Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Tag: Depression Page 1 of 2

postpartum depression

The split mind of postpartum depression

Originally published on Motherwell 

In a quiet, distant voice I tell my husband Mark that I want to die. Not exactly dead, I clarify, but not this. I tell him not to worry. I tell him love, guilt, duty will always matter more. I promise. But he has to understand, he has to reconcile what I’m saying with the fact that I love him, that I love our life together and our beautiful daughter. “Mark, do you know what I’m saying?”

Before breakfast I sing our daughter to sleep, rhyming her name with nonsensical Seuss-y words. I smile. The real kind, reflexive, above the sadness… Read full essay

 

Resources for help and healing: 

 

The Postpartum Stress Center

Postpartum Support International 

Image credit

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Robin Williams: Our brilliant masked man.

Robin_Williams

I couldn’t figure out why I woke up this morning still thinking about Robin Williams. My husband offhandedly asked me yesterday why he thinks he did it, and maybe he asked me because no one can grasp why this beautiful brilliant man who made us snort laugh took himself from his family and fans.

Or maybe he asked me because he knows when I battled post-partum depression 16 years ago that to explain the abyss as Anne Lamott calls it, is nothing short of impossible.

Your brain is hijacked by forces outside your highest self, that one thing bound to rescue you when you’re alone and yet surrounded by everyone. Your rational thoughts are cruelly re-arranged by random neurochemical screw-ups until what you know  to be true becomes a big confusing lie.

Worse, part of you still senses that good stuff exists, hope, family, laughing, all those energizing, life and hope sustaining feelings get buried under numbness and sludge until the you that is you suffocates.

So while everyone and every beautiful mundane moment tells you “Hello Sunshine, it’s all good,” you don’t believe it because you don’t have the operating instructions to believe it. It’s like describing the feel of bright yellow to someone who only feels in black.

By the outstretched arms of my needing child and desperate trying of my husband, by the angels and God forces and my own stubborn belief that I better claw back up for them AND for my own inherited joy, I climbed out of that hellish abyss and I now encourage women (and men) to do the same.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression and yet men are more likely to take their lives.  Is depression still “female,” and for men merely a momentary mental wobble to “suck it up” or “buckle down” or “just pray the sad away?”

Strength comes when we manage to poke a pinhole through our impenetrable fear until the light inches in, and by our bravery to ask for help.

And yet, I’m positive Mr. Williams was brave, long fighting demons and addictions; he asked and got help and asked and got help until one day he sat alone for one moment too long and forgot his sunshine and the sunshine he gave millions.

They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary ~ John Keating played by Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.

Youtube: What will your verse be?

 

Image source: Wikipedia

 

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Mom and depression: motherhood sadness that doesn’t go away

TheGhostintheHouseCover

 

If mom ain’t happy no one is happy.”  The quippish slogan is often said in jest, yet depression among mothers is no laughing matter.

Writes the Mayoclinic.com, “About 1 in 8 women develop depression at some point in life. Women are nearly twice as likely as are men to struggle with depression at some point. Depression can occur at any age, but it is most common in women between the ages of 25 and 44.“    Read more….

 

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cure anxiety, cure depression, kavinace, holistic healing, natural cures for mood disorders

Letter to the anxious, the panicked, the depressed: Healing starts here.

cure anxiety, cure depression, kavinace, holistic healing, natural cures for mood disorders

(Picture courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

It astounds me how many people today are desperate for help to manage their long-time anxiety and depression.

 

Many people have been caught, some for decades, in a medication loop with their doctors. Numerous physicians with the best intentions, simply practice what they know — conventional symptom-based medicine, rather than applying a functional, holistic and integrative approach to treating their patients.

We are complex beings, mind and body. You can NOT separate the two for how they affect each other.  It is I believe, impossible.

Because most doctors based on their schooling, focus on conventional treatments rather than integrative approaches, patients suffer needlessly  for years. Their health, job and relationships spiral down, and in the most severe cases of mood disorders — suicide sometimes becomes the final solution.

A firm belief you deserve to feel good is the best springboard toward finding answers, towards solving any problem.

Woman desperate for help off the anti-anxiety medication rollercoaster

Recently a woman from Canada named Lisa emailed me. She explained that she’s been on a roller-coaster of anxiety-depression medication for years.  She had great success managing her anxiety with cognitive therapy but due to life stresses, Lisa had setbacks.  Over time she gained 150 pounds and was at the end of her rope. Today, back on track, she’s 26 pounds away from her goal weight, weaning off two medications and in search of a natural approach to help her replace the GABA meds long relied on.  She told me one of her doctors had her stop her benzodiazepine meds cold turkey, a dangerous protocol that sent her brain into a serious tailspin.

After reading a few of my GABA articles, Lisa asked me in an email, for my advice. I told her I wasn’t a doctor; I don’t claim to have the answers to managing mood disorders or that my answers are vetted for 100% accuracy, but I do extensively research what I write from peer-reviewed sources (Pub-med etc).

And more, I offer what I’ve learned through my own experience. Ultimately however, people have to do their own homework.

My advice to anyone trying to recover from anxiety, panic, depression and insomnia

Dear Lisa,

Wow. It sounds like you’ve been through it.

Of course I’m not a doctor but I have spent a fair amount of time, over 10 years, researching natural mood and hormone balancing, largely because I suffered with fibromyalgia (no longer) and monthly mood swings (PMS, PMDD) the result of a long-time benign pituitary disorder and other factors.

More recently I came out of a very serious bout of unexplained insomnia that led to panic, mild depression and overall misery. The bottom line for what steers my work is I believe we are supposed to feel good. Anything less is unacceptable.

I try so hard to find answers, to steer my own well-being rather than “accept” from doctors quasi-solutions — as so many of us have come to expect, particularly as we age.

Brain “hiccups” or imbalances are the result of the interplay of one or several hereditary, chemical, environmental (food allergies etc.), and psychological factors (stress, bad childhood, trauma), and I might add recovery is also contingent upon — attitude.

We breed what we believe.

The combination of all these factors can have a complex and cascading effect on your health. Yet, any imbalance can be cured or at least managed with more effective and safer treatment protocols than long-term meds —  or “learning to live with it.”

The traditional approach of trying various medications is often a band-aid until the underlying causative factors are uncovered and addressed:

  • Neuroendocrine (hormones – neurotransmitters, the Hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis) feedback system)
  • Psychological stressors (work, relationships, childhood trauma, crisis)
  • Environmental (food sensitivities, chemical, pollen etc.) U subscribe to a holistic approach for healing and in some cases to integrative healing (low dose traditional meds in conjunction with natural therapies).

As an aside, the mind-gut connection is regularly ignored as a potential contributor to mood  disorders. Food sensitivities, chronic gut inflammation, can wreak havoc on the brain. A good probiotic is useful (Jarrow etc.) as well as digestive enzymes — but food sensitivity or allergen avoidance is ideal.

When I was suffering from insomnia it threw me into a panic, the result of my brain getting out of whack from severe sleep deprivation, high cortisol and an adrenal imbalance. After weeks of doing extensive (and desperate!) research I found a website called Integrative Psychiatry, a company located in Sarasota, Florida.

IP offers tests for various functions involved in mood, sleep and cognitive/attention issues.  Many companies offer self-testing that includes a print out to explain your results, but IP also offers a one hour consult over the phone with a Physician’s Assistant who explains implications and suggested treatments.

Admittedly, their solutions are tied to purchasing their products but I trust the company’s recommendations I received – it worked.

IP’s testing and supplements are expensive, unfortunately, but if you contact IP they’ll help you pinpoint which test(s) can address your specific issues, and you can shop the supplements online in search of better value.

Lisa, shame on the doctor who told you to cold turkey benzo’s, that advice wasn’t only ignorant — it was irresponsible. The nurse at IP suggested I take a low dose of Klonapin to sleep and while I only took it for for two weeks she told me to wean off it gradually.

Kavinace supplement for anxiety, panic, sleep and to wean off benzodiazepene drugs

Among other things, she suggested I try Kavinace which contains a derivative of GABA found to be more effective than straight GABA supplements or L-theanine.  It also contains Taurine. It’s non-addictive and non-habit-forming, although I suspect all supplements have at least some potential to habituate.  I can’t say if that’s the case for Kavinace.

(Product description of Kavinace)

Kudos to you for practicing yoga. Yoga’s been proven to increase GABA in the brain so it’s a great idea to incorporate this ancient practice into your mind-body balancing journey.

Holistic healing requires a gradual sleuthing process to pinpoint causes. Once you nail down the underlying causes (not the least of which is a belief that you CAN recover and that you DESERVE to feel good) recovery is INEVITABLE.

Lisa, I hope some of my suggestions help. Holistic healing can sometimes take longer than a shot-gun approach of rotating medications but holistic and integrative medicine offers an effective, safer, LONG term approach to healing and well-being.

I suggest you:

a) Test for underlying causes

b) Taper your benzos using 1-2 capsules of Kavinace as needed

c) Get an IP consultation to discuss your test results

d) Don’t underestimate the potential for a food sensitivity which increases inflammation in the body, elevates histamine in the brain (an excitatory neurotransmitter) and can contribute to or exacerbate an anxious state.

e) Continue with cognitive therapies and mind-body work (yoga).

f)  Perhaps find a belief system that resonates within you — mine is Law of Attraction. Whether it is God, nature, or some spiritual force, having a belief in a good and divine power can be quite comforting and empowering.

All the best. To feeling good.

Laura Owens

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High levels of homocysteine and depression – certain supplements may help

Researchers believe that depression, particularly in the elderly, may be related to elevated homocysteine levels. A deficiency in B vitamins may be the cause.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

While elevated homocysteine levels are linked to heart disease and stroke, it may also contribute to depression, particularly in older people.

Negative effects of homocysteine

Homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that naturally occurs in all humans. It is involved in cellular metabolism and the manufacture of proteins.

Homocysteine irritates the lining of the blood vessels causing them to become scarred, hardened, and narrowed. This inflammation makes the heart work harder which can lead to heart disease. High levels of homocysteine also cause increased blood clotting. Blood clots decrease or block the flow of blood through blood vessels, resulting in strokes and heart attacks.

Homocysteine levels naturally vary according to age, gender, diet, hereditary factors, and general health. Approximately 5-10% of the population have levels that are too high.

In the 2000s, studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine were associated with poorer mental functioning, which lead to ongoing investigations into the role of homocysteine in Alzheimer’s disease. Additional studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones in the elderly.

Depression and homocysteine

Our bodies naturally use vitamin B12 and folic acid to convert homocysteine into a compound called SAMe – a source of methyl-groups. Without sufficient B-vitamins, blood homocysteine levels rise. Elevated homocysteine levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric diseases, including stroke and dementia.

Researchers believe that high homocysteine levels contribute to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, both which can lead to depression. A study conducted in 2005 found that total homocysteine levels were higher in elderly patients with late-onset major depression (Chen CS et al 2005).

Cause of elevated homocysteine 

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, genetic factorsa deficiency in folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins, aging and smoking. Large amounts of coffee can elevate homocysteine as well as some medications.

Mayoclinic.com writes: 

High homocysteine levels in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia) has been suggested as being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, blood clotting abnormalities, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and ischemic stroke. Taking vitamin B12 supplements in combination with other B vitamins (mainly folic acid) has been shown to be effective for lowering homocysteine levels. It is not clear whether lowering homocysteine levels results in reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. More evidence is needed to fully explain the association of total homocysteine levels with vascular risk and the potential use of vitamin supplementation.

People using the following drugs should discuss increasing their intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 with their doctor:

  • Lipid-lowering drugs such as fenofibrate (Tricor) and bezafibrate (Bezalip);
  • Metformin (Glucophage), a drug to modify insulin resistance;
  • Anti-epileptic drugs such as phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), primidone (Mysoline) and carbamazepine (Tegretol);
  • Levadopa (Sinemet) for treatment of Parkinson’s disease;
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) for treatment of cancer, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • Androgen treatment; and
  • Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), a mild anesthetic.

Sam-e and other supplements may lower homocysteine 

Many nutrients and supplements influence the body’s use of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Similar to prescription drugs used to treat depression, these natural therapies increase the production of neurotransmitters or reduce their rate of breakdown. Unlike prescription drugs, however, natural therapies can also minimize the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation that contributes to depression.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

According to an article by Life Extension on natural treatments for depression, the following supplements may decrease homocysteine levels and improve or eliminate depressive symptoms:

  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (sublingual (under the tongue), transdermal (skin) or injection form only)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Trimethylglycine and zinc
  • SAMe (“Does SAMe increase or decrease homocysteine?”)
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Cysteine
  • Creatine & choline-producing nutrients (inhibits the release of homocysteine)

While high plasma homocysteine levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, it can also lead to depression, particularly in elderly patients who are often deficient in folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. People struggling with depression that has not responded to other therapies may want to have their homocysteine levels tested and begin supplementing with B vitamins.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)Sources:

Chen CS, Tsai JC et al, “Homocysteine levels, MTHFR C677T genotype, and MRI Hyperintensities in late-onset major depressive disorder,” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2005 Oct;13(10):869–75.

Folstein M, Liu T, Peter I, Buell J, Arsenault L, Scott T, Qiu WW, “The homocysteine hypothesis of depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2007.

“Depression,” Life Extension online, Accessed November 18th, 2009, http://www.lef.org/protocols/emotional_health/depression_01.htm.

Parkavi Chellappa; Radhakrishnan Ramaraj, “Depression, Homocysteine Concentration, and Cardiovascular Events,” Journal of American Medical Association. 2009;301(15):1541-b-1542.

Henning Tiemeier, H. Ruud van Tuijl, Albert Hofman, John Meijer, Amanda J. Kiliaan, and Monique M.B. Breteler, “Vitamin B12, Folate, and Homocysteine in Depression: The Rotterdam Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Dec 2002; 159: 2099 – 2101.

Simon Gilbody Tracy Lightfoot Trevor Sheldon J, “Is low folate a risk factor for depression? A meta-analysis and exploration of heterogeneity,” Epidemiology Community Health2007;61:631-637

“Cardiovascular disease/hyperhomocysteinemia.” Mayoclinic.com. Updated October 1. 2011. Accessed January 9th, 2012.

McCully, Kilmer S. The Homocysteine Revolution. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill 1999.American Heart Association. 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. (800)242-8721.

Homocysteine.net, May 10, 2004. [cited March 23, 2005]. http://www.homocysteine.net.

“Serum Folate, Vitamin B12, and homocysteine in Major Depressive Disorder, Part 2: Predictors of Relapse During the Continuation Phase of Pharmacotherapy,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 65, No. 8 (August 2004).

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Depression and Dopamine: Natural Ways to Increase Key Neurotransmitter

Natural ways to increase dopamine to improve depressionWhile the number of drugs to treat dopamine-dependent depression is growing, people interested in avoiding medication can try natural alternatives to increase dopamine. Dopamine is involved in arousal and motor function and is a precursor to adrenaline and a closely related molecule, noradrenaline. This key brain chemical is made from the amino acid tyrosine and can convert into norepinephrine and epinephrine.

This key brain chemical is produced in several areas of the brain, including the nucleus accumbens, the region that acts as the “reward center.” In addition, dopamine is a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus where its main function is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.

Dopamine is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. Nearly all drug abuse and forms of addiction, including heroine and other opiates, alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines involve dopamine neuronal systems. As a result, elevating dopamine levels can improve mood, alertness, libido, yet too much or an imbalance can lead to a tendency towards addictive behaviors.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

A dopamine imbalance is associated with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and mood disorders, including certain types of depression.

Depression and dopamine levels

To date, depression medications have largely been developed based on a deficiency or imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. Yet a 2005 review of the serotonin-depression studies revealed little scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that too little serotonin “causes” depression.

“This new study highlights the importance of the dopamine system, a less appreciated target in the current antidepression therapies,” says researcher Li-Huei Tsai, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, for a news release on the dopamine animal study findings.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

While a growing number of antidepressants that mediate dopamine activity are becoming available, people interested in avoiding the dangers and side effects of medications can increase their dopamine with natural methods.

People with major depression disorder (MDD) may have difficulty sufficiently boosting their dopamine levels with only nutrition, exercise, and supplementation. They may however be able to improve symptoms, gradually lower their antidepressant dose to eventually come off medication altogether.

Increasing dopamine levels through nutrition

Dr. Eric Braverman, author of the book, “The Edge Effect,” offers specific nutritional and supplementation plans to increase the levels of key neurotransmitters in the brain depending on a person’s deficiency. “The goal of a dopamine diet is to ensure that the body has enough raw materials for a steady supply of tyrosine and phenylalanine, two amino acids that are precursors to dopamine. These amino acids are found in many protein-rich foods.” Many protein foods such as meats and dairy products have tyrosine that converts to dopamine including:

  • apples, bananas, and watermelon
  • beets
  • beans and legumes
  • black or green tea
  • cottage cheese, cheeses including ricotta
  • chicken, pork
  • cucumbers
  • dark chocolate
  • duck, wild game
  • egg
  • granola/oats
  • honey
  • milk
  • ricotta
  • soybeans
  • turkey
  • walnuts
  • wheat germ

Supplements to increase dopamine

There are a number of supplements that increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dr. Braverman recommends the following:

  • Phenylalnine: An essential amino acid found in the brain and blood plasma that can convert in the body to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine.
  • Tyrosine: Another amino acid and precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine is converted from phenylalnine
  • Methione: An essential amino acid protein that is provided to the body only through diet.L-Methionine is the precursor to SAMe, l-cysteine, taurine, and sulfate. SAM-e supplements can increase dopamine.
  • Rhodiola: a native plant of Russia. Rhodiola balances the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, or HPA, the body’s stress regulation center. Rhodiola balances the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
  • Pyridoxine: A form of vitamin B6 that has a beneficial effect on red blood cell production, cardiovascular health, the immune system and hormone balance. It is necessary for the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the body.
  • Mucuna pruriens: one of the popular Ayurvedic herbs, is also known as velvet bean or cowhage. This herb contains L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • Phosphatidylserine: A specialized lipid (fat) that occurs naturally in the body. It is a necessary component to regulate the function of all cells and is found in the highest concentration in the brain.
  • B Complex: Cofactors in the synthesis and proper function of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo extract, from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree is the most commonly used herbal medicine in Europe, can increase dopamine. Ginko enhances the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and promoting healthy transmission of nerve impulses.
  • NADH an activated form of the B vitamin niacin, the amino acid L-theanine, and Omega-3 fatty acids can also elevate dopamine levels.

Dopamine levels rise after exercise

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises reaps the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings. The dopamine response system is powerfully motivating.

While dopamine-dependent depression may respond well to medications, people interested in natural alternatives to antidepressants may want to consider exercise, dopamine-boosting foods and targeted supplementation.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

Photo credit: Vlado

Sources

Podea, Delia et al, “The Role of Dopamine in Depression,” The Romanian Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2008.

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

“The under-recognized role of dopamine in the treatment of major depressive disorder,” International Clinical Psychopharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK. stuart@samontgomery.co.uk, March 2008.

Carolyn Perrini, CLS, CNC,”L-Theanine: How a Unique Anxiety Reducer and Mood Enhancer Increases Alpha Waves and Alertness.”Accessed March 28, 2010.

