Diseases, Drugs and Nutritional Deficiencies that increase Depression risk

   Diseases, Drugs and Nutritional Deficiencies that increase Depression risk

     Although depression is a complex disease, research and other methods of learning about it have uncovered some things that can increase the chances of developing it. This is crucial information to aid people in preventing it or helping to lessen it. Depression can worsen the outcomes of some diseases such as heart attacks, and impact the quality of life.

The following disorders can cause or contribute to depression:

  • Parkinson’s disease, stroke, normal pressure hydrocephalus, dementia
  • Coronary artery disease, heart failure, TB, viral pneumonia, a high calcium level, low sodium or low potassium level
  • Diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, cancer – especially GI or pancreatic
  • Hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, liver or kidney disease, adrenal disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, hip fracture, hepatitis, urinary tract infections
  • Chronic pain – and depression can increase pain
  • Stressors alone don’t contribute to the risk for depression but combined with a lack of social support can contribute to it.

There are also some medications that can cause depression or at least increase the risk of it developing. Those taking such medications should consult their health care provider if they suspect they have depression. Here are some of the medications that have been linked to depression:

Opioids and opiates including hydrocodone, barbiturates, benzodiazepines for anxiety

Indomethacin, beta blockers, digitalis, methyldopa, levodopa for Parkinson’s disease

Alcohol – those over age 65 are particularly sensitive to the adverse effects of alcohol including depression because of decreased breakdown of it

Cimetidine (for ulcers), estrogen, some chemotherapy agents, and corticosteroids such as prednisone

A lack of certain nutrients has also been associated with an increased risk of depression. Folate – a B vitamin, vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D deficiencies have all been found to increase the risk of depression. And those with depression are more apt to not eat properly including not getting all the nutrients they need.


Pesticides and Neurological Disorders

Pesticides and Neurological Disorders

Pesticide exposures are associated with numerous disorders. Some of those associations have been studied extensively but many are only suspected or somewhat likely. Research on the effects of different pesticides has obstacles such as metabolites being quickly eliminated or the long period of time between exposure to a chemical and the changes in tissues. Still, there is enough information to be able to guide decisions, such as whether to buy organic produce or what to use if you have insects in your house.

There are also a couple groups of people that are at high risk for some of the effects of pesticides. Infants, small children, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. And considering the fact that pesticides are most often used on produce, people that try to eat the recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings each day are also susceptible to illnesses linked to pesticides. This will be the first of several articles on pesticide-associated diseases. It is a sad annotation that there are so many neurological disorders pesticides may cause that they warrant an entire article.

Infants and small children are so vulnerable because of their neurological development. Exposure to pesticides has been postulated to increase the chances of a child having an attention deficit disorder or developmental delay.

In “Dietary Intake and its contribution to longitudinal Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure in Urban/Suburban Children,” by C. Lu, et al (Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 116, #4, April, 2008) it is noted that levels of organophosphorus urine metabolites were higher in children during winter and spring. This is the time of year children are most likely to be fed fruits and vegetables imported from other countries. Since the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, produce from the U.S. has had lower levels of such pesticides. Many countries don’t have these restrictions so their produce typically has more pesticide residues on them. The article also notes that children fed only organic produce usually don’t have pesticide metabolites in their urine, further underscoring that produce is the main source of pesticides.

There is also a suspected link between prenatal pesticide exposure and a group of neurological abnormalities called autism spectrum disorders. These disorders are more likely to develop if the mother was exposed to pesticides and had a folate deficiency while pregnant. This is from “Combined Prenatal Pesticide exposure and folic acid intake in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorders,” in Environmental Health Perspectives, 097007-1. Since 1 in 68 children is affected by one of these disorders, avoiding home and agriculture pesticides is certainly worth the extra effort.

The link between Parkinson’s disease is strong enough to also make changes. In “Association of Parkinson’s Disease and Its Subtypes with Agricultural Pesticide Exposures in Men:  A Case Control Study in France,” (by F. Maisan, et al, in Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 123, #11, November, 2015) there is a 60% increase in Parkinson’s Disease risk associated with insecticide exposure. The subtype of the disease it may cause is tremor-dominant Parkinson’s, the most common type. Because there is a 3 to 7-year lag between the destruction of nerve cells and motor (movement) symptoms, it took a while to uncover this likely cause.

An individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease also increases with pesticide exposure. In “Alzheimer’s disease linked to DDT pesticide,” (in Nursing and Residential Care, April 2014, p. 189), those with an elevated level of DDE, a metabolite of DDT, had a quadruple risk of getting this disorder. This risk is even higher in individuals with one or more genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Of note, having a gene for a disease doesn’t automatically mean the person will get it, and the field of epigenetics covers the multitude of ways genetic effects can be modified. Conversely, not having a gene associated with a disease doesn’t mean you won’t get it.

