|Advanced Health & Life Extension||
There is a distinct relationship between depression, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and stress. All of these entities involve similar changes in brain chemistry, endocrine system imbalance and nervous system imbalance.
Clinical Depression doesn't just mean "feeling depressed"; it has a specific definition as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnosis is based on the following eight criteria:
By this criteria, an individual with four or more of these traits is probably depressed.
For a more detailed evaluation of the symptoms of depression do the Depression Inventory
Bipolar depression is a disorder characterized by periods of major depression alternating with periods of elevated mood. If the elevated mood is mild and lasts for four days or less, it is referred to as hypomania. Mania is longer and more intense. The diagnostic characteristics are (at least 3 of the following):
The Learned Helplessness Model of Depression
The learned helplessness model is based on animal studies using dogs. Two groups of dogs were fitted with shock collars. Group one was placed in a cage that contained a lever that would turn the shocks off. Group two was placed in a cage that had no way of interrupting the shocks. In a short time the dogs in group one learned that when shocks were applied they could push the lever and interrupt the shocks. In other words, they had control over their situation. Group two had no control.
Then both groups were moved to a new set of cages that had no lever, but did have a low wall that allowed the dogs to jump out of the cage. The shocks were set to stop when the dogs jumped out. Group one quickly learned to leap out of the cage when the shock was applied. Group two remained in the cage and suffered the full duration of shock treatment.
Then the dogs of group two were given SSRI drugs. They were then able to jump out of the cage and escape the shocks.
This implies that individuals become depressed because they feel helpless and unable to control their life or the circumstances of their life. This is often a matter of perception rather than reality. This also implies that the cure for depression rests within the mind, attitudes and perceptions of the individual rather than drugs or supplements. If the SSRI drugs are used to alleviate the symptoms of the depression without addressing the cause, sales of drugs will be good but individuals won't get well. This also implies that the drugs and their natural alternatives can be used as an aid to facilitate the well being of the individual but the causative issues are being addressed.
While the nerve cells conduct electrical impulses, communication is, however, more of a chemical phenomenon. Nerves are classified according to their ability to either secrete or respond to various chemical compounds called neurotransmitters. These molecules are secreted into the gap (called the synapse) between two different nerve cells. A nerve impulse is fired when enough receptor molecules on the post-synaptic nerve bind specifically to one or another class of neurotransmitter coming across the gap.
One of those neurotransmitters is Serotonin. So why has the interest in serotonin become so high? Research has shown that depression, insomnia, anxiety, suicide, migraines, PMS, obsessive/compulsive behavior, stress, obesity, and addiction are all related to low levels of serotonin in the brain.
Stress causes increases in the hormone Cortisol and decreases the serotonin levels. Long-term exposure to cortisol actually damages certain serotonin producing nerves in the brains of animals. Low serotonin levels can also be caused by a deficiency of the essential amino acid L Tryptophane. Stress reduction is obviously an important consideration in addressing depression.
The pharmaceutical control of brain serotonin levels is the mechanism of action of two commonly prescribed classes of drugs used in the treatment of depression. Prozac is an example of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which prevents the "presynaptic" nerve from reabsorbing serotonin that it has previously secreted. By inhibiting this normal process, Prozac causes an increase in brain serotonin levels. Another class of antidepressant drugs, the monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors cause an increase in serotonin levels by preventing its degradation.
Natural Approaches to Supporting Brain Serotonin Levels
The essential amino acid L Tryptophane is a metabolic precursor to serotonin. It was widely used as a sleep aid until the FDA removed it from the market. At that time Tryptophane was the only natural alternative that could have potentially competed with Prozac and the other SSRI drugs. Ironically, the SSRI drugs are completely ineffective if there is a deficiency of L Tryptophane in the diet. Without L Tryptophane, there is no raw material for the body to manufacture serotonin from.
Caution: Anyone taking anti-depressant medication of any kind should not try to take these natural nutritional supplements at the same time. These substances could have a synergestic effect with your medication and result in significant side effects. If you are taking medications and wish to try the natural approach, consult your physician about switching.
SAMe is a natural substance found in every cell of the human body and produced in the human body from the amino acids methionine and betaine plus B12 and folic acid. A young healthy body produces all that it needs. Low levels of SAMe or the nutrients that it is produced from can result in arthritis, depression or dementia.
