Depression is a condition that can many different factors contributing to it. I find as a chiropractor and director of a natural medicine clinic that a certain amount of my patients suffer from varying degrees of depression, low energy, melancholia, irritability, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, feeling spacey or "out of it", fearful, and other forms of moodiness. In the beginnings of my practicing holistic health care I thought that I would focus mostly on improving my patients'general health, removing infections from the body, improving digestion, and other techniques that fall more into the area of treating the health of the body. To my surprise and my patients'surprise we often find that removing burdens on the body changed a person's mental outlook also. Depressed people start to have interest in life. People who were feeling spacey start to feel mentally alert and clear. Children who have behavioral problems start sleeping, behaving, and minding better. People with low energy begin to have high energy again. People with mood swings start to level out and be more consistently calm and happy, more difficult to make them angry. It is amazing the things we see in our clinic.
Seeing these things on a weekly and sometimes daily basis has had me wondering what really causes these changes. I would say that there are 2 basic reasons why people begin to feel better from my treatments and lifestyle suggestions. Number one is physical reasons. If a patient of mine has been in constant pain for years and we are able to help them become pain-free then it is reasonable to see them become happier. I find a lot of people's depression comes from the burden of physical pain, whether that pain come from headaches, back pain, knee pain, arthritis, injuries that won't go away, carpal tunnel, shoulder pain, or the inability to fully participate in an active life. When I see a patient recover from the dysfunction that was causing pain, then they blossom into their normal happy self. So, simply put, people's physical pain needs to be corrected and that is what we strive to do at our clinic.
The second reason people feel emotionally bad is for chemical reasons. Our emotions come from our brain mostly. The brain is an organ. This magnificent organ needs the right fuels, vitamins, minerals, water balance, acid-base balance, and a host of other necessary ingredients to work right. When our body is not getting the necessary nutrients into the blood or perhaps having toxins reach the brain, well the brain starts working poorly and we don't feel well. We can feel tired, sleepy, hyper, on edge, grumpy, tearful, afraid, paranoid, drunk, delusional, and even keel over and die if we have an imbalance in our neurotransmitters or chemicals in the brain. We cannot feel good if our brain is starving for the right stuff or we have poison in our blood. Simply put, that is what is happening in many of my patients! They are starving their brains of the right stuff and poisons are reaching the brain.
A third reason that people may feel emotionally bad is that they have something bad happening in their life. We all have emotional stressors, occasional catastrophes, and daily emotional upsets. We may have marriage problems or recently have changed jobs or homes. All of this can strain us to the point to where we lose our normal happy personalities. I want to say that many of my patients have all 3 of these categories of stressors happening in their lives. They are hurting from physical pain, they have toxins in their brains, they have low levels of good chemicals, and they have stressful jobs. Is it any wonder that they are less than bouncy and happy? But if we remove enough of these stressors, say get the patient out of pain, and balance out the chemicals in the brain... well what happens? They feel good even though they still have a stressful job. If we remove enough of the stressors then people feel alive and normal again. My job as a doctor is to do as much as I can to remove any stress that I can influence. I want to follow this introduction with some brief descriptions of some common chemical stressors that affect our moods.
I would have to say that low-grade infections are the number one chemical reason for people feeling emotionally bad. Low grade infections usually hang out in the intestines where they damage the digestive tract. If the digestive tract is damaged, well then toxins, undigested food particles, our own fecal material, and even parasites and yeast can enter the blood and begin to circulate in our bodies! Any one of these categories of things is not supposed to be in our blood. If toxins reach our brains it affects our thinking and our emotions. The toxins drain our body's resources of white blood cells, liver capacity, and energy levels. So the first thing I try to do for all patients is identify any low grade infections that may be in the digestive tract and eliminate them. When they are eliminated, often the digestive tract can repair and heal. By the way, this condition of leaking toxins into the blood stream is call "leaky gut syndrome." Leaky gut syndrome is primarily caused by infections, allergic reactions, and inflammatory responses to these two problems. By removing infections and identifying food allergies, leaky gut syndrome clears up on its own. Occasionally extra nutrients aimed at healing the lining of the intestines are needed but this is not common.
*yeast/fungal/mold- a common infection these days. It is found in 90% of the patients that I treat. Exposure to high levels of antibiotics, steroids (topical or ingested), hormones (birth control pills, artificial thyroid hormones, estrogen replacement therapy, etc), or a high sugar diet makes individuals prone to yeast problems. To clear out a fungal or yeast problem a patient (and often their spouse) need to take special yeast killing medicines and follow a strict diet for 3 weeks. In worst case scenarios houses and air quality may need to be screened. Occasionally a "sick building" will be at the root of sick people's fungal illness and resultant complaints.
