Depression is a serious mental health problem with symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, weight change, disturbed sleep, and inability to enjoy daily life despite having money and a loving family. It can significantly interfere with the quality of life and even lead to suicidal thoughts. Conventional Western medicine focuses on symptom treatment without getting to the root of the problem, and the medications prescribed also come with several side effects, such as severe mood swings, insomnia, weight gain and migraines. Depression is a serious mental health problem with symptoms such as low mood, fatigue, weight change, disturbed sleep, and inability to enjoy daily life despite having money and a loving family. It can significantly interfere with the quality of life and even lead to suicidal thoughts. Conventional Western medicine focuses on symptom treatment without getting to the root of the problem, and the medications prescribed also come with several side effects, such as severe mood swings, insomnia, weight gain and migraines.
Why do people feel depressed?
In order to feel happy and enjoy the normal routine life, we need to have balanced chemicals in our body. Serotonin, GABA, and progesterone usually make us relaxed; dopamine, glutamate, aspartate and adrenaline stimulate our brain so we can have the motivation to do things we find rewarding. Some people decide to get these neurological rewards from weed instead. Many people enjoy weed delivery. Endorphin can also make us happy. The stimulating, relaxing and rewarding chemicals need to be balanced in order to achieve a happy mood. If GABA, serotonin and progesterone are too much, we feel tired and not motivated to do things we need to do, or we do not want to make the effort to achieve something. Those relaxing hormones make us sleep deeper and digest better, so people who relax more tend to live longer; they may not be able to achieve very much, but they are happier. On the other hand, as adrenaline and dopamine stimulate certain areas of the brain, we tend to focus more and be motivated to do something.
Coffee and chocolate seem to stimulate the release of dopamine and adrenaline so that women feel like they have more energy to achieve something. But those stimulating chemicals can increase your heart rate and burn more calories, making the energy flow to the big muscles instead of the digestive system. Coffee also induces insulin release, so too much coffee actually can make women gain weight because high insulin moves the blood sugar into the fat cells; the body can not burn the calories but instead will store the energy as fat tissue. That is why, once people start using insulin, they tend to accumulate fat in the belly area. High insulin can also cause inflammation and stimulate breast cysts and prostate to grow.
When women get pregnant, they have a much higher level of progesterone; they tend to sleep more deeply and be happy with everything around them. The deep sleep and happy mood make women’s immune function stronger so that they can protect their babies. Mother nature always amazes me. For the past 20 to 30 years, women have lots of freedom to eat and drink whatever they love during pregnancy, such as ice cream, cakes and spicy food, because of this, their hormone balance can be changed during the pregnancy and after the delivery of the baby. Naturally, after delivering a baby, our progesterone level drops to a much lower level, inclining women toward being depressed, sad and feeling hopeless. In the past, women, especially Chinese women, had whole foods and different kinds of herbs during the first three months after they delivered the baby. They did not drink too much coffee, and they were told to rest as much as possible right after delivery.
The post partum depression was not as bad as what women have today. Now women need to go back to work as well as taking care of the baby at night; the lack of sleep can cause more deficiency of serotonin, GABA and progesterone. Furthermore, if they do not eat sufficient fruits and vegetables, their nervous system tends to get out of balance. Also, high stress can deplete the relaxing hormones even more, and post-partum depression becomes more severe. The imbalance of the neurotransmitters not only can influence our mood but also can change our behaviour and our way of thinking. That is one of the reasons there are more and more people committing suicide or trying to kill other people for the past 20 years. Many people may still remember that a Texas mother killed her five children a couple of years ago in a very brutal way.
Normal people could not understand how she could become so vicious. If she did not want her five children, why did she spend all her energy, time and money raising them? After all these years of researching about hormone balance and treating menopausal women with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, I realized that hormone imbalance had caused her deep depression and hallucinations. After giving birth to her five children, this woman did not work outside of the house or interact with other people. Her depression became so severe that she had to take medication. However, anti-depression medications do not address the root cause of her problem: the imbalance of estrogen, progesterone, and the associated chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA. If she had worked part-time, joined some clubs, or done volunteer work, she could have found a way to make herself feel better and to think correctly. Her mind was disturbed by this chaos of imbalanced chemicals, and she started hallucinating that if she killed all the kids, everything would get better. I strongly recommend women to take care of themselves after delivery to avoid such a tragedy.
How to prevent post partum depression?
1. Get enough sleep; sleep can always help our body produce more relaxing hormones; depressed people do not sleep enough or do not sleep at the right time. People tend to be depressed when they go to bed after 12 am and wake up after 10 am. People who go to bed early and get up with the sunrise tend to be very positive. If your baby woke you up every two hours during the first few post partum months, you may need to let your husband or other relatives help you. Interrupted sleep can influence our nervous system, leading to anxiety and depression.
2. Put Shan Yao 30g, Gou Qi Zi 20g, Hang Qi 15g, and Dang Gui 15g in your soup so that you can improve the digestion and strengthen your kidney function. The healthy digestive and kidney function can help you produce more happy hormones, such as dopamine and progesterone.
