A NUTRITIONAL DISORDER
Plesman BA(Psych), Post Grad Dip Clin Nutr
If you ever wonder why so many people are suffering from
¡®treatment resistant¡¯ depression it is because mainstream medicine and
psychology can offer only ¡®palliative¡¯
remedies. They treat symptoms only and not causes.
Drug therapy can only suppress the symptoms of
depression, but does nothing to address the underlying biochemical
abnormality that is responsible for depression. Once a patient is on the
drug band wagon, they usually go on the merry-go-round from one drug to
another for maybe the rest of their lifes.
Similarly, mainstream psychologists believe that talk therapy can
alleviate the symptoms of depression. They assume that our irrational
thoughts, unpleasant childhood experiences or ¡®¡¯bad parents¡¯ - hidden in
a mythical ¡®subconscious mind¡¯ - have caused us to be depressed. They
have us believe that by changing our attitudes and beliefs (for instance
RCBT) we can overcome the
underlying biochemical disorder. They truly believe that psychology is a
question of ¡®mind-over-matter¡¯. We only have to bring these
¡®unconscious¡¯ thoughts into consciousness and voila we become better.
Thus they seem to confuse symptoms with causes. This is palliative
treatment¡¯ without addressing the underlying biochemical disorder.
True, when we experience a stressful situation in life - such as
divorce, bereavement, rejection by a loved-one or any other trauma -
stress hormones interfere with the synthesis of our feel-good
neurotransmitters and we become depressed. This is called
¡®¡¯environmental¡¯ depression, where a person is fully aware of the
external source of stress. Sometimes such person can be helped by
changing their coping skills or lack of self-esteem that could be at the
root of their problems.
And, when the source of stress is removed people soon start to produce
the happy hormones again and life resumes.
Unfortunately, many depressed people do not fall into that category,
because after the removal of the external trauma, they continue to feel
depressed and often cannot understand why, which brings them into the
hands of a therapist.
The majority of people seeking advice and information at this web site
are people with ¡®endogenous¡¯
depression; that is to say that their depression is due primarily to a
chemical imbalance in the brain. Mainstream medicine and psychology fail
to help these people, because they have no proper explanation as to the
causes ¡®endogenous¡¯ depression. Consequently, they are not in a position
to help depressed people.
Thus we need a different interpretation of endogenous depression as an
alternative to the prevailing narrow drugs and/or psychotherapy model:
AND which is based on scientific knowledge.
I will propose the psycho-nutritional model which says that depression -
and for that matter any other non-psychotic mental illness - is a
disease of energy production.
For the brain to change one molecule into another - as in the conversion
serotonin - it needs a
disproportionate amount of biological energy called
ATP. That energy is derived from
the sugars in our food in the form of glucose. It is transformed into
biological energy as a result of a complex biochemical pathway, called
The brain although 2 per cent of the body requires about 60-70 percent
of all available energy, whether we are asleep or awake. A normal
healthy cell requires about 2 million molecules of energy (ATP) per
second to fuel biochemical reactions inside the cell. This is all
derived from glucose in our food.
Thus if the brain is deprived of that energy, it cannot synthesize the
feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine
or acetylcholine, to make us feel happy and relaxed when we normally
Without serotonin the body cannot produce melatonin - the sleeping neuro-chemical
that makes us sleep - and so we see that depression is usually
associated with insomnia. Because serotonin is also associated with the
appetite mechanism, depression is often accompanied with weight
problems. Not only energy, but a host of other nutrients are required to
bring about these biochemical reactions in the brain. They could well be
If the universal source of energy is derived from glucose in our food,
one may wonder why it is, that in a high sugar consuming society in the
Western world, people would suffer from energy starvation? Could this be
responsible for the exponential increase in depression and mental
Excessive sugar consumption, when converted to glucose, can expose the
free radical attack upon the
immune system and DNA. Glucose is easily oxidized into peroxides and
other toxins. The body has a defence mechanism against excess sugar
consumption: it shuts down receptors for insulin that controls the
amount of glucose (and other nutrients) getting across cell membranes
into cells. This is called
Insulin Resistance, which may
result in hypoglycemic symptoms.
With insulin resistance blood sugar levels tend to rise, triggering more
release of insulin - called
hyperinsulinism - and this may
provoke a sudden descent in blood sugar level called hypoglycemia. Thus
the brain tends to be exposed to wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels,
responsible for many ¡®psychological¡¯ symptoms.
When the brain is starved of energy it could lead to the death of brain
cells in a matter of minutes. In reaction to this threat, the brain
triggers the release of stress hormones - such as
adrenaline and cortisol - that
function to convert sugar stores in the body (glycogen
and amino acids) back into glucose so as to feed the brain again.
But these stress hormones, generated within the body are also
responsible for the varied symptoms of mental illness, from depression,
anxiety attacks, phobias, insomnia, compulsive behaviours and thoughts,
alcoholism, drug addiction, hypochondria, PTSD, OCD and so on and on.
Thus hypoglycemia is characterized by unstable blood sugar levels
feeding the brain, causing excess stress hormones to flood the system.
The non-drug treatment for hypoglycemia is the adoption of the
Hypoglycemic Diet - a virtual
panacea for depression - which is a natural diet, but specifically
designed to regulate blood sugar levels, stress hormones and insulin
Thus depression is in fact a NUTRITIONAL DISORDER.
This concept is difficult to accepts for those who have believed for so
many years that mental illnesses is one of ¡®mind over matter¡¯. This
perception is still held by the majority of practitioners in the field.
But scientific truth is not very democratic and is not determined by
This disorder can be medically tested with a special Glucose Tolerance
Test for Hypoglycemia (GTTH) designed by Dr George Samra of Kogarah
(Australia) and as described at our web site at:
for Hypoglycemia and How your Doctor can help¡±.
We also have a paper-and-pencil test called the
NBI that can indicate a
metabolic disorder if you score high on that test.
The scientific basis of this new nutritional approach is supported by
numerous scientific studies, that have shown a significant association
between Depression and Insulin Resistance.
Evidence for Hypoglycemia¡± at this web site.
Thus patients do have a choice, if mainstream medicine and psychology
have failed to help them.