Sunshine Natural Food & Grocery | Grants Pass, OR

Relieving Depression Naturally

What is Depression?

Depression is a whole body illness – it involves every facet of our being.  It affects the way we eat, sleep, and feel about ourselves and others.  Symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years, and often very greatly in their severity.  A University of Pennsylvania study reports that people born after 1945 have almost ten times the depression rate of their parents and grandparents.  Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men.

Common Treatment

Depression and its related side effects have become very widespread.  Some estimates indicate that depression affects at least 35% of the U.S. populations, and its incidence is on the rise.  The major pharmaceutical companies have created dozens of drugs commonly prescribed to treat depression.  Some of these include Elavil, Norpramin, Marplan, and Prozac.  While Prozac may produce less serious side effects than the others, some of the side effects of these drugs can include blurred vision, irregular heartbeat, constipation, dizziness, and fainting.  Long-term effects can include sever liver damage and kidney abnormalities – bleak options for someone seeking relief from depression.

Natural Relief

On the bright side, however, there are many natural and safe approaches we can take to treat not only the symptoms, but to address the causes of depression as well.

One of the most common causes of depression is food allergies.  Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is another common trigger for depression.  Self-testing or testing with the help of a holistic health care provider can help identify and eliminate foods to which we might be allergic.

Other problem foods for sufferers of depression include all types of simple sugars.  Sugars should be avoided because of their quick and dramatic affects on the body – an initial increase in energy often followed swiftly by periods of low blood sugar, fatigue and depression.  Complex carbohydrates, which assimilate slowly into the body, provide a more constant source of stable energy.  Spirulina can be an extremely beneficial food for those suffering from depression.  In addition to supplying substantial amounts of vitamin B12, chlorophyll, GLA, and amino acids, spirulina may benefit a person with depression because its high protein content helps to stabilize blood sugar levels between meals.  (Spirulina can be great for helping children maintain a positive, happy and even temperament as well.)

In addition to eliminating problem foods and consuming those foods which provide steady energy, there exist naturally occurring supplements which are mood brighteners.  Dr. Andrew Weil suggests supplementation with the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine.  Selenium has been shown to elevate mood and also decrease anxiety, especially when dietary selenium levels were low to begin with.  Oregonians would do well to bear this in mind, due to the low selenium content of our soils.

An herbal treatment for depression which has received much attention from the media is St. John’s Wort.  Many of us would probably be surprised to learn that St. John’s Wort has been used in Europe for over 700 years in the treatment of depression.  St. John’s Wort does not work as quickly as amino acids to elevate mood, therefore at least a month of regular use is necessary to achieve the desired effect.  St. Johns’ Wort Special Formula from Solaray is an especially interesting product combining five different herbs and amino acids specific to the treatment of depression.

The Air We Breathe

Another factor scientists have discovered to be relevant to any discussion about depression is the ion balance in the air we breathe.  In the past few decades, it has been proven that when we or nature starts to meddle with the electricity in the air, life can become insufferable for some of us and comfortable for almost all of us.  We now know that an overabundance of positive ions (produced by electronic equipