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Depression and suicidal thoughts are caused by Noradrenergic Dysfunction – But how to tackle it through diet?

 Noradrenergic Dysfunction is the cause for depression and suicidal thoughts.

Noradrenergic dysfunction is caused by an irregularity on the Noradrenergic neuronic system, which is responsible for the mechanisms that regulate the release and synthesis of the neurotransmitter called noradrenaline, also know as norepinephrine.


Norepinephrine participates in the modulation of numerous behaviors such as: stress response, attention, memory, the sleeping –awakened cycle, decision - making, and regulation of sympathetic states. So, if there is an increase in norepinephrine activity this can result in insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and hyperactivity, while reduced norepinephrine activity can result in lethargy and loss of alertness and focus.

The idea that an impaired function in the Noradrenergic neuronic system causes depression was found in a study that analised the Noradrenergic dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex in depression. This research involved six female subjects diagnosed with depression, and six healthy females. The subjects were given Two PET scans at 20 and 35 min following an intravenous clonidine infusion of 1.4 μg/kg while subjects performed a sustained attention task.

It was found the absolute link of a noradrenergic dysfunction in depression, which was suggested to arise from functionally impaired presynaptic α2-adrenoceptors as well as regionally “supersensitive” postsynaptic cortical α2-adrenoceptors.

In a review of the neurobiology of suicidality and suicide it was found that the same irregularities found in the noradrenergic system in depression are also in people with a predisposition for suicidal thoughts and behaviour. These irregularities are found in three neurobiological systems:

• Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA)

A current review on Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Major Depressive Disorder, found that HPA axis activation appears to have prognostic value and is associated with increased risk of depression relapse and even suicide.

• Dysfunction of the serotonergic system

A paper that discussed the role of the serotonergic system and mood disorders has suggested that its dysfunction causes serotonin deficiency, which may contribute to impulsive aggressive traits that are part of the pathology for suicidal behaviour and are associated with early onset mood disorders and greater risk for suicidal behaviour.

• Dysfunction of the Noradranergic System.

It is important to understand there is a connection between the dysregulation of the noradrenergic system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Therefore, Noradrenergic Dysfunction coupled with irregularities in the functions of the serotonergic system and the HPA will predispose an individual to have impaired decision – making depending on the stressor he/she is exposed to.

How to tackle Noradrenergic Dysfunction through diet?

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Tackling Noradrenergic Dysfunction involves treating all the irregularities involved that are correspondent to neurobiological systems implicated in suicidality and a depression like state.

Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA)

Researches say a plant-based diet rich in monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids and complex carbohydrates, can reportedly produce consistent improvements in cortisol levels. The International Review of Psychiatry published a paper discussing that “Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be important in psychiatric disorders both because they are selectively concentrated in the brain, and also because they may alter the neurochemical pathways involved in the pathophysiology of several psychiatric illnesses”

Another study found that women consuming a dietary pattern closer to the traditional Mediterranean diet, with high monounsaturated fatty acid intake, had lower levels of HPA axis activity

Phytonutrient-dense foods have also have been shown to lower circulating cortisol levels, including Jerte Valley cherries, cocoa and pomegranate.

Magnesium is able to block The N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor and improve GABA neurotransmission, which may explain its ability to reduce HPA axis activity.

serotonergic system

Saffron has been found to enhance mood, including; improvements in the action of the neurotransmitter serotonin, enhancement of brain functions such as of memory and learning, antioxidant effects, protecting the brain against the damaging effects of chronic stress and modulating the GABBA receptor

Curcumin -A review discussed that Curcumin is anti-inflmatory and neuroprotective and also prevents cell death, and also regulate the producition of serotonin.

Tryptophan depletion is associated with the pathology of depression and also related with risk for suicidal behaviour. Tryptophan is a key amino acid needed for your body to make serotonin. Leiden University researchers examined the effects of tryptophan depletion on mood and published their results in the May 2001 issue of the "Journal of Affective Disorders." They found that reduced tryptophan levels resulted in lowered mood. Tryptophan is commonly found in meat, eggs, cottage cheese and to a lesser extent in nuts.


An animal study has found that Tyrosine ( an an amino acid that is crucial to the production of norepinephrine) reduces blood pressure and enhances brain norepinephrine release. So, A balanced diet that includes tyrosine-rich foods is a good way to boost your levels. Tyrosine is found primarily in fish, fowl and dairy, but you can also get it from avocados, bananas, nuts, lima beans and certain seeds such as sesame.

Its is important to note that consulting with a physician before withdrawing from antidepressants is necessary. Also that it is beneficial to the person suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts to consult a certified naturopath, if she decides to naturally repair the dysfunction in the noradrenergic system.