As the days grow shorter, and winter approaches, some of us tend to feel less cheerful than we do during the summer. Seasonal affective disorder, with the very fitting acronym of SAD, becomes more prevalent at this time of year. I’m going to describe some aspects of depression, and explain how you can tell if depression is a concern for you, as well as offer a number of strategies to combat tendencies toward depression. If you think you suffer from major depression, please call me for an appointment (613.829.0427) or seek other appropriate professional help.
Everyone sometimes feels blue or sad. But these feelings usually don’t last more than a few days. When you are depressed, it interferes with daily life, and causes pain both for you and those who care about you. Depression is a common and serious illness. There are several types of depressive disorders:
Major depression or major depressive disorder
is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.
Dysthymic disorder or dysthymia
is characterized by long-term (2 years or longer) symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetime.
is characterized by symptoms that last for 2 weeks or longer, that do not meet full criteria for major depression. Without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.
Other forms of depression
are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances. Not everyone agrees on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They include:
- Psychotic depression, which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs, or a break with reality (delusions), or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
- Postpartum depression, which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15% of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer.
Signs and symptoms
of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Illnesses that frequently co-exist with depression
Other illnesses may exist before depression occurs, and cause it, or they may be a consequence of depression. Depression and other illnesses interact differently in different people.
Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia and generalized anxiety disorder, often accompany depression. PTSD can occur after a person experiences a terrifying event or ordeal. People experiencing PTSD are especially prone to having co-existing depression. Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence may also co-exist with depression.
Depression also may occur with other serious medical illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. People who experience both depression and another medical illness tend to have more symptoms of both depression and the medical illness. Treating the depression can also help improve the outcome of treating the co-existing illness.
Try to be active and exercise.
Physical activity is one of the best defenses against depression, as well as one of the best remedies for it. If you can walk briskly for half an hour a day, or do some other equivalent activity, this will help your mental outlook whether or not you suffer from depression by producing endorphins and burning the stress hormone, cortisol. If it’s hard to find enough time for exercise, remember that 2 or 3 shorter periods of physical activity are almost as good as half an hour all at once. Yoga may be a particularly helpful activity. Tai chi has been shown to help relieve symptoms of depression in a study of people with major depression aged 60 and older.
Eat a healthy diet.
Eating fresh fruit and vegetables raises the level of tryptophan in the brain, increasing serotonin production which has a calming effect. High protein foods, on the other hand, promote the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, which promotes alertness. The Mediterranean diet is recommended as helping to prevent depression (as well as many other chronic conditions). It is high in legumes, fruit, nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish; intake of low fat dairy products is moderate, and consumption of meat is low.
Adequate levels of
B vitamins, particularly B6 and B12,
help prevent depression among seniors according to a study of 3,503 seniors who were initially depression-free, and who were followed for 12 years. For every 10-milligram increase in daily vitamin B6, risk of depression declined by 2%; the same was true for every additional 10 micrograms of vitamin B12. Folic acid has also been linked with reduced risk of depression.
Regular meals including a healthy breakfast and occasional healthy snacks help
stabilize your blood sugar
throughout the day, avoiding low blood sugar levels which can produce low moods.
Omega-3 fatty acids
found in fish, e.g. salmon, have been linked with increased gray matter volume in areas of the brain linked to mood and behaviour, according to a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh. People with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids were more likely to have a more negative outlook. Gray matter volume was measured by high-resolution MRI in 55 healthy adults.
helps prevent depression and SAD. Vitamin D has many other health benefits including cancer prevention, good cardiovascular health, better lung function, strong bones and teeth as well as healthy gums, and better balance. Vitamin D helps battle arthritis; it helps our immune systems, and it combats aging – and that’s only a partial list. For more detail, see our October 2010 newsletter.
We all know by now that trans fats are bad for our health, and in addition to what we’ve already heard, they have been linked to risk of depression – yet another reason to stay away from them. In a recent Spanish study of more than 12,000 men and women, those consuming the most trans fats were 48% more likely to suffer from depression.
Keep yourself occupied.
Having too much time on your hands can lead to focusing on sad experiences. Even when sad events occur it’s best to keep fairly busy and keep your mind on other things too. Having a hobby you enjoy can be helpful.
Express your feelings.
Some of us feel we have to “put on a happy face” for the world, and to some extent this is a good thing – acting happy can help make you feel happy. But we all need to be able to talk about our feelings and not repress them. Whether you talk with a close friend or family member or write in a journal, it’s important to express your feelings.
Manage stress well.
The importance of managing life’s stresses is often neglected. Poor stress management often includes other behaviours that can cause depression, such as
alcohol or drug abuse
. If necessary, seek appropriate professional help for these problems. See our March 2010 newsletter for tips on handling stress and maintaining balance in your life.
Adequate, good quality sleep
is very important in preventing depression. Exhaustion always makes our problems look worse than they do when we are well-rested. See our December 2010 newsletter for tips on getting enough good sleep.
