Recently a patient of mine came to me and she was furious!
She said ” my daughter has just been told that she has a ‘chemical depression’ by a doctor who didn’t even test her brain chemicals.”
I said I agreed with her. The doctor was making a supposition that chemicals in her brain were unbalanced and was ready to treat her with a powerful psychoactive drug for this without any proof that this was so. How is this supposed to be evidence based medicine?
In every field of medicine, other than psychiatry, doctors are supposed to prove that a drug is medically necessary by doing lab testing. Cardiologists routinely test cholesterol, Endocrinologists test thyroid levels and blood sugar levels, Dermatologists do blood tests and skin biopsies to document their diagnoses. But psychiatrists make pronouncements based on a conversation and treat accordingly.
At this point you may be asking, “How do we test ‘brain chemicals’ anyway?”
Well, we do that by testing her nutrition.
So the mother brought her daughter in to see me and I ran a battery of tests.
One of the tests we did was Organic acids. This is a urine test telling us about the neurotransmitter breakdown products of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which indirectly tell us about the levels of neurotransmitters. Then we test the amino acids, which are the precursors for making making the neurotransmitters and the cofactors, which are like the sparkplugs for the reactions, which are vitamins B12, B6, and folate, and the minerals copper and magnesium. We test magnesium levels because it is necessary for making the synaptic connections between the neurons. We also test omega 3 fatty acids because receptors for the neurotransmitters don’t work well with low omega 3 fatty acids. If we find these levels low or unbalanced in a number of ways, this can contribute to depression. There’s much more that we test, such as the mitochondrial energy capacity and heavy metals and toxic substa nces that interfere with nerve transmission.
Well, sure enough, her amino acids were all very low, especially the tryptophan and tyrosine necessary for making her neurotransmitters. Also, her magnesium and copper were low, and so were her vitamin D, her omega 3 fats, and her breakdown marker for dopamine. We gave her a nutritional program that replaced all those, and wonder of wonders, her “chemical depression” was gone.
I said, why don’t we call what you had a “nutritional depression”? She agreed.