| ||Integrative Medicine: Many Paths to Healing to Depression||
(For a complete list of therapies covered in this book see Appendix B:
"Quick Reference to Therapies" in Natural Healing for Depression.)
Many Perspectives on the Causes of Depression
There are many underlying causes of depression beyond the conventional
biomedical perspective that focuses solely on imbalances in brain
chemistry. We now know that numerous biochemical and physiological factors
can induce depression. Many physical illnesses can be the cause and,
conversely, depression can lead to physical illnesses. Depression may be
caused by emotional, psychological factors or life's circumstances. On an
energetic level depression can be viewed as an imbalance of vital energy,
and on a spiritual level it can be seen as stemming from spiritual
disconnection or lack of soul awareness.
From an overall systems perspective, depression can be viewed as a "warning
sign" that the body-mind is off-course in some manner--whether it be
biochemical, physiological, psychological, energetic or spiritual--and is
signaling that there is a need to make some change in your life.
Psychological/Emotional Causes of Depression
Depression often has emotional or psychological roots in the experience of
loss, which may involve the loss of a loved one, a job, a change of
circumstances, or divorce. Depression that accompanies the grieving process
following a significant loss is a natural phenomenon that we all experience
at one time or another in our lives. In many cases, depression can run its
course without professional intervention, and in these cases it is not
appropriate to "medicalize," the experience and classify it as "mental
illness." On the other hand, more severe and enduring forms of emotional
and psychological depression due to preocuppation with a loss, long-term
disappointments in life, or chronic pain and physical trauma may require
psychological intervention or counseling to help guide one through the
often dark and difficult process of emotional healing.
Biochemical/Physiological Causes of Depression
Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are numerous biochemical and
physiological factors that can induce depression. These elements include
diet, stress, sleep, exercise, environmental toxins, nutritional
deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances. Similarly, depression may be a
symptom of other underlying health conditions such as candidiasis,
hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, or hormonal imbalance. Cases of chronic,
psychologically-based depression may eventually result in altered
biochemistry, which in turn, may reinforce depression as a psychological
state, making it even more difficult to alleviate. In these cases, it may
be beneficial to deal with the biochemical factors while simultaneously
addressing the psychological level. The contributing health professionals
in this book will cover the following underlying factors that can cause or
contribute to depression:
Alcoholism: Depletes levels of many essential nutrients and amino acids
which are necessary for proper brain physiology.
Candidiasis: Chronic overgrowth of yeast in the gut
Chronic pain: The experience of ongoing physical or emotional pain
Dietary Imbalances: Excess sugar and caffeine consumption
Environmental factors: Toxic reactions to neurotoxins such as solvents
and heavy metals--aluminum, cadmium and lead.
Food and chemical sensitivities: Allergies to foods such as dairy and
wheat as well as to chemicals such as aspartame
Hormonal imbalance: When the endocrine glands (thyroid, ovaries,
testes, pituitary, and adrenal) are under stress or not functioning
properly, hormone levels may fluctuate and profoundly effect mood.
Hypoglycemia: This condition of low blood sugar can lead to chronic
mood swings and depression.
Hypothyroidism: Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to exhaustion
Infectious Diseases: Such as strep throat, especially in children,
affects the auto immune system
Intestinal parasites: Symptoms of parasitic infection include brain
fog, depression and feelings of doom.
Lack of exercise: Non-exercisers are three times more likely to have
depression as exercisers.
Leaky Gut Syndrome: Caused by candidiasis and intestinal parasites can
lead to allergic reactions, poor absorption of food, and malnourishment.
Lifestyle: High stress levels, smoking and lack of exercise can lead to
Low levels of neurotransmitters: Low levels of serotonin and nor
Malabsorption: Inability to properly absorb nutrients due to deficiency
in stomach HCL, pancreatic enzymes or bile acids.
Nutritional deficiencies: Deficiencies in vitamin B Complex, vitamin C,
iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium
Pharmaceutical Drugs: Anti-psychotics, barbiturates, benzodiazepines,
beta-blockers, cholinergics, corticosteroids, estrogens (including
contraceptives, levodopa, reserpine.
PMS/Menopause: Often accompanied by mood swings, anxiety and depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Caused by lack of exposure to sunlight.
Energetic Basis of Depression: According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM) illness results from an energetic imbalance of qi or life force in
the body's meridians and internal organs. TCM views depression as resulting
from a blockage or stagnation of emotional qi. Similarly, the Chinese
system of energy training known as qigong and the Indian system of yoga,
both recognize the link between the mind and life force (qi or prana),
while utilizing breathing and awareness practices to help regulate the flow
of life energy in the body/mind.
