Fish Oil Is A Natural Treatment For Depression!

Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA that have been found in oily fish ”repair” the brain malfunction that causes depression and help the brain working faster and more effectively. 

Many articles have been written for the properties of fish oil and the omega-3 fatty acids. Nevertheless, many people are sceptical about it mainly because there is not a comprehensive explanation about the connection of fish oil and brain function. This is what i try to give you with this article; the connection between brain and omega-3 fatty acids in plain language.

Depression is nothing more than a brain malfunction!

Even though depression is a psychosomatic illness, this doesn’t mean that your body suffers from something incurable! Panic attacks have also physical symptoms, like the sense of having a heart attack, but if you go for a full medical check up you’ll find out that your body is in perfect shape! The only thing that is wrong is the way your brain receives and processes information. And for your brain to do this job it needs some basic chemicals. If you know how your brain works and what’s wrong with it, you will be able to fix it naturally avoiding the side effects of anti-depressants.

The situation that rings a bell!

You don’t feel good recently. Your mood is down the hill, you don’t want to go to work, you don’t want to cook, eat, speak, and do all the normal things you once did. You are more sensitive than before and the only thing you want to do is to stay in bed. You visit your doctor and you are diagnosed with depression. He probably suggest that you do some psychotherapy and –depending on your condition- he prescribes you anti-depressants. But, for how long will you take anti-depressants? Is there anything else you could do to be yourself again and live a normal life ? Yes! By knowing what your brain needs to work properly you’ll be able to fix the problem.

What causes depression

In our days, 1 out of 7 persons worldwide has suffered from depression at some point in their lives. The symptoms which a depressive person has vary according to their social and psychological background, as well as the hormones and chemical composition of their bodies. This means that not all people react the same way to internal and external stimuli. Contrary to what many believe, depression doesn’t strike out of the blue. There is a background of unsolved problems in your life, which when combined with specific situations in the present trigger anxiety and depressive episodes. These problems range from your childhood to your family, friends and work environment. The loss of your job or the loss of a beloved person can trigger depression. Moving in other house, school, neighborhood can trigger anxiety that if remains unresolved could lead to depression. It could be anything that makes you have intense feelings or it could be anything which makes you believe you cannot control your feelings. Every person who is submitted to constant pressure and anxiety is vulnerable to experience depression. 

Depression is a mental illness and you should recognize it as such! Many people fail to understand that any illness- including mental ones- need to be treated appropriately, thus they ask for help when the condition  has already deterriorated. To make things worse, many doctors hasten to prescribe anti-depressants to people, without having explained them first the real factors that cause depression and the fact that in some cases, such as in deaths of relatives, depression is absolutely normal – the abnormal would be to go to a party after the funeral! Doctors worlwide should be more determined to find a holistic therapy to solve their patients’ problems to the root instead of hurry to prescribe drugs. Such hasty medical opinions not only solve patients’ problems temporarily -if not at all- but they also lead to huge financial and pharmaceutical scandals…What’s more, no drug comes with zero side effects and some anti-depressants come with serious ones. Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy along with some drugs (if needs be) have been proven effective in many cases, yet there are many patients who end up making circles around the psychotherapists and drugs without being able to solve the problem.

knowing how your brain works will help you fight depression faster

The brain of a depressive person produces up to 70% more negative thoughts than a person’s with no depression. Since so much negativity is not normal, we need to go back to the starting point of those negative thoughts, that is the human brain, and then, to go even deeper to track down what makes the brain to produce negative thoughts. You solve a problem once and for all only if you understand it completely so it doesn’t comprise a stress source any more! That’s the reason, you have to learn the basic functionality of this magnificent organ in your head! Even though the connection between brain and psychology is a very complex process for the layperson to understand, I was lucky enough to discuss the matter with doctors who explained it to me in a very simple and comprehensive way – the same way I’ll try to explain it to you.

How your brain works (in a very simple language)

Imagine your brain as an electric panel that consists of 100 billion ‘cables’. These cables are known as neurones. Without neurones you cannot do anything relevant to your five senses. There are sensor neurones, motor, unipolar, bipolar, multipolar neurones. Actually, scientists cannot say for sure how many types of brain neurones exist in our heads! Neurones receive, process and transmit information through electrical and chemical signals. The way your brain receives information is via your senses. Everything you see, taste, smell, hear and touch sends information to your brain and, by following another process, it stores the necessary information and discards the others. Now, imagine each one of the 100 billion neurones of your brain having very thin branches extended around them, known as dendrites. Each neurone has from 1000 to 10.000 dendritic branches extended around it. The job of dendrites is to send and receive messages between the other nerve cells in order for your body being fully functional. The neurones are not connected to each other and there is a ‘gap’ between them called synapse. So, your neurones fill in this ‘gap’ by producing biochemical compounds called neurotransmitters. This is how your neurones send each other messages about your body function.

nerve cell with dendrites and synapses

Neurotransmitters contain very important chemicals such as serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine, all connected to normal psychological state! If your neurones do not produce enough neurotransmitters to send each other the necessary information, your mental, bodily and psychological performance diminishes as it happens in depression. 

Patients who diagnosed with severe depression, when they underwent CAT scan, they also diagnosed with diminishing functionality on their right prefrontal cortex.

The most valuable organ upon you is your brain! Everything happens in your head affects immediately your overall performance! With so many ”cables” in there do you understand now why sometimes you feel your brain short circuits?! Maintaining a good brain functionality is the key to good health!

How fish oil helps brain to stop working in negative mode

Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Two of them are the most important:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA
  • Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA

The connection

60% of the brain is composed of fats. These fats are in the form of phospholipids, a class of lipids that are crucial to the health of both cell membranes and neurotransmitters. In other words, phospholipids maintain your brain working faster and dissuade age-related cognitive decline and illnesses. EPA and DHA omega-3s are bound to phospholipids but the human body cannot produce them naturally as it does with the most fats. After years of research, scientists found that many people with depression had low levels of such brain chemicals as the DHA and EPA.

Marine omega-3 phospholipids have been shown to be crucial at cellular levels for maintaining membrane homeostasis… for an optimal balance with n-6 fatty acids to secure a regulated inflammatory response, a healthy body composition homeostasis and an equilibrated neurological and psychiatric balance

Natural sources and precautions

The best natural source of taking the DHA and EPA is the cold water fatty fish such as salmon, sardine, herring, anchovies and tuna. Even though it has been proved that the most efficient way to get nutrients is through healthy food, in this case there something you need to be aware of.  Large fish contain mercury. Even though mercury is a metal commonly found in nature, the extensive human activity in manufacturing has increased the levels in soil, air and water. At high levels, mercury can be harmful for your health. To minimize the danger of mercury poisoning, you can choose a high quality fish oil supplement. Make sure it is high in EPA and DHA, qualified and tested for its purity. However, no article can substitute a medical opinion, so before you take any supplement, do consult with your doctor.

Remember…feelings are thoughts too. Before you label yourself as a ”depressive”, make sure there is nothing in your personal or professional life which makes you think negatively. If there is, change it! Writing down your negative thoughts and what causes them is a very effective method to track down your thoughts and find solutions to what seems ”unsolable”.  This method is widely used in cognitive behavioral therapy and so far has helped thousands of patients. Keep in my mind that for every problem there is always more than one solution!

Special thanks to the doctors of the Greek General Hospital “Attikon” for their valuable information and the comprehensive analysis of such a complex medical issue.

Sotia Bella