What is depression?
Depression refers to a specific change in mood. Mood is an emotional state. Mood and emotion differ in that emotions tend to be more intense in nature often triggered by an external stimulus. Moods on the other hand are a more pervasive and subjective internal states less specific than emotion.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids are well known for their positive effects on cholesterol metabolism. Several studies have suggested that increased intake also improves mood. They are found in abundance in fish, particularly salmon, cod liver oil and in pill form.
- Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and a step in the production of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that controls mood. Soy beans, poultry, and fish contain high amounts of natural tryptophan.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common. It is readily available in red meats, however; an enzyme produced in the GI tract called intrinsic factor is commonly lost due to age or genetics. This results in the B12 not bring absorbed. When B12 deficiency is severe it causes pernicious anemia. Early on, subclinical symptoms of B12 deficiency commonly include changes in mood. Taking more B12 by mouth still requires intrinsic factor to absorb it so supplements should be taken sublingually (under the tongue) or by injection. Additional oral B12 will likely pass through unabsorbed. A simple blood test can diagnose B12 deficiency.
- Magnesium and Calcium are essential electrolytes that facilitate nerve impulses. Low circulating levels can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, insomnia and depression. Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and bean and fish. Calcium is abundant in dairy; yogurt is an excellent source as well as green leafy vegetables, nuts and fish.
- Rhodiola rosea (Crassulaceae) is a plant that grows in the northern hemisphere in colder climates. The sap from its roots has been used to improve mood. It also helps the body recover from various forms of stress and is considered an “adaptogen,” a natural substance that promotes homeostasis.
- Ginkgo biloba also known as The Maidenhair tree is well known to improve memory. It has two chemicals that work by dilating blood vessels increasing blood supply to the brain, and another that has direct stabilizing effects on nerves. In addition to memory, Ginkgo biloba improves mood by the same mechanisms.
- Schisandra has been called “Chinese Prozac.” The berries from this plant produce an extract that supports adrenal gland function. The adrenal glands are a major producer of cortisol, the stress hormone. Adrenal balance is critical to maintain mood.