by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
Anxiety and depression affects millions of men and women worldwide. Though we live in an age of modern medicine, 300,000 people in the United States commit suicide each year. Why is this? If you’re struggling with depressed mood or are feeling anxious everyday, it’s important to truly understand the mental health condition you’re experiencing and what natural steps you can take to treat it.
What is Depression?
Depression is a chronic and often debilitating mental health condition characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, despondency, hopelessness, irritability, mental confusion, pain, and fatigue. Depression doesn’t just mean you feel “sad” or “blue”; it affects every aspect of your life and can make you feel powerless, helpless, and useless for long periods of time.
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person and will often present differently for men than it will for women. For example, men with depression often find themselves feeling irritable, angry, frustrated, anxious, and indecisive. They may struggle with insomnia or sleep too much. Men with depression may also experience bouts of erectile dysfunction and contemplate suicide.
Women, on the other hand, will often withdraw into themselves and experience feelings of guilt, fatigue, and sadness often accompanied by insomnia or periods of sleeping too much. Women with depression often experience aches and pains and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, including sex. Appetite and weight changes are also common.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a blanket term used to describe feelings of nervousness, fear, and anticipation. These feelings are common before a major life event such as a job interview, birth or marriage, but when these feelings are a part of a person’s everyday life, it can be indicative of an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Like depression, anxiety affects more than just the mind. A person with chronic anxiety experiences chronic, low-grade feelings of worry, agitation, fear, and anticipation over life’s most minor events. The feeling may be there all the time but be more pronounced in social situations or when leaving the home.
Chronic anxiety can also lead to phobias and avoidance of the place, person or activity that is feared. This unfortunately deepens the fear and reinforces avoidance. Anxiety can also lead to obsessive compulsive actions such as checking and re-checking a locked door.
Anxiety also causes physical reactions in the body. Cold, clammy hands, muscle twitches, itching, nail-biting, stomach pain, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing can all be symptoms of anxiety. Some people with chronic anxiety also experience panic attacks. These are moments of intense, debilitating fear that cause the sufferer to break out into a cold sweat and feel as though they are suffocating. Their minds race and their hearts pound as their bodies go into a state of fight or flight.
Periods of chronic anxiety and panic attacks can also lead to adrenal fatigue, which can worsen anxiety and cause depression and cause extreme, debilitating fatigue.
Conventional Medicine for Depression and Anxiety
Oftentimes, when a person is experiencing depression or anxiety, they will talk with a conventional doctor who will prescribe drugs therapy. The most common drugs used to treat depression and anxiety are sedatives, benzodiazepines, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The problem with this type of conventional treatment is though it may stop the symptoms, it does not address the underlying cause of depression and anxiety.
The other problem with pharmaceutical drugs used in the treatment of depression and anxiety is the side effects associated with them. For example, some anti-depressants carry a black-box warning that the drug causes suicidal thoughts and actions! Other side effects associated with these drugs include weight gain, restlessness, agitation, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal upset, insomnia, impaired motor function (in the case of benzodiazepines) and dependence on the medication.
This isn’t to say that in extreme or emergent cases, conventional medication cannot work in the short term. It can be very effective. However, it’s very important for both doctor and patient to address underlying causes of depression and anxiety so a more holistic approach can be taken.
Physical Causes of Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. But what causes these imbalances?
Let’s take a look at some of the physical causes of depression and anxiety:
- Nutritional Deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies are one of the most commonly-overlooked causes of depression and anxiety. The Standard American Diet of fast food, French fries, microwavable meals, cookies, candy, and soda may fill up your gut, but they do little to nourish your body and mind. Oftentimes a vitamin or mineral deficiency (or several) is responsible for poor mental health.
- Thyroid Disease
Undiagnosed thyroid disease is a leading cause of depressed mood and anxious feelings. When the body makes too much of the thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and agitation often occur. In the case of low thyroid (hypothyroidsm), fatigue, weight gain, sadness, and depressed mood are typical symptoms.
