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Getting the blues every now and again is quite normal, particularly if there is an obvious reason for feeling down. But if sadness starts to take over for no apparent reason, and is interfering with your life or someone you know, something needs to be done.  And much can be done to resolve mild depression.   Increasing omega 3s (fish oil) consumption while reducing consumption of vegetable oils (omega 6), sugar and flour products and can help, as can exercising regularly, and getting to bed and turning out the lights by 10h00 or 10h30pm. These interventions aid in rebalancing hormone and neurotransmitter levels over time.  Making the effort to go out and do something fun with others can help a lot.  Even putting a silly smile on one's face and assuming the posture of someone that is on top of the world can actually change one's mood, as emotions and our physical body are intimately related. 

For those of us that have never experienced the horror of severe depression, I don't think we can even come close to imagining how bad it is.  Here is a description of what living with depression is like from someone who has been there.  When one is suffering from moderate to severe depression, it is very difficult to find the motivation to do what is necessary help oneself.  If I felt that bad, I would probably try anything to feel better. The current belief is that imbalances in the neurotransmitters serotonin and/or epinephrine play a role in depression, and many of the current drugs given for depression work by keeping serotonin around in the brain a little bit longer.  The problem is that frequently over time, the dosage of SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) needs to be raised in order to get the same effect.  The rather severe side effect of suicide is well known with many of these drugs, as well.  

If you are wanting to avoid or to gradually come off of antidepressants, an option may be to look into the services of Neurogistics, who examine  excretion levels of the various neurotransmitters and then provide amino acids  targeting specific neurotransmitters in order to rebalance them.  I cannot speak to the validity of their methods - anecdotal evidence suggests it may work.   Because neurotransmitters play such a fundamental communication role in our bodies, neurotransmitter imbalances are involved in a large number of health complaints in addition to depression, including anxiety, stress, insomnia,  lethargy, lack of motivation, lack of focus, poor memory, PMS, addictive disorders, and carbohydrate cravings.  I am in the process of trying out Neurogistics, and am looking forward to a great night's sleep.

In the last couple of years, Dr. Helen Mayberg of the University of Toronto has done some very interesting research on depression, where she used PET scans to examine the difference in the brains of clinically depressed and normals.  What she found was that although the frontal and paralimbic sections were less active, an area just over the roof of the mouth, which was named Area 25, was overactive.  When healthy people asked to think sad thoughts were scanned, they too had depressed frontal lobe activity and hyperactivity in Area 25.  And those that had managed to cure their depression had less activity in Area 25.  Dr. Mayberg concluded that hyperactivity in Area 25 feeds depression, and lowering activity in this area resolves it.   When electrodes are inserted into Area 25 with leads attached to a pace maker emitting a continuous four-volt current, two-thirds of clinically depressed patients felt much better within months, and others felt profound relief as soon as the current was turned on.  This shows that one can almost consider Area 25 a "depression mood switch".  Hopefully this will eventually lead to better treatments that don't involve cutting holes through the skull for deep brain stimulation.

Related tips:
How hormones, steroids and neurotransmitters work
Mind and body; psyche and soma
Sugar, the disease generator
Light pollution messes with our hormones

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Copyright 2006 Vreni Gurd