Depression affects 1 out of every 10 Americans, although most people with depression do not seek treatment. Depression has been tied to heredity, biological disorders, and traumatic events. Major depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Bipolar disorder (also called manic-depression) is generally accepted as an inherited condition, although the disorder can develop without any previous hereditable conditions.
According to the US Surgeon General’s Office, depression has definite biological factors, and should not be taken lightly. However, some forms of depression are sparked by physical illness and environmental factors, such as anemia and hypothyroidism. Depression affects memory, sexual appetite, sleeping habits, and many other daily activities. Some common symptoms of depression are:
•Lethargy and lack of energy
•Loss of interest in sports, sex, and other activities
•Thoughts of hopelessness or suicide
There are many environmental triggers for depression. Most people are unaware that simple allergies can trigger depression, and they suffer needlessly. Note the following 9 triggers and see if you can eliminate them from your life! Remember, if you are currently on anti-depressants; do not EVER “quit” taking them without the advice and guidance of your doctor.
1. Allergies: many allergies are major triggers for depression. Even low-grade allergies, if left untreated, can cause depressive symptoms in the long-term. Food allergies are even worse, because many food allergies cannot be detected by conventional allergy tests. Food allergies can cause muscle pain, fatigue, low moods, and chronic infection. If you want to check and see if you have food allergies, try an “allergy diet” for one week, to see if your symptoms improve.
a.Vegetables and fruits (but no corn or citrus!)
b.Meats (but no lunchmeat, hot dogs, smoked or processed meat!—the preservatives in lunchmeats have even been shown to trigger massive migraines, depression, and serious allergic reactions in some people)
c.Certain whole grains; avoid wheat! (oats, brown rice, barley)
Re-examine your symptoms after a week, and see if you have improved. Also, if you suspect seasonal allergies to mold, pollen, dust, or other environmental factors, try taking an over the counter allergy medicine such as Claritin, or seek the advice of your doctor. Itchy eyes, sneezing, and lethargy are all common allergy symptoms.
2. Aerosols and Perfumes: household aerosols, perfumes, and “air fresheners” are one of the leading causes of allergies and sinusitis in the US. People will purchase air fresheners and unknowingly subject themselves to headaches, depressive symptoms, allergies, and chronic sinus infections. According to the EPA, 95% of chemicals used in household fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, chloroform, and other known toxins. If you suffer from asthma, depression, sinus infections, or other related disorders, ditch all perfumes and air fresheners. Even some natural fragrances, like pine turpentine (pine-scented cleaners) can cause reactions in some individuals. Switch to a fragrance-free detergent and fabric softener. Many of these toxins are also present in cosmetics. If possible, try all-natural cosmetics and cleaners. You may notice positive changes almost immediately.
3. Dieting: dieting can cause depression, especially if it leads to nutrient deficiency. If you are dieting, make sure to take a good multi-vitamin. Try to make nutrient-rich food choices.
4. Dehydration: watch your levels of dehydration. Even mild dehydration can cause sluggishness, confusion, and depressive feelings. If you rarely drink water, and instead drink diet sodas, coffee, or other diuretic beverages, you are doing your body a great disservice. Increasing your water intake between meals grants a multitude of health benefits, including fewer headaches, more energy, weight loss, less constipation, and better mental and motor function.
5. Sleep Deprivation: lack of sleep is a major issue in the US. Most people need 8-10 hours of sleep every night, but studies suggest that most Americans live on much less. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and daytime exhaustion.
6. Prescription Medications: many prescription medications cause depressive symptoms in some individuals. If you have depression, talk to your doctor about the possibility that your prescription medications are the culprit for your low moods. Some commonly prescribed drugs with possible depressive side effects are:
a. Anti-malarial drugs
b. Birth-control pills
d. Antihypertensives (high blood pressure medications)
e. Anabolic steroids
f. Benzodiazepines (sleeping pills, used to treat insomnia)
Talk to your physician about possible side effects of your prescription medications. Sometimes a slight change in dosage or prescription can make a big difference in your mood!
7. Pregnancy: childbirth and subsequent “baby blues” are common feelings for many women. Post-partum depression, a more serious condition, requires intervention and careful monitoring by a physician.
8. Weather-related depression: also called seasonal affective disorder; a psychological condition that causes depression, fatigue, irritability, and insomnia. If you feel that you suffer from seasonal depression, talk to your doctor. Light therapy, tanning beds, and exposure to natural sunlight may help alleviate this condition.
9. Toxic Exposure: environmental toxins are one of the leading causes of depression, fatigue, and chronic illness. Fatigue and low energy are the most common symptoms associated with chemical exposure. Common household chemicals, such as acetone, bleach, paint thinner, house paints, and toluene have been shown to cause fatigue and depressive episodes in many individuals. If you have recently moved into a new home, remodeled an office, or used pesticides (to kill termites, roaches, or fleas), you may be a victim of this chemically-related depression.
Depression is a serious illness that should not be ignored. If you feel that you have depression, seek medical advice as soon as possible. That being said, you may alleviate depressive symptoms significantly by examining your environment, changing your diet, and eliminating the use of certain chemicals and perfumes. Natural soaps, cleaners, and chemical-free cosmetics are all readily available on the market and are excellent alternatives to chemical cleaners and soaps. Allergy shots, mild sauna use (for detoxification) and nutritional support can be helpful when recovering from environmental toxins. With the help of your physician, you may be able to dramatically alleviate symptoms with some simple lifestyle changes.
Sources: National Institutes of Mental Health, US Surgeon General, Environmental Protection Agency, Archives of Environmental Health
Christine P Silva, BA, CRTP, lives in California with her husband, two children, and three spoiled cats. She earned her undergraduate degree from San Jose State University, and her advanced accounting certificate and California tax registration from Cosumnes River College. She is the founder of the Sacramento Volunteer Tax Preparation Clinic, a free service offering tax assistance to low income and Spanish-speaking taxpayers.
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