There are few human diseases out there that are as bad as depression. It is crippling. It is pervasive. It wipes out any capacity for joy, hope or pleasure. Depression destroys perspective, it undermines relationships and steals joy. It's not a situation where you tell a person to just "get over it". Depression is characterized by a stress response system that has gone on far to long and the brain is starting to loose neuronal connections, which has been well documented in the past 35-40 years of neurobiology research.
Symptoms of mild depression
- Anhedonia - the absence of pleasure
- Grief - sorrow, loss, hopelessness, obsessing over actions that went wrong
- Guilt - blaming yourself for failures both real and perceived
- Fatigue - tired, exhausted, no energy to get going
- Sleep disturbances - sleep cycles are not normal, sleeping at different times of the day
Symptoms of major depression
- All of the above plus
- Self-injury - injuring one's self
- Psychomotor retardation - everything is exhausting to do, to think, to move. Getting up and going is a chore
Major depression is an issue that may need the assistance of a trained medical doctor. This person my be unable to function, to dress themselves, to manage on their own. What I am mostly referring to is common depression, not that this is not debilitating by any means but it is not to the point where a person needs to be institutionalized for a period of time. In common or mild depression a person may still feel loss of interest, guilt, helplessness, anger, irritability, panic, fear, sleeping problems, fatigue.
Depression and anxiety are what we concentrate on in our practice. They are two of the most common health concerns in our society, more than 20% of the population suffers from these issues. What isn't known is that these issues are as much about biology as they are about psychology. In fact it is the biological factor that sets us up for depression. The overloaded stress response system has a cascading effect on hormones and neurotransmitters that causes an overloaded insult wreaking havoc on the whole system. These issues can devastate your life.
Robert Sapolsky, a well renowned neurobiologist from Stanford University, has been studying the effects of stress as related to the changes in human biochemistry for the past thirty years. Our bodies were hard wired for short bursts of stress. These short durations are our survival method. They assists in cognitive thinking and flash bulb memory turning into long term potentiation. But what happens when a stressful moment turns into a prolonged chronic stress? We were not designed for this. Many biochemical changes start to take place and we are burning through neurons and destroying them and diminishing the neurotransmitters that cause these neurons to fire. This is what is referred to as a Relative Nutritional Deficiency.
When we are under a sustained stress response the hypothalamus in the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce glucocorticoids, namely cortisol a steroid hormone. While cortisol is essential, too much starts to wreak havoc in the brain. The brain has built in mechanisms to eliminate certain neurotransmitters that are flooding into the synapse but it requires an enormous amount of energy. This is where you become stuck in this tired and wired feeling. This has been well documented in research. Brain neurotransmitters are needed for communication between neurons. Dopamine and norepinephrine are two major neurotransmitters that become affected. They have an effect on sleep, anxiety, irritability, alertness, motivation, pleasure, cognition and arousal to name a few. Also when the body is in a prolonged stress response it's demands for energy are very high, the brain uses roughly 25% of our energy demands, hence fatigue sets in.
The precursors to produce these neurotransmitters comes from amino acids. When there becomes a Relative Nutritional Deficiency the body cannot take in enough certain amino acids from a diet to replenish the system. Research has shown that a well planned amino acid protocol along with the needed co-factors and thiols over time will assist in repleting these levels. In the short term the amino acids act in a light switch fashion where once the correct level has been obtained relief of symptoms becomes spontaneous. We have seen this over and over in our practice. So our goal is to balance the allostatic load, repair neuronal connections in the brain, restore function to these specific pathways that involve serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine which will improve focus, mood, emotional stability, calmness and energy.
There is a long, and well documented, history of successful use of Amino Acid Therapy for alleviating the symptoms caused by depression, anxiety and other brain chemistry imbalances. Anti-depressants do not replete neurotransmitters they simply move them around and prolonged usage does deplete them. Amino acids being the precursors, do replete the brain and are a very powerful alternative to drugs. Amino Acid protocols have been used successfully for over 20 years in more than 3.1 million patient days of research and clinical application, it is FDA compliant, straightforward medical science. These programs were developed by medical doctors and scientists and clinically proven to be effective.