By Kristen M. Leccese and Dr. Millie Lytle, ND
There are plenty of prescription medications used to treat depression, but many of them come along with some nasty side effects. Anti-depressants are serious business – they may help your depression symptoms, but in a lot of cases they do more harm than good. There are many alternatives for easing the painful symptoms of depression naturally. If you’re suffering side effects from your anti-depressants or don’t want to take medication, here are some natural remedies and simple lifestyle changes to help lift your mood.
Exercise. I can’t stress this one enough! Working out releases endorphins, your body’s natural “happy chemical”. It also may help to realign the mood-regulating chemicals in your brain, serotonin and norepinephrine. Cardio and aerobic workouts are best, like running or brisk walking. Try to exercise for at least 20 or 30 minutes every day – the more you exercise, the more endorphins your body will release, lifting your mood more significantly in the long run.
Get into a Routine. Working or attending school full time may seem impossible when you’re depressed, so start with simple changes in your daily routine. Depression may be taking all the structure away from your life. Try your best to get up at the same time every day, do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, take your dog for a walk, and go to bed at the same time every night. This will help restore some structure and a sense of purpose back into your lifestyle.
Volunteer. Helping other people is a great way to fight off negative thoughts and shift your focus out of your own head. Seeing other people smile because of something you did is so rewarding, and a great way to naturally fight symptoms of depression.
Adopt a Pet. Knowing you have something to take care of – something that cannot survive without your care – gives you a sense of responsibility that may be missing due to your depression. Pets, particularly dogs, are known to help tremendously in cases of depression and anxiety. Plus, there’s nothing better than waking up to an adorable furry friend. You’ve already made their day just by showing your face!
Below, Dr. Millie Lytle, ND weighs in on the nutritional aspects of depression:
What are the key nutrients that can help with depression?
Depression often follows a state of anxiety – therefore, the two often go hand in hand, though some people are affected more by anxiety and others more by depression. In both cases, nutrient deficiencies can be a big culprit. You require vitamins and minerals found in the healthiest of foods in order to make neurotransmitters serotonin (for the feeling of well-being), and dopamine (for the feeling of joy). When key nutrients are depleted because of a poor diet, alcohol intake, drug use or prescription medication interactions, you are not able to make important brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters), so you feel anxious, depressed or both.
Whey Protein and other good protein sources contain all the amino acids, such as Tryptophan and Tyrosine, that produce your healthy brain chemicals. You need between 60-175 grams of protein per day. The bigger you are, the more protein you need. Vegetarian sources of protein like beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are recommended.
B100– Low levels of B vitamins, including B6 and folic acid have been shown to be prevalent in those with depression. Especially if you have a low nutrient diet, supplement with B100 once or twice per day.
SAMe is involved in the conversion of B vitamins to neurotransmitters, this can help you use your B vitamins for the production of beneficial chemicals like glutathione. Take on an empty stomach.
5-HTP is a precursor for the mood stabilizer Serotonin. Take in the morning and afternoon with a small amount of carbohydrate.
Krill Oil helps build brain matter, and the choline naturally contained in Krill oil makes acetylcholine. Acetylcholine calms and relaxes the brain. Krill oil is anti-inflammatory as well and can protect the brain from stress.
Greens Hx – Greens are natural source of vitamins and supplement a bad diet. The body needs Vitamin C, selenium, iron and copper to convert the amino acid, tyrosine, into norepinephrine. Vitamin C also jump-starts the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine and the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
Cocoa Hx increases circulation to the brain, mimics the love hormone Oxytocin and contains magnesium, needed for neurotransmitter dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine function. Magnesium reduces anxiety and anger in prone individuals.
Vitamin D3 3000 – Known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D3 deficiency is a cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD and has been used to boost mood especially in gray and dark weather.
Probiotic Hx and Flora Hx – Did you know that part of your brain is in your gut? Good bacteria in the intestines stimulates serotonin release, improving and regulating your mood. If you’ve been on antibiotics, have IBS or frequent constipation or diarrhea, use probiotics for 6 months to recolonize and increase serotonin receptor activity in your digestive track. It might sound far-fetched, but the body is a unit that works together in an amazing way!
Are there any other factors other than nutrient deficiencies?
Yes! Mood disorders, including insomnia, can also be a result of blood sugar problems. If your blood sugar is low and you have hypoglycemia, you can be fatigued, listless and depressed. If you’ve consumed too many stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, tea, or even street drugs you can suffer from mood swings including depression and anxiety.
Lastly, adequate sleep is necessary since insomnia destabilizes your natural body clock called the Circadian Rhythm. When the Circadian clock is imbalanced, you cannot produce enough of the sleep hormone melatonin. If melatonin is low, then serotonin will be low the following day. It’s important to sleep before midnight for 7-9 hours in order to improve mood.
Oversleeping can be a sign of depression.
Warning: Depression that lasts most days longer than 2 weeks at a time is considered a major depressive episode. If your depression persists or if you are feeling like harming yourself or others, then seek immediate medical attention or call 911.
Are you or a loved one suffering from symptoms of depression? How do you feel about anti-depressants and natural remedies? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments!
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