Depression describes a set of mood disorders ranging from low mood to more severe difficulties that interfere with everyday life. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with almost 9% of people meeting the criteria for diagnosis.
Depression is more common in women than men. 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some time, compared with 1 in 10 men. The reasons for this are unclear, but are thought to be due to both social and biological factors. However, for those over 40 evidence is emerging that the perimenopause can cause significant hormonal imbalances that affect mood and with women facing the loss of libido, weight gain, hot flushes and other symptoms, it is perhaps not surprising that many women in this age group are being prescribed anti-depressants rather than being advised to address the symptoms of the menopause by their GP.
So how do you recognise depression?
The core symptoms of depression are low mood, fatigue and lack of interest or enjoyment in life. Other associated symptoms include sleep disturbance, appetite and weight change, anxiety, poor concentration, irritability, suicidal thoughts and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Some people with depression may start drinking more, take less care of their appearance and home and there may be obvious changes in both mood and behaviour.
What causes depression?
Aside from perimenopause, which we have touched upon above, there are other causes of depression including genetic factors, bereavement, stress and addiction.
However, there are also chemical imbalances that can cause depression. It has been linked with low levels of vitamin D3, high blood sugar and lack of blood glucose control and inflammation which can affect the brain.
Depression is potentially caused by imbalances in serotonin (mood) and dopamine, noradrenaline & adrenaline (motivation, pleasure, reward). Insufficient intakes or increased excretion of amino acids, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and others could lead to a deficiency in these two neurotransmitters.
How is is treated?
Anti-depressants are commonly prescribed by GPs. For severe depression this may be necessary in the short to medium term. The most common are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) and Tricyclic Antidepressants.
Counselling works for some people, especially where loss or bereavement or a major life changing event has occurred.
However, blood sugar, vitamin deficiency, hormonal imbalances and inflammation can have a significant affect on the brain. This is where nutritional therapy can really help.
If you are prescribed anti-depressants it is important to continue taking them until you speak to your GP, but through nutritional therapy, you can learn to know which food types are right for your body and level out and positively influence your mood so that eventually you balance your hormones, particularly during the menopause, and create a long, lasting and healthy way to stay in control of your body, thoughts and mood, thus kicking depression to the kerb once and for all.