Monday, 19 October 2015

Depression and the Serotonin Myth


Meet Nadine 30. Nadine has suffered anxiety and depression most of her adult life. 

Nadine's mother and father had been smokers both before, during and after the pregnancy and followed the Canadian Food Guide, high in refined carbohydrates. She was born via a C-section and immediately fed on cows milk formula. For the six months of her life, Nadine suffered from recurrent bouts of colic, that stopped when her parents weaned her onto solids. Between the age of 1 and 6, she suffered repeated ear and throat infections that stopped when doctors removed her tonsils. At age four she developed seasonal allergies and asthma that were controlled by inhalers and antihistamines. At 11, she began her menses that were painful and irregular and after a year she was prescribed birth control medication that helped control her symptoms. At 12 she began experiencing abdominal bloating and pain, with constipation that her doctor managed with Advil and laxative medication. At 16, her mother and father divorced soon after which Nadine's anxiety and depression emerged and three months later her doctors put on anti-depressants.  The medication helped improve her mood and took the edge off her anxiety but caused fatigue and weight gain. Life settled down over the next few years. She went to University, where she met her husband. 2 years ago she tried to come off her medications only for her symptoms to return three months later and had to start medication again.

What causes depression?

If you were to ask any random person is the scientific reason for depression they would probably say it was due to an a chemical imbalance in the brain. And if asked which chemical they would probably say Serotonin.

The birth of the Serotonin theory

The idea that depression was caused by a lack of serotonin first emerged in the 1950's when it was discovered that medications that were used at the time to treat TB had beneficial effects on mood. From these humble beginnings, the serotonin theory was born, and the drug companies jumped on the bandwagon. The worrying thought is that it is just theory. There is no scientific prove that people who are depressed have a deficiency in serotonin.

But research says anti-depressants work.

There have been 70 studies of the ten antidepressant medications currently on the market. 40 of those studies have been published. 37 showed that antidepressants worked, while the 3 showed they did not but the results were given a positive spin. The remaining 30 remain unpublished!

So if the Serotonin theory is a myth why do antidepressants help people like Nadine.

There has been some recent and somewhat scientifically robust evidence that the root of depression is inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is the root of most degenerative chronic diseases and so it hardly surprising that it should be playing a role in depression.

How does this effect treatment of Depression

If inflammation is at the root of depression, rather than trying to balance out so-called deficiencies in the brain, we should be attempting to identify and remove or resolve the triggers that started the inflammatory fire. The triggers that can cause inflammation are numerous but can be summarized under four main heading:
  1. Emotional stress
  2. Food sensitivities
  3. Infections
  4. Toxins
In the case of Nadine, she may well be holding on to unresolved emotions related to the divorce of her parents. With her history of digestive issues, which in retrospect were probably triggered by her C-section birth and taking antibiotic and birth control medications, she probably has both food sensitivities and a small intestinal bacterial infection.

Treating the root

While in some extreme cases, medication is necessary, taking a more holistic view of people suffering from depression by identifying, removing and resolving the underlying causes would be a better approach. 

If you want to understand more about your anxiety or depression you can book a complementary no-obligation assessment with one of our experienced health coaches who can answer your questions. Call 613 230-0998, book online, or email info@ottawaholisticwellness.ca today!

About the author

Dominick Hussey, Functional Medicine Practitioner, combines osteopathy, functional medicine with nutrition and lifestyle counseling in his practice, and firmly believes that healing is a process in which the patient must take an active role. He has become disillusioned with modern approaches that merely provide a band-aid approach to mask and temporarily relieve symptoms. His passion is in determining the real, underlying cause for those symptoms and in so doing to bring about true, deep, lasting healing.


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