By Dr. Isaac Eliaz
With all of the stresses of today’s modern world, depression is unfortunately becoming a common household word for many people in this country and abroad. During the cold winter months, many also struggle with seasonal depression or “winter blues,” known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Depression can be caused by any number of factors, such as chronic stress, inactivity, hormone or neurotransmitter imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, medication side effects, chronic inflammation, or lack of adequate sunshine exposure, among others.
Many cases of depression, however, are circumstantial and equally devastating, such as dealing with the life-threatening diagnosis of cancer. Unfortunately, within the current climate of fear surrounding conventional oncology, depression is often not addressed adequately, if at all. The truth is that many health practitioners may unintentionally be darkening their patient’s outlook, simply by following standard protocols in conventional oncology.
Seeking treatment and therapy for life-threatening diseases does not have to include heavy doses of sadness and fear, but rather support from a caring holistic health practitioner and guide. This approach can make the path toward recovery a life-changing experience for the better, regardless of the clinical outcome.
Treating depression in cancer patients – without the use of potentially harmful anti-depression medication – is a crucial step to recovery. Establishing appropriate emotional support protocols within conventional cancer care will have many far-reaching positive impacts on recovery and quality of life. Simple meditation practices to calm the mind can have a beneficial effect on overall emotional and physical well being. In addition, there are a number of other activities that can help alleviate stress and depression. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the times of day emphasizing the heart channel are from 11am to 1pm. Patients with depression can watch a comedy during this time of day to strengthen the emotional heart and help foster a lighter mood. Drinking green tea daily has been shown to cut depression by almost half in many subjects, while also providing health-boosting antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. Regular exercise such as yoga has also been shown to relieve depression, in part by stimulating stress-busting endorphins to help keep your mood elevated and stable. A healthy diet full of inflammation fighting whole foods has also been linked to lower depression rates, mainly due to its many health promoting benefits.
Coping with stress and anxiety during an illness is challenging, but it is vitally important. Depression weakens the body by compromising the immune system, and higher cortisol levels (a hormone that suppresses immune cells) are found in those dealing with depression. This is one reason why in holistic, integrative medicine, we treat not just the physical body, but psychological and emotional issues as well.
Overall, the most important thing to remember is not to give up hope or give in to despair, and realize that if you suffer from depression, no matter what the circumstances, you are not alone in your struggle. A vast number of support networks have formed both locally and globally, to help people connect with one another in the face of personal adversity. These networks may be some of the most powerful therapies of all, as the social bonds that form the basis of community are some of the best medicine we know. Additional recommendations for leading a healthy and happy lifestyle can be found at www.dreliaz.org.