3. Avoid spicy food, which can compromise your uterine and ovarian function. Some women eat so much spicy food that they develop inflammation in their ovaries and uterus, which lowers the production of progesterone and leads to premature ovarian failure.
4. Go easy with coffee. If one cup of coffee can make you happy and does not interrupt your sleep, please do not drink a second cup. Even though the coffee does not influence your sleep duration, it may make you have a less deep sleep, which can cause the imbalance of the nervous system and immune function. Coffee can also move the energy away from your thyroid and adrenal gland, which can make you feel tired even though you have had 8 hours of sleep.
5. Start a part-time job or volunteer activity 3 months after delivering the baby; your brain needs to focus on something besides just taking care of your baby. Especially when you help other people as a volunteer, you can feel rewarded, which induces the dopamine release.
6. Avoid alcohol; even though it can stimulate your brain to release more dopamine temporarily, it does not help your body produce more dopamine and serotonin. After the huge amount of dopamine release, you can feel more depressed the next morning. Then you are seeking alcohol again, and eventually, your body can not produce dopamine at all. That is why some alcoholics commit suicide. When you drink too much, you cannot sleep as deeply as you generally do. I never see a happy woman who drinks more than one glass of wine every day. Alcohol can also cause more inflammation and liver damage; women tend to develop the autoimmune disease if they drink too much after delivering a baby. Women need to make an effort to let their brain produce balanced hormones instead of using alcohol or medications to feel better temporarily.
7. Walk on the beach or in the woods, where there is a higher concentration of oxygen, which can help balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves. You do not need to travel around the world; as long as you change your environment and get out of your busy life for a few days, the production of your happy hormones will increase.
8. Organic white ginger pear tea sold in Trader Joe’s seems to make many women relaxed. I sometimes drink it in the afternoon and can still sleep well. If you are sensitive to coffee and cannot sleep well with even half a cup of coffee, like me, you can drink black or green tea in the morning and drink white tea in the afternoon.
9. Take some patented Chinese herbs (the pill form) such as Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan and Chai Hu Shu Gan San or find a herbalist to prescribe a specific formula according to your physical and mental condition. This can help your body produce balanced hormones because herbs can improve the function of the thyroid, adrenal gland, other endocrine and digestive function.
10. Electrical acupuncture has been used to help people with depression for the past 20 years. Much research has verified that acupuncture can help the body produce more dopamine, serotonin and endorphin. When women have regular acupuncture treatment, they can cut down on medications, and they can lose weight because acupuncture also can increase their metabolism and help them produce more energy. One side effect of anti-depression medications is that they slow down the metabolism, so that people gain weight over the years. A new study published in Med Sci Monit. 2017 by Ding Luo et. al indicated that electro acupuncture can modify the glutamatergic neurotransmission system to reduce the symptoms of major depressive disorder. According to this study, electro-acupuncture can be used to achieve an antidepressant effect by enhancing the function of glial glutamate transporter EAAT2, which supports 90% of glutamate neurotransmission, in the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex. However, it takes slightly longer for acupuncture to change the gene expression of the glutamate transporter EAAT2, so, when we use acupuncture to treat depression, it is advisable to start 2 to 3 times a week to accumulate the anti-depressive effect, because a sufficient dosage is necessary to modify the gene expression.
11. Try to join some social activities. When you are interacting with people, your body can produce more oxytocin, which makes you happy. Research shows that when couples get injections of oxytocin, they can think about things in a more positive way and show love to each other, even though the romantic love has been long gone after years of marriage.
12. An optimal level of exercise can also help the body produce more endorphins, but too much intense exercise can deplete the adrenal gland and lead to depression too. Fifteen to 30 minutes fast walking or jogging is enough to clear up the stress hormones in your body and rewire your brain, so that you have more positive circuits then negative ones.
13. Join a singing group. Singing can instantly bring up the oxygen and nitric oxide levels and calm the sympathetic nervous system. Singing can also rewire your brain, so you will not keep thinking unhappy thoughts.
14. Having regular sex improves the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone and slows down the ageing of our skin and ovaries. Sex can also help us produce more dopamine to cope with stress, and it is free.
15. Eating avocado a few times a week will help us to have a healthy nervous system. When you are calm, you can deal with the stress much more efficiently.
16. Add apple cider vinegar to your salad or put daikon or wheat bran into your soup. Ginger and daikon can help your digestive system to absorb the vegetables and meat more efficiently, which provides enough nutrients for hormone production.
17. Eat one banana in the afternoon every day to provide your body with enough tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin. When your body has enough tryptophan, you will not crave carbohydrates.
18. Having magnesium powder after dinner can help us sleep better, with more relaxed muscles.
19. Try to avoid multi-tasking, which stimulates adrenaline release and the sympathetic nervous system. Women tend to be overwhelmed when they are doing too many things at the same time. You tend to deplete your relaxing hormones when are doing more than two things at the same time. Happy women tend to do one thing after another.