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Natural Awakenings New York City

Depression Can Have a Physical Cause

By Michael Biamonte, CCN

Depression can occur for several physical reasons. Anyone experiencing depression should see a nutritionist to rule out the possibility that there’s a hormonal or nutritional cause, or that physical factors are making depression symptoms worse. 

Copper and Zinc

Elevated levels of the mineral copper have been known to cause depression. Copper has a suppressive effect on both the adrenal and thyroid glands. Copper levels also rise along with estrogen levels. That’s why some women get depressed when they are premenstrual.

Increased copper levels are also responsible for postpartum depression. Estrogen and copper levels normally increase during pregnancy. After delivery, estrogen levels typically return to normal, but copper levels may remain elevated. This is especially common when pregnancies are close together: Copper levels rise and remain elevated, increasing the chance of postpartum depression. 

 Zinc, vitamin B6, and other nutrients can help reverse this imbalance. A zinc deficiency, on the other hand, can cause elevated copper levels. 

It’s been noted that supplemental zinc often eases PMS-related depression. Progesterone works very closely with zinc, and progesterone creams or supplemental progesterone can be very effective in eliminating depression. This works based on the same mechanism as zinc.

 Calcium and Magnesium

There have been several medical reports of calcium causing depression in female patients. The theory is that the calcium reduces thyroid function, as low thyroid function is associated with depression. All the patients experienced relief from depression symptoms when the calcium was discontinued.

There’s the opposite dynamic happening with magnesium. While the exact mechanism isn’t yet known, a magnesium deficiency can cause depression. We do know that magnesium plays an important role in producing cellular energy, so that may be the connection. 

Tryptophan and Prozac

Tryptophan, an amino acid found in foods, especially milk and turkey, naturally increases serotonin levels in the brain. It was used for several years and by millions of people to treat depression. Tryptophan was taken off the market in 1989 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after a serious illness caused by a bad batch from one Japanese producer. The FDA has shown no sign of allowing tryptophan back on the market, even though manufactures have proven that they can make it safely.

Prozac came on the market shortly after tryptophan was taken off. The manufacturers of Prozac and similar drugs say they relieve depression by increasing the uptake of serotonin to the brain. Prozac has been very controversial because it’s been reported to have dangerous side effects, but drug companies have invested many millions of dollars in it.

There are several alternatives to Prozac, so if you’re dealing with depression, see a nutritionist or alternative medicine M.D. (At the Biamonte Center for Clinical Nutrition, we have both.)


Another common cause of depression, as well as poor memory and other cognitive problems, is hypoglycemia, otherwise known as low blood sugar. Don’t be fooled by the name: It doesn’t mean you need to eat sugar. It means that your body is not properly controlling the sugar in your blood. 

 Here’s the bottom line: The human body is so well designed that chronic and recurring symptoms are its way of saying something is wrong. When that happens, the best course of action is to listen—and then to see a trained professional who knows how to fix it. Trying to diagnose and treat our own chronic conditions is not only exhausting and time-consuming but also a lot more expensive in the long run.

Michael Biamonte is a certified clinical nutritionist and the founder of the Biamonte Center for Clinical Nutrition, located at 2185 34th Ave., Ste. 14D, Astoria, NY. For more information, or to schedule a $79 initial consult, visit

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