Depression comes in many guises that have spawned a plethora of labels.  You may have recently started to feel depressed having never experienced this condition before. It may scare you to feel this way and the thought of your emotions being out of your control is indeed a daunting prospect. If you go and see a medical doctor you may be prescribed powerful psychotropic (mind altering) drugs. Besides being addictive these drugs have terrible side effects, behave as toxins to your system and deplete sorely needed vitamin and minerals.

Before looking at purely psychological problems with drugs as the only solution first examine physical factors that could affect your mental heath. You will be surprised how a diet high in refined carbohydrates and low in protein and vegetables can attack your normally cheerful disposition. Most people don’t connect nutrient deficient food with adverse effects in their mental faculties. They believe that as they are feeling sad, anxious or tearful these reactions are psychological in nature and only psychotropic drugs will help. Not True.

clinical nutritionFood, the quality of, and nutrients have a huge impact on your well being. Do you eat very little breakfast or none; have a sandwich and a sugary drink for lunch then eat an enormous dinner when you get in at night because you’re starving? Does your blood sugar level yo-yo continuously? Additionally if you’re very hungry when you get home at night chances are you don’t try and eat a square meal. When hunger– the most powerful of urges — is the impelling force then food that is very quick to get at wins over better quality. Low blood sugar can cause headaches, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiousness and apprehension. These factors aside, to build blood and bone you need to eat food that supplies the bricks and mortar of the body. Junk foods supply nothing. If you exclude the nutrients your cells need then your body will tear itself apart to get those building blocks. Below is an example of how your body does that and what effect it has on your mental health.

The body’s milieu interne “the internal environment” was discovered and noted by Claude Bernard. Milieu interne is the name given to the extracellular (outside cells) fluids that surround the cells. The maintenance of constant conditions in these fluids is referred to as homeostasis. Your body regularly checks its temperature, the glucose levels in the blood, the amount of blood you have flowing in your arteries and veins and various other states that have to remain even.

One constant of body fluid that has to be maintained is the balance of acid and alkalinity in your blood – it must remain slightly on the alkaline side.

depression and calciumCalcium is an alkaline forming element. Calcium is essential for regulating the transmission of fluids through the cell walls. Fluids that bring nutrients to the cells and fluids that dissolve and take out waste. All controlled by calcium. Now what happens to you when you don’t supply enough calcium to your body? As calcium levels drop your nerve tissue is much easier to irritate. How does that translate into depression? With unfortunate ease. Small silly things begin to irritate you. Noises that normally wouldn’t bother you suddenly become huge problems. Your calcium sinks lower; you snap at work mates for the slightest things; are short with your loved ones over minor transgressions. They naturally take offense at such silliness and fight back. You can’t control your temper. You’re easily angered as your nerves jangle. You snarl and bark then feel terrible about your behaviour. Remember your body has rigid parameters that it must keep within to survive. If the body has limited calcium it will neglect nerve tissue requirements to keep fluids flowing through cell walls. A surly disposition will lose you friends and family, but it definitely won’t kill you. On the other hand if fluids stopped flowing through your cells….

That’s the dilemma faced by your body when you put the wrong food into it. Calcium comes from mustard greens, spinach, parsley, collards, asparagus, dairy foods, salmon, sardines, seafood, broccoli, cabbage and water cress. How much of those foods do you regularly eat?

Now look at how a single substance that millions of people consume daily pump cells full of acid and force the body to pull alkalinity i.e. calcium from your nerve tissue and bones.

Acid Forming Food – Refined Sugar.

Why is refined sugar such a culprit? Because it’s hidden. Most western foods are loaded with sugar especially savoury foods where you’d never think to look for sugar. Sugar may be hidden in different terms: sucrose, glucose and natural cane sugar (once sugar cane has gone through the sugar milling process it’s about as “natural” as a Martian). Added to all the sugar-laced foods you may be eating if you are also taking a teaspoon of sugar in your tea or coffee, then drinking three or four cups per day, your body is fighting a losing battle against calcium depletion.

The result? Nerve tissue that reacts far beyond what it should to stimulus. If your job is quiet (office work, accounting or paperwork) and your calcium levels are low you will be tense and on edge. Usual job pressure causes this as your body removes calcium from nerve tissue and re-directs it to more vital areas. Kick that up a few notches to a job that is really stressful, and loud, with lots of movement and motion (teaching, crèche work, noisy thumping machinery, complaint desks, traffic department etc) then the amount of stimuli soaking your nerve endings is enormous. At the end of each day you arrive home exhausted with a pounding headache seeking only a hot bath and a quiet space. How are you going to cope tomorrow?

Magnesium and B6

sociable drinkingBoth are water soluble and used by the adrenal gland to combat stress, and by almost every enzymatic function in the body. Your body actually urinates out more during stressful times. Alcohol does a thorough job of removing B6 and magnesium from the body too. If you are a sociable drinker your magnesium and B6 will almost certainly be low. Unfortunately many people that are feeling down use alcohol to give them a lift. Alcohol burns up the B vitamins and rapidly depletes magnesium. Symptoms of a B6 deficiency are: irritability, sensitive to noise, over-reaction to loud sounds.

Magnesium has long been recognized as food for the nervous system and is often called Nature’s tranquillizer. Magnesium is intimately involved in the normal functioning of the brain, spinal chord and all nerves. With even a slight deficiency of magnesium you can become tense, anxious, apprehensive and combative. The recriminations that magnesium deficient people experience after they have had a heated outburst over some trivial incident quickly lead to sorrow and fear over their inability to control their emotions.

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The B vitamins work together therefore if one is taken to the exclusion of the others severe deficiencies can be created. As B6 is a key nutrient in helping the body keep the nervous system calm and nourished, this vitamin taken alone will create deficiencies in other vitamins especially B2 and pantothenic acid. Your body’s ability to repair itself is always so badly underestimated and poorly understood. Most people don’t really know how all the nutrients work together. They have a stab at this and that and usually the results are disappointing leading them to believe that their body must be irreparable/different/unusual. To prevent this hit and miss affair, seek a professional. In my Naturopathic practice, patients report feeling better quickly, helping them dive into the deeper work of changing lifestyle and nutritional habits. When there are long-term nutritional deficiencies – caused by diet, stress, and environmental toxicity – then neurotransmitters can be affected. Proper supplementation can adjust pathways and increase feel good hormones, helping the body adjust and auto-regulate.

When you avoid nutrient thieves and concentrate on eating foods and taking supplements that are rich in the nutrients you need for normal mental health a remarkable improvement in your attitude, emotions and zest for life will return.

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