*parasites- a common infection found in my patients. Exposure to poorly handled meats or vegetables, poor water supply, pets, or travel to foreign countries may increase risk of parasite infections. Parasites need to be treated with special antiparasitic medications. Antibiotics will not work on parasites.
*viruses- many people have compromised immune systems. With lowered immune system function certain people are prone to long standing viral infections. Viruses are not easily eradicated except by your own immune system and white blood cells. Any therapy for viral infections needs to be aimed at improving immune system function. Specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals will help. Usually viruses are opportunistic organisms if the viral infection is long standing. Long standing, low grade viral infections are usually the result of a poorly functioning immune system.
*bacterial infections- certain bacteria are long term infections such as H. Pylori (a type of bacteria that lives in the stomach and upper digestive tract and causes ulcers and digestive problems). Certain bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics due to over-prescription of antibiotics and the fact that antibiotics are found in most meat and dairy products. Bacterial infections may need to be treated with antibiotic herbs or medicines.
Often patients'digestion is poorly functioning. This can be due to a deficiency in digestive enzymes, infections, allergic reactions to foods, or other reasons. If our body is not digesting the food we eat then the food is not being broken down and absorbed. So why are we eating it? I think that in some worst cases patients may be getting only 50% of the value from their food. This food is ultimately not reaching the brain in sufficient levels to feel good. I often supplement digestion with specific enzymes that may be lacking to help the body break down foods into small, easily absorbed particles. Also, infections need to be removed and allergies screened for as these also affect digestion.
Allergies are another huge cause of emotional problems. A person can have no other problems but a single food allergy and feel suicidal! Allergic reactions to foods can affect your energy levels, affect your ability to think straight, affect your ability to feel the appropriate emotions, cause inflammation anywhere in the body, knock out your immune system and leave you vulnerable to every little cold and flu, and basically have their hand in almost any problem. I have learned by trial and error to look for food allergies no matter what a patient's complaint is. They are pervasive and very influential. Allergies and infections go hand in hand. Often a person's leaky gut syndrome leads to an increased number of food allergies. When infections are cleared out with the right antimicrobial herbal medicines, a person avoids suspected allergic foods for 3 weeks, and is desensitized to their food allergies then they usually are not allergic to most foods anymore. The allergies just disappear! Occasionally some people benefit from avoiding certain foods for life if the food just does not agree with them. These patients agree that it is worth it, though. They feel like humans again when they avoid these foods.
Common sense says that we need the right vitamins and minerals for our brains to work right. I touched on the subject of poor digestion that may not allow these vitamins and minerals to be properly absorbed. But what if there is not enough vitamins or minerals in the food to begin with? That is often a problem I see with patients. They may not be eating quality food with enough vital, micro-nutrients, they may have a genetic need for more of certain nutrients than the average person, or both! So we screen all patients for nutrient deficiencies and supplement with what is needed. We often recommend one of 7 different multi-vitamin formulas for a person. Sometimes we find a need for certain amino acids are called for. 5-hydroxy tryptophan has profound affects on mood and is an amino acid. Tyrosine has affects on the adrenal glands and thyroid gland and allows us to make our "feel good" hormones. It also is an amino acid. We screen for essential fatty acid deficiencies. We may recommend a certain calcium supplement, one of three that we carry. Each person seems to have an affinity for one form of calcium over others and we try to find out which calcium supplement is best for each individual. We do our best to not miss any one of the nutrients that may be missing.
Heavy metals, chemical toxins, and pesticides are increasingly in our air, our water, and our food. These poisons can be absorbed and affect brain function as well as any other organ in the body. At our clinic we screen for many different toxins and often find indications of poisoning from these chemicals. When we find these we use natural chelating agents to gently pull them out of our tissues and begin the process of detoxification. If possible we try to identify where these toxins are coming from and reduce our exposure to them. It is difficult to think straight after you drink a big glass of cyanide. In a similar way it would be difficult to think straight if we drank a small amount of cyanide each day. We may or may not be getting cyanide, but we sure are being exposed to small amounts of lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic, nickel, tin, and others each day. Each one of these toxins has trademark symptoms and most have an affect on the brain. It is imperative to identify these if they are a factor in brain dysfunction and remove them!
A few other categories are worth mentioning.
