A report released by Mental Health America (MHA) in 2021 states that around 10 percent of the youth population in the United States suffer from severe major depression. Additionally, based on a 2016 study, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported that roughly 7 percent of adults in America suffer from a major depressive disorder. Needless to say, the pandemic and the economic crisis have certainly boosted these numbers. Could Functional Medicine be the ultimate silver lining for patients with depression?
While depression remains an agonizing concern for many people in the United States and worldwide, the treatment regimens have remained fairly traditional throughout the history of this disorder. Many scientific studies attribute the imbalance in the ratio of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors in the brain as a root cause of serotonin receptor changes that are observed among patients with major depression.
Despite the various biological factors like genetics and hormonal and receptor imbalances, other factors like socio-economic conditions, trauma, highly stressful childhood events, and cultural factors could ultimately lead to depression.
The current treatment for depression generally involves therapy and medication. However, studies indicate that drugs like SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) are not nearly as effective as previously thought. Several breakthrough studies suggest that despite the traditional approaches, the rates of depression in adults haven’t improved in the past 20 years, even after prolonged administration of SSRIs, SNRIs, and TCAs coupled with therapy.
While psychiatrists commonly use the DSM-V manual in the traditional approach and base their diagnoses on clinical symptoms, it never truly shines a light on the root cause. Additionally, medications like SSRIs have severe long-term side effects that are detrimental to the well-being of the patients.
This is where functional medicine attempts to induce a paradigm shift in modern clinical psychiatry. According to the Institute of Functional Medicine, it is a focused alternative approach to recognizing and addressing the underlying root cause of a disorder. Current practices in psychiatry utilize a symptom-based approach emanating from generic DSM-V-based evaluation. However, Functional Medicine considers the brain in the context of total mind-body health and offers a tangible solution.
For instance, it may dive into the root cause via brain mapping to investigate aberrant wave activities. In addition, functional medicine also considers other psycho-social factors attributing to the root cause of depression among patients. In addition, functional medicine also tries to understand the peripheral systems and peripheral hormones that could perhaps be associated with depression. For instance, although the normal range of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is between 0.4 – 4.0, several studies indicate that people whose TSH levels range between 2.5 to 4.0 tend to suffer from depression. In addition, different inflammatory disorders (IBD) and gastrointestinal tract imbalances could also result in depression.
Studies have clearly shown a direct correlation between mental health and the abundance and variation of the gut microbiome. For instance, a study published in 2015 revealed that indigenous spore-forming bacteria derived from mouse and human microbiomes play a major role in serotonin production via colonic enterochromaffin (EC) cells, thus modulating peripheral Serotonin levels. In addition, another study published in 2019 successfully analyzed the gut-brain axis in association with tryptophan metabolism: an amino acid crucial to the production of Serotonin in the human body.
Hence, it is clear that there are multiple dimensions to treating depression, which indeed is one of the most complex manifestations of clinical disorders to date. However, functional medicine holistically outshines traditional approaches by exploring all those dimensions and offering systematic treatment to major-depression patients. This certainly is a silver lining for all the individuals who have been combating depression and seeking a remedy.
If you have mental or physical concerns, contact Specialized Therapy at 201-488-6678. You could also contact The Functional Medicine centers for Personalized Care, LLC at 201-880-8247.
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