Everyone at some point experiences feelings of sadness and depression. This is normal. Severe and/or chronic depression is another matter.
One out of every 10 adults reports being depressed, and some reports indicate that over 15 percent of the population will experience depression that will require treatment at least once in their lifetime.
Although depression is a real problem, synthetic drugs aren’t the only way to address the problem. To be clear, in severe cases of mental illness, drugs can be very helpful. But in many other cases, there are viable alternates that are not only safe, but natural and free of dangerous side effects. To understand how and why those work, you must first be aware of the main causes of depression.
Leading Causes of Depression
There’s no lack of evidence that physical and chemical problems can lead to depression. Rarely is it “all in your head.” Like all health conditions, finding the exact cause is often more difficult than correcting it. As always, I suggest working closely with your doctor.
One of the major jobs of the liver is to breakdown and detoxify waste material absorbed from the intestine. With constipation, waste and toxic materials are continually being absorbed into your system. Food that stays too long in the colon becomes poisonous and rancid. Your colon doesn’t recognize this fact. It just continues to do its job of absorbing and reabsorbing.
The extra toxins can overload the liver and prevent it from its other duties, one of which is to break down extra hormones circulating throughout the body, causing uncontrollable mood fluctuation.
One way to remedy this issue is to do a whole-body detox with cilantro and clay.
Another one of the main causes of depression is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism or how much energy you have.
Often, balancing your thyroid hormones is all it takes to treat depression naturally.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is like an emotional roller coaster. Short-term energy boosts after a high-sugar meal are followed by fatigue and depression.
Obviously, the solution here is to avoid spikes in blood sugar, which can be accomplished by eliminating (or at the very least, dramatically reducing) your consumption of sugar and refined carbs.
Food sensitivities or allergies another leading cause of depression.
Oftentimes, the foods you enjoy the most and eat frequently are the problem. Doing an elimination diet—removing one suspect food at a time for 1–2 weeks—could alert you to a potential allergy or sensitivity. If you actually feel worse for the first two or three days after you discontinue a particular food, it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s the culprit.
The most common problem foods are milk and wheat, but others include tomatoes, eggs, soybeans, peanuts, and potatoes.
If you happen to be sensitive or allergic to a list of foods as long as your arm, you may be low on zinc. Supplementing with 15 mg of zinc, taken three times a day before each meal, can often remedy the situation.
Deficiencies in the trace mineral lithium have been linked to higher rates of manic depression and suicides. No toxicity problems have been reported at doses of 10–20 mg of elemental lithium a day.
The chelated form of lithium—either lithium orotate or lithium aspartate—is recommended. Check the label to see the actual amount of elemental lithium the supplement contains. For example, a 120 mg tablet of lithium orotate provides roughly 5 mg of elemental lithium.
Note: Don't confuse elemental lithium with the pharmaceutical medication lithium carbonate, which has been used for decades to treat manic depression. Pharmaceutical lithium has a slew of negative side effects.
When levels are too high, copper can cause depression. Bringing copper levels to normal can usually be done naturally with zinc and vitamin C, but it can be a tricky process, so it’s best to work with a doctor familiar with the technique.
Sunlight, Vitamin D & Serotonin
A seasonal depression known as seasonal affective disorder is common in the winter in areas where bright light is often absent.
Bright light during normal waking hours helps regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm. It also greatly increases levels of vitamin D, which is important since deficiencies in D have been linked to depression. In one study of 1,282 people, 26 had major depression and 169 minor depression. Although practically everyone had below-optimum levels of vitamin D compared to non-depressed individuals, the levels of those with minor depression were 14 percent lower and those with major depression were 33 percent lower.
If you have depression, get plenty of light in your home and life during the waking hours. With just 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure, your body can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D. If supplementing, take 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, especially if you totally avoid the sun.
Bright light also raises levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin influences and regulates learning, sleep, appetite, and mood. It is often referred to as the “feel good” hormone. In fact, many antidepressant medications are designed specifically to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain.
Depression is linked to intestinal health/disorders, as well.
Our bodies have an enteric nervous system (ENS) that controls and regulates our intestinal tract. We now know it has the capability of working independently or in conjunction with the brain.
The ENS senses environmental threats, just like our eyes, nose, skin, etc. An enormous about of information about our environment comes from our gut, and although the information affects our overall well-being, it doesn’t always come to consciousness.
The vagus nerve connects the intestinal tract with the brain. About 90 percent of all the signals passing along this nerve travel from the gut to the brain, and not from the brain downward.
This "second brain" also produces numerous hormones and about 40 different neurotransmitters of the exact same type found in the brain. In fact, 95 percent of all the serotonin found in the body at any one time is in the ENS. The nerve signals from the gut to the brain, passing along the vagus nerve, affect our mood. Stimulating the vagus nerve has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression.
If you have problems with depression, it’s imperative that you re-establish and maintain the proper bacterial flora in your gastrointestinal tract. You can do this by taking a good probiotic supplement and increasing your intake of live, fermented foods.
A Centuries-Old Mood Enhancer
If after addressing these root causes of depression you still need additional help with boosting your mood, there’s a plant extract from South Africa that for centuries has been used successfully to help treat depression naturally. The extract comes from the succulent plant Sceletium tortuosum.
Typically, the plant is chewed or smoked, but researchers found a way to produce a powdered extract referred to as Zembrin.
Zembrin appears to improve serotonin levels, and studies have shown that it can help in the management of everyday stress and improve cognitive function. One huge difference is that, unlike pharmaceutical antidepressants, Zembrin doesn’t cause dangerous side effects.
As little as 25 mg a day of Zembrin can trigger a profound improvement in mood and be a powerful tool in treating depression naturally.