Anxiety, Stress & Fatigue
Depression will affect 1 in 5 Australians, and is believed to be our fourth most common illness. However, if left untreated or treatment for it has not been effective, many people suffer the effects over and over again for years. One of the most common causes of depression seen in clinic is due to emotional stagnation. When we respond emotionally to an event or thought and that emotion isn’t expressed, where does it go? Unexpressed emotional energy stays in your body and stagnates. This stagnating energy affects your energy flow and is eventually reflected in your life as feelings of being “stuck, stagnant, dull, down, tight, and gloomy”. Eventually this stagnation can manifest as other more serious health problems. As with any health condition, to get good results you have to identify what is causing the problem.
In Chinese medicine, anxiety is thought to stem from and imbalance between the heart and kidney. The heart (fire) overpowers the kidney (water) and rises to the mind, leading to anxiety and its associated symptoms. Treatment involves a focus on restoring balance between these two organs. In western medicine this type of treatment has been shown in some studies to slow the production of stress hormones, and have a similar effect to cognitive behaviour therapy in reducing anxiety in a patient.
Depression and Acupuncture: Acupuncture works by helping the body to correct what is not working properly. It has a history of treating depression and other emotional disorders for over 3,000 years. (Mental or emotional conditions is the number one reason for people receiving acupuncture treatment in the USA.)
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Depression affects individuals differently, however some of the more common signs and symptoms are:
- Not going out anymore
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Not doing usual enjoyable activities
- Not getting things done at home/work/school
- Relying on alcohol or other substances
- Unable to concentrate
- Sick and run down
- Headaches and muscle pains
- Tired all the time
- Sleep problems
- Upset stomach
- Loss or change of appetite
- Significant weight loss or gain
It is important to remember that these symptoms are a normal part of life’s lows, however the more symptoms you have and the longer they have lasted, the more likely it is that you are dealing with depression.
Possible PHYSICAL Causes of Depression
One school of thought is that depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, usually triggered by physical or emotional trauma. However, sometimes there are a number of factors in the body which can also cause depression or make it worse.
- Poor circulation to the brain is one of the more common conditions found in people suffering from depression. The cells of the body are like small plants – if you give them plenty of water and nutrients they thrive and do well. If the blood has been sluggish getting to your brain, it will have lost much of its oxygen and nutrients, and be full of wastes by the time it reaches your cells. The cells will suffer, and if they ‘feel yuk’, then it is natural that you will mentally feel poorly as well. People with this condition will often feel that problems are bigger than they are. (This can be diagnosed is by an experienced acupuncturist feeling a spot at the very top of the head. If it feels puffy or tender, it means the blood flow in the head is sluggish.)
- Deep-seated fatigue is another common cause. It can develop gradually from adrenal fatigue, or suddenly such as in post-natal depression. Adrenal fatigue has 3 main causes:
- Any shock or trauma, shock, or fright that stimulates a release of adrenaline in the body. Sometimes, after this event has passed the body continues to produce excess adrenaline, and becomes internally burnt out.
- A prolonged period of stress (including a job you dislike, a bad relationship, or even a long illness)
- Overwork, or not getting enough rest and recovery or sleep
- Thyroid imbalance – both an overactive and underactive thyroid can result in depression. (In some people, thyroid symptoms such as low energy, putting on weight easily, and depression or anxiety can occur if their blood test results are towards the lower end of the normal thyroid range. So even if you have had a blood test and been told that your thyroid is fine, it is best to let us see the results or have your thyroid checked by ourselves. Most natural therapists take a more conservative approach, and if your levels are in the lower part of the range, we want to improve them before you have to go on medication for the rest of your life.)
- Tailbone injury can occasionally cause symptoms of depression, restlessness, or unstable feelings. The exact mechanism for this is unknown, but may be due to a strain on the spinal cord up to the brain.
- Medication – some medications can have depression as a possible side-effect (including anti-depressants!)
- Lack of sunlight can cause a type of depression known as Seasonal Affected Disorder.
- Lack of important nutrients – what is not well-known is that each person need for various nutrients is different. Some people may need higher than usual levels of some nutrients to allow their bodies and minds to work correctly.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can’t make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet or supplements. Various studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and in countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in countries such as the USA. Post- natal depression is also less common.
- Tryptophan and Tyrosine – these are essential amino acids, and are needed for various functions in the body. This includes the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are important chemicals for brain function. When depression is said to be caused by a chemical imbalance, this usually refers to a lack of serotonin or dopamine, or both. Tryptophan and Tyrosine must be obtained through your diet or from supplements. Good food sources include soy protein, meats, cheese, legumes, nuts and seeds, spirulina, eggs, wheat, and oats.
- 5-HTP and SAM-e – 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is also needed by your body to make serotonin, and SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is a natural chemical that increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your body, helping to elevate your mood. (Do not use either product if you already take antidepressants.)
- Vitamin B6, Magnesium and Zinc – these nutrients are used by the body when converting tryptophan and tyrosine to serotonin and dopamine. Greater amounts are used during times of stress and illness, which can cause deficiencies. Studies have found that people suffering from depression often have low levels of these essential vitamins and minerals.
- Folic Acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin that is often deficient in people who are depressed. It is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies because of poor diet, but also because chronic conditions and various medications such as aspirin and birth control pills can also lead to a deficiency. Researchers at Harvard University have found that depressed people with low folate levels don’t respond as well to anti-depressants, and taking folic acid in a supplement form can improve the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Natural Treatment for Depression
If you are feeling down for an extended period of time, it is important to seek professional help. If diagnosed by a medical doctor with depression, you may like to complement their recommended treatment with any of the natural healing alternatives available to you.