DEPRESSION + Naturopathic Medicine

DEPRESSION + Naturopathic Medicine

March 23, 2015

At our Naturopathic clinics in North Vancouver and West Vancouver our goal is to help our patients regain mental wellness through the use of individualized metabolic testing, nutritional therapies, dietary interventions, along with traditional medical treatments, such ad counseling and therapy when indicated.

What do we really know about depression? A whole lot and so little. What I mean is that there is a big gap between our scientific understanding of depression and the dominant clinical practices.

Let me explain. Depression is a mood disorder. It often starts between the ages of 15 and 30, but it can affect anyone—even teens and younger children.  It affect the way you feel, which also affects the way you think and act. With depression, you may feel ‘down,’ hopeless, or find that you can’t enjoy things you used to like. Many people who experience depression feel irritable or angry. And some people say that they feel ‘numb’ all the time. This is a subjective experience and every professional in the mental health field agrees on it.  But how to treat it is a completely different thing.

Consider for example the catch phrase: “depression it is a chemical imbalance.” I am sure you have heard it.   It refers to an imbalance of neurotransmitters. The chemicals made by your brain. The basic science for this theory comes from the study of class of antidepressants called SSRIs; Selective Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors; medications like Zolof, Prozac, Paxil, and Celexa. They increase the amount of available serotonin in the brain. In Canada these are considered to be the “first-line’ to go medications mainly because the other classes of medications have too much side effects to be considered as first line therapy. But also because they work in scientific studies. They clearly raise serotonin levels in the brain and in about five out of ten individuals taking them they show a 30% improvement in mood.  But that is exactly the problem with the chemical imbalance theory; other medications like Tianeptine do the exact opposite as the SSRIs  by lowering serotonin and still they help depression and in similar patterns too! In effect just messing around with serotonin can change the depressive cycle.

What is more striking is that 3 out of 10 individuals taking a placebo will have the exactly same results at the medicated group in these studies. And the numbers that improve on “supervised exercise” is exactly the same as the medicated group when dealing with mild to moderate depression.

So why do many doctors still use the chemical imbalance idea as if it is actually the causation of the depression? I don’t know. What is clear is that subscribing to this narrow view of depression has made Canada the 2nd most medicated country in the world. And the sad thing is that with antidepressant use there is often a relapse of depression when you stop.

Meanwhile Depression is very treatable so long as its root causes are addressed.  Children, teens, and adults can all recover from depression.

Consider the alternatives to medication, and some of the scientific facts about the underlying physiological changes in depression

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (or ‘CBT’) has been shown to have equal effect as antidepressants.
  • Mindfulness medication techniques when implemented are known to change the neurotransmitter imbalances.
  • Inflammation has been shown to play as much a role in depression as neurotransmitters.
  • Botanical alternatives such as Saffron and Griffonia in the right dosage have shown same if not better results that SSRIs and with less side effects.
  • Neurotransmitter production is tightly linked to imbalances of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals necessary for brain bio-synthesis.
  • The balance of the GI tract has been shown to have a direct effect on the mood and neurotransmitters.

With all the evidence for integrative mind-body approaches, At Naturopathic Integrative Mental Health Clinic We believe that it is only prudent  to identify and treat the root causes of the mood disorders, before resorting to medications. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for medication, except that unfortunately the number of antidepressant prescription is on the rise and Canadians are the 2nd most medicated nation in the world!