SAMe is used in the formation of neurotransmitters, phospholipids, and the pineal hormone melatonin. SAMe also increases the fluidity of cell membranes, improves neurotransmission by increasing the number of available neurotransmitter receptors and improves binding of neurotransmitters to receptor sites. These effects result in increased serotonin and dopamine activity.
Clinical trials in Europe and the United States have shown that SAMe can be beneficial in modifying brain function, making it a useful supplement for treating depression. For over 25 years, SAMe has been prescribed by European doctors for depression, degenerative joint disease, liver problems, schizophrenia, demyelinating diseases, dementia, peripheral neuropathy, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), migraine headaches, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. SAMe has recently become available in America as a nutritional supplement.
SAMe has been proven to be effective in the relief of all forms of depression except manic depressive illness. SAMe is particularly good for the types of depression that have no apparent cause. More than 100 published studies have demonstrated the anti-depressive actions of SAMe.
While SAMe is more rapid-acting than antidepressant drugs, it is completely devoid of prescription antidepressants' side effects like constipation, agitation, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. SAMe may be useful as well in treating other illnesses currently treated with antidepressants such as panic disorder, agoraphobia, bulimia, chronic pain syndromes, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, fibromyalgia, post partum blues, distress & anxiety from drug detoxification, and migraine headaches.
5-HTP (5 Hydroxy LTryptophane), a metabolite of tryptophane is readily available and has approximately ten times the potency of L Tryptophane. This supplement provides the brain the raw material that it needs to manufacture serotonin whereas SSRI drugs like Prozac increase serotonin levels by blocking the re-uptake of serotonin.
Personal Note: Some individuals who have used 5-HTP reported that they considered it highly effective and greatly preferred it over the SSRI drugs. Others who have tried it have claimed that they noticed no effect at all. As with all supplements and medications, individual responses may vary.
Carbohydrates are also important for serotonin production, since they will trigger the release of insulin into the blood stream and clears all the amino acids from the blood, except tryptophan. When competing amino acids are out of the way, tryptophan can cross the blood brain barrier and be converted to serotonin. Bananas are high in carbohydrates and tryptophan. Indeed, 3 to 4 bananas actually result in the production of about 12 mg of serotonin. An analysis of biochemical studies indicates that the consumption of 100 mg of 5-HTP is equivalent to the consumption of 10 to 12 bananas. This observation is based on the ability of either bananas, pharmaceutical serotonin or 5-HTP to produce equivalent increases in the common urinary metabolite, 5-hydroxy indoleacetic acid (5-HIAA). High carbohydrate, low protein diets high in bananas, cassava and other serotonin producers have been implicated in certain types of heart disease. If you are boosting your serotonin levels, you are apparently better off with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
St. John's Wort
Another natural substance being widely used in the treatment of depression is St. John's Wort. How St. Johns Wort works is a subject of debate, but it appears that it acts as an MAO inhibitor, preventing the destruction of serotonin by the Monoamine Oxidase enzyme. It also appears to increases the availability of norepinephrine, which increases energy and altertness and dopamine, which increases the feeling of well-being.
Inositol levels tend to be low in depressed and high in euphoric people. Inositol uses the precursor strategy for a second messenger rather than a neurotransmitter to achieve long-term mood-enhancing effects. Inositol and its derivatives serve as messenger molecules within the nervous system. This is a second-messenger system used by several noradrenergic, serotonergic and cholinergic receptors. Adult westerners typically consume about one gram of inositol per day in their food. The molecule itself is a naturally occurring isomer of glucose.The richest dietary sources are fruits, nuts, beans and grains. The mood-depressing ("stabilising") effect of lithium in manically euphoric people may be the result of its inositol-depleting effect. If taken in high doses, inositol may be a good way of elevating mood and diminishing anxiety. Dosages of even 50g and more reportedly produce no toxic side-effects. This regimen shouldn't be attempted unsupervised by people with a history of bipolar disorder.
One of the most effective way to raise serotonin levels naturally is with vigorous exercise. Studies have shown that serotonin levels are raised with increased activity and the production of serotonin is increased for some days after the activity. Increased serotonin production from exercise can also cause sleepiness and may cause "exercise fatigue".