In Dennis Relojo’s article “On the Road to Therapeutics:  Biological Mechanisms of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease,” (I-manager’s Journal on Nursing, vol. 5, #3, October, 2015) Alzheimer’s disease accounts for two-thirds of the cases of dementia and is the most common neurodegenerative disease. The second most common is Parkinson’s disease. Kind of makes organic produce, at least for produce from the “dirty dozen,” worth the extra money or effort, doesn’t it?








Super Star Spinach

Super Star Spinach

Spinach is not only listed as one of the super foods in Dr. Steven Pratt’s SuperFoods Rx (also by Kathy Matthews, NY, NY, 2004), he considers it so rich in so many important nutrients, it is almost in a class by itself. But before I start singing its praises, I have to add his important note that there are other similar foods that also have many of the same impressive substances.

Spinach Knock-offs

  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Swiss chard
  • Mustard and turnip greens
  • Bok choy
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Orange bell peppers (yes, that struck me as a pretty distant relative too)


On to the resume for these super stars (using spinach as the proto-type)

  • The carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin (both associated with lower macular degeneration and cataract rates), and beta-carotene
  • The antioxidants glutathione (protects DNA), alpha lipoic acid (anti-aging nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin E
  • Vitamin K (important for blood clotting and thus to be avoided if taking warfarin (Coumadin) a blood thinner)
  • Coenzyme Q10 (needed for cell energy production)
  • B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, B6, and folate (cancer fighter)
  • Chlorophyll (a potential cancer fighter), Polyphenols, Betaine (may help lower arterial disease risk)
  • Plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids


Which is better, raw or cooked spinach? There are benefits to each. Cooked spinach makes the carotenoids more available and increases lutein, but decreases the vitamin C and folate. So, it is probably best to consume raw and cooked spinach each day. Also, adding olive oil, nuts or avocado to cooked spinach will increase the carotenoid absorption.

One more note about the “knock off” vegetables. Kale, as noted in Super Foods by Tonia Reinhard (Buffalo, NY:  Firefly Books, 2014) has more than twice the level of antioxidants compared with other leafy greens. Okay kale, you’ve got my vote, and a place of prominence in my garden.

Citrus versus Cancer: Guess which one Wins!

Citrus versus Cancer:  Guess which one Wins!

Before plunging into all the nutrients and cell protectors found in citrus fruits, it is worth stating an important fact once again. That key concept is that with these foods, as with most super foods, the benefits add up to much more than the sum of its parts. To put it another way, you can’t take the specific molecules, even in the amounts proportionate to what they are in the fruit, and reap the same rewards. These compounds work together. This writer can think of no other comment on this amazing aspect of many foods than the word miraculous. To profit fully from these foods, eat them as they are – the whole food. Even juices are often far inferior to their original containers. And really, why do we want to add time, effort and expense to our diet?

Numerous anticancer compounds are found in citrus fruits, maybe more than any other food, and per the National Cancer Institute a complete package of natural cancer inhibitors. Some of these cancer fighters include the following:


  • Pectin which is a soluble fiber, impairs growth factors that cancers need to keep growing. This same compound benefits the cardiovascular system as well. The white lining of citrus fruit is especially high in pectin.
  • Citrus flavonoids in the juice, pulp and skin are antioxidants (protecting cells from free radical damage – something that comes from many sources including normal energy production and inflammation). They are also antimutagenic – preventing the cell mutations that are the first step in cancer development. Flavonoids are also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. They also strengthen blood vessels as well as tendons, cartilage and ligaments.
  • Folate in citrus is another compound that helps protect the DNA. Folate also helps protect the cardiovascular system.
  • Limonene is a phytonutrient (nutrient found in plants) in the oil of citrus peel. They function to detoxify – another cancer fighting action of citrus. Animal research has shown this compound can help shrink tumors. These chemicals may also have antimicrobial properties. Add citrus zest to fruit dishes and coleslaw.
  • Vitamin C helps protect against nitrosamines, carcinogens associated with GI cancers such as stomach cancer. Vitamin C’s effects are strengthened by bioflavonoid polyphenols that are also found in citrus. C also decreases stroke and cataract risk.

Carotenoids are found in particular in tangerines and grapefruit. These also fight cancer. Citrate levels in urine are increased with orange juice consumption and that helps stop kidney stone formation. This was noted in David Grotto’s book 101 Foods that could save your life (Nutrition Housecall, 2007).

Other references:  Tonia Reinhard’s Super Foods (Firefly Books, 2014), Eat This and Live by Don Colbert (Siloam, 2009) and Fourteen Foods that will change your life SuperFoods (HarperCollins, 2004).