Stress And Depression
For years, stress and/or depression have been suspected of increasing the risk of contracting numerous infectious diseases. In addition, there is mounting statistical evidence that increased levels of stress and depression also correlate with an increased incidence of cancer. And finally, there is strong statistical evidence linking stress and depression with death itself.
Stress is your body's response to all of the demands made upon it. Your body responds to all stresses, both positive and negative, by trying to get back to normal.
- 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress.
- 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.
When a stressor is perceived, the hypothalamus triggers your adrenal glands to release corticosteroids to increase metabolism to provide an immediate increase in energy. Simultaneously, your pituitary releases a hormone called ACTH, which causes your adrenal glands to release epinephrine and norepinephrine, which work to prolong your body's fight-or-flight response.
If a stressful situation goes on for too long without any relief, you may feel tired, irritable, depressed, or anxious. You may have trouble sleeping or eating, or you might experience diseases and disorders, such as: headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney diseases, colds, ulcers, asthma, heart attack, and/or stroke.
- Stress has been linked to all the leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis, and suicide.
- Stress is said to be responsible for more than half of the 550,000,000 workdays lost annually because of absenteeism.
Eventually, your body's energy reserves are exhausted; it breaks down. Recent research has confirmed the role of stress in cardiovascular disease, cancer, gastrointestinal, skin, neurologic and emotional disorders, and a host of disorders linked to immune system disturbances and autoimmune diseases, ranging from the common cold and herpes, to arthritis, cancer, and AIDS.
Depression works on your body in different ways than stress, but the results are the same.
Your body is a product of your thoughts. The cells of your body have receptor sites for the various neurohormones you produce. Your immune cells, to use just one example, have receptor sites for each of those hormones. When you are happy, you produce a set of neurohormones that are picked up by the cells of your immune system. These particular neurohormones tell your immune system to jack up — which it does. In other words, happy thoughts improve your health. However, when you are depressed, the opposite happens. The neurohormones your body produces literally shut down your immune system. In effect, negative thoughts can actually kill you.
- A group of medical researchers in Montreal tracked 222 post heart attack victims, both men and women. The researchers found that those who were depressed (who felt sad, hopeless, and listless) were more likely to die of another heart attack within 18 months of their first heart attack than those who were not — 10 times more likely, in fact.
The bottom line, as Dr. John Christopher used to say, is that "Most people need an enema between the ears."
The major pharmaceutical companies, as usual, have developed a set of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to "manage the symptoms" associated with stress and depression. You might know them as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Effexor and Serzone.
Thanks to millions and millions of dollars in promotion, some misguided books that jumped on the bandwagon, and our own marvelous tendency to believe in magic bullets, we have become a "Prozac Nation."
But not without cost.
- SSRIs cause mania and delusions of grandeur in one out of every 25 children taking the drugs.
- A tendency to violence has been reported in 1 out of 16 Prozac users.
- In 70% of all murder/suicides involving women and children, the women were on SSRIs.
The Colombine Tragedy
- Specialized testing during the autopsy of Eric Harris, one of the Colombine shooters, showed "therapeutic" levels of Luvox in his blood. In addition, he was also taking cough syrup. The interaction between cough medications containing dextromethorphan (found in Robitussin, for example) and the SSRIs can greatly increase the possibility of a toxic reaction known as serotonin syndrome leading to PCP (Angel Dust) reactions. In effect, Eric Harris was unknowingly on the equivalent of Angel Dust. That explains a lot.
- Kip Kinkle, who shot his parents and then shot his classmates in Oregon, was on SSRIs.
- Brynn Hartmann, the actor Phil Hartmann's wife, was on Zoloft when she shot her husband and committed suicide.
- In March of 1998, Matthew Beck went on a bloody rampage at his office, the Connecticut Lottery Corp. headquarters, killing four senior lottery officials before committing suicide. He was on 2 antidepressants, including Luvox.
- Many children under the age of 3 have already been given Prozac.
And soon, a special "flavored" Prozac will be available just for children.
The Herbal Solution for Stress and Depression
For the vast majority of people bothered by stress or depression, there is a safe, effective solution.
A well designed herbal formula or dietary supplement made from high quality herbs and that makes use of the complementary synergies inherent in many herbs can prove remarkably effective. Look for an herbal formula that contains herbs such as:
- Valerian root. For centuries, Valerian has been used to treat nervous tension and panic attacks. A wonderful herb, Valerian is calming and quieting to the nervous system.
- Kava kava is the herb of choice to relax the body, relieve stress, to combat mild to moderate anxiety, for relief from headache and back pain. Kava is now recognized by many doctors as a natural health alternative to drugs like Xanax and Valium. (Note: thanks to erroneous bad press, many companies are having trouble getting insurance if they use Kava kava in their formulas.)
- Lobelia is an extremely powerful anti-spasmodic, and sedative. It helps improve breathing dramatically by dilating the bronchial tubes — great for asthmatics.
- Passionflower is remarkably effective as a sedative to calm nerves that get on edge.
- St. John's wort. Sometimes called "Nature's Prozac," St. John's wort helps relieve stress, anxiety, and tension. In Germany, it is the most popular antidepressant, outselling Prozac 3-1.
- Black cohosh. First used by the American Indians, Black cohosh works to soothe the body by reducing the rapidity of the pulse. Black cohosh also works internally to help soothe any nervous disease or spasm.
- Skullcap, Hops, and Catnip. Three herbs that have a long history as marvelously effective herbal tranquilizers, sedatives, and sleep aids.
- Mulungu. The traditional use of mulungu for anxiety and stress have been validated by researchers, where it was shown to alter anxiety-related responses.
For the vast majority of people, the above type of herbal formulation will prove all that is needed to help relax, pick up one's spirits, and sleep the sleep of angels.
For an added boost, some people might wish to add the one, or all three, of the following.
5-hydroxytryptophan, a more active form of l-tryptophan, can provide a low cost boost to the herbal formula described above.
200-400 mg of SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine, which is made from substances naturally found in your body) twice a day on an empty stomach can be extremely helpful in alleviating depression. Unfortunately, SAMe is very expensive, costing anywhere from $2 to $15 a day.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves. It has a calming effect that actually balances out the effect of caffeine, which is also found in tea. Research on human volunteers has demonstrated that L-theanine creates a sense of relaxation in approximately 30-40 minutes after ingestion via at least two different mechanisms.
- First, this amino acid directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation.
- Second, L-theanine is involved in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA influences the levels of two other neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, producing the key relaxation effect. (2)
As a side note, studies on spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) showed an impressive blood pressure lowering effect with L-theanine.
Jon Barron is a nutraceutical researcher, writer, editor, publisher, and lecturer for the popular Baseline of Health Foundation at www.jonbarron.org.