DEPRESSION + ANXIETY

Depression is a symptom, a red light telling us something isn’t right.

It invites us to stop and to pay attention and to discover the underlying cause.

It’s important to view depression as a symptom and not a diagnosis.

By stopping at the label of depression we miss the opportunity to go deeper and find out what really is happening. 

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So often, instead of taking the time to find the underlying cause of the depression,  many people are merely given an anti- depressant to get rid of the symptom. Sometimes an antidepressant might be the treatment that is needed for that particular person but we need to explore further to make sure that is the case. 

Of course, depression doesn’t feel good and it’s uncomfortable and so many people want to “get rid of it” as quickly as possible. However, getting the right help and being persistent and courageous to go that bit deeper we can find the gifts.

For one person it might be that their thyroid is not functioning properly; for another they might have coeliac disease or they have a food intolerance; for another their blood sugar levels might be unstable; for another they might have an emotional issue, grief or a sadness that they have been avoiding.

Take an example of someone who came to me with a self diagnosis of depression . For months he had felt not himself. He’s been tired, irritated and sad. Eventually, his partner, made him go to see the doctor and he came to see me fully expected me to give him a pill which he hoped would lift his mood. 

However on asking him more questions it was clear he had a problem with gluten. We did blood tests and a biopsy which confirmed that he had coeliac disease.

He went on a gluten free diet and his brain fog, low energy and depression lifted and he felt normal again. His symptoms might have been low mood and depression but the cause was coeliac. 

If we hadn’t taken that time to dig deeper – he might never have known that he had coeliac disease and not known that his low mood was a result of the food that he was eating. 

Functional medicine is a different approach.

How about the woman with iron deficiency or the man with a low vitamin D level and how for both of them their lives were turned around by discovering the real cause for their biochemical imbalance and hence their low mood.

It’s important to remember that for all of us, we have and we will have times in our life when we are sad or grieving. This is normal and at these times it’s important for us to be courageous enough to meet these emotions, however uncomfortable and unwelcome their might feel. Of course we might need some help to do this. 

Whatever the cause, when someone is depressed it’s really important to get the right help.

Once again in functional medicine we take a personalised approach.  

In this model the treatment of depression is not one size fits all. 

When we view the symptom of depression as a guide and listen to the symptoms and pay attention to them, we can grow through the experience and take back control of our life.

The journey back to balance and wellness might take some time but it’s worth it.

I always start by looking at a person’s physical health and taking a detailed history including a diet history as well as doing an examination and ordering blood tests. I have seen so many people where the underlying cause for their low mood was a deficiency in some essential vitamin or mineral. For them, once their deficiencies were corrected and their diet improved their depression lifted.  

All the chemical pathways in our body require certain essential minerals and vitamins to function properly. When we are deficient these important process can’t happen. If our car runs out of petrol and oil, the car either breaks down or doesn’t work so well.  The same with our body. 

Diet is an integral part of good health.

We need to eat food that balances our blood sugar, our hormones and our gut microbiome.

Prof Felice Jacka is doing wonderful work at “The Food and Mood Centre” at Deakin university in Aussie. 

Of course, as well as addressing nutritional deficiencies we want to exclude thyroid problems, adrenal problems, food intolerances, allergies, chronic infections – be they bacterial, fungal or moulds, sleep problems such as sleep apnoea or insomnia and chronic infections.

In summary moving from depression to contentment and calm is a journey – a journey of discovery which I invite you to allow me help you navigate more easily.

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Some useful links :

Professor Julia Rucklidge at Canterbury university talks about the importance of nutrients in the treatment of depression and anxiety as well as other conditions like ADHD – well worth listening to her TED talk .

Professor Felice Jacka works at The Food and Mood Centre at Deakin university – link here