Spiritual Basis of Depression: According to the "perennial philosophy"
found in the world's great spiritual traditions, we have essentially
forgotten who we are--our true nature and divine heritage--and feel
disconnected from our spiritual source. This disconnectedness or separation
is viewed as the primary source of unhappiness. Many sacred traditions view
mental illness and conditions such as depression not as a disease of the
mind, but as a lack of connection to and awareness of soul. It is when we
lose touch with our essential spiritual nature, and forget our true purpose
in life that we become subject to depression and other illnesses.
Is Depression Preventable?
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his
patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and
prevention of disease."
When looking at the many faces of depression, the logical question arises:
is depression preventable? In many cases the answer is, "yes" if we can
learn to minimize or avoid the previously mentioned causes by living a
balanced, wellness-based lifestyle, and maintaining a healthy psychological
and spiritual perspective. Until recently, however, prevention has been a
hard sell in America, as our system of health care has actually been a
"sickcare" system focused on treating disease, not in preventing illness
and maintaining health. In this book, each of the health traditions
discussed by our team of health experts offer secrets to not just treating,
but preventing depression through a healthy lifestyle and having tools and
resources at hand to help deal with depression at its onset.
What Do the World's Systems of Traditional Health Care
Throughout history, the world's great systems of traditional medicine have
provided a more balanced approach to health care, echoed in the World
Health Organization's classic definition of health:
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social
and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
The World Health Organization (WHO) uses the term "traditional medicine" to
describe established systems of health care worldwide considered
"unconventional" by modern, standardized western medicine. Most people are
surprised to learn that according to the WHO, 80% of the world's population
receives their health care from the various forms of traditional medicine
considered to be "alternative" or "unconventional" in the U.S. These
systems include Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, unani
(Graeco-Arab medicine), native American medicine, traditional African
medicine, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic and osteopathy,
The maintenance of health and the prevention of disease form the basis of
Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine and other forms of
traditional health care. The therapeutic protocols in these systems are
intended to restore balance to the body systems in order to reestablish
health. Samuel Hahnemann, the late 18th/early 19th century founder of
homeopathy wrote volumes on hygiene, health maintenance, mental health, as
well as the prevention of disease. These systems all understood the
connection between diet and mental health, the influence of lifestyle
factors, the strong connection of mind and body, and finally the importance
of the spiritual dimension in physical and mental health.
Yoga and qigong are psychospiritual practices aimed at integrating body,
mind and spirit. Meditation, now regularly prescribed by many physicians,
is one of the eight limbs of classical yoga. In fact, the basis of much of
today's mind/body medicine, including guided imagery, biofeedback and other
relaxation techniques, have strong ties to the practices of yoga and
The following poetic passage written thousands of years ago in the Yoga
Vasistha, a Sanskrit text of yoga and spiritual philosophy, demonstrates a
profound and time-less understanding of how illness can originate in the
mind--an understanding that is now weaving itself into the fabric of
"When the mind is agitated, then the body also follows in its wake. And
when the body is agitated, then there is no proper perception of the things
that are in one's way and prana (vital force) flies from its even path onto
the bad road, staggering like an animal wounded by an arrow. Through such
agitation's, prana, instead of pervading the whole body steadily and
equally, vibrates everywhere at an unequal rate. Therefore, the nadis
(subtle channels for circulation of prana) do not maintain a steady
position, but quiver. Then to the body, which is the receptacle of
partially or completely digested food, the nadis are simply death, because
of the fluctuations of the pranas. The food which settles down in this body
amidst such commotion is transformed into incurable diseases. Thus through
the primary cause (of the mind) the disease of the body is generated. If
this primary cause be annihilated at its root, then all diseases will be
The formation of a truly global medicine in the spirit of the World Health
Organization's vision of integrating modern western medicine with the
world's traditional medicines, is more and more becoming a reality. This
process involves a revitalization of medicine, inspiring the evolution of
even greater numbers of safe and effective forms of naturally-based
approaches to health care, side by side with the cutting edge developments
in the field of mind/body medicine and energy medicine.
Alternative, Complementary or Integrative Medicine? What's
in a Name?
Alternative medicine is a relative term that refers in large part to the
systems of traditional medicine that until recently were considered to be
outside of the mainstream of western medicine. Today, courses on many of
these systems are now being taught in over fifty U.S. medical schools,
including Chinese medicine, acupuncture and qigong, Ayurveda, herbal
medicine, mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine, homeopathy,
naturopathy and chiropractic. There is a growing number of traditional
patient-care organizations who now offer alternative medicine services in
their clinics as well as insurance reimbursements.
Many in conventional medical circles, however, still refer to "alternative"
as unproven therapies which purport to replace or act as alternatives to
conventional medical treatment. The issue as to what constitutes proof,
conventional double-blind studies as opposed to hundreds or even thousands
of years of favorable or successful outcomes, remains a contentious issue
in conventional medicine.
(Excerpted from Natural Healing for Depression:
Solutions from the World's Great Health Traditions and Practitioners ISBN: 0399525378)
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