Chalon, S.,”Omega-3 fatty acids and monoamine neurotransmission,”Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):259-69. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

Bove AA, Dewey JD, Tyce GM, “Increased conjugated dopamine in plasma after exercise training,”Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine, 1984 Jul;104(1):77-85.

Heiden, Eric,”How to get your own gold-medal high with dopamine,” Modbee.com,Tribune Media Services, Feb. 23, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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DHEA Improves Stress Resilience & Depression – Anti-Aging Hormone Offers Mood Benefits

stress, depression, dhea, dhea for mood, dhea for depression

 

DHEA, a natural steroid and precursor hormone produced by the adrenals, has been shown to provide several anti-aging benefits, and research suggests DHEA may also improve mid-life onset depression in people who don’t respond to first line depression therapies, as well as improve resilience to stress.

DHEA Improves Stress Resilience 

DHEA levels tend to peak around age 20 and then gradually decline with only about 20 percent circulating in the body by age 70.
 (Click image)

Referred to as the “mother hormone,” DHEA is a precursor to all major sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone with its molecular structure closely related to testosterone, according to Marcelle Pick, Ob & Gyn NP for Women in Balance.org in an article on DHEA.  While more research needs to be conducted to understand DHEA’s role in regulating other hormones, there is evidence DHEA may improve depression and the ability to cope with stress in some people.

“It’s likely that DHEA and adrenal function are related to neurotransmitter-release rates, based on the mood elevation our patients report after just two weeks of adrenal support.” Marcelle Pick.

A report by ScienceDaily cites a study conducted by Yale University and the VA National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder where researchers examined the biological mechanisms that contribute to a person’s level of resilience when under extreme stress, such as that experienced by soldiers, police, and firefighters.

(Click image)

Researchers worked closely with Special Forces Underwater Warfare Operations Center to study special operations soldiers enrolled in the military Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Results showed that soldiers with higher levels of DHEA did better during the final underwater navigation exam than those with less DHEA.

The ability to navigate underwater relies on an area of the brain called the hippocampus that is sensitive to the negative effects of stress. Dr. Charles A. Morgan, a researcher on the study said, “Animal studies have shown that DHEA buffers against stress, in part, by modulating receptors in this region of the brain. These findings are important in understanding why and how soldiers may differ in their ability to tolerate stress and also raise the possibility that, in the future, compounds like DHEA might be used to protect military personnel from the negative impact of operational stress.”

DHEA and Mid-Life Depression 

In addition to adrenal synthesis, evidence also indicates that DHEA and DHEAS are synthesized in the brain, further suggesting a role of these hormones in brain function and development.

A study published in the February 2005 issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry found that 23 subjects in a study on DHEA and depression had a 50 percent or more improvement on their depression rating scale.

Click here for DHEA lab test

Researchers studied 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with midlife onset major or minor depression of moderate severity. Six weeks of DHEA treatment contributed to significant improvements in depression and sexual functioning compared to the subjects’ baseline scores and the placebo subjects.

Peter J. Schmidt, M.D., and his colleagues from the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md. wrote, “At present, there are no predictors of response, and with a 50 percent response rate one would obviously select more reliable first-line treatments for this condition. However, in the 50 percent of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatment, or in those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression.”

Owen Wolkowitz, M.D. with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of San Francisco, has extensively researched the effects of stress and stress hormones on the brain and behavior, as well as the identification of mechanisms underlying depression, including DHEA’s role as an antidepressant in middle-aged and older individuals. Wolkowitz’s research has “consistently shown that DHEA supplementation improves mood [in these groups].”

DHEA Dosing and Safety

Because hormones are extremely powerful chemicals, people considering supplementing with DHEA should have their baseline and subsequent levels evaluated by a physician. The National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates there is sufficient evidence for the use of DHEA for adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. The NIH provides their recommendation for dosing, safety and side effects.

“Many of the DHEA supplements I see at my local store have very high dosages — way too high for most women (often as much as 20 times what I start my patients on!). While there’s no way to tell how much of that you might actually absorb, I think it’s especially unwise to experiment with DHEA at these levels without medical supervision.”  Marcelle Pick.

There is little research on the long-term effects of DHEA. DHEA may however, cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in some, and therefore increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers.

(Photo credit, Ambro)

Sources

Washington University School Of Medicine (2004, November 17). Abdominal Fat Decreases, Insulin Action Improves When Elderly Take Hormone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/04111623

Charles A. Morgan III et al. Relationships Among Plasma Dehydroepiandrosterone and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Cortisol, Symptoms of Dissociation, and Objective Performance in Humans Exposed to Underwater Navigation Stress. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 66, Issue 4 (August 15, 2009)

Peter J. Schmidt, et al., “Dehydroepiandrosterone Monotherapy in Midlife-Onset Major and Minor Depression,” Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:154-162.

Pick, Marcelle, Ob & Gyn NP, “Dhea and the Adrenal Glands.” Women to Women.org, Accessed September 13th, 2011.

