Warning that Change is Necessary
by Michael B. Schachter M.D., F.A.C.A.M.
This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Natural
Awakenings Magazine, Rockland and Orange edition.
Evidence of depression is everywhere: feeling sad, excessive
crying, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, appetite changes, sleep
problems, negative thoughts (such as those of death and/or suicide), feeling
worthless or guilty, low energy level and poor concentration. If a person
experiences a few of these symptoms, he may be labeled "depressed".
Once the person is so labeled, the label becomes the "cause" of the
symptoms. He is doing a poor job or he feels guilty because he is depressed.
Often the default solution for depression is prescribing antidepressants to
control symptoms. So, we name it, blame it and tame it (Sidney Baker MD).
You can't watch television, listen to the radio or read a
magazine without being barraged by commercials for one antidepressant or
another. Just prescribing antidepressants often fails to address key questions
relating to the actual causes of the symptoms. Why are these symptoms present
and what can be done to make this person feel healthy again and to rekindle his
What if, instead of trying to control the
symptoms of depression, we look for sources of problems? The approach of the
orthomolecular psychiatrist begins with assessing the patient's nutritional
status, toxic exposure, hormonal imbalances, lifestyle characteristics (stress
management, exercise and sleep patterns) and genetic propensities. These are all
interrelated in what may be considered a functional web and each element affects
all of the others.
Low Thyroid Function
For example, many symptoms of depression are also characteristic of a low
functioning thyroid gland. Many physicians recognize this and order blood tests
for thyroid function. If the tests come back within normal range (and they
usually do), the person is told the thyroid is fine and that an antidepressant
is necessary or that he should see a psychiatrist. However, blood tests for
thyroid function have limited value for a variety of reasons and the person may
actually respond to the right form of thyroid hormone. This low thyroid function
may relate to a deficiency of iodine or selenium or to overexposure to bromine.
So, we look for underlying causal factors and attempt to correct them.
Diet is important when it comes to
depression. In recent years, we have learned that what we eat and drink not only
supplies the building blocks for all biochemical reactions in the body, but also
affects how our genes are expressed (epigenetics). The standard American diet
(SAD) contributes to poor health and to depression. A diet rich in whole,
unprocessed foods helps to prevent and treat depression. Individual differences
need to be considered. For example, many people are sensitive to gluten, a
protein found in wheat and certain other grains. For them, a gluten-free diet
may be crucial in preventing and treating depression.
Optimal hydration with pure water is
necessary along with proper amounts of unrefined salt, sunlight, regular
exercise, nutritional supplements (such as fish oil, amino acids, B vitamins,
vitamin D, vitamin K, minerals, iodine and herbal extracts) and bio-identical
hormones. All may be relevant for a particular individual. Testing for nutrients,
gluten sensitivity, hormone levels and toxic minerals (like lead and mercury)
may also be quite helpful. Some depressed patients even benefit from nutritional
substances given by injection.
Those that find
themselves in a state of depression but don't believe that pills are the answer
can rest assured that there are other options out there that will not only help
alleviate the depression, but can lead to an overall healthier you.
© 2010 Michael B.Schachter, M.D.