A Naturopathic Approach to Depression

What is naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is complementary medicine. Naturopathic practice may include a broad array of different modalities, including, hydrotherapy, herbalism, acupuncture, counseling, environmental medicine, orthomolecular medicine, nutritional counseling, homeopathy, and so on. Practitioners tend to emphasize a holistic approach to patient care. Naturopathy has its origins in a variety of world medicine practices. It is today practiced in many countries around the world in one form or another.

The patient is able to utilize a combination of therapies determined by the naturopathic physician at very safe dosages, rather than a using a single therapy at a higher, toxic dosage. Naturopathy also views the role of the physician to be an educator, teaching and motivating people to take more personal responsibility in maintaining good health and a state of wellness. All of these factors allow the patient to be highly involved in the treatment process.

What is Naturopathic Nutrition?

Naturopathic Nutrition stresses the use of whole and organic foods as medicine – an integral concept of healing in many indigenous societies. Today, we see that a return to chemical-free foods, along with other dietary measures, is an effective answer to many health complaints and common conditions.

Mental illness in the 21st century

Mental illness is reaching epidemic levels. The World Health Organisation claims that mental health problems are fast becoming the number-one health issue of the 21st century”. Clinical depression is the biggest international health threat after heart disease.  Depression is projected to become the second leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020 (Lancet, 1997; 349:1498-1504)

Depression is the most common mental illness in our society.

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, apathy, frustration, tiredness, anxiousness, lack of appetite, lack of sleep and so on.

Depression is the primary cause of suicide and is among the three most common causes of death in young people between the ages 19 to 24.

The main triggers for depression are: genetic reasons, stress, chemical imbalances in the brain, thyroid disorders, nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, sugar imbalances (hypoglycemia), lack of exercise, and others. One of the most common causes of depression is food allergies.

Types of depression.

Western medicine categorizes depression as endogenous (coming from within) and exogenous (coming from outside).

1)Endogenous depression.

Endogenous depression could also be called biochemical depression.

It is caused primarily by biochemical imbalances of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

Often there is a genetic background and modern research has shown that also food deficiencies as well as toxic overload of the body can cause neurotransmitter imbalances.

Endogenous depression is divided in Bipolar(Manic-Depressive illness) and Unipolar Depression.

2) Exogenous depression.

Exogenous depression comes from reactions to life events and daily stresses, such as loss of a loved one, job problems, or family crises that cannot be solved by the person.. We may also experience depression from inner conflict, or we may feel overwhelmed by responsibilities.

There is a great number of other diseases that have depression as a symptom. Eg hypotheroidism.

Many drugs can cause as side-effect mild to moderate depression; these include blood pressure medications, estrogens, as birth control pills, steroids, and anti-anxiety drugs, like the benzodiazepines, (Valium, Xanax, or Ativan).

NATUROPATHY AND MENTAL HEALTH

Naturopathic medicine tries to determine the underlying factors that may have predisposed a  patient to developing a mental/emotional disorder.

For Naturopathy the causes of depression are many:

1) Genetics

2) Infection (like yeast infections and paracites)

3) Nutrient deficiencies (like luck of the right fats, aminoacids and vitamins)

4) Sugar imbalances.

5) Imbalances of the PH of the body.

6) Hormonal stress and hormonal imbalances.

7) Side-effects of different drugs.

8) Excess, environmental/toxic exposures.

9) Allergies (especially food Allergies).

10) Psychological stress

In order to define the actual causes of depression a naturopathic doctor must do 3 things

1)Take a detailed history of the patient.

2) Do a detailed physical examination of the patient.

The naturopathic doctor uses many different approaches like iridology, tongue , nail, facial, teeth and pulse diagnosis.

3) Laboratory testing.

* The naturopathic doctor uses all the conventional clinical tests but also checks toxic overload (especially from heavy metals) through hair or urine analysis.

* Electrical Accupuncture Voltage (EAV) screening test is also very important.

It measures the electrical activity of the skin at designated acupuncture points. This test can determine which organs are strong or week and which nutrients you need or have excessive levels of. This test can also determine if you test positive for certain microbes and parasites.

* Elisa test can be used to determine possible food allergies.

* Blood analysis through Dark Field microscope can determine PH imbalances in the blood and can determine weather there are funguses, parasites or other bacteria in the blood. PH imbalances (over acidic PH in the human liquids can cause inflammation and a big number of diseases).