Wolkowitz OM, et al,”Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) treatment of depression,”Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Feb 1;41(3):311-8.Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine 94143-0984, USA.

Footnote

A few years ago I consulted with a hormone and mood specialist, a former Ob/Gyn who told me after years of working in her field she grew tired of women receiving inadequate or ineffective treatment for a number of hormone-brain-endocrine changes, including peri and full menopause, PMS, anxiety, depression, etc.

In addition to answering a long questionnaire to measure my symptoms (the result of a pituitary disorder I have called Empty Sella Syndrome), the doctor ordered a saliva hormone and urine neurotransmitter test.  The results indicated my DHEA levels were extremely low. Instead of prescribing her usual 5mg per day for women, (men can take higher levels) she recommended 10mg daily.

As someone who believes in becoming our own health manager, while it’s tempting to throw supplements at an issue and see if they work,  it’s important to be very careful particularly with hormones, endocrine agents that impact a wide range of processes in the body and as a result, can have a cascading positive or negative affect.

“Without a comprehensive medical test it’s impossible to know what your DHEA levels are. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t automatically mean you’re deficient. Remember, this is a natural substance — our bodies can produce more or less of it depending on our nutrient support, metabolism, hormonal balance, activity level and emotional state.” Marcelle Pick.

Test, track and monitor your symptoms carefully under the supervision of a holistic (preferably) health care practitioner. 

Click here for DHEA lab test

I reccomend ZRT labs for a number of key saliva and/or blood tests. You can order these online or with a prescription from your doctor.

(Click image)

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Vitamin D Deficiency, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety & Depression: Possible Links

vitamin d, fibromyalgia, depression, chronic pain

The Sunshine Vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to fibromyalgia, chronic pain symptoms.

(Photo credit, Maggie Smith)

While researchers have found a relationship between insufficient vitamin D, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, the exact causality is still unknown.

Researchers in a 2007 study reported in Clinical Rheumatology that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with fibromyalgia and also occurs more frequently in those with anxiety and depression. Yet research is also emerging that may dispute the once believed link between Seasonal Affective Disorder, its depressive symptoms and D deficiency.

Regardless of the unanswered questions, patients suffering with mood issues and/or chronic muscle pain may want to consider having their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels tested.

Fibromyalgia, Vitamin D, Anxiety & Depression May Be Linked

People with fibromyalgia often have symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as low levels of vitamin D. In the 2007 study, researchers tested serum vitamin D levels in 75 patients with fibromyalgia. The subjects completed a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (HADS). Results showed that patients with vitamin D deficiency scored higher on the HADS .

Research has also linked vitamin D deficiency to patients who suffer with chronic pain. While the relationship between fibromyalgia, pain, anxiety, depression and vitamin D deficiency is somewhat complex and the exact relationship remains unclear, evidence is mounting to suggest that vitamin D plays some role in chronic pain and mood imbalance.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Depression With Seasonal Affective Disorder Research Disputed

Vitamin D continues to gain worldwide attention due to emerging research linking it to more than 2,000 gene processes in the body. Yet evidence has surfaced to challenge vitamin D’s once presumed role in Seasonal Affective Disorder and the associated depressive symptoms. Researchers believe Seasonal Affective Disorder manifests during winter months as a result of lack of sunlight exposure on the skin which then results in vitamin D deficiency.

In a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Dr. Oscar Franco, Assistant Clinical Professor in Public Health and his team, recruited more than 3,000 people and tested levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) in the blood. Subjects completed a questionnaire to measure depressive symptoms. Researchers found no clear association between depressive symptoms and the concentration of vitamin D in the blood.

“Few studies have explored the association between blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and depression in the general population, ” said Dr. Franco. “Previous studies into the effects of vitamin D supplementation have produced mixed results. More studies are still needed to evaluate whether vitamin D is associated with seasonal affective disorders, but our study does raise questions about the effects of taking more vitamin D to combat depressive symptoms.”

A Japanese study conducted in 2009 also found no evidence linking higher blood vitamin D levels with decreased depressive symptoms.

Vitamin D, Mood & The Brain

In a report entitled, “Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?” researchers concluded that based on the body of research to date, high doses of supplemental vitamin D may improve mild depressive symptoms. Yet questions persist regarding the following critical study areas of mood regulation:

  • how vitamin D affects monoamine function and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress
  • whether vitamin D supplementation can improve mood in individuals with moderate-to-severe depression
  • whether vitamin D sufficiency is protective against incident depression and recurrence.

Investigators in the report suggest it is “premature to conclude that vitamin D status is related to the occurrence of depression. Additional prospective studies of this relationship are essential.”

While the exact relationship between mood disorders, chronic muscle pain and vitamin D deficiency has not be clearly established, evidence suggests that patients with chronic muscle pain, anxiety or depression should at least consider testing their vitamin D levels and supplementing if they are deficient.

