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Finding the Cause of Your Depression

Depression has many different causes, but all of them have one thing in common – an imbalance in brain chemistry. We need a number of different brain chemicals to be happy. Serotonin is one of our most important “happiness chemicals” and is involved in regulating mood, sleep and appetite. Dopamine is involved in the reward centers of the brain and is important for motivation, concentration, memory and positive feelings. GABA helps to keep us relaxed by switching off the “fight or flight” response. And acetylcholine is involved in attention, memory and feelings of reward. A deficiency of any of these brain chemicals can lead to depression.

So what causes your brain chemistry to become imbalanced? Here are 8 of the most common illnesses that can deplete your “happiness chemicals” and cause depression.


Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t work as well as it should. The thyroid gland controls the rate of energy production in the body and the speed with which our cells take up glucose. Glucose is the brain’s main fuel source and if the brain can’t get enough glucose, brain function decreases, our thinking becomes fuzzy and we become depressed. The thyroid gland also controls the production of stomach acid. When stomach acid is low, we don’t absorb protein, B12, iron or calcium very well. All of these nutrients are vital for the production of the brain’s “happiness chemicals”.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include depression, fatigue, cold hands and feet, poor memory, poor concentration and weight gain.

Omega 3 Deficiency

Omega 3 fats are a group of fats that are vital for both general health and brain function. There are 3 main types of omega 3 fats but only 2 of them, EPA and DHA, are involved in depression. EPA helps our brain use serotonin and dopamine, 2 of the main happiness chemicals. It also helps control inflammation in the brain. DHA helps keep the membranes of our brain cells flexible, allowing the brain cells to communicate with each other.

The main source of EPA and DHA is oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. They can also be found in algae, krill and grass fed meat. Our intake of omega 3 fats has decreased by 80% in the last 75 years and many researchers and authors have linked this decrease to the huge increase in depression in recent years.

Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency include depression, irritability, poor memory, poor concentration, dry skin, dry hair, dry eyes, dandruff and brittle nails.


Pyroluria is a common but little know cause of depression. It involves an excess of a substance called pyrroles in the bloodstream. Pyrroles bind to zinc and vitamin B6 and dump them out in the urine, causing a severe deficiency of these two nutrients. Zinc and B6 are involved in over 100 different chemical reactions in the brain, and the combined deficiency causes a deficiency of serotonin and other “happiness chemicals” as well as a number of physical symptoms.

Symptoms of pyroluria include depression, anxiety, extreme shyness, poor dream recall, thin nails, stretch marks, a poor sense of taste or smell and morning nausea.


Undermethylation causes an excess of a substance called histamine in the body. Histamine stimulates the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain and is involved in a number of other chemical reactions in the brain.

People with high levels of histamine tend to be driven, energetic and motivated and are often highly successful in their careers. On the surface, they usually don’t appear to be depressed. However they suffer from constant inner tension and an inability to switch off that can, over time, cause severe depression.

Symptoms of undermethylation include depression, perfectionism, high levels of motivation, a racing brain, insomnia, headaches, respiratory allergies and a high sensitivity to pain. Addictions to alcohol or hard drugs are common as these people often turn to drugs in an attempt to deal with their constant inner tension.


Overmethylation is the opposite of undermethylation and causes a deficiency of histamine in the body. Symptoms of overmethylation can include depression, paranoia, irritability, racing thoughts, grandiose ideas, low libido and a high tolerance to pain.

Food Intolerances

A food intolerance is a negative reaction to a food or food additive that doesn’t involve the immune system. One well known example is lactose intolerance. Lactose is a substance found in dairy food, which gets broken down in our guts by an enzyme called lactase. If we don’t have enough lactase, undigested lactose remains in the gut and is fermented by bacteria, causing a lot of gas, bloating and stomach pain.

It’s fairly well known that food intolerances can cause physical symptoms such as digestive problems, rashes, blocked or runny nose, sinus problems and headaches. However, food intolerances can also cause emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, irritability and hyperactivity.

Sugar Addiction

For some people, sugar acts just like a drug, and like any other drug, it can cause an initial high followed by a corresponding low. Sugar causes a surge in the production of dopamine, one of our main “happiness chemicals”. Over time, our brains react by becoming less sensitive to dopamine. At this point we are addicted – our brains need higher levels of dopamine just to feel normal and without a sugar hit to boost dopamine levels, we feel tired, dull, sluggish, unable to concentrate, irritable and depressed.

Symptoms of sugar addiction can include depression; anxiety; cravings for sugar, alcohol or refined carbohydrates; mood swings; headaches; digestive problems; insomnia; dizziness; fatigue and feeling a real boost after eating sugar.


Candida is a yeast that lives in the digestive tract, usually existing in balance with our “good bacteria”. However if an overgrowth of Candida occurs, the yeast cells and the toxins they produce can be absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a wide range of symptoms.

Candida sufferers tend to feel sick all over. Symptoms can include recurring fungal yeast infections, fungal nail infections, fungal rashes, depression, fatigue, feeling “spacey”, digestive problems and sinus infections. Symptoms tend to be worse in damp weather.

Lifestyle factors can also cause or contribute to depression. Stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and lack of sunshine can all affect our brain chemistry and lead to depression. Lifestyle factors often work hand in hand with an underlying illness to exacerbate symptoms. However if your depression is caused by an underlying illness, the most important thing you can do to overcome your depression is to identify and treat the underlying illness. Doctors can test you for most of these conditions and treatment can lead to profound changes in mood as well as an improvement in your physical health and overall wellbeing.

Jane Henderson suffered depression for over 20 years and eventually cured her depression by finding and treating the underlying cause. She is the author of a website about causes of depression that has 13 depression tests to help you find the cause of your depression.

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