Connection between nutrition and neurotransmitter imbalance.

In naturopathy illness may be treated by providing the body and the brain with the correct amount of nutrients.

There is a strong view that the increasing levels of depression may well be due to the fact that the nutritional value of much of the food in the Western world has declined sharply due to over-intensive farming and food processing. This also compounds the effects that chronic stress can have in causing us to lose essential nutrients.

Why would nutrition have anything to do with depression?

Firstly, we have seen a significant decline in fruit and vegetable intake (rich in folic acid), in fish intake (rich in essential fats) and an increase in sugar consumption, from 2lbs a year in the 1940’s to 150lbs a year in many of today’s teenagers. Each of these nutrients are strongly linked to depression and could, theoretically, contribute to increasing rates of depression.

Secondly, if depression is a biochemical imbalance it makes sense to explore how the brain normalises its own biochemistry, using nutrients as the precursors for key neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

Thirdly, if 21st century living is extra-stressful, it would be logical to assume that increasing psychological demands would also increase nutritional requirements since the brain is structurally and functionally completely dependent on nutrients.  There are varying degrees of depression, mild to severe, from acute to long-term.

Carl Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, once stated that “for every drug that yields a beneficial result, there is a nutrient, which can produce the same effect.” We believe that nutrients can have a potent pharmaceutical effect, if used with rifle-shot precision. Nutrient therapy may well become the primary treatment for depression in the next century.

Chemical Classification of Depression

The Pfeiffer Treatment Center has amassed a large database of biochemical information for clinical depression, comprised of nearly 100 chemical analyses of blood, urine, and hair tissue for 2,000 depressed persons. From testing they find that most depressed persons have striking nutrient imbalances, which are relatively uncommon in the general population. These imbalances result in significant depletions or overloads of specific nutrients.

Depression can be divided into five biochemical types: histadelia, histapenia, copper overload, pyroluria, and toxic overload. Each of these imbalances has a unique syndrome of distinctive symptoms together with abnormal chemical levels in blood, urine, and tissues.

1. Histadelia

Histadelic depressives have a particular imbalanced amino-acid cycle, which results in low levels of serotonin and elevated histamine.

Symptoms: Histadelics often exhibit obsessive-compulsive tendencies, perfectionism, seasonal allergies, easy tears, high libido, and headaches. They have addictive tendencies with a high incidence of alcoholism, drug abuse, anorexia, and bulimia. They often are diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder which is most serious during Fall and Winter.

The decisive chemical test for this condition is whole blood histamine.

Treatment with nutrients: Histadelia is treated with a biochemical one-two punch in which

(1) calcium is given to release excess histamine from tissues into the bloodstream, and

(2) methionine is provided to add a methy group to blood histamine and hasten its exit from the body.

With good compliance, improvement is usually noted in 4-8 weeks with about 3-6 months needed to correct this chemical imbalance.

2. Histapenia

Histapenic depressives have a low level of histamine in blood and neuronal tissues and are believed to be individuals with high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Symptoms: Common symptoms include high anxiety, academic underachievement, social isolation, food allergies, chemical sensitivities, low libido, dry eyes, and upper-body or head pain. About one-third experience anxiety disorders, panic attacks, or paranoia.

Chemical diagnosis: Histapenics usually exhibit blood histamine levels below 40 mcg/dL, and react badly to anti-histamines, which naturally reduce their histamine levels even further.

Treatment revolves around folic acid, vitamin B-3 (niacin or niacinamide), Vitamin B-12, and a high-protein diet.

Gradual improvement usually begins within 2-4 weeks, with several months needed to properly correct this chemical imbalance.

3. Copper Overload

Many depressives exhibit elevated copper in blood, hair, and neuronal tissues.

Symptoms : This condition is associated with skin sensitivity, tinnitus, childhood hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and intolerance to vitamins containing copper. Females with this condition often have severe pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), intolerance to estrogen, and a family history of post-partum depression. Key lab tests include serum copper and scalp hair copper.

Treatment: Biochemical treatment involves using zinc, manganese, and cysteine in order to stimulate metallothionein, which is a linear protein that has the job of regulating trace metals (zinc, copper, manganese, etc.) in the body. Vitamins C and E are also useful in hastening the exit of copper from the bloodstream. Care must be taken to avoid excessive copper release from tissues during the first few weeks of treatment, which could result in increased blood copper levels and a temporary worsening of depression.

