Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
So you’ve been told that you have a deficiency of the “happy” brain chemical serotonin, and that a drug will help you feel better by increasing your body’s response to serotonin. But what caused that serotonin deficiency in the first place? And what will happen if you neglect to address this underlying cause by relying solely on the medication?
Research clearly demonstrates that chronic stress can cause serotonin deficiencies and depression. Many of us would agree that spiritual or emotional stress incurred during childhood or in our jobs and relationships, can lead to depression. But chronic ‘stress’ also applies to physiological (body) stress. Stress from chronic illness can stimulate biochemical processes (e.g. inflammation), in the body that “steal” nutrients otherwise used for serotonin production, thereby contributing to depression symptoms. This stress biochemistry is a survival strategy that our bodies have used theoretically since the caveman age, and we haven’t adapted yet to our fast-paced North American culture.
Our bodies are built to manage short bouts of high stress, such as what you might feel if suddenly attacked by a wild animal. Our bodies are not biochemically equipped to manage any amount of chronic stress, no matter how low grade, and no matter whether emotional, environmental, or physical. When “healthy” biochemical processes are put on hold in favour of those that support our stress response, nutrients are depleted, normal wear and tear on our bodies is not repaired, our bodies switch to inefficient energy production processes (i.e. we feel tired and ‘old’), and chronic disease progresses.
What common health conditions can cause this shift in our body’s biochemistry and drop in serotonin?