Additional Reading:

Fibromyalgia Pain: Magnesium and Malic Acid Combined More Effective

Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Linked

Integrative Massage For Chronic Pain: Multi-Disciplinary Approach More Effective

Footnotes:

Armstrong DJ, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB, “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia,” Clinical Rheumatology,2007 Apr.

An Pan, Ling Lu, Oscar H. Franco, Zhijie Yu, Huaixing Li, Xu Lin. “Association between depressive symptoms and 25-hydroxyvitamin D in middle-aged and elderly Chinese., “ Journal of Affective Disorders, 2009.

University of Warwick (2009, March 18). Vitamin D May Not Be The Answer To Feeling SAD. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2010.

Bertone-Johnson ER, “Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?” Nutritional Review, 2009 Aug.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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Depression Caused by Low GABA Rather Than Serotonin in Some

depression, anti-depressants, GABA, serotonin, SSRI

SSRI meds For GABA-Related Depression May Not Work

Photo credit, Flickr

Doctors may be closer to treating major depression in individuals who don’t respond to selective-serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective-serotonin nor epinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SSNRIs).

Medications prescribed to treat major depression are often those designed to increase the availability of serotonin, dopamine and/or nor epinephrine in the brain, neurotransmitters involved in a number of processes, including mood. Yet patients who don’t respond to those classes of drugs may in fact have an imbalance in another key brain chemical, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).

Depression Not Always Due to Serotonin, Dopamine, Nor Epinephrine Imbalance

Major depression is a complex mood disorder that can be caused by a number of underlying and potentially intertwined biochemical and psychological factors. While some patients respond to serotonin therapies, for others, SSRI’s don’t improve their symptoms or can even make them worse.

Scientists in a study released in 2005, “Corelease of Dopamine and Serotonin from Striatal Dopamine Terminals” found that higher serotonin concentrations caused by SSRIs can “trick” transporters of another key neurotransmitter, dopamine, into retrieving serotonin into dopamine vesicles. This is referred to as “cosignaling” and can lead to a dangerous, even life threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.

In a March 2010 study published in Biological Psychiatry, co-authors Drs. Andrea J. Levinson and Zafiris J. Daskalakis of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) studied a group of brain chemicals involved in virtually all brain activity, the neurotransmitter GABA. In the study, individuals who were the least likely to respond well to prior depression treatments were also the ones with the lowest level of GABA in their brain.

Depression and GABA

GABA controls the brain’s rhythmic theta waves that allow individuals to feel physically and mentally balanced. They are the electrical brain waves associated with an “in between” mental state, a drowsy, semiconscious, alert yet relaxed dream-like state of mind.

Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Mind Boosters [St. Martin’s Press, 2000] explains, “GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.”

GABA creates a sense of well-being and is involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that create feelings of well-being known as the “runners high.” “Endorphins are produced in the brain during physical movement, such as stretching or even sexual intercourse,” explains Dr. Braverman in his book The Edge Effect [Sterling Publishing, 2005]. As endorphins are released, people begin to feel a sense of calm, often referred to as the Endorphin Effect.

A GABA imbalance can be involved in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder but it’s also inherent to a number of critical day to day brain functions. “We apply so many conscious and unconscious perceptions and judgments to our actions at every second, without even realizing that we are doing so,” says Dr. Levinson. “GABA is part of the brain system that allows us to fine-tune our moods, thoughts, and actions with an incredible level of detail,” she says.

The findings on GABA and major depression may explain why electroconvulsive therapy, once thought barbaric, is still the most efficacious therapy for major depressive disorder. “Electroconvulsive therapy may act on GABA brain chemicals in a way that can reset the balance,” says Levinson.

GABA deficiency symptoms

Because GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, it’s involved in an impressive list of regulatory processes in the body. A GABA deficiency can lead to:

  • Allergies, light-headedness, restlessness, transient muscle tension or aches;
  • Feelings of dread, blurred vision, protein cravings, impulsive attention errors, cold or clammy hands, butterflies in the stomach, feeling of a lump in the throat;
  • Dizziness, coughing or choking, temporomandibular joint syndrome, paresthesia (prickling or tingling sensation), phobias;
  • PMS, irritable bowel syndrome, night sweats, moderate to severe constipation/diarrhea;
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), mood swings, various mild pain syndromes, various anxiety disorders, hypertension;
  • Delusions, unexplained chronic pains, trigeminal neuralgia and other facial pains;
  • Short or violent temper, chronic insomnia, neuropathy (nerve pain), fibromyalgia (chronic muscle pain);
  • Severe heart arrhythmias, carbohydrate cravings, severe migraines, rage; and
  • Severe tinnitus, severe pain, manic depression, seizures.

The implications of the study suggest that targeted drug therapies that include GABA medications may be more effective for patients with major depression than the trial and error approach that relies on serotonin and other neurotransmitter drug therapies.

“We are advancing the goal of a truly personalized medicine,” says study co-author Dr. Daskalakis. “It is intriguing to think that we may soon be able to apply simple brain stimulation to identify which treatments are most likely to help the individual person, eliminating the guesswork. That is, through these findings we may be able to one day determine who is and who is not going to respond to traditional pharmacological approaches to depression.”