Most patients report little or no progress during the first 3-4 weeks of treatment, with improvement starting in earnest during the 2nd month. This imbalance often takes 3-6 months to satisfactorily resolve.

4. Pyroluria

Pyroluric depressives have an inborn error of hemoglobin metabolism that results in a striking double deficiency of B-6 and zinc.

Symptoms: Pyrolurics usually exhibit frequent mood swings, inability to tolerate stress, and are often famous for their temper. Common symptoms include sensitivity to light, inability to eat breakfast, poor dream recall, white spots on fingernails, impulsivity, preference for spicy foods, and high anxiety.

Testing :The decisive lab test is urine kryptopyrroles, with pyrolurics exhibiting 5 to 50 times the normal level.

Treatment: Treatment involves substantial dosages of B-6 and zinc along with augmenting nutrients.

Most patients report a calming within 10 days with 1 to 3 months needed to fully correct pyroluric depression.

5. Toxic Overload

Excessive levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, and other toxins can result in serious depression.

Symtoms : In this case, depression may occur quite suddenly without prior symptoms, and may be accompanied by nausea, abdominal discomfort, bad breath, and reduced concentration.

Treatment : Effective treatment requires (1) preventing additional exposure to the toxic material, and (2) promoting its exit from the body. Treatment varies with the particular toxic involved. Useful nutrients include calcium, zinc, cysteine, manganese, and vitamins B-6, C, and E. Serious toxic exposures require supervision by a physician since overly aggressive treatment could result in kidney damage and the treatment for this condition is chelation therapy. Certain  herbs can also be used like Milk thistle, spirulina, chlorella etc.

Most toxic metals are bone-seekers, which complicates the treatment process. It is relatively easy to clear toxic metals from blood and soft tissues (including the brain), but removing toxic metals from bone is a slow and gradual process at best. Often 6-12 months are needed before blood concentrations become stabilized at a safe level.

Treatment of Depression in naturopathic Medicine.

1) Nutritional treatment and usage of herbs.

2) Correction of Allergies.

3) Lifestyle changes.

4) Toxic Metal Removal.

5) Treatment of Leaky gut syndrome and dysbiosis of intestine.

6) Psychotherapy

First of all we must emphasize that in naturopathy we treat the individual, not a Diagnostic Category. EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT.

1) Nutritional treatment and usage of herbs.

This includes changes in the eating habits of the patient.

For choosing the appropriate diet we take into account many factors as the blood type of the patient, the consumption of refined carbohydrates and possible food intolerances like lactose and gluten intolerance.

Every Chronic illness (like depression) has 2 common roots:

Malnutrition and toxification.

In today’s Western Societies the Main Areas of Malnutrition are :

1) (Lack of ) Essential fatty acids

2) (Lack of ) Essential minerals

3) (Lack of ) Magnesium

4)  (Lack of ) Zinc

5) (Lack of ) Calcium

6) (Lack of ) Selenium

7) (Lack of ) Folic Acid and the B-complex vitamins

8) (Lack of ) Antioxidants

Simply eating right is not enough.  In order for our bodies to be able to use the nutrients from our

Food, we must also have normally functioning digestion and absorption of the food we eat.

How the body processes food is as important as food itself.

Foods greatly influence the brain’s behavior. A poor diet, especially one with a lot of junk foods (high in simple sugars and fats), is a common cause of depression. The levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are closely linked to our mood and regulate our behavior, are controlled to some extent by what we eat. The neurotransmitters most commonly associated with mood are dopamine and norepinephrine (improves alertness and thinking, and serotonin (eases tension, regulates sleep and appetite). The amino acid L-tryptophan is a building block for serotonin and is present in complex carbohydrates (not simple sugars). High-protein foods, on the other hand, promote the production of dopamine and norepinephrine.

Some of the nutrients that have been found to be deficient in patients with depression include: calcium, vitamins B6, B12, magnesium, amino acids-L-Tyrosine, L-Tryptophan (5 HTP), GABA, inositol, fatty acids, zinc and copper, vitamin C, and iron and  omega-3 fatty acids

Basic Guidelines for proper nutrition

* Eat foods high in B-vitamins and calcium, such as almonds, beans, whole grains (if no allergy), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), and sea vegetables such as kelp and dulce.

* Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and especially sugar.

* Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats, cold-water fish, or beans for protein. When you eat red meat you should prefer organic freerange meat.

