SSRI-antidepressant advertising campaigns have claimed that depression is linked with an imbalance of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and that SSRIs can correct this imbalance. This theory of a "bio-chemical imbalance" is heavily flawed. Scientifically speaking, there is no causal relationship whatsoever between "low serotonin" and "depression."
Studies that were performed to evaluate the effect of depleting serotonin levels in humans in order to induce depression, reaped no consistent results. Low serotonin levels did NOT produce an increase in clinical depression in healthy humans. (click to observe study). In fact, researchers found that huge increases in brain serotonin, arrived at by administering high-dose L-tryptophan, were ineffective at relieving depression. (click to observe study)
So, are (SSRI) antidepressants an answer? Since we now know that these prescription drugs are not correcting any "bio-chemical imbalance" but putatively increase serotonergic activity (and therefore serotonin levels in your complete body, not solely the brain, risking the potentially fatal toxic hyperserotonergic state of the Serotonin Syndrome) and since we now know that low serotonin levels do not have any scientifically proven causal relationship with depression, one could ask if it is worth taking risks by ingesting an agent that can drastically alter and damage your entire personal system in ways that medical science doesn't even understand?
Medical research in a study dating 25 sept, 2004 shows us clearly that serotonin toxicity can even appear rapidly in a few hours after taking a single therapeutic dose of SSRI medication. In Bio-Psychiatry it is a common thought that SSRI's are believed to have their effect by inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin (downregulation of transporters) and thereby gradually increasing serotonin outside the tissue cell wall (extracellular) in the synaptic gap between brain cells (neurons) in the brain. In this important study, Zoloft (Lustral, sertraline) was given to monkeys for 4 weeks to establish how long it would take before Zoloft would have it's effect on serotonergic neurons and thus elevation of serotonin. In contrast with the commonly accepted SSRI theory, it was observed that serotonin levels raised NOT gradually, but rapidly and dramatically and kept on raising during these 4 weeks, an effect that can NOT be ascribed solely to a "re-uptake inhibition" of serotonin!
Seventeen (17) years after introducing the first SSRI-antidepressant on the market in 1987, our "Medical Science" discovers their prescription drugs "work" in toxic ways to be never expected. They did not know... yet they were brought onto the market as "safe and effective." And still these toxic antidepressants are on the market... What does that tell you?
In numerous case reports/studies (more...), one side of the dangerous risks by ingesting antidepressants have been exposed, ranging from: mental state, perceptual, emotional and psychological changes to suicidal, aggressive and/or homicidal thoughts & behaviours, self-harm and failed/succeeded suicide attempts.
Fortunately and finally in October 2004, the MHRA in the United Kingdom as well as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States of America acknowledged antidepressant prescription drugs to induce suicidal thoughts and behaviours in children, adolescents and adults of which causal relationship has been proven. Hence it is ordered that ALL antidepressants carry the prominent "black-box" suicide warnings.
Furthermore, in numerous other case reports/studies, also reversal as well as permanent damage to vital organs as a direct result of antidepressant use has been confirmed.
So why taking such a huge risk in order to find instant relief from prescription drugs that have been proven to damage your health? Prescription drugs that indeed have been proven to powerfully alter your mind and perception, unfortunately with all tragic consequences?
Since the earliest civilisations, the link between mental health, emotional states and diet, food and drink have been recognised, yet this is seldom taken into consideration by conventional medical practitioners today as prescriptions for psychotropic drugs are often issued as a first line of treatment, without taking into account the wide range of alternative options that are available and often more appropriate.
Normal everyday life can cause ups and downs bringing about feelings which include happiness/sadness, euphoria/despondency and laughing/weeping. Sometimes one can understand and relate to why they are feeling this way. For example, it is normal for one to feel sad following a bereavement, just as it is normal for one to feel euphoric when they have passed an exam that they worked hard for or been offered a job which they really wanted. However, people's experiences of depression vary from person to person and it is often very difficult for an outsider who has not been there to understand exactly what that person is going through for depression is more than simply feeling down; it can incapacitate sufferers to such a degree that they feel totally isolated, imprisoned and immobilised. It can affect anyone, at any time, of any age - nobody is immune.
Around 25% of the population may experience some form of depression at some point in their lives and statistics show that women are slightly more susceptible than men. There are many contributing factors to depression which include lifestyle, behaviour and relationships.
