Depression

There are two general types of depression. Situa-tional depression in which there are normal reactions to external events and endogenous depression, indicating an internal cause such as a biochemical or hormonal imbalance or nutritional deficiency. If depression is recurrent, constant, or severe, a physician should be consulted to find out the cause. Treating symptoms with antidepressants does not solve the underlying reason for the illness. Situational depressions can often be handled through psychotherapy or counseling.

Depression may be associated with low thyroid, hypoglycemia, PMS, or sensitivity or allergy to foods, chemicals, and pesticides; certain pharmaceutical drugs and recreational drugs can be a factor, as can addiction to caffeine, although moderate amounts for many individuals can lift depression and improve mood. Oral contraceptives can cause a depletion of vitamin B6, which is necessary for mental health, and of tyrosine, an amino acid that converts to norepinephrine, a mood-affecting neurotransmitter. Depressed individuals not taking oral contraceptives may also be low in these nutrients. Symptoms of depression include weight loss or gain, insomnia or sleeping excessively, fatigue, hyperactivity or inactivity, loss of interest, poor concentration, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and recurring thoughts of death and suicide.

Serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood. In some individuals, these chemicals may need to be replenished. Vitamins, minerals, and amino acids supply the building blocks for this process and because these compounds are found in foods, diet is important. Foods affect mental health. Exercise is beneficial as it increases the production of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers that increase a sense of well-being.

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