Depression is defined as a clinical ailment which needs treatment by medical experts and proper medication. It is not something that one should take lightly; rather it is a matter of concern. Patients who suffer from depression may have suicidal tendency, can be extremely moody and/or can suffer from delusions.
Depression, if explained in laymen terms, is usually caused by the imbalance of some chemicals in the brain which can occur due to various factors. These factors could be genetic, physical and emotional. Scientifically, there is no single cause for depression. The symptoms of depression range from uncomfortable to debilitating experiences, a feeling of worthlessness, difficulty in focusing and concentration, irritability, loss of interest in things around, anger, insomnia and even delusions. Many of us have seen and experienced friends or relatives struggle with depression and sometimes have even experienced it ourselves. Even today, very few people are ready to watch for these symptoms and realise how severe and common depression is and why it is very prevalent among women.
The onset of depression could be an amalgamation of factors such as:
1. Genetics: Some studies have researched whether there is any correlation between depression and genetics (whether it is inherited from grandparents or parents) who are likely to pass on a predisposition. Men and women have different vulnerabilities and different psychological and even hormonal reactions to stresses. Similarly, post-pubertal men and women have different levels of circulating gonadal steroids leading to different reactions. Research states that pubertal girls become more susceptible to depression than boys as they experience different levels of hormonal fluctuations.
2.Trauma and stress, aspects like financial problems, a broken relationship, or the death of a loved one etc
3.People who have low self-esteem and a negative outlook are at higher risk of becoming depressed.
4.Serious medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, and HIV can contribute to depression.
5.Other psychological disorders like anxiety disorders, eating disorders and schizophrenia also cause depression.
Depression may also be caused by tension, stress, migraine, digestive or colon disorders, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid disorders, marital problems and so on and so forth. Depression begins with a disturbance in the part of the brain that governs moods. Most people can handle daily stresses and pressures. But, when the stress is severe, the adjustment mechanism becomes unresponsive triggering symptoms of depression.
Food and its role in triggering and controlling depression:
It has been substantiated that many foods greatly influence moods and brain behaviour. Diet is often the cause of depression due to poor eating habits, snacking on unhealthy foods leading to obesity and its related health issues. The neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine) that carry impulses between the nerve cells regulate our behaviour and this is controlled by what we eat. When the brain produces serotonin, tension and stress get eased. When it produces more of dopamine and nor-epinephrine, it makes us more alert to act.
Eating carbohydrate sources seems to have a calming effect. Complex carbohydrates raise the level of the amino acid, tryptophan (the substance that also processes serotonin), thus creating a calming effect. The protein in the food promotes the production of dopamine and non-epinephrine. It is best to achieve a balance by combining foods rich in both complex carbs and proteins. Avoid foods high in saturated fats like French fries and other processed junk foods, as this often leads to sluggishness and fatigue. Fats tend to inhibit the synthesis of the neurotransmitters as the fats cause the cells to become sticky leading to poor blood circulation, especially to the brains.
Our daily diet should include plenty of wholesome foods like, whole grains, beans, sprouts, vegetables, fruits especially bananas, nuts, low-fat milk/soy milk, wheat germ, good fats like vegetable oils, olive oil, flax seeds, and green leafy vegetables and fish and eggs for non vegetarians as these foods supply all nutrients needed to combat depression, stress, stress-related diseases and to improve brain function. The above food choices if incorporated in your diet daily, can be very stimulating, energy giving and will leave you with a feeling of complete wellness. That's why these are called 'happy foods'.
Exercise and yoga and its effect on depression:
Exercise leads to a release of hormones like endorphins and testosterone which help in giving energy and in cell building. Stretching, yoga, especially suryanamskar, are highly recommended. Yoga is particularly beneficial as this provides an opportunity to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system which controls the healing mechanism. It gives one a higher state of awareness and in the long run allows you to break the cycle of depression and stress. Breathing, pranayama and meditation are a great help to alleviate depression. Besides calming the mind, these techniques enhance the oxygen uptake by the lungs and reduces oxidation of cells and improves the immune system.
Positive outlook: Be proactive. Reach out to people, make friends, read and write letters. Even doing volunteer work can have far-reaching effects on your thought processes helping you to gain confidence to change from negative to positive.
So, it is never too late for depression and its pessimism to change track. And with adequate guidance and professional help it is possible to challenge your thoughts, change from negative to positive and enjoy the health benefits of restoring peace and happiness in one's world after it has been shattered.
- The writer is one of the leading holistic health gurus and has a health portal www.mickeymehtahbf.com