Exercise in the right amounts seems to help most people's moods. I encourage aerobic exercise for patients that are able to do some. A good plan is to buy a heart rate monitor and calculate your maximum heart rate from the following formula. 180 - (your age) -5(if you have been seriously sick in the last year)= the highest level your heart rate should be for aerobic benefit. A 40 year old man who had a serious bout of pneumonia during the last year would have a maximum heart rate of 135. I suggest exercising at this rate or lower for 30 minutes 3 to 7 times per week... if there are no contraindications from a doctor's examination.
Sunlight seems to help people's moods. I recommend that most people get some sunlight daily and to not wear glasses if they can help it. Sunlight on our skin and natural light on our eyes seems to trigger certain chemicals to be released in our bodies that help us to feel better. About 20 minutes of sunlight on the skin and eyes seems to be enough to influence people's moods. Artificial light does nothing for our moods. In fact, certain artificial lights can worsen our moods.
Exposure to radiation sources such as computer or TV screens, pagers, cell phones, power lines, electrical circuitry in walls, electric blankets and hair dryers all have strong electrical and magnetic fields that often influence the way we feel. I screen all patients for radiation burdens and help identify sources of exposure.
*Suzie- Suzie, a woman in her mid 50's, had been a patient of mine for many months. Her primary health concerns were unstable health, unusual sensations of burning in random areas of her body, migrating tingling sensations, unusual headaches, bouts of explosive anger, frequent nosebleeds, aches and pains, rashes that came and went, and frequent bouts of colds and flu. During the course of my seeing her she developed pain in her knees with no indication of injury. My examination indicated a heavy burden of homocysteine in the body, burdens of mercury, nickel, and lead, and muscle imbalances in the knee area. A combination of nutritional support for detoxifying the metals, nutritional support for detoxifying the homocysteine, combined with applied kinesiology treatment for the muscles of the knee helped her body to correct the problems in her knees. She is currently pain free in her knees. It is also worth mentioning that Suzie had her mercury amalgam fillings recently removed. Although this is a highly beneficial procedure it can occasionally cause more problems than it fixes if the person is unable to detoxify well. I believe this was the case for Suzie. Suzie reports that with continued nutritional support her health is stable. She no longer has unusual burning or tingling sensations. Her nose bleeds and rashes have stopped. Her aches and pains have calmed down tremendously and she is almost never sick. Her moods are much more consistent. I attribute most of these health problems to heavy metal poisoning aggravated by mercury re-exposure during dental surgery. I believe that Suzie would be labeled "hypochondriac" with the standard medical approach and received little, if any, help for her various complaints.
*Julie- a 4 year old girl, was brought to my office for complaints of not sleeping well. She would need to get up nightly and be uncomfortable, moody, and fearful and need attention from her parents. Upon screening for various possible problems, a fungal/yeast infection was indicated, a need for a multi-vitamin, and an allergy to milk. A return visit 3 weeks later and Julie's mom told me she had completely slept through the night for all but 3 nights instead of waking every single night. She also was much calmer and had less behavior problems.
Margaret- a woman in her mid-50's has been in my care for over a year. Her main health complaints have been depression, cloudy thinking, uncomfortable heart sensations, overweight, and various aches and pains in her body. Over the past year we have treated her for low-grade, chronic infections, supplemented her with digestive support and nutrition, changed her diet, and begun the process of detoxifying her from toxic metals. Margaret seems to be one of the most burdened patients I have ever seen with heavy metals including mercury, nickel, tin, lead, aluminum, arsenic, copper, antimony, barium, insecticides, and others! We are slowly and surely drawing these toxins out of her body. We make sure she drinks copious amounts of water and has proper support for her liver and kidneys (both important organs of detoxification.). It is worth noting that Margaret had her mercury fillings removed from her teeth and almost immediately felt worse. Just like Suzie's example above, most people benefit from this procedure, but just not Margaret. She felt like she was dying. She felt like she was a hypochondriac. She had unusual heart symptoms that came and went at odd hours of the night. She couldn't sleep. I am proud to say that Margaret has lost about 70 pounds, sleeps well, is no longer cloudy in her thinking, her heart symptoms are gone, and her aches and pains are gone. Her moods are much higher. She feels younger and looks 10 years younger. When she was at her worst, certain foods and even certain vitamins with unnecessary ingredients in the pill would make her feel like she was going to die. Now she no longer feels this way. We use Thorne nutritional products for our patients because many of them are sensitive to unnecessary ingredients. Thorne products are extremely pure, pharmaceutical quality nutritional supplements. I believe in them whole-heartedly.
If we can be of service to you or you have a question, please do not hesitate to call our office. We do our best to cover all the bases in health concerns. We would love to help if we can!