DEPRESSION – NATURAL TREATMENTS*
We use the word 'depression' in normal conversation to describe distress or unhappiness following an unpleasant event that has happened to us. This depression is a perfectly normal response of course, and is usually short-lived, resolving without the need for any specific therapy.
In contrast, depressive illness is a much more severe and prolonged condition, with persistent sadness, negativity and difficulty coping. This condition or illness will affect about 20% of people at some stage in their lives.
Depressive illness is the emotional equivalent of a broken leg. The condition is painful and disabling. Indeed many people state that they would far prefer to have a broken leg or some other obvious physical problem, which would allow them, and the people around them, to understand why they are so disabled.
Just what depression or depressive illness is has been described in detail in my May 2009 newsletter Depression: Non-pharmaceutical Treatments that Work. This includes 14 non-pharmaceutical (non-drug) approaches to the management of depression. You are encouraged to read that newsletter in parallel with this present one.
Winter is a common time to experience symptoms of depression. When the weather is colder and there is less sunlight, it is more common to feel sad, anxious or helpless. SAD stands for Seasonal Affective (mood) Disorder. Whether one is experiencing a seasonal decline in mood, or suffering from a major depression, natural treatments have very high success rates. Drugs are the 'quick fix', all you have to do is to remember to take them. It requires a discipline based on knowledge to carry out and persist with a natural approach to this, often debilitating, illness or condition.
Because depression is so common and the winter season is upon us, the following is an updated 'prescription' for the management of depression that does not include pharmaceutical drugs.
Natural Treatment for Depression
Healthy vitamin D levels are a crucial factor in the treatment and prevention of depression. The best way to obtain this vitamin is by direct exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D levels should be measured and, if low, a supplement should be taken. The ideal level of vitamin D in the blood is in the region of 70 nmol/L.
Serum levels of 25-HydroxyvitaminD:
- <30 nmol/L is vitamin D deficiency, the cause of diseases like rickets and osteomalacia as well as depression
- 30-50 nmol/L is generally considered inadequate
- >50 nmol/L is generally considered adequate for bones and general health.
The importance of sunlight in disease prevention is set out in my November 2007 newsletter Sunlight and Health.
· Exercise and Physical Activity
Physical exercise, especially if done regularly and preferably daily, is one of the most powerful antidepressants there is. It is known to be as effective as antidepressant drugs or cognitive behaviour therapy for improving the symptoms of depression. Exercise increases the production of serotonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being, is often low in individuals suffering from depression. Exercise also increases the levels of endorphins, the 'feeling-good' hormones.
Start an exercise routine today, regarding this as a crucial part of becoming healthier and happier.
· High Nutrient Diet
"We are what we eat". Nutrition is extremely important for regulating mood.
A healthy diet is an essential part of the management of depression, whether pharmaceutical drugs are taken or not.
High antioxidant intake from colourful fruits and vegetables helps prevent oxidative stress (free-radical) damage, to which the brain is highly susceptible. Markers of oxidative stress are associated with a higher incidence of depression.
My March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health gives an overview of, and the rationale for, the ideal diet.
· Omega-3 Fatty Acids
High doses of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) play an important role in the brain. Low omega-3 intake is associated with depression. In essence, DHA and EPA support optimal brain function. Of the two, EPA seems to be more important for improving depression symptoms.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, tuna and soy beans.
A DHA supplement of 200-600mg and an EPA supplement of 200-400mg daily are recommended in the management of depression.
· Other Supplements
The herb hypericum perforatum, or St John's Wort, is commonly used to treat depression, especially in the mild to moderate forms. It inhibits the re-uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, nor-epinephrine and dopamine. St John's wort has been shown to be more effective than placebo in numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and tryptophan are natural alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs and have been shown to be more effective than placebo at alleviating the symptoms of depression. When the body manufactures serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. The theory behind taking 5-HTP as a supplement is that providing the raw ingredient will lead to higher serotonin levels.
S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. This could result in SAMe indirectly influencing neurotransmitter metabolism. Several studies have shown that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.
Vitamins specifically linked to the management of depression are folio acid, vitamin B3 (niacin or nicotinic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12.
Using a combination of some, or preferably all, of the above natural approaches increases the likelihood of success in the management of depression, providing a safe, natural, and effective alternative to antidepressant drugs with all their potential side effects.
*Copyright 2012: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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