Footnotes: 

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (2010, March 6). “Critical brain chemical shown to play role in severe depression.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 19, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/03/100301102803.htm

Fu-Ming Zhou, Yong Liang, Ramiro Salas, Lifen Zhang, Mariella De Biasi, and John A. Dani: “Corelease of Dopamine and Serotonin from Striatal Dopamine Terminals” Publishing in Neuron, Volume 46, Number 1, April 7, 2005, pages 65–74. http://www.neuron.org

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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Five Ways To Improve Mood Naturally: Dopamine, GABA, Fish Oil…

Natural mood elevators, including fish oil

(Photo credit: Kittikun Atsawintarangkul)

Depression and anxiety treatment continues to explode as a highly profitable industry for drug companies. A growing number of people are popping prescriptions, desperately seeking solutions that will work long term and don’t carry risky side effects.

Pharmaceutical companies continue to spend millions on advertising to convince consumers that the solution to conquering mood disorders comes from a doctor’s prescription pad. Yet there are numerous natural alternatives available that cost little money, are safe and effective and will treat a spectrum of acute and chronic mood issues.

Serotonin Not Always Solution to Depression

Many prescription anti-depressants are designed to address low levels of serotonin and nor epinephrine. Yet in a 2005 review, researchers Jeffery Lacasse and Jonathon Leo wrote that they couldn’t find any article to directly support the long-held claim that a serotonin deficiency causes mental disorders.

Moreover, not all mood disorders are due to a biochemical imbalance, and medications often miss the mark or don’t address the underlying causes. Drugs can have unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido, or diminished affect (emotion); and can even exacerbate symptoms. Alternatively there are a number of natural alternatives to boost mood.

1.Increase Dopamine for Depression Relief

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in arousal and motor function is a precursor to adrenaline and a related molecule, not adrenaline. Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. While doctors can prescribe medications to treat dopamine-dependent depression, there are natural ways to elevate dopamine.

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises can reap the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings.”

2. Boost GABA for Mental Health

Another neurotransmitter involved with mood regulation is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA controls the brain’s rhythmic theta waves that allow individuals to feel physically and mentally balanced.

Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Mind Boosters [St. Martin’s Press, 2000] explains GABA’s key brain balancing role, “GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.”

GABA is involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that create feelings of well-being known as the “runner’s high.” An imbalance can be involved in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder but it’s also inherent to several critical day to day brain functions.

A GABA-rich diet and certain supplements can elevate GABA, and so can yoga, research finds. “The practice of yoga should be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders. Future studies should compare yoga to other forms of exercise to help determine whether yoga or exercise alone can alter GABA levels,” write scientists in a 2007 study.

3. Take Fish Oil to Improve Mood

Fish oil is most often associated with cardiovascular health, but the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can also improve mood in some people.

According to Dr. Mercola, a leading natural health expert, “Numerous studies worldwide have linked lack of omega-3 consumption – specifically DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) – with depression. One study found that depression symptoms were higher among infrequent fish consumers than among those who ate fish on a regular basis.”

Researchers found that low plasma concentrations of DHA were good predictors of low concentrations of brain serotonin. Low serotonin can be associated with depression and suicide in some individuals.

4. Socialize With Cheerful People

Depressed people often avoid social interaction, but forcing face-to-face connections with upbeat people can boost mood, research indicates.

Forbes.com reported on a 20-year study that found social networks can have a deep impact on an individual’s happiness. Scientists tracked over 4,700 people and found that social interactions with both cheerful friends and strangers considerably influenced the subject’s chances of happiness.

5. Pet a Pet to Boost Mood

Petting Rover can be plus for mental and physical health. “The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets,” says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD for a WebMD article.

Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health [Peak Press, 2000] tells WebMD that like any enjoyable activity, playing with a pet increases serotonin and dopamine. “People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature, “says Justice.

While the pharmaceutical industry continues to promote a long list of medications for anxiety and depression, several natural alternatives are available that are safe, often very effective, and without risky side effects.

People suffering with acute or chronic mood changes who are interested in natural treatments should seek a holistic practitioner. Holistic physicians often measure neurotransmitter and hormone levels and then develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a combination of diet changes, exercise, hormone replacement and supplements. Treatment may be combined with conventional approaches to mood management or as an alternative.

Footnotes:

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

Lerche Davis, Jeanie, “5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health,” WebMD. November 16, 2009.

Mercola, Joseph, Ph.D., “More Omega-3 Studies Find Links to Depression,”November 24 2004.

Rebecca, Ruiz, How To Beat The Winter Blues. Forbes.com. December 15, 2008.

Streeter, CC, Jensen JE, Perlmutter RM, Cabral HJ, Tian H, Terhune DB, Ciraulo DA, Renshaw, PF, “Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study.” Journal of Complementary Medicine, 2007 May 13.

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