* Use healthy oils for cooking, such as olive oil.

* Reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in commercially baked goods such as cookies, crackers, cakes, French fries, onion rings, donuts, processed foods, and margarine.

* Avoid coffee and other stimulants, alcohol, and tobacco.

* Drink 6 – 8 glasses of filtered water daily.

* Exercise at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.

….* IN ANY CASE YOU SHOULD PREFER ORGANIC FOOD.

Supplements to be Used in nutritional treatment of depression

Depending of the case and under the guidline of Electrodermal screening test as well as other clinical analysis that we have done we may use the following supplements.

* A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins, and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium.

* Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, one to two capsules, to help decrease inflammation and help with mental balance.

* Vitamin C, 500 – 1000 mg one to three times daily, as an antioxidant and for immune support.

* Coenzyme Q10, 100 – 200 mg at bedtime, for antioxidant, immune, and muscular support.

* 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), 50 mg two to three times daily, for mood stabilization.

* Probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and other species), 5 – 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day, for maintenance of gastrointestinal and immune health. You should refrigerate your probiotic supplements for best results.

* SAMe (s-adenosyl-L-methionine), 100 – 200 mg before breakfast daily, for mood improvement.

* Dihydroepiandosterone (DHEA), start at 5 mg three times a day and work up to 100 mg per day for 7 – 12 months.

* L-threonine, 200 mg one to three times daily, for nervous system support.

* Melatonin, 2 – 5 mg one hour before bedtime, for sleep and immune protection.

….* Herbs : As we mentioned above herbs can be used for detoxification.

Appart from that there is a number of herbs that can be used in the treatment of depression. Among them the most widely known is Saint John’s worth(Hypericum Perforatum). It works just as well as tricyclic antidepressants like imipramine but has fewer side effects. A 300mg dose of St Jones wort (containing 0.3 % hypericin) 2 or 3 times a day helps most people with mild depression , while twice this amount may help those who suffer severely. But don’t expect instants results. It often takes a couple of weeks to work.

IN ANY CASE OF DEPRESSION THESE SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD BE GIVEN UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A PHYSICIAN.

2) Correction of Allergies.

Food can cause many allergies which sometimes lead to cerebral allergies which may be a cause of depression. If allergy is a factor, correction of this problem is very important for the treatment. This treatment is done by food avoidance, improving the ecology of intestines and using Bioresonance therapy techniques to cure allergies..

3) Lifestyle changes.

These include correction of sleeping patterns (sleeping before midnight and sleeping enough hours ), implementing exercise in the patient’s daily routine, avoidance of bad habits and improving social life.

4) Toxic metal Removal.

Heavy metals like  Mercury, Lead, Cadmium and Aluminum are some of the possible causes of depression. If our lab analysis shows this toxification we detoxify them.

As we mentioned earlier this is done primarily through chelation therapy and  usage of certain herbs and aminoacids.

5) Treatment of Leaky gut syndrome and dysbiosis of the intestine.

The gut is our largest interface with the outside world. The friendly bacteria which exist in the gut play a very important role in the overall health and function of intestine.

If the balance of friendly to pathogenic organisms is disturbed (for example when we have increase of the yeast Candida albicans  population),  we have severe dysfunction of the gut and the appearance of the so called “Leaky gut syndrome”.

This affects among other things the normal production  of serotonin which is produced in a 95% percentage in the gut area. Low amounts of serotonin are associated with depression and insomnia.

In order to cure this syndrome we use different therapeutic modalities.

These include among other things avoidance of refined carbohydrates and sugar, introduction of vegetables in diet, the use of probiotics, possible usage of natural antibiotics like olive leaf extract, oreganon oil , caprylic acid etc.

Also the usage of homoeoathic remedies and Bioresonance therapy is very common.

6) Psychotherapy is very important in the treatment of the symptoms of depression.

A naturopath prefers modern psychotherapeutic approaches like EFT
(Emotional freedom technique).

Do I have to stop seeing my medical doctor?

Naturopathic medicine is a complimentary healing system.  All healing systems should work together. When I need to, I refer to a medical doctor. Naturopathic doctors are trained to know when to refer a case.

Nature is the best doctor

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings”   Hippocrates

Socrates once said:  “there is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance”.  This statement should guide us in all of our actions.

Especially where our health is concerned.

Matina Chronopoulou, B.Sc., N.D.. Ph.D.

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