Depression has become a common diagnosis, with many people, including teenagers and children, now being treated with antidepressant medication. In truth, there are several causes of depression and, at times, medication can be very helpful. But it is important to recognize that often depression is not a drug deficiency but rather a result of an imbalance in the body. By keeping harmony with the body’s needs, depression is often safely and quickly resolved.

It is important to understand the categories of problems that can lead to feeling down. For example, hormone imbalance is a significant cause of depression. Low thyroid levels can be a common culprit behind fatigue and depression. Other hormones, such as cortisol, progesterone and estrogen, can play a role in mood. In men, testosterone can be a major factor in loss of interest and depressed mood. Any signs of deficiency should be assessed and reviewed with a doctor trained in hormone balance. Treatment of hormone deficiencies can often lead to dramatic responses in energy and overall well-being.

Lack of sleep can cause anyone to feel lousy. Around the time of the Civil War, the typical American averaged nine or ten hours of sleep each night. Today, we're lucky to get five or six. It has become so easy to stay up late watching television or surfing the Internet. Most people realize that they need a good night’s rest, but few understand the reaching effects of a deep sleep. There is actually some truth to the term “beauty rest”. Deep sleep is a time when the body repairs itself. Hormone and immune system balancing is going on at night while we sleep. Poor sleep night after night will lead to fatigue, poor concentration and perhaps a short fuse with those around us. For those suffering from depression, give plenty of time in the schedule for quality sleep in a quiet, dark room on a comfortable bed.

Poor nutrition is another important factor playing into depression. Many nutritional factors will play a role in our mood. Vitamins B-12 and folic acid are needed for energy and to help balance chemical messengers in the body. Low iron can also contribute to fatigue, weakness and loss of motivation. Many people feel the winter blues as we deal with the cold and often dreary months of the season. This can be related to a deficiency in vitamin D. Treatment with vitamin D has helped many individuals overcome the seasonal depression. Essential fatty acids like fish oils are also becoming a regular part of depression treatments [Source: Lucas]. All the organs of the body, including the brain, require healthy fats for every day function. Our diets are bombarded with partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. It is becoming much easier to run deficient in several nutrients. Treatment for depression must include a diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables and healthy sources of protein.

Lack of exercise is another common cause of feeling lousy. Exercise itself is a great way to bust out of the blues [Source: Martin]. Exercise gets the heart pumping and the muscles stimulated. This has many wonderful effects on the body. Metabolism increases, blood sugars are more balanced and endorphins are released to help mood. Exercise is another key prescription in the treatment of depression. Exercise programs do not need to be complicated. Find a type of exercise that is enjoyable, and do it regularly.

Chronic stress from a poor work environment can play havoc with one’s health. Depression is a common result of chronic stress, and it is not the only symptom. High blood pressure, anxiety, weight gain, poor sleep and a poor immune system are other symptoms that result from chronic stress. Many people often feel trapped in their jobs. Some of the greatest recoveries of health come when the decision is made to move away from a miserable job. Take an in-depth look at your job’s impact on your health. No job is worth the loss of your happiness. One of the great benefits of exercise is that it is a way to offset stress. Exercise can be a wonderful tool for those needing to unwind from the chronic stress of work.

There are various medications and supplements used to treat depression. There are also lab tests available that can help develop a specific, individual treatment plan. Testing neurotransmitter levels may assess which treatment (medication or supplement) would be most helpful. There are several types of neurotransmitters. Depending on which ones are high or low will dictate the treatment. Variance in neurotransmitters can explain why some people do very well with a given antidepressant and others feel worse with the same medication. This is typically a urine test that is done and sent from home.

Depression is typically not a cause but rather a symptom or reaction to what is happening in or around the body. It is very often a symptom of a hormone imbalance, lack of sleep, poor nutrition or lack of exercise. In dealing with depression, a decision has to be made to work on all factors that affect mood. Establish a regular sleep schedule. Plan out meals ahead of time to ensure enough fruits and vegetables are consumed and less processed food. Work out a regular exercise routine, and seek out help if you are not sure what to do. Antidepressant medication can be helpful for some. Work closely with your physician before stopping or changing your medication. Do not view depression solely as a drug deficiency, but as a signal from the body that lifestyle changes need to take place.