Depression Is Real

Sharon J Cole

Depression is Real…


What is Depression, anyway?

          A mental state?

          A condition?

          A mood disorder?


It’s shows itself in sadness…loss of interest…loss of pleasure in activities…and a range of other things including physical symptoms.


From my research, the best I can come up with is:

It’s a complex condition—with a range of emotional and physical symptoms.


Can it affect a person’s ability to function in daily life? Yes.


More than 100 million Americans—that’s literally one in three—struggle through life… with a depression.


In Western Countries (who have more money and privilege than anywhere else in the world) Depression is Rampant.


In the U.S., about 1 in 4 adults (more than 26% of the population) suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder…and uses antidepressants.


More than 8 Million children are taking stimulants like Ritalin.


And 1 in 10 of us is diagnosed with actual depression—now the leading cause of disability, worldwide.  One quarter of women in their forties and fifties has this diagnosis.


Depression and neurological-emotional diseases such as bipolar, schizophrenia, etc. are at an all-time high.


Nearly 10% of the U.S. adult population takes prescribed drugs for some type of mood disorder.




So…What is the cause?


It seems that people with chronic depression often times have significant biochemical imbalances in their neurological tissue…


But WHY?


Is it a Genetic flaw?  No, even though that is what was once thought to be the case.


It is instead, due to chronic, massive brain inflammation.


But, WHY??


It seems to be due to a heavy onslaught of toxicity and/or severe nutritional and lifestyle-based deficiencies that cause this massive brain inflammation.


It is also the experience of functional medicine doctors that these factors are addressed, these chemical imbalances can be overcome, = depression can be treated naturally.


So… it seems to be toxin-related, or food- and lifestyle-based shortcomings that cause the inflammation…??  Looks to be so.


Depression actually is likely a combination of various factors, including:

1.     Biological Factors: Imbalances in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) which can have many causes from nutrition, to lifestyle, to stress;

2.     Psychological Factors: Trauma, Chronic Stress, Unresolved emotional issues;

3.     Environmental Factors: Loss of a loved one (stress), financial struggles (stress), relationship problems (stress);

4.     Chronic Illness: Certain medical conditions, chronic pain or serious health diagnosis.

So it looks like each of these categories can cause biological imbalances in neurological tissue, which produces inflammation in your brain.




So… there are many, many high powered drugs prescribed to treat all these conditions… Do they work?


According to my research in Functional Medicine, specifically with Dr. Mark Hyman (, and Dr. David Jockers ( many individuals have gotten some benefits from these medications.  Most report short-term benefits but not long-term benefits.  In fact, years ago, the FDA mandated labeling requiring antidepressant manufacturers to include warning labels that these drugs increase suicide risk—which is what they are sold to prevent.


The body naturally creates inflammation in order to prevent infections.  One of those inflammatory mediators is called a cytokine.  Cytokines aid cell-to-cell communication.  Evidence suggests that with chronic inflammation, specific cytokines signal the brain to generate chemical, behavior and other changes, causing an imbalance of cytokines in the central nervous system (CNS), and that this plays a role in mood disorders.


(Some doctors believe that since since the antidepressants have a mild anti-inflammatory effect, that the improvement seen with the drugs is from that effect, and not from the chemical neurotransmitter regulation they are manufactured for.)


This would explain why natural anti-inflammatories outperform anti-depressants in clinical trials.




If you go to the doctor with chronic feelings of sadness and despair…they could possibly say you have a disease called “depression”.  But is depression the cause of your sadness and despair?  No.  It’s just a name… a name we use to group people together so there is a “diagnosis”, so there can be a “protocol for treatment”.


The problem with blanket “protocol” for the name of a problem is, everyone’s different.  Chances are good that they react differently to remedies, and their causes are likely different…And depression can have any number of causes…


If you and another person each have a headache.  Your pain is created by drinking too much wine every night, and the other person’s pain is caused from being hit on the head… it’s the same label, headache.  But the cause and treatment obviously would be different.


Do Antidepressants cure the depression?  No; they mask the symptoms.


Enter Functional Medicine Approach


Dr. Hyman gives an example of a patient with depression who had previously visited conventional doctors who had prescribed numerous drugs to address the depression.

          Frustrated with failure to improve, they’re ready for a different approach.

          Dr. Hyman, Dr. Jockers, and Functional Medicine doctors in general, consider it their mission to understand what creates the depression.  Saying someone is “depressed” actually says nothing about what problem to treat.

          There is new research that shows a strong gut-brain connection.  Dr. Hyman sees emotional, psychiatric, and behavioral symptoms triggered by problems in the gut. 


According to Dr. Jockers, gut bacteria manufactures about 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin,, which influences both mood and GI activity.  Low levels of this specific bacteria are associated with anxiety, seizures, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s.  There is a saying in Functional Medicine, “fire in the gut = fire in the brain.”

          Dr. Hyman says, when it comes to “broken brains”, the key paradigm is this: Your depression is not in your head.  It’s in your body.  When you fix your body, you fix your “broken brain”.

          Your energy, memory, focus, and your joy will all increase.  Depression fades away.


Dr. Hyman believes the solution is balancing 7 core systems in your body.

1.     Optimize your Nutrition.

2.     Balance your Hormones.

3.     Cool off your Inflammation.

4.     Fix your Digestion.

5.     Detox your body as much as possible.

6.     Boost your energy…metabolism

7.     Calm your mind.

Sounds like a lot…But…

He says these seven imbalances are the underlying cause of all illness.






The simplicity is: eliminate things that cause imbalances in these core systems, and give your body the things it needs to heal…like good (real) food, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fats.  And hormones when necessary.  You may want to visit a Functional Medicine doctor to help you sort through it.  But if you do things on your own that eliminate the bad, and improve the good, you will see a difference, because your body will begin to repair and heal.


Dr. Jockers says Natural Anti-inflammatories will eliminate your depression.

So…What are some of these “natural anti-inflammatories”?

According to Dr. Jockers, the main ones are:

          Sun Exposure


          Omega 3 fatty acids



          Adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha

          Plenty of water

          Good, uninterrupted sleep

          Avoid exposure to herbicides and pesticides (choose organic food)

Dr. Jockers has a very thorough article on his website ( explaining these and other examples in great detail.



Dr. Hyman gives these are six strategies to eliminate depression.

1.     Eat whole, real food. Nutrient-dense whole, fresh food that includes vegetables, fruit, plenty of protein and healthy fats.

2.     Cut out the sugar.  And become a detective to find and avoid hidden sources of sugar, which are “everywhere”.

3.     Exercise regularly.  Exercise is as good as and better than antidepressants.

4.     Get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours uninterrupted sleep.

a.      Getting outside early morning helps start your circadian rhythm for sleep that night;

b.     Help your bedroom to be a safe sanctuary;

c.      Develop a regular relaxing nighttime ritual that works for you (each night your body and mind will realize it’s time to rest when you start your nighttime routine);

d.     Turn off electronics (including tv) at least an hour before bed time;

e.      Dim the lights in the evening an hour or so before bed;

f.       Keep your bedroom dark; especially no electronic lights;

g.     Avoid sugar;

h.     Avoid caffeine from late afternoon at least;

i.       Do a light stretch before bed, and check in with your body and emotions;

j.       Say a grateful prayer before going to sleep.

5.     Control stress levels, as stress stokes the fires of depression.  Find things that calm you and practice those things regularly. Suggestions: watch less news, reduce social media use, avoid situations and people that bring you down (as much as you can), surround yourself with loving and uplifting people, read, play, sing, dance, pray.  Also, when your mind is focused on gratitude, it helps lift depression—especially gratitude along with prayer. Other ideas:

a.      Journal each morning, counting your blessings;

b.     Stop through the day to appreciate small things;

c.      Take time to laugh about something;

d.     Challenge yourself to keep your mind in a positive state.

6.     Take the right nutrients. Dr. Hyman suggests working with an integrative practitioner to customize a personalized nutrition program for you, and also suggests to include omega-3 fatty acids.

I encourage you to read The UltraMind Solution which Dr. Hyman wrote, and it delves deeply into depression and how to fix it.


If you visit your doctor, here are some questions Dr. Hyman suggests you ask yourself, and your doctor:

1.     Do you have low thyroid function?

a.      Ask your doctor to check for the following blood tests: TSH, free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies.

2.     Do you have a vitamin D deficiency?

a.      Especially if you are depressed during winter.  Ask your doctor to check for a 25 OH vitamin D test.  Your level should be over 50.  If it isn’t, he suggests you take 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day.

3.     Do you have a folic acid or B12 deficiency?

a.      Ask your doctor to test your homocysteine and methylmalonic acid levels to check for those deficiencies.  And he suggests taking an extra 800 mcg of folic acid and 1,000 mcg of B12.

4.     Do you have a deficiency of Omega-3 fats?

a.      It’s likely, considering 99% of Americans do have.  Eat more wild salmon and sardines, and take 1-2 grams of fish oil a day.

5.     Do you have food allergies?

a.      Food allergies create a metabolic disorder that can lead to a whole host of “mental” symptoms, including depression.

b.     Gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats) and dairy are major culprits, which produce odd proteins that can change brain function and lead to depression.

6.     Do you have Inflammation?

a.      The Standard American Diet contains a host of pro-inflammatory foods.  To treat depression, we must get rid of the “causes”, and

b.     restore your immune balance through good (real) food and nutrients

c.      Plus exercise, sleep and stress management habits.


Doing this detective work (either yourself, or your doctor) and trial-and-error take a little effort and time.  But just know, the average antidepressant drug takes six weeks to kick in.


Depression is Real.  It can be debilitating. It impacts our daily functioning, our relationships, our work, our social interactions.  It reduces our ability to enjoy life.  It can affect our physical health.  It weakens our immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

(This article does not address Trauma or PTSD related conditions. If you would like in-depth (and very interesting) information on this, you might read “The Body Keeps the Score by scientific researcher with a deep and long history in the effects of trauma and brain function, and an active therapist, Bessel van der Kolk, whose mission is to keep learning and finding new and improved treatments.)


We don’t want Depression in our lives.  Some of these remedies I’ve listed to make it go away may seem too hard, or “too far out”.  Please consider them anyway.  You may need medicine, but if you change your eating and your lifestyle, you can be well.  Eventually using no medicine for it (barring a highly unusual circumstance).  Once you start with changes, it’s not that hard.


If you need help and would like to find a functional medicine doctor, I can help you find one, or you can search of (Institute for Functional Medicine). 


If you need help with making changes, or finding your personalized path to the changes you want to make, I can help you.  Please message me.


One of the most important things may be to act on depression early—to search out and find a path to improvement.  Seek professional help, so it can be treated, and you can receive support.


Thank you for reading; I hope this article was helpful to you.  If you have any questions or comments, please do let me know.




*If you are at risk for suicide or other harm or injury, please do not try to treat it on your own.  There is help.  Your doctor; hospital emergency room; 911; or Suicide Helpline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)



National Institute of Mental Health

World Health Organization

Mayo Clinic

Harvard Health Publishing


**These strategies are not FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure depression, and should not be confused as such.  You should always consult with your physician before stopping or changing medications, or taking on new health strategies.

**Additionally, you should be working with a functional health practitioner to help guide you through these strategies.  This information is not exhaustive information and there are other natural therapeutic strategies that functional health practitioners utilize to help individuals with mood issues.


*** The contents of this article are based upon my own life experiences, in addition to the study of the above doctors and professionals. I am the author of this article, putting the thoughts together.  This information is not intended to replace a relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.  It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research and experience of my own.  I encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your own research, and in partnership with a qualified functional medicine doctor.






Meet Sharon

Sharon is the founder of Where is Your Calm, and is dedicated to the wellness of every client she has. She graduated from the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy in 2019 and has been doing group coaching and individual coaching since then.

Sharon is a caring haven for people of all ages to address their overwhelm and overwork, helping them to improve their life with small changes in their lifestyle and nutrition habits. She regularly attends classes and training to keep up with the most innovative practices to address her clients' needs.  

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