Understand the Cause of Depression

Filed Under: General Health, Mood & Memory

Understand the Cause of Depression

Nutritional and hormonal imbalances may be the culprit

Everyone at one time or another experiences feelings of guilt, irritability or sadness—this is normal. Severe chronic depression for no reason is another matter. If you suffer from bouts of depression, the standard medical treatment involves hours of psychoanalysis and/or mind-altering drugs. 

There’s no lack of evidence that physical and chemical problems can lead to depression. Rarely is it “all in your head.” Like all health conditions, finding the exact cause is often more difficult than correcting it. As always, I suggest working with your doctor.

I’ll start with the more common problems linked to depression which also are often the easiest to correct. 

Liver Congestion

One of the major jobs of the liver is to breakdown and detoxify waste material absorbed from the intestine. With constipation, more waste and toxic materials are continually being absorbed into your system. Food that stays too long in the colon becomes poisonous and rancid. Your colon doesn’t recognize this fact. It just continues to do its job of absorbing and reabsorbing. The extra toxins can overload the liver and prevent it from its other duties, one of which is to break down extra hormones circulating throughout your body causing uncontrollable mood fluctuation.

The very first thing you must do to conquer depression is make sure the bowels are working properly. Other substances like alcohol, medication, marijuana, caffeine and fried foods can also cause liver congestion. Red beet, papaya and black radish juices are excellent liver cleansers. The plant, milk thistle, can help clean and rebuild the liver. Milk thistle extracts can be found as herbal preparations in most health food stores. Freeze-dried preparations seem to work best.


One of the most common conditions associated with depression is an underactive thyroid. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism or how much energy you have. 


Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be equated with an emotional roller coaster. Moods fluctuate, short-term energy boosts are followed by fatigue and depression. Addictions to alcohol, drugs and sweets are a natural progression of blood sugar problems. Other symptoms include dizziness when standing too quickly, swelling in the ankles, hands or feet, allergies and shakiness among others.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities have been found to trigger depression as well as headaches, fatigue and an inability to think clearly. Oftentimes, the foods you enjoy the most and eat frequently are the problem. Eliminating one or two suspect foods for a week or so could alert you to the problem. If you actually feel worse for the first two or three days after you discontinue a particular food, it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s the culprit.

The most common problem foods are milk and wheat. Tomatoes, eggs, soybeans, peanuts and potatoes may also be on the list. (If a long list of foods cause problems, look under the discussion on zinc.)

After your body becomes more balanced nutritionally and hormonally, most likely, you can reintroduce any offending foods back into the diet. Rarely, have I found foods to be the sole source of depression problems (with the exception of sugar). Food sensitivities, however, can contribute to many of the other problems discussed here.

Zinc Deficiencies

Zinc deficiencies have been linked to depression. If you happen to be sensitive or “allergic” to a list of foods as long as your arm, you may be low on zinc. (Don’t forget digestive enzyme problems either.) Supplementing the diet with 15 mg of zinc, taken three times a day before each meal, can often remedy the food sensitivity problem rather quickly. In a roundabout way, it is one mineral necessary to defeat depression.


Lithium is one of the trace minerals of which the body needs very little to function properly. 


Deficiencies in lithium have been linked to higher rates of manic depression and suicides. No toxicity problems have been reported at doses of 10–20 mg of elemental lithium a day. The chelated form of lithium—either lithium orotate or lithium aspartate—is recommended. Check the label to see the actual amount of elemental lithium the supplement contains. For example, a 120 mg tablet of lithium orotate provides roughly 5 mg of elemental lithium.

Don't confuse elemental lithium with the pharmaceutical medication lithium carbonate, which has been used for decades to treat manic depression. The side effects of this drug are many—heart, kidney and thyroid damage, diarrhea, eventual blindness, diabetes, and a list of nerve, and skin and urinary problems.


Copper levels, when too high, can cause depression. Blood levels can be excessive for several reasons. Drinking water from copper pipes, chronic stress or illness, low amounts of zinc, manganese or molybdenum from the diet can all be the problem. 

Bringing copper levels to normal can usually be done naturally with additional zinc and vitamin C, but it can be tricky, so it’s best to work with a doctor familiar with the technique.


Light levels can affect mood. Seasonal affective disorder has been found to be common in the winter months where bright light is often absent. You can use special lights to expose yourself to more bright light, but special lighting fixtures may seem like a lot of trouble when you can just spend several minutes each morning in the sunlight to get the same results.


Exercise can help depression. Numerous studies show regular daily exercise promotes a strong sense of well-being and more vigorous exercise, like jogging, releases chemicals called endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are responsible for “runner’s high,” the euphoric feeling runners experience after about 30 minutes of strenuous running. 

Chronic depression can be caused by various imbalances like those I’ve described. Before submitting yourself or a loved one to mind altering drugs, investigate the alternative causes. 

DISCLAIMER: The content of DrDavidWilliams.com is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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