by Loli Jane Heimberg, MS, RD
Whether you suffer from minor or chronic, lifelong depression, you are acutely aware that healing depression is no small task. It requires support and stamina and a mind-body-spirit approach. If you only “mask” the physical symptoms with antidepressants, you are not getting to the root of the problem.
Depression develops from alterations in brain chemistry from biochemical changes, genetics, hormones (menopause, childbirth, thyroid problems), nutritional deficiencies, imbalanced gut flora, medication side effects, substance abuse, and environmental stress, including the bombardment of unhealthy electromagnetic fields. In addition, stress from trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), conflict, sadness, grief, social isolation, serious illness, loss, financial troubles, or unexpected change can have a big impact on brain chemistry.
A major cause of depression is imbalanced neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine—which communicate across circuits that connect different brain regions affecting pleasure centers. Antidepressants work to balance these neurotransmitters, especially serotonin. Chronic exposure to unhealthy, extremely low frequency (ELF) electric or magnetic fields, power lines, cell phones, Wi-Fi and electrical devices can disrupt normal circadian rhythms in the pineal gland, alter serotonin and melatonin concentrations and contribute to depression and depression-related suicide.
Studies show that depressed individuals have a smaller hippocampus region in the brain, which may be due to the toxic effects of excess cortisol (seen in depressed people) which “shrinks” the hippocampus and reduces serotonin receptors. A smaller hippocampus may be related to genetics and one is more likely to suffer from depression if there are family members who also have depression.
Another contributing factor is trauma or PTSD as diagnosed in soldiers returning from war, childhood trauma, abuse, accidents or life-threatening conditions. Depression has been exhibited in adults who suffered childhood physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Many people rely on medications or substances to mask symptoms. Nearly 30 percent of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression. Also, medications such as Accutane (acne), interferon-alpha (anti-viral) and corticosteroids can cause depression.
Environmental changes like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) present during winter months are more common in those who spend much of their time indoors, causing lethargy, tiredness, and a loss of interest in everyday tasks.
Holistic Steps to Alleviate Depression
Step 1: Take a Probiotic, Omega 3 & B-Complex. Balance the gut flora and add mood-elevating foods to boost mood, increase vital brain neurotransmitters, and reduce brain inflammation. Probiotics are critical since the nerve cells in our gut manufacture 80 to 90 percent of our serotonin—the neurotransmitter most responsible for depression. An adequate intake of probiotic foods as well as foods high in Omega 3’s, B12, B6, Folate, Selenium, Vitamins A, D, E, K, alpha-lipoic acid and tryptophan is essential.
Step 2: Light Therapy. A 2010 study in JAMA Psychiatry has shown that bright light therapy (BLT) can be used for seasonal and non-seasonal depression. BLT improves mood, enhances sleep efficiency, and increases melatonin. BLT helps moderate cortisol levels even after discontinuation of treatment. It also targets depression-associated neurotransmitter systems (serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine) and targets the same brain structures as antidepressant drug treatments.
Get sunlight 20 minutes a day or you can use the modern technology, Photon Genius, which provides full-spectrum light therapy as well as far infrared, ionization, noble gases and harmonic frequency therapy which balance neurotransmitters and hormones, increase nitric oxide levels, reduce inflammation, and improve brain blood flow and cellular communication.
Step 3: Release Trauma. In energy medicine, depression is related to energetic blockage in the root, navel, solar plexus and spleen chakras. When vital life force qi (chi) or prana is depleted, depression will be experienced. Pranic healing can remove traumas and energetic blockages so the body can increase qi to these areas and self-heal.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of psychological acupressure based on energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments. It works to clear the “short circuit”—the emotional block—from the body’s bioenergy system.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment which reduces distress associated with traumatic memories and works well on alleviating depression related to trauma. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR, one can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference.
Step 4: Exercise & Music. Although it’s very difficult to find motivation to exercise in a depressed state, try peeling yourself off the couch and go for a walk with music. According to ethnomusicologists and musicians at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, “rhythmic” music alters brain function and treats neurological conditions, including depression. The combination of music and exercise enhances the action of endorphins and increases the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, directly improving mood.
As an alternative or adjunct therapy to antidepressants, take a huge leap in feeling better with mood-boosting vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids, probiotics, etc. A comprehensive health panel, including vitamin/mineral and amino acid deficiencies, is available at Photon Light Spa. Use the power of light therapy and increased nitric oxide levels to boost happy brain chemicals, get moving, and don’t forget the music, overall utilizing a more organic approach to release traumas that no longer serve you.
Loli Heimberg, holistic dietitian and esthetician, and pranic healer, is the owner of Photon Light Spa, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a wellness spa featuring Light Therapy-Photon Genius, Comprehensive Health Panel & Nutritional Counseling, Pranic Psychotherapy and Emotional Freedom Technique. For more information and to make an appointment, call 954-303-9585 or visit PhotonLightSpa.com.