It is time to retire the idea that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance of the brain.” The chemical imbalance myth creates the false impression that our brains are some form of neurotransmitter porridge that can be rendered just right with squirts of serotonin and dopamine.
Thanks to at least two decades of research, we now have a number of good working models on what tends to go wrong in the brain during a depressive episode. A review article by Murali Rao and Julie Alderson in this month”s Current Psychiatry outlines four overlapping theories of depression. Let’s look at three of them:
Differences in neuron densities in various regions of the brain.
The effect of stress on neural growth and death.
Alterations in feedback pathways connecting the pre-frontal cortex to the limbic system.
The common denominator is what happens when the brain is exposed to chronic stress. Among other things, stress promotes the release of glucocorticoids. O...
Have you noticed the changes in your body as you go through the menopausal transition? One day you feel fine, the next day you’re sweating up a storm because of hot flashes. One night you sleep like a baby and the next night you’re pacing around, unable to settle down.
Some changes, however, often don’t show up as noticeably. Take your vagina, for instance. It turns out our declining hormone levels cause the walls of our vaginas to become thinner and less elastic. The lack of flexibility hampers the ability of blood to flow through the area and, thus, create moisture. The combination of thinner vaginal walls and less moisture can lead to difficulty with sex and likeliness for irritation, injury and infection. These issues also are linked to vaginitis (an inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching and pain) and urinary tract infection . This video offers a good overview of vaginal dryness:
Importance of lubrication
Electrolytes are minerals that are normally in your body. Each one carries a very tiny electrical charge. Electrolytes are in your blood, urine, and other body fluids. Having the right balance of electrolytes helps your body keep fluids at proper levels. Sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium are all electrolytes. You get electrolytes from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink, and you lose electrolytes when you sweat.
The symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance can include:
Chemotherapy can cause your electrolyte levels to become too low or too high. Changes to the amount of water in your body because of side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea also can cause an electrolyte imbalance.
Managing an electrolyte imbalance
If you think you may have an electrolyte imbalance, talk to your doctor. Your electrolyte levels can be checked with a blood or urine test. If you do have an imbalance your doctor may advise you to eat foods rich in that electrol...
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