Studies show that about 15 million adults in the United States, suffer from at least one major depressive episode every year. This makes it one of the most devastating medical conditions in the country. Depression is not your normal feeling of sadness or mood swing; it’s a persistent disease that takes hold of your life and steers it towards the cliff-unless you act fast. Many people experience mild to moderate depression and do not even realize it. When you observe yourself as if you were an actor in a movie, you may find things out about yourself that you were previously unaware of. The goal is to sort of step outside of yourself, in order to look more objectively at the real situation in your life, causative factors, dynamics, etc. Traditional medicine treats depression with anti-depressants like Prozac, but these can often have severe side effects. Recent research shows amino acid therapy can be a more effective and safer treatment option.
Signs and symptoms of depression
Depression manifests in the form of several symptoms including the following:
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Depressed mood
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Reduced power of concentration or thought
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Excessive sleeping or insomnia
- Increased weight or appetite loss or gain
If you have five or more of these symptoms, consistently for two weeks, then according to some guidelines you may be clinically depressed and should seek the help of a medical provider.
Causes of depression
Studies show that low levels of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine can cause depression. Hormone imbalances and genetic issues can also contribute to depression. Inflammation caused by poor diet, oxidative stress, and conditions affecting certain parts of the brain can predispose an individual to depression. If depression is coming from an overall health problem related to another disease or condition then working on its root cause is the best way to help it. As an example, check out how functional medicine was used to identify the root cause factors for a real patient, including all of the lab test results that were administered:
Functional Medicine Root Cause Analysis Case Study
- Functional Medicine Root Cause Analysis Case Study (Part 1)
- Functional Medicine Root Cause Analysis Case Study (Part 2)
- Functional Medicine Root Cause Analysis Case Study (Part 3)
- Functional Medicine Root Cause Analysis Case Study (Part 4)
Functional medicine testing can often be used to identify hidden factors, that when fixed can produce improvement in different conditions and of course the mind state. For instance, a food sensitivity could be affecting your health without you even knowing it. Until you stop eating that food, you are hampering your health progress by creating inflammation in your body, and possibly creating large harmful reactions.
One of the biggest threats for depression seems to be imbalanced neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, including dopamine, GABA, serotonin, and norepinephrine are produced from amino acids in food. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that help transmit messages from one nerve to another. Imbalances in the production of neurotransmitters lead to problems such as anxiety, depression, memory loss, poor cognition, and mental processing issues.
Amino Acid Therapy
Amino acid supplementation works because it provides the body resources it needs to produce optimal levels of neurotransmitters. Here are some of the most effective amino acid supplements for naturally treating depression.
Serotonin is vital for feelings of happiness and emotions. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps keep us calm and free from anxiety and depression. Low levels of serotonin can result in anxiety, insomnia, depression, low libido, fatigue, panic attacks, cravings, and other conditions. Stress, estrogen and other hormone levels can reduce the production of serotonin. By supplementing the precursors of serotonin, 5-Hydroxytryptophan or L-Tryptophan, the body has more fuel to produce serotonin, helping you stay cool, calm, and in a good jolly mood. If some sort of acute or chronic stress is the main cause of depression, these people can sometimes receive big improvements in their stress/depression from acupuncture.
L-Tryptophan is the chemical which the body converts to serotonin. It is a natural relaxant that has a sedative effect, making it an effective treatment for insomnia. L-Tryptophan can also lower the risk of anxiety, depression, heart spasms, migraines, and others. Tryptophan can be found in most protein-based foods. It is especially present in chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
GABA is also an inhibitory brain neurotransmitter that can be supplemented. GABA is highly effective for reducing anxiety and depression as it prevents the excitatory system from becoming overactive. Reduced levels of GABA have been linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, and substance abuse.
Glutamate is the opposite of GABA as it is the main excitatory NE transmitter in the brain. The brain requires it for memory and learning, but increased levels can produce the opposite while reduced levels result in poor brain function and memory loss. There are many people that have excess Glutamate in their body without knowing it.
There are two main causes of excess glutamate.
- Too much glutamate accumulating in the brain over time from certain lifestyle factors.
- Glutamate receptors becoming overly sensitive and thus become easily overstimulated.
Supplementing GABA can help keep the levels of glutamate balanced.
Tyrosine is a neurotransmitter in the epinephrine pathway. Epinephrine, or adrenaline, is a hormone secreted by the medulla of the adrenal glands. Strong emotions such as fear or anger cause epinephrine to be released into the bloodstream, which causes an increase in heart rate, increased respiration, increased blood pressure, and sugar metabolism. If Tyrosine levels are out of balance this can interfere with the bodies regulation of adrenaline. If you are low in tyrosine then supplementation can help reduce depression and symptoms like poor focus poor concentration, low libido, poor mood, fatigue, and apathy. tyrosine also promotes thyroid function and boosts energy.
Amino Acids As a Natural Therapeutic Modality
Amino acid therapy is a natural alternative to costly anti-depressants that may do your body more harm than good. Since neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, supplementing these essential nutrients helps create a hormonal balance and reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.
In addition to correcting imbalanced neurotransmitters with amino acid therapy, people experiencing depression should check other major causes of depression. This includes physical and mindset causes. It is very important to remind ourselves often that we are worthy of love, healing, and help. A healthy mindset is so critical to overcoming any negative emotions no matter the cause. Of course, if you believe you suffer from depression, check in with your primary healthcare provider for diagnosis, strategy, and treatment plan.
Ideally, we combine all of the therapies that help people and make them even more accessible. A primary care physician is just ONE part of the plan. Functional Medicine and other complementary alternative medicine modalities should also be part of that plan. We need to recognize it is likely many people in our world experience at least minor depression from time to time. Acknowledging this and showing it can be treated naturally will be a major step forward in the treatment of depression and mental health in general.
With the discovery of how effective amino acid therapy can be in the treatment of depression, all people with depression should look at giving it a try before taking potentially medications which often have worse side-effects than the disease itself.
Check out these research articles out for more information: