4. Nutritional deficiencies
Certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies can contribute to depression. For example, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression (7). Vitamin D plays a critical role in brain health, and its deficiency is associated with impaired mood, cognitive function, and immunity. There is also some evidence to suggest that long-term use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may contribute to certain nutrient deficiencies (8).
Additionally, the deficiency of magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to depression.
5. Gut health
The gut-brain connection is a significant focus in functional medicine. An imbalance in gut bacteria may lead to inflammation, affecting mood regulation (9).
The gut microbiome, which refers to the community of microbes that reside in our gut, has a profound impact on our mental health. There is strong evidence that imbalance of gut flora is associated with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. This is because the gut microbiome actively communicates with the brain through the gut-brain axis. Feeding your gut the right food can help regulate mood and improve overall health.
6. Stress & Trauma
Trauma is a distressing event or experience that can have long-lasting effects on mental and physical health. Childhood traumas such as abuse, neglect, and personal loss have been linked to the development of depression (10). Stressful life events affect the HPA axis, which can lead to chronic activation of the stress response system and ultimately result in depression.
Stress is a major factor in the development and persistence of major depression (11). Moreover, evidence suggests chronic stress impairs the body’s ability to produce neurotransmitters, which are crucial in regulating mood.
Functional medicine takes into account the psychological and emotional aspects of a person’s health when treating depression.
7. Sleep Deprivation & Circadian Rhythm Dysfunction
As we struggle to sync with our natural sleep and wake cycles, our physical and mental health often take a hit. Lack of sleep is linked to mood disorders, particularly depression.
Circadian rhythm disruption can result from inadequate exposure to natural light and overexposure to artificial light at night. This can cause hormonal imbalances, leading to depressive symptoms (12).
Certain medications, such as birth control pills and benzodiazepines, have been linked to an increased risk of depression.
Benzodiazepines increase the risk of depression, and long-term use can lead to tolerance and dependence (14).
9. Environmental toxins
Environmental toxins such as pollutants, heavy metals, and pesticides can affect mood and contribute to depression (15). They can cause inflammation in the brain, which is linked to major depressive disorder. Additionally, environmental toxins can disrupt the endocrine system, which can affect mood regulation and lead to depression.
What to Remember
If you struggle with symptoms of depression, consider reaching out to a functional or integrative medicine practitioner at CentreSpringMD who can help you identify and address the underlying causes. Remember that there is always hope and a path forward towards better health and well-being.
The “chemical imbalance” theory has long dominated our understanding of depression and mental health conditions. However, a growing body of research demonstrates that this theory is fundamentally flawed. Depression is a multifaceted condition with a multitude of potential root causes, each requiring a personalized approach.
Functional and integrative medicine embrace this complexity. By addressing factors like inflammation, gut health, nutrition, hormones, stress, environment, and lifestyle, practitioners can offer holistic and effective solutions for individuals struggling with depression. It’s time we move past the chemical imbalance myth and embrace a more comprehensive, patient-centered approach to mental health.