Diabetes and depression often go hand in hand. This is because of the profound metabolic affect diabetes has on the brain. When blood sugar is unbalanced, feelings of depression and anxiety can occur. People taking insulin for their diabetes may also experience depression as a side effect. A staggering 55% of women who use insulin develop depression, according to a study.
- Gluten Intolerance
This is another physical cause of mental health symptoms. People with gluten intolerance are unable to digest the protein in wheat, barley, and rye. When a person with gluten intolerance eats foods such as pasta, bread, cookies, and cakes, their immune systems attack their intestinal tract, causing chronic inflammation and malnutrition.
Physical symptoms of gluten intolerance include abdominal cramping, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, sinusitis, dry skin, muscle aches, and brain fog. Mental symptoms include anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia, and, in some cases, psychosis.
- Chronic Candida Infection
Candida is a naturally-occurring bacteria find in the digestive tract and genital area that causes no health problems when kept in balance. However, when candida yeast begins to overgrow due to excessive alcohol consumption, chronic antibiotic use or a diet rich in refined sugar and flour, serious health problems can result.
When candida spreads throughout the body, blood, and brain, it can cause myriad physical and mental symptoms including depression and anxiety. If you suffer from mental health problems and are often plagued by frequent yeast infections or oral thrush, you may have a chronic candida infection.
- Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune disease such as fibromyalgia, lupus, crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis can cause mental symptoms such as depressed mood, feelings of anxiety, and psychosis. When the immune system begins breaking down healthy tissues, it doesn’t just affect the physical body, it affects the mind as well. This is why women and men who suffer from autoimmune disease need to be especially careful to monitor their nutrition to avoid deficiencies.
Environmental Causes of Depression and Anxiety
The most common environmental causes of depression and anxiety are household cleaners, carpet cleaner, chemicals in flooring, and cosmetics. People with underlying chemical sensitivities and allergies to these products will often experience neurological symptoms that can mimic those of mental illness. Many commercial cleaning products and cosmetics contain hormone disruptors that may contribute to depression and anxiety.
Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety
Now that you know the most overlooked causes of depression and anxiety, you can make some positive changes in your life to help heal it naturally.
Here is what I recommend for my depressed and anxious patients:
- Dietary Changes
I recommend making positive dietary changes first and foremost when treating any physical or mental health condition. This means eliminating processed food and replacing it with whole food. Soda, especially, can be a contributor to mental health problems because it contains aspartame. Aspartame is a toxic chemical sweetener that has been known to cause everything from mood changes to seizures.
For individuals who suspect they may have gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, I recommend a trial gluten-free diet for a period of one month. Avoid breads, pastas, cookies, candies, cakes, and other foods containing gluten and replace them with gluten-free options. After the one-month trial period is over, reintroduce gluten foods to test for a reaction. If you’re sensitive to gluten, you’ll know.
For optimum nutrition, I recommend a whole-food diet. This means loading up on organic vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, and fish as well as nuts, seeds, whole grain, healthy dairy (butter, not margarine), and good fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado.
- Lifestyle Changes
Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are two common lifestyle contributors to anxiety and depression. Cleaning up your environment by switching to natural cleaning products and cosmetics can also go a long way in clearing away the blues and getting your neurological system back in balance. And it goes without saying that exercise is important. You may not feel up to doing much when you’re deep in the throes of depression but even something as simple as yoga at home or a walk around the block can get you over that next hurdle and get your body used to moving again.
In my patients suffering from anxiety and depression, I’ve often noticed that addressing underlying nutritional deficiencies is one of the easiest and quickest way of improving mood and overall cognitive function.
These are the supplements I recommend for any patient dealing with compromised mental health:
Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins
You may already be taking a dietary supplement but is it what’s best for your health? In my opinion, there is a night and day difference between synthetic supplements found on your grocery store shelf and the whole-food, natural vitamins and supplements provided by Diamond Nutritional’s. Most store-bought vitamins are nothing more than synthetic versions of whole-food nutrition and they often contain dangerous dyes, preservatives, and additives that only worsen your mood.
Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins is a whole-food dietary supplement, designed to give you the complete nutrition your body and mind crave.
Foundation’s health-promoting ingredients include:
- Vitamin A – 7,500 IU
- Vitamin C – 500 mg
- Vitamin D3 – 500 IU
- Vitamin E – 100 IU
- Vitamin K – 50 mcg
- Thiamine – 25 mg
- Riboflavin – 25 mg
- Niacin – 25 mg
- Vitamin B6 – 38 mg
- Folic Acid – 400 mcg
- Vitamin B12 – 500 mcg
- Biotin – 200 mcg
- Panthothenic Acid – 150 mg
- Calcium – 100 mg
- Iodine – 113 mcg
- Magnesium – 200 mg
- Zinc – 10 mg
- Selenium – 100 mcg
- Copper – 1 mg
- Manganese – 2.5 mg
- Chromium – 200 mcg
- Molybdenum – 25 mcg
- Potassium – 50 mg
- Choline Bitartrate USP – 50 mg
- Inositol – 50 mg
- Mixed Tocopherols – 50 mg
- Lipoic Acid – 25 mg
- N-Acetyl-Cysteine USP – 25 mg
- Rutin – 25 mg
- Lutein – 3 mg
- Boron – 1.5 mg
- Lycopene – 1 mg
- Vanadyl Sulfate Hydrate – 1 mg
Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega Formula
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients and they are a must for anyone dealing with depression, anxiety, psychosis or other mental affliction. Unfortunately, most store-bought fish oils are not molecularly distilled so not only are they loaded with harmful mercury that can make mental health symptoms worse, they often give you that annoying ‘repeat’ that makes them difficult to take.
Also, most products may claim to 1,000 mg. or 1,200 mg. on the front label but on the back but the EPA and DHA may only add up to 300 mg. or so. The rest are nothing but fillers. Diamond Nutritional’s Balanced Omega Formula contains nothing more than 100% molecularly distilled fish oil for powerful, healing nutrition!
Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotic Formula
Oftentimes, low gut bacteria can cause the symptoms of mental illness. Since gut and brain health are so closely connected, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotic Formula. Unlike other probiotic formulas on the market, our brand contains no harmful additives, colors or fillers and offers 20 billion colony forming units with six strains of good bacteria in each serving. These strains include lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus paracasei, bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium bifidum, lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and saccharomyces boulardii.
Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common mineral deficiencies there is. It is a leading cause of neurological health problems and can often contribute to anxiety and depression. For better sleep and a calmer, more relaxed mind, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Chelated Magnesium. Chelated magnesium is best because it contains some of the smallest minerals available, meaning it is much better absorbed by your body than any store-bought dietary supplement. Each serving contains 59% of your daily value of this essential mineral.
Vitamin D3 deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the United States and Canada. Though most conventional physicians will tell you 200-400 IUs of vitamin D3 is more than enough, recent evidence has suggested most people need far more than that to achieve optimum health. For my patients dealing with mental health concerns, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Vitamin D3 5,000 IUs. This formula contains no artificial ingredients and is easily absorbed by your body in easy-to-swallow capsules.
In addition to individual vitamin and mineral therapy for depression and anxiety, I also recommend our Diamond Nutritional’s Mood Support Formula. This formula contains a synergistic blend of vitamin B6, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and 5-HTP to stabilize mood and ease feelings of restlessness and anxiety.
This formula can be taken alone or along with our magnesium, probiotic, vitamin D3 and Foundation formula because they are designed to work in conjunction. For example, our Mood Formula can be taken with our Magnesium formula because taking both together will give you nearly a 100% daily value of magnesium without concern of overlap or overdose.
No matter what type of depression or anxiety you struggle with, if you ever experience suicidal thoughts, speak with a crisis counselor immediately.
When it comes to treating anxiety and depression, it is critical to get to the root cause. Conventional medicine can mask the symptoms of an underlying medical problem for a short time but it will do nothing to reverse it. Now that you know the truth about mental illness and its many causes, you’re in the driver’s seat and have control over your natural treatment options!