Christmas is for many the happiest time of the year emphasizing healthy, happy families. The nostalgia, feelings of joy and cheer all compressed within the short weeks wrapped around the day. The New Year is when many review the year just gone and bring in hope for the year that lies ahead. Of course, the period leading to the festive season is not without stresses- economic pressures, tiredness, over indulgence in food and drink, and playing long lost families on the day. It is indeed a complex and demanding season for all! According to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Why? Is the Grinch out in full frenzy at this time of the year? Or is it the long, dark winter nights triggering Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Most of us feel depressed at one point or another in our lives, especially when faced with significant events such as unemployment, loss of a loved one, a divorce or a serious illness. We feel anxious from time to time- before exams, a job interview or outstanding bills. We often hear friends and loved ones advising us how we can feel better by therapies and/or medications. And no, it’s not all in your head either! Counseling can be extremely effective for many people and medications are helpful in certain cases. But that is not enough.
The key to feeling better is to get to the root of the problem and do what you can to turn these negative feelings around. Despite the therapy and medications, people still continue to suffer. And there’s a good reason why… actually there are eight good reasons. Sometimes the cause behind anxiety and depression isn’t mental at all! It’s physical. So if you suffer from more than just occasional Monday morning blues, see if any of these apply to you.
1. Blood Sugar Imbalances– This is one of the most common trigger of mental health challenges. If you find yourself craving sweets, coffee or cigarettes then this may be an issue for you. All of these can affect your blood sugar levels. Symptoms of spikes and drops include difficulty concentrating, mood swings, irritability, angry outbursts, crying spells, dizziness and palpitations.
2. Drug dependence– Here, I don’t just mean cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, heroin but also over the counter painkillers, tobacco and alcohol. Using these substances can bring on anxiety, depression, paranoia and altered perceptions.
3. Food allergies, intolerances and heavy metal toxicity– If you suffer from mood swings for no apparent reason, one possible reason could be that you are reacting to something that you’re eating. Most common substance relating to mental health problems is gluten-a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Other foods causing reactions include dairy, yeast, shellfish and nuts. Having a high level of mercury, lead and cadmium can bring symptoms of anxiety, paranoia, phobias, poor concentration, anger, hyperactivity, nervousness, headaches or migraines.
4. Thyroid– A sluggish thyroid can be a culprit behind those feelings of anxiety, depression, fatigue and brain fog. You may think you are tired because you have low iron, and less oxygen is around your body, but you are probably not terribly anaemic, it’s more likely you are “thyroid sick”. Ask your doctor for a test and run the following other tests (in addition to the TSH) to give you a more complete picture: Total T4, Total T3, Free T4, Free T3, T3 Uptake, Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies. The reason I suggest this is that the thyroid hormone levels are constantly changing as your body requires-so a routine blood test is not an accurate indication of what is going on with your thyroid.
5. Histamine Excess– Histamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in connection with an allergic reaction which is why the typical allergy treatment is with antihistamines. However some people just produce too much histamine and causes a lot more than a stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes. The symptoms of excessive histamine are abnormal fears or compulsions, depression, OCD, cry easily, nausea, inner tension and suicidal thoughts.
6. Low levels of B3, B6 and B12 vitamins– These three B vitamins are crucial for optimal mental health. Deficiency of these vital nutrients can lead to feeling disconnected, anxiety, inner tension, continuous overwhelm, frequent mood swings, having delusions or illusions and feeling suspicious of people.
7. Adrenal imbalance- Excess of adrenaline can result in a state of high anxiety while low levels can trigger depression. Chronic stress can cause over secretion of adrenal hormones (the fight and flight response) and eventually lead to exhaustion over a period of time.
8. Neurotransmitter Imbalance– Neurotransmitters are essential chemical messengers used by neurons in the brain to send and receive electro-chemical signals within the brain and facilitate communication with all the other organ systems in the body. These powerful neurochemicals are responsible for regulating practically all functions in life, such as cognitive, physical and mental performance, sleep cycle, weight, pain perception and response and our emotional states. Imbalances in neurotransmitter levels occur due to above seven reasons, constant dieting (including low fat fad) and set the stage for mood disorders, anxiety and depression.
If you have been suffering from any of the above symptoms, here’s what you can do:
Get your blood sugar level checked by a doctor. Make sure you have a diet of “real” foods and not food like substances. Try an elimination diet omitting gluten, dairy and foods that you suspect may be a problem. See if you notice an improvement. Reintroduce the eliminated foods one at a time. If you notice the symptoms returning back then that’s an indication that you have some degree of sensitivity to these foods. Get your thyroid checked by a doctor. A hair analysis or urine analysis is the key to detect heavy metals. Get your histamine levels checked by a simple blood test. If the levels are high, supplementing with Vitamin C is helpful. A healthy diet, strong digestion and reducing stress can all help support better mental health.
If you have tried pharmaceuticals, psychotherapy or have exhausted what conventional medicine has to offer, don’t give up and accept these feelings as a way of life! Scientific research and over 20 years of proven clinical results show that amino acid supplements are at least as effective as pharmaceuticals when treating mood disorders, especially depression, without the painful side effects. A neuro nutrient treatment targeting a specific combination and therapeutic dose of amino acids, vitamins and minerals that promote neurological balance with the body’s natural occurring chemicals and establishing a diet to support healthy brain and body chemistry, can accomplish faster, cheaper results with fewer side effects. Working with a skilled and supportive doctor and therapist is very important but do explore what else may be behind your symptoms. A program based on neuroscience that brings the body and brain chemistry to balance, expedites recovery from mental health issues and deepens spiritual practice and connection might just be the effective, natural alternative to your recovery.
This post was first published in the Huffington Post UK on 16/12/2014.