There are a number of Nature’s Sunshine Products that can help prevent or lessen the symptoms of depression.
Synerpro B Complex Vitamins or Vitamin B Complex.
B-complex vitamins are particularly important for the nervous system. They are also vital for good digestive function and enzyme reactions that control energy, circulation, hormones and overall health. SynerPro concentrate is a blend of various vegetable powders that provides extra nutrient value, prevents free radical damage, and increases immunity. These vitamins are also essential for the metabolism of fats and protein, and for the maintenance of muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as healthy digestive function. B-complex vitamins even play a role in the health of the eyes, hair, liver, mouth and skin.
Vitamin B12 Liquid.
Vitamin B12 supplements may be essential for vegetarians since dietary sources of vitamin B12 are mostly foods of animal origin. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may take more than five years to appear after the body stores have been depleted. People at risk for deficiency are those who have digestion problems or have had intestinal surgery or radiation, anyone aged 60 or older, strict vegetarians, breast-fed infants of vegetarian mothers, drinkers and people taking drugs to lower cholesterol. Supplementing with Liquid B12 helps replenish the body’s supply of this essential nutrient. Nature’s Sunshine Vitamin B12 is taken sublingually, so it gets absorbed directly into the blood stream and there is no concern if you don’t have the intrinsic factor to absorb it.
Vitamin B6 50 mg.
Vitamin B6 is a co-factor which helps activate over one-hundred different enzymes involved in hundreds of biochemical tasks in the body. It is used to metabolize amino acids, lipids and nucleic acids. It is important for the production of energy and for proper nervous system functioning. It helps the body tissues get rid of excess fluid in premenstrual women. Vitamin B6 should be taken together with Vitamin B Complex since the latter contains very little B6.
Folic Acid Plus.
Along with vitamin B12, folic acid is better known to help prevent and ward off anemia. Considered a brain food, it is needed for energy production and the formation of red blood cells. It helps reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or neural tube defect. It may relieve depression and anxiety. Along with folic acid, this combination contains bee pollen and vitamin C.
A vitamin B-complex formula in a base of calming herbs to nutritionally support the nervous system when under stress.
St. Johns Wort with Passionflower.
Throughout the years this herb has gained a solid reputation as a tranquilizer and as a treatment for depression and insomnia. The plant has been used as a muscle relaxant to lessen menstrual cramps. In Europe, St. John’s Wort is a popular remedy for gastro-intestinal disorders such as gastric ulcers. It has also been used as a pain killer for rheumatism, burns and irritations.
Super Omega-3 Capsules.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of four basic fats that the body derives from foods. (The other three are cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat). Some of the other fats, especially too much saturated fat, can be harmful to the body, but Omega-3s are good for the body and especially good for the heart and brain. Super Omega-3 softgels contain more than 1,000 mg fish oil per capsule, with a ratio of 33:16 EPA to DHA. It also contains lemon to significantly reduce the aftertaste from fish oil and to reduce gas. NSP conducts extensive quality assurance testing to verify the purity of its products. The oil in Super Omega-3 is highly purified using molecular distillation. This helps to ensure a purer product.
is vital to the health of your skeletal and immune systems. The body manufactures this essential vitamin through sun exposure, making it difficult to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D during the cloudy winter months or when sunscreen is used. Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. Of the two, D3 is more bioactive. The body synthesizes vitamin D3 from sunlight; it cannot be obtained through foods. In the body, vitamin D is responsible for maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, helping to build strong bones. Vitamin D may also contribute to the overall health of the cardiovascular system. Vitamin D works with other vitamins, minerals and hormones to promote bone mineralization.
For additional information, please email email@example.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family. Visit our web site at http://ramilashealingartsclinic.com/index for back issues of this newsletter,
for additional information about products and to order products
, and for information about our Clinic.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
1)Depression. National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov Accessed on October 5, 2011.
2)What is depression? Natural Remedies http://www.nativeremedies.com/ailment/natural-remedies-for-signs-of-depression.html?kbid=12323#ysmtac=kbid&ysmchn=affiliate&ysmcpn=kbid&ysmgrp=12323 Accessed on October 5, 2011.
3)Depression prevention - how to prevent depression. http://www.all-on-depression-help.com/depression-prevention.html Accessed on October 11, 2011.
4)Tai chi helps relieve depression in people over 60. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(5):1-2.
5)How a healthy diet can prevent depression. Natural News http://www.naturalnews.com/027689_depression_diet.html Accessed on October 5, 2011.
6)Low in B vitamins? Depression may be lurking. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;28(8):6.
7)Food and your mood. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2010;27(11):4-5.
8)Cheer up! Eat some fish. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2007;25(4):3.
9)Masson S. Vitamin D – More than just “the sunshine vitamin.” Sunshine Today, July/August 2009,16-17.
10)AVitamin D: The super-nutrient that’s getting lots of attention. And you’re not getting enough of it! Nature’s News 1(2):5-6.
11)Trans fats tied to depression risk. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2011;29(3):8.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic