Dr Karen Bridgman
,August 11, 2021
Image: Stormseeker | Unsplash
It’s been an unpredictable year, with many ups and downs and depression rates are three times higher than before the pandemic. Here, we take a look at one woman’s journey to a healthier mind.
With the challenges we have had, mental health has become an ever-increasing issue for many people, young and old alike.
According to the latest statistics the diagnosis of depression is three times higher than what is perceived as normal.
Typifying this worldwide phenomenon, a young woman in her late 20s came to see me who was having difficulties coping with all the issues above. She was working from home, some of her family were overseas, some interstate and she had no close family contacts locally. Despite regularly contacting them on Zoom, she was missing them and their close support dreadfully. The lack of physical contact was a huge issue, as it is with many people today.
She was miserable. Her best friend had (almost) forced her to come and see me as she was very worried about my client. From being the bright, outgoing, confident young woman she had been, my client had shut herself away from her friends, she was fearful, constantly miserable, not interested in anything around her and not getting her work completed. Even though she was working from home, she could not motivate herself to function. She also had difficulty making decisions, was constantly tired and lethargic despite sleeping constantly, and after waking she often felt worse than before. As such she was feeling like a failure, accompanied by guilt that she was not doing what she needed to do.
Her weight had increased by 7kg in three months, which increased her agitation and self-loathing, as she was not exercising and constantly craving and eating sweet foods. Her diet had deteriorated dramatically. Despite her friend trying to support her, she was feeling very lonely and missed her family.
Overall, she was exhibiting the classic symptoms of depression, and because this had lasted for several months, she appeared to have tipped over into clinical depression.
Everyone can suffer symptoms of depression — feeling unhappy or miserable at times — but mostly these feelings only last for short periods of time, usually no more than a couple of days. When the symptoms last for extended periods of time, outside help is needed. Professional help can be critical, as there is increasing risk of damaging behaviours, including the risk of suicide if severe enough.
Changes needed to be made. Good nutrition and regular exercise play major roles in supporting a person suffering from depression, so these were the first things we addressed.
With her friends help we encouraged her to change her diet, removing many of the sweet foods and simple carbohydrates and swapping these for fresh vegetables and fruit, together with good sources of protein such as wild caught fish, nuts and seeds. She liked chickpeas so hummus was a good option for added protein as it could be put on a good sourdough bread and eaten with organic salad.
Her friend also agreed to take her outside in the sunshine in the early morning or late afternoon, walking around the local park. Exercise, preferably outside, is critical in managing depression, as is adequate sunshine. I suggested this start slowly, but she needed to get out at least three or four times a week for a minimum of half an hour.
Exercise, preferably outside, is critical in managing depression as is adequate sunshine.
As she was taking no supplements we decided to start with only minimal (but critical) nutrients and herbs, so I recommended only a small number: zinc to balance her neurotransmitters (zinc deficiencies are common in depression), vitamin D as she had not been outside her unit for many weeks, a glucose-metabolising formula to reduce her sugar cravings, an activated B complex with co-enzyme Q10 to pick up her energy and her overall health, and SAMe as this has been shown to be valuable in mood regulation and improves folate metabolism, another possible cause of the depressive symptoms.
Her water needed to be filtered as copper can come through tap water from copper water pipes, significantly reducing zinc levels.
I also recommended krill oil as there have been many studies showing improvement in mood when taking omega-3 fatty acids. She had very dry skin which is a common symptom of fatty acid deficiency.
In addition, I recommended the herb St John’s wort, since there is extensive research on this for improving mood disorders, particularly depression, as it regulates serotonin metabolism. As she was not taking any pharmaceutical medications, this was safe to prescribe.
There is also a strong relationship between poor gut function and depression, and with all the sugar she was eating her gut symptoms had increased massively and she was now experiencing regular bloating and wind, and constipation. So I recommended Swedish bitters before a meal along with the change of diet.
I also proposed counselling and suggested organisations such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue for outside support.
After some difficulty getting started her digestion improved, her weight started going back to normal, her energy picked up and she was sleeping more appropriately. This meant she was motivated to work again and was catching up on what she had let slide.
While still missing her family badly, she was coping much better and looking forward to restrictions being lifted so she would be able to visit them.
Karen Bridgman is a holistic practitioner at Lotus Health and Lotus Dental in Neutral Bay.
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