Kelly Brogan on the Truth About Depression
Why Meds Don’t Work and What Does
Integrative medical doctor Kelly Brogan, a women’s health psychiatrist and author of A Mind of Your Own, has turned the world of neuropsychiatry on its head by revealing that depression can be reversed without a single prescription drug. She asserts that depression is not caused by imbalanced brain chemistry, but by lifestyle choices that unbalance the entire human physiology. That’s why conventional antidepressants generally don’t work. She instead prescribes eliminating foods that trigger inflammation in order to rebalance all body systems.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, depression annually affects 15.7 million adult Americans, or about 8.3 percent of the population.
What’s your stand on the illness model of medicine and how you arrived there?
My training as a conventional doctor was predicated on a disease care model that offers patients only one solution—a prescription. We have never had a shot at true wellness, having handed over our health to corporations loyal to their shareholders, rather than to us.
Conventional medicine is based on the notion that we are born broken and need chemicals to feel better; the body is a machine that needs recalibration; and doctors always know what they are doing. After investing thousands of hours researching what would aid my own journey back from health challenges, I saw how we have been duped.
Health is our natural state, and we can restore it by natural means. The way to prevent and reverse illness is to communicate with the body in a language it understands. It’s so simple, yet society considers it an act of rebellion to consider this kind of lifestyle.
Which science supports your conclusion that antidepressant drugs don’t work for most patients?
Taking an antidepressant for depression is like taking a Tylenol for a shard of glass in your foot. Wouldn’t you rather just remove it? Antidepressants don’t work the way we think they do and come with risks, including impulsive violence and debilitating withdrawal. They also can distract from an opportunity to identify the real cause of symptoms, one that is entirely reversible, in my experience.
Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Lexapro are commonly prescribed to treat depression by boosting serotonin levels. There are many studies debunking their use and effectiveness. The 2012 Ottawa Hospital Research Institute study led by Paul Albert, Ph.D., concluded, “Direct serotonin-enhancing effects of antidepressants disturb energy homeostasis and worsen symptoms.”
As far back as 1998, Irving Kirsch, Ph.D., an expert on the placebo effect at Harvard Medical School, published a meta-analysis of the treatment of 3,000 patients, finding that drugs improved depression in only 27 percent of the cases.
What’s the link between women, high blood sugar, diabetes, obesity and depression?
When I meet a patient that complains about irritability, anxiety, foggy thinking, fatigue and insomnia, I visually plot her day-to-day symptoms on a mental graph. I find that the sugar rollercoaster accounts for the vast majority of diabetes, obesity, depression and other symptoms troubling my patients, especially women.
Sugar disturbs mental health in at least three ways: It starves the brain by causing blood sugar highs and lows that can eventually cause insulin resistance, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease; promotes inflammation, which is closely linked to depression; and derails hormones by raising levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body’s effort to balance blood sugars.
Depression also has roots in thyroid imbalances, which are common in women more than 40 years old, and in food intolerances, especially to gluten, soy and corn, that can affect the brain in unpredictable ways.
Is there a general protocol that seems to work best?
While there are no quick fixes, I see turnarounds every week because I help my patients see the benefits of simple choices like avoiding wheat and wheat products. You need a month of serious commitment to quit sugar, alcohol, coffee, wheat and dairy. Then you discover you aren’t an irritable, tired, forgetful person, which is its own incentive toward feeling better. It’s the basis to make choices with your own fully informed consent. Applying such information leads to long-term change and healing.
Kathleen Barnes has authored numerous natural health books, including Food Is Medicine: 101 Prescriptions from the Garden. Connect at KathleenBarnes.com.
This article appears in the November 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.