The term “depression” has many meanings. In everyday life, we use it to denote states of gloominess, bad mood, or lack of joy of life. It can also refer to sadness, sorrow, e.g. after a loss of a loved one or due to prolonged exposure to stress.
“Depression” in a medical sense, however, is understood as a mental illness, the cause of which is not entirely known. What we do know is that a huge role is played by a deficiency in production of the happiness hormone: serotonin.
Serotonin is produced by metabolization of tryptophan (an amino acid not produced by the human body, instead of being provided with food) and is a neurotransmitter (meaning it is responsible for transmitting signals in the brain).
It is responsible for regulating many processes in our body, such as appetite, blood pressure, blood clotting, digestion, body temperature, cellular maturation and regeneration, menstruation, and, most importantly, mood (regulation of central nervous system function). It also exhibits somnolent properties, since the body converts it further into melatonin, which gives us peaceful relaxing sleep.
Serotonin deficiency causes a host of psychological problems, ranging from apathy, disorders of orientation, lack of focus, to severe depressive episodes. Serotonin imbalances also cause chronic sleep disorders.
On the other hand, excess serotonin causes anxiety, gloominess, and unprovoked bouts of aggression.
Regulating the production of this hormone is crucial in cases of depression.
Most of the psychotropic medicines affect the so-called serotonin re-uptake: to put it simply, it stops the body from “using it up.”
However, if we do not “replenish the stocks”, depression will probably return once the medicines are phased out.
This “replenishing” is done on the one hand by supplementing tryptophan insufficiencies, while on the other by modulating the so-called serotonergic pathway which is dependent on many cofactors, including vitamin B6 (also Pirydoxal-5-phosphate, its active form) and other microelements.
A combined metabolic and pharmacological treatment brings lasting results, allowing us to overcome depression and to enjoy daily life.