Depression: Search For The Cure


forlorn-msWhile this topic is focused on depression, it applies equally well to anxiety, high performance athletics, scholastic and any other activity that requires good nerve function.

Nerve & Myelin Cell Membrane Integrity

There are several potential causes of depression including: nerve & myelin cell membrane integrity; neurotransmitters; nerve inflammation; nerve fuel supply; nerve blood supply; neurotoxins and brain scarring.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll go into a little more depth on each of these topics.  Today we’ll briefly describe nerve & myelin cell membrane integrity, how this can contribute to the cause of depression and some considerations for how to diagnose this potential factor.

nerve-membraneNerve Membranes: The internal structures of each nerve are encased in a highly complex membrane.  The basic structure of this membrane is made up of 4 layers of proteins and lipids and is dotted with other structures.  The membrane itself conducts the nerve impulse from one nerve to the next.  Any significant alterations in the structure of the membrane will alter the ability of the nerves to fire, conduct signals of the proper strength and speed as well as communicate with adjacent nerves.

neuron-with-myelin-sheathMyelin Cell Membranes: Many nerves are surrounded by myelin. This may be considered as similar to insulation around an electrical wire.  With nerves, this myelin improves nerve conduction and prevents ‘shorting out’ on adjacent nerves.  The myelin is produced by specialized cells.  The proper functioning of the cells that produce this myelin and their membranes is thus also critical to proper functioning of the brain.

neuropathyWhat Causes Nerve Membrane Abnormalities?: One of the ways that nerve and myelin producing cell membranes can be impaired is when the raw materials that make up the membranes are deficient while that section of cell membrane is being produced during growth or learning. Once a faulty membrane is produced, that nerve will not communicate properly, may even result in the cell leaking and premature cell death.  This will not affect the entire brain at once, but will impact areas that are growing during periods of raw material deficiency.  In areas of the brain with additional stress factors (i.e. high usage, abnormal blood supply, inflammation, toxin accumulation or other nerve functioning issues) issues with membrane integrity are likely to show up first.

brain-anatomy-wcAbnormal Nerve Membranes & Depression: The particular set of symptoms that somebody develops from abnormal nerve membranes will be dependant on which areas of the brain are affected.  If the areas of the brain with abnormal membrane function are located in the regions responsible for depression, then that will be the set of psychological symptoms that develop.  If a nerve membrane issue develops in a different section of the brain, another set of symptoms will occur.

eeg-capDiagnosing Abnormal Nerve Membrane Function: Since the abnormal nerve membranes could be in different brain locations for each person, there is not one nerve function test that can be used in all cases. Also, since symptoms from this mechanism will occur as nerve cells with abnormal membranes grow or die, symptoms will fluctuate relatively slowly. (Keep in mind there may be more than one mechanism contributing to each person’s depression.)  If any nerve function test comes up positive, you could add nerve membrane integrity to the list of possible causes.  The absences of any of these tests being positive will not however rule it out as a possible cause.  Some possible non-specific tests include: EEG; Nerve conduction velocity; Deep tendon reflex; or DSM5 driven history criteria.

One set of tests that get a bit more specific are the nutrient tests for the raw materials that make up nerve and myelin cell membranes.  Some key ingredients that make up the protein and lipid layers of the membranes are:

  • omega 3 fatty acids and fish-oils
  • essential amino acids,

both of which can be measured in the plasma.  Omega 3 fatty acids make up approximately 20% of the brain by weight and are extremely deficient in the western diet.  Keep in mind, these nutrients could have been low at the time nerve cells membranes were produced, and then brough up to normal.  This will not result in any appreciable repair of the nerves that are already made, but will only affect nerve growth from that time on.

By Dr. John M Wallman, DC

Specializing in Nutrition & Exercise

This article is not intended to be medical advice and is not advising you to stop taking any medications you may currently be on.  Many SSRI medications have substantial side effects when discontinuing their use.  Please consult members of your health care provider team directly to explore the concepts in this article.