Feeling depressed or low?

Feeling depressed or low?
Feeling Depressed or Low?


Moments of low mood or feeling depressed can affect us all. Fortunately, there is gaining public awareness about the symptoms of depression and treatment options available. Where 1 in 10 Canadians is affected by some form of mental health concern, we still have lots to learn about the physiological causes of depression.


First, there are different types of depression – for more details check out CAMH.ca

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): occurs from fall to spring with the reduced sunlight
  • Post-natal (post-partum) depression: occurs in women after birth
  • Depression with Psychosis: when the depression is severe and the person begins to experience hallucinations or delusions
  • Dysthymia:  chronically low mood with moderate depression symptoms


What can depression look like, or feel like?

  • Feeling sad ‘for no reason’
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • A lack of interest in activities that used to be fun
  • No motivation
  • Decreased libido
  • Changes in sleep patterns – either too little or too much sleep
  • Increase in appetite and cravings for carbs like bread, pasta, cereal


Possible causes of depression

While this list is not exhaustive, it often helps people to better understand how multi-faceted depression can be. Often many factors have to come together in order to overwhelm a person’s natural ability to cope with those stresses or changes. Always talk to your naturopathic doctor or family physician before you try to treat your own symptoms or underlying causes.

  • Gut Health & Food allergies: food allergens damage the intestines, resulting in inadequate absorption of needed nutrients and increased leakage of brain toxins into the circulation.  Damage to your gut will also impair your ability to absorb nutrients putting your body in a deficit making harder to make hormones and neurotransmitters needed for mood.
  • Nutritional deficiency: even the lack of one mineral or vitamin can cause altered brain function and mood changes. Specifically, folic acid, vitamins B12 and B6, and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  • Nutrient Excess: while you may think of sugar as an ‘upper’ or stimulant, the blood sugar crash afterwards can lead to low mood. Chronic intake of high sugar foods can affect brain chemistry and hormone levels. Beware also of eating too much salt, saturated fats and food additives.
  • Stress and Low Adrenal Function: stress happens, but how our body deals with it can vary. Depending on the ability of our adrenal glands to function and produce cortisol, the stress hormone, we can experience depression, nervousness, anxiety and insomnia.  Cortisol production takes tryptophan away from the pathway that makes serotonin and melatonin leading to low mood and sleep disturbances.
  • Environmental Toxins: there are more and more studies linking heavy metals (lead, mercury and aluminium for example) as well as solvents (cleaning materials, formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, etc.), pesticides, and herbicides to nervous system changes and mood changes. Visit: Envionmental Working Group website for info on cleaning products.
  • Hormonal Changes: PMS and menopause symptoms can include depression.
  • Lifestyle Choices: alcohol and nicotine both affect adrenal glands and stress hormone outputs. While many people say they feel more relaxed and in a better mood when drinking alcohol or cigarette smoking, but internally, the hormonal effects can be devastating.
  • Lack of Exercise: regular exercise increases beta-endorphin levels which have been clinical shown to improve self-esteem and improve depression. Want to know more? Try reading ‘Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain’ by John Ratey.
  • Prescription Drugs:  read the clinical info carefully as some prescription and over-the-counter medications list depression as a possible side-efffect.  These include; antihistamines, antihypertensives, anti-inflammatory agents, birth control pills, corticosteroids, tranquilizers and sedatives.
  • Pre-existing Physical Conditions: cancer; chronic inflammation; chronic pain; diabetes; diseases of the heart, liver and lung; multiple sclerosis; rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Other Medical Conditions: the first symptom of hypothyroidism is often depression.  Chronic pain such as in rheumatoid arthritis takes a lot of out a person and often will lead to depressed feelings.


What Can You Do?

Always consult with your naturopathic doctor and family physician to make sure you get all the help and support you need.

If your depression seems to be more focused in the winter season or if you suspect seasonal affective disorder, check out these self-care options for SAD.

Along side addressing the possible causes listed above, try essential oils – read more here.

Vitamins to consider range depending on the root causes. Some options include vitamin B complex, vitamin D, ‘Stress’ herbal formulas and magnesium.

Regardless of the reason for the low mood, deep breathing can be effective to make the nervous system switch from a fight-or-flight to a state of relaxation. Try these deep breathing techniques.



If you’re feeling low or have been diagnosed with depression, there are many treatment options and resources out there. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto CAMH and The Royal Ottawa Hospital offer support groups and info. Connect with your medical professional to learn more.



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