Functional Medicine: Answers for Childhood Depression.
More children are depressed today and are on serious medication or in a therapy because of it. Masking this disease and living with it forever, is not the only option for your child. Dr. Ozzie of the Functional Medicine & Wellness Center focuses on determining the contributing factors to childhood depression, eliminating those factors and then repairing the damage that was caused. All syndromes and diseases begin with stress and childhood depression is no different. The three main stresses we all encounter, including children, are structural, chemical and mental/emotional. Oddly enough, these stresses have a negative impact on the digestive tract. “Why there?” you ask, because cortisol rises when under stress and cortisol over time breaks down your digestive tract. This in turn has a negative effect on neurotransmitters as 90% of the brain’s chemicals are created in the digestive system. Ninety percent of your “feel- good” transmitters called serotonin start in the digestive tract and only 10% is created in your brain. If there is a problem with your child’s brain chemistry, then they most definitely have a problem with their digestive tract which can lead to childhood depression. A very prominent medical doctor (Gershon) which specializes in the digestive tract and is a pioneer in this field states that “the gut is the second brain”.
At the FM&WC, we individualize our approach by looking only at the patient in front of us (not using an average of depressed people) and determining which of the three stresses they are enduring. We eliminate the stress and most importantly work on repairing the damage that it has caused thereby giving the body the ability to balance itself. The biggest issues we see in kids with childhood depression when looking at digestive tract is food intolerance/allergy or some type of infection. These issues go undiagnosed because your allergist looks for immediate life threating allergies not the delayed food allergies I am talking about. When determining if an infection is present conventional medicine has a wide range of normal in the blood work so many infections go undiagnosed. We may also perform a stool analysis to look for infections such as fungus, yeast, bacteria, or parasites.
We also look for structural and mental/emotional stresses as both of these will invoke a “flight or fight” response. Ignoring these stresses will increase cortisol and adrenaline production from the adrenal glands. An increase in cortisol and adrenaline will weaken the immune system in your digestive tract and slowdown movement, which will irritate your guts causing an imbalance in brain transmitter creation, which may lead to childhood depression. High cortisol levels in the brain leads to inflammation which in turn causes a process called gliosis, the degeneration of brain cells. This is a big part of all brain diseases such as depression, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. All inflammatory states cause a decrease in communication between all the cells in the body. With poor communication it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the body to realize it is low in a particular chemical (i.e. serotonin) and therefore will not attempt to create more of it.
Signs of Childhood Depression
- Frequent sadness, tearfulness,crying
- Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
- Persistent boredom; low energy
- Social isolation, poor communication
- Low self esteem and guilt
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
- Difficulty with relationships
- Frequent complaints of physical illnesses
- Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
- Poor concentration
- A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
- Talk of or efforts to run away from home
- Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior
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