Depression is more than a medical problem. It is a spiritual and social issue and dependent on the health of the person as a whole. Orthodox medicine tends to see it as a function of brain chemistry. However, there are many studies that have recently called that idea into question. Indeed, no studies have ever proved that depression is in any way correlated with low serotonin levels in the brain.
But even if that were the case, we have to ask why it occurs. Nutritional medicine, natural therapies and naturopathic and homeopathic medicines have much to offer in depression. Their philosophy is to treat the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. That cause may be totally due to lack of meaning and direction in life, or to emotional trauma or grief. Even in this latter situation, natural medicine can help. Homeopathy especially addresses trauma and can balance at the emotional level.
At our Perth naturopathic clinic our primary focus in treating depression will be on understanding the person as a whole. This includes their life history, their social context and family relationships, their diet and exercise habits and their sense of meaning and purpose.
Nutrition, diet, and homeopathy are the main forms of natural treatment. Much of the modern research shows the role of inflammation in depression, and natural therapies addresses this. This is explained below.
We encourage the patient to also seek a counsellor and/or a psychologist. Many patients find great benefit from our in-depth consultations that take their whole life history and emotions into consideration. As homeopaths we know how to empathise and understand. We have to do that, to get the full picture that is crucial in finding the right remedy. That in itself is therapeutic. But we understand how a counsellor may also help. We may also refer for medical assessment if we feel the mood of the patient is at a stage where self harm is possible.
There is much new research supporting the role of diet and nutrition in mental health. Mental health is dependent on a wide range of nutrients. These include vitamins C, D, E and A, omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA, B vitamins, especially B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin and folate. The minerals zinc and magnesium are also very important for mood and protective against depression. Food is the best way to obtain these nutrients, not through supplements. In that way they are in their natural form and contain all the co-factors for their absorption and utilisation.
Studies show that inflammation is not only one of the main causes of chronic disease in the body. It is also implicated as a major cause of depression. Patients with major depression have shown increased inflammatory blood markers, called cytokines. They access the brain and contribute to virtually every factor involved in depression. This includes neurotransmitter metabolism, neuroendocrine function, and neural plasticity (the ability to form new neural pathways).
Several things contribute to this inflammation. One of the key ones is diet. Many of these nutritional factors mentioned has an effect on reducing inflammation. The other key one causing inflammation is the effect of stress. And the key way that inflammation affects mood is by the resulting high cortisol disturbing the immune system in the gut and its production of neurotransmitters. This produces further cytokines. In turn, this affects the important balance between the gut and the brain. The end result is low mood and depression.
We all instinctively know the connection between gut, mood and stress. There is the age-old term “a gut feeling”. We get “butterflies” in our stomach when anxious. When anxious, many people get diarrhoea or lose stools. The inflammatory cytokines cross the blood-brain barrier and literally cause inflammation in the brain.
This is why there is a connection between depression and other physical chronic diseases. They all have a similar cause in inflammation. Once again stress, or the reaction to stress, and poor diet are key factors. So many people diagnosed with depression also have other chronic illness. As well, they may also have various syndromes like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. With IBS you can see once more the gut-brain connection. And with CFS the disturbed immune function and high inflammatory markers. Of course, they mall also have all the markers of adrenal fatigue.
The treatment of depression at this clinic consists of lifestyle and diet analysis and modification – and homeopathic medicine. Sometimes we may support that with herbal medicine, but that works less deeply on the mind than homeopathy. In this way we deal with the causes of any inflammation due to stress and nutritional factors. Taken together, we would say the term naturopathic treatment covers the approach.
As with any condition, we take a full case history that covers the mental, emotional and physical levels. Please visit the page homeopathy explained for a fuller summary of homeopathic principles. The mental symptoms, regardless of the diagnosis, are the most important aspects of any case in finding the remedy for the patient. That remedy that covers all aspects is known as the “constitutional remedy”.
So you can see that homeopathy treats the mind of the patient even if they are coming for a purely physical complaint. Everything is linked in homeopathic understanding, and in reality. If we are to act deeply and in a healing way we cannot separate the person into parts. That way, the patient is balanced at the deepest level and improvements can be lasting. We expect a patient to come back and say they feel “better in themselves” – even if they came for things like hay fever or digestive issues.
Here is the result of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) on homeopathy in depression. Individualized Homeopathic Treatment and Fluoxetine for Moderate to Severe Depression in Peri- and Postmenopausal Women. The conclusion was that homeopathy was equally effective in relieving depression as fluoxetine (Prozac).
You will find more on this site on site on the treatment of mental and emotional issues and anxiety. Often it is difficult to say whether the patient is anxious or depressed, and that’s a good point. In treating, we do not depend on a label or diagnosis. We simply look for a remedy that covers the full spectrum of the patient’s symptoms. We are not treating a label – we are treating a person. Our treatment is far more individual than the medical approach.