Depression frequently follows some life shattering event such as bereavement, serious illness in the family, redundancy, divorce, bankruptcy or other financial difficulties and in many situations all that is needed is good support. Symptoms include changes in appetite leading to weight gain or loss; changes in sleeping habits, ie. insomnia or constant sleeping; feelings of being out of control; hyperactivity or total lethargy; loss of interest and sex drive; reduced energy and fatigue or listlessness; feelings of worthlessness or guilt, lack of concentration and finally, thoughts of death or suicide. Depression is likely to be diagnosed if any five of these symptoms are experienced and last for a period of one month.
Poor diet can have a disastrous effect on memory, co-ordination, concentration, powers of reason, behaviour and mood although this is very rarely recognised or looked into by medical professionals. Mental distress is linked to a deficiency of iron, magnesium and B-complex vitamins. Zinc deficiency can also be a major factor in causing depression and leads to loss of appetite, subsequent poor nutrition, inevitable chronic fatigue and finally, depression. Many people who go to their doctor complaining of fatigue are often wrongly assumed to be suffering from depression and prescribed anti-depressant drugs which doctors often use as a first line of treatment. Unfortunately, many of these drugs can interfere with zinc absorption. Low levels of zinc in the body can not only lead to a loss of appetite and fatigue (which can be exacerbated by anti-depressants) but can also be a factor in the cause of depression itself. It is therefore important to get adequate amounts of zinc in your diet in order to prevent a downward spiral from forming. Sources of zinc include: shellfish, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, soya beans, wheat products (especially wheatgerm and wheat bran), sesame seeds, cocoa, sunflower seeds, sweetcorn, rice, wholemeal bread, oats, cheeses (especially cheddar and edam), legumes (especially aduki beans), peas, barley, nuts (especially almonds), peanuts and peanut butter, wholegrain flours, buckwheat and brown rice.
The majority of women and many children have diets that are deficient in iron, and zinc levels appear to be falling as the consumption of convenience foods rises. Consequently, it is hardly surprising that depression is becoming more common. Excessive consumption of caffeine which can be found in tea, coffee, fizzy drinks or chocolate and large amounts of bran interferes with mineral absorption and can therefore trigger the onset of depression. Overstimulation of the central nervous system by caffeine can cause extreme mood swings.
A diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugars is a common factor in depressive illness and alcohol can also have a severe depressant effect. Vitamin deficiencies may have specific effects on mental states. These are detailed below:
Improved nutrition can be used to relieve depression and enhance overall mental health, mental ability and performance. Key nutrients can be obtained from a variety of sources which include eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruit and salads, plenty of wholegrain cereals, all types of beans, pasta and brown rice. Grapes, millet, wheatgerm, brewer's yeast, oats, buckwheat, molasses, dairy products, berries, figs (fresh or dried), unsalted seeds and nuts, shellfish, nutmeg, ginger, basil, and rosemary all have a key role to play in eating to beat depression.
Chocolate can be a mixed blessing as its high sugar content can create wild fluctuations in the body's blood sugar levels. In order to function properly, the brain needs a constant regular supply of sugar but when the level plunges from hyper (too much) to hypo (too little), the effects on mood and behaviour can be devastating. Consequently, eating too many can cause one's mood to plummet as the high sugar content plays havoc with the blood-sugar levels. On the other hand, modest amounts of chocolate can give a real lift to someone who is feeling depressed as chocolate contains the chemical theobromine which triggers the release of endorphins in the brain. It is these brain chemicals that mimic the euphoric feelings of "being in love".
Of all the potential triggers, attention to nutrition is the easiest and most basic first step to recovery. Ideally, investigating the nutritional aspect of one's diet should be the first step that is taken by any medical practitioner when someone presents with such conditions but in practice, this is very rarely the case. Keeping blood-sugar levels on an even keel is a primary requirement in order to avoid hypoglycaemia, as well as eating the vitamin B-rich foods previously mentioned. An adequate supply of good calories, healthy proteins and all the essential minerals are all essential in maintaining good mental health. However, it can sometimes be very difficult to persuade someone who is feeling extremely depressed to eat or to dissuade them from binging on high-fat, high-sugar foods of poor nutritional quality. Frequent small meals that are appealing, attractive and nourishing for example home made soups, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices and plenty of good wholegrain cereals could help to form the ideal basic menu.
Go to Part 2: Anxiety management