What causes depression anyway?
I have suffered with major depression for my entire life. Even as a 5-year-old kid I remember thinking about the feeling of major heaviness on my chest and wondering what it was. I am still managing it to this day at 38 years old. I take supplements like 5-HTP for serotonin levels and have to follow a low sugar diet and wheat free lifestyle to manage my symptoms. Some days are awesome, and some mornings I feel like I got hit by a truck when nothing bad has occurred externally.
First hand I can tell you depression SUCKS. I describe it as being locked in a glass cage as life happens around you. You can see everything happening, but you can’t get your mind and spirit out to enjoy the fun! It’s also a very heavy painful feeling in my chest even though I am still participating in all the activities of life. It almost feels as if a cloud of darkness is sitting over my soul.
Depression runs in my family. My mom was severely depressed for as long as I can remember growing up and also suffered from agoraphobia and hoarding. Her mother was hospitalized multiple times when they use to shock your brain for depression. Clearly there is a genetic component.
It gets confusing when you also have a traumatic childhood and PTSD like I do. It gets even more confusing when you go on special diets to heal other issues and your symptoms improve. If depression was all genetic, or all from a bad childhood, then why do the foods I eat effect it so much?
I believe depression is caused by multiple factors all coming together in a not so awesome way. New studies are finding depression is linked with silent inflammation in the body. A number of things cause silent inflammation. Stress being the biggie! Not only emotional stress but environmental stress. Unknown food intolerances put a lot of stress on the body. Dairy, frankenwheat (that’s what I call todays wheat), refined sugar are the top offenders. Refined sugar is a double whammy not only because of inflammation but also how it effects your blood sugar. Refined sugar pulls minerals from your body to digest itself, and a lack of minerals can cause depression. It really is the worst thing you can eat if you suffer from depression.
Too much stress attacking you and soon your cortisol is out of control and serotonin and dopamine are not able to keep up with the body’s demands for it. Your sleeping becomes erratic, your appetite is either out of control or gone out the window, you have low energy and sex sounds boring. You lose excitement and may even feel extreme emotional pain. This is clinical depression. If it is severe do not feel embarrassed about going to your doctor for pharmaceutical help. I spent years highly against these meds from everything I was reading in the natural health world, until I became close to suicidal a few years back and went and got Prozac. It did help me through a rough patch, but I discontinued them due to side effects once I was able to manage my stress better though diet and supplements.
Diet is an important piece when you are prone to depression. For someone who has experienced a lot of trauma throughout their childhood, it is even more important they get serious about feeding their body a low inflammatory diet to manage symptoms for all sorts of diseases depression included.
Figuring out what hidden food intolerances you have through a blood test or elimination diet should be your first step after you have removed wheat, dairy, and sugar for a few weeks.
Supplements I have found helpful for my depression are 5-HTP for my serotonin levels and Mucuna for my dopamine. Everyone has different levels of brain chemicals that could be contributing to symptoms. You might need to experiment a little. Sometimes when I take Mucna I become very anxious and this tells me I actually need more serotonin supplements and less dopamine.
Regular exercise sounds exhausting when you are depressed but it is proven to help once you start! You don’t need to learn a big workout program and start powerlifting although that’s fantastic if you do! Just start with something easy like power walking 30 minutes a few days a week or a yoga class and go from there. The key is to not stress yourself out even more with a fancy workout program your mind isn’t ready for. Baby steps turn into leaps and before you know it you are working out regularly and starting to feel better.
You are not alone and depression is more common today than ever.
Realizing you need to address all these aspects of your life to heal might feel overwhelming. You might want to hire someone who has been through it and can support you through the changes.
Melissa is the Author of Healing Through the Pain How I overcame Interstitial Cystitis. She writes about health (physical, emotional and spiritual) from a vulnerable place, after overcoming Interstitial Cystitis and still battling emotional illness. She is passionate about helping women realize their ability to make changes and move forward from difficult situations in their lives.
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