Functional Medicine Doctor Overland Park KS
No one is immune from the effects of depression. It spans the entire American population at increasing rates and even if you have not experienced it yourself, you likely know someone who has. One in 10 Americans use antidepressants. It is estimated that over 10 percent of the US population is diagnosed with a mood disorder. A profoundly staggering eight million children are taking stimulants like Ritalin. This is not okay. This is not only scary but deeply saddening. Americans are not well.
Depression has a variety of definitions and categorization, but, in general, it is considered prolonged, or chronic feelings of sadness and despair. What is often overlooked is that the disease “depression” does not cause sadness and depression. Depression is a name used to group people together for the purpose of using the same drug therapy.
Before going further please note that we aim to expand the conversation around depression, not by any means, oversimplify or be dismissive about what the experience of depression is like. In an effort to communicate concrete scientific information that is not understood by many, we do not intend to assume that there is an easy fix, but rather to encourage that there may be alternatives to medications which can be as life-altering as the depression itself.
Causes of Depression
The cause of depression is different for each person and generally needs some good detective work to determine the driving cause, especially when it may be physiological and not situational. For example, one person’s cause of depression may be toxic mold or heavy metal overload, where another person may experience intense feelings of sadness or despair from the loss of a loved one. The treatment is not the same, but all too often, a prescription is given despite the cause of the sad feelings or prolonged feelings of despair.
Young women are experiencing depression at increasing rates which can be caused by birth control pills. In a study from Denmark, one million women ages 15 to 34-years-old were followed for 13 years. Researchers found that those on birth control were 23 percent more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant. Teens on certain types of birth control showed 80 percent higher rates of depression compared to a “mini pill” option.
There are many causes of depression and more are being uncovered. The list of causes below are purely from a physiological standpoint, not taking into account family system, trauma, relational, and/or spiritual factors that can contribute to depression.
Potential Physiological Causes of Depression:
- Hormone and neurotransmitter imbalance
- Vitamin/mineral deficiency
- Food sensitivities
- Environmental toxic overload
- Poor digestion
- Oral contraception (birth control)
Lab Testing for Depression
As you may assume, there is not a lab test to determine if you have depression, however, there are labs that can be very useful in treating depression and determining the underlying imbalances/deficiencies causing depression. A functional medicine doctor will naturally use these types of labs as part of the detective work in finding and treating the underlying cause of depression.
- Neurotransmitter testing
- Comprehensive hormone panel
- SIBO testing
- Micronutrient testing
- Essential Fatty Acid profile
- Vitamin D levels
- Heavy metal testing
Conventional Treatment for Depression
Conventional treatment for depression in far too many situations amounts to the patient telling a doctor they are experiencing sadness, lack of motivation, fatigue, and/or feelings of despair. Sometimes this may surround a life event. Other times it may be what the patient assumes is “for no reason at all,” meaning there has not been a life-altering event like a loss of life, trauma, or big situational shift. It is at this point that many doctors will prescribe an antidepressant medication. This is done without considering underlying biochemical imbalances, such as serotonin or folate levels.
Why would these be important? Dr. Kelly Brogman, MD does a great job of breaking down the serotonin/depression myth in her article which goes in-depth about how drug companies have vastly oversimplified low serotonin as the cause of depression. Each functional medicine doctor from our practice would consider it irresponsible medicine to prescribe an SSRI drug without knowing what a person’s serotonin levels are doing since SSRI + high serotonin levels are linked to worsening depression.
Additionally, folate levels can be of significance, especially in children, in the use of medications like Prozac. In 2004 a study determined that relapse of depressive symptoms were 42 percent higher in those with low folate levels compared to 3 percent in people with adequate folate levels.
Low zinc, magnesium, and essential fatty acids are also linked to depression. Conventional treatment also often involves moving from medication to medication when one does not work or produces worsening symptoms. It is not common knowledge even by physicians that most psychiatric drugs only require six weeks of a clinical trial to be FDA approved. Furthermore, drug companies are not required to publish negative impact studies; they are only required to have two clinical trials that produce positive results to meet most FDA standards.
Most people are told to stay on their medications indefinitely and even to not expect results for a few months. This means there is little if no research done or being done on the use of psychiatric medications past six weeks.
It is our opinion, as well as that of a growing number of psychiatrists, that depression medications should be used with extreme caution, not as the first-line therapy for those who have feelings of sadness and despair.
Functional Medicine Approach to Depression
The first thing an Overland Park KS functional medicine doctor will do in addressing depression is to hear the patient’s story from beginning to present. This provides invaluable insight into the whole person and begins the investigative process to determine the cause of depression and, therefore, the best treatment.
Then, lab testing will determine more effectively what underlying biochemical imbalances are at the core of these difficult feelings. A functional medicine approach like LifeWorks Integrative Health will consider things like the gut-brain connection, possibility of SIBO, and micronutrient deficiencies. They will take into account the inflammation in the gut from food sensitivities, chronic stress, environmental toxins, etc. and how these factors may affect the brain. It is not uncommon for a functional medicine doctor to see feelings of depression relieved through safe and effective detoxification programs and food choice changes.
Food choices will be considered as both gluten and dairy (specifically casein) sensitivities are linked to depression. Through improving digestion and removing inflammatory foods, a person can often experience significant shifts in mood. For most people, treatment of depression includes a combination of some or all of these body processes:
- Correct micronutrient deficiencies
- Balance hormones and neurotransmitters
- Decrease inflammation
- Improve digestion
- Detoxification protocol
- Calm the mind
It is important to consider the use of adjunct therapies alongside functional medicine to improve mood for a person experiencing depression. Many of the imbalances that need to be corrected from a functional medicine standpoint took years to develop and take time to correct. Utilizing additional resources to improve quality of life are encouraged. These may be a wide range of options such as a trusted counselor, meditation, biofeedback, massage therapy, exercise, boundaries in difficult relationships, sunlight, support systems, and acupuncture. See additional resources and a functional medicine approach to anxiety here.
If you or someone you love suffers from depression, we understand how debilitating it can be. When we treat someone suffering from depression and/or anxiety, we recognize we are in a unique and vulnerable place in their life and consider it an honor to be able to help balance the body back to experiencing the vitality of life they desire. For more information and assistance, contact a functional medicine doctor Overland Park KS patients recommend from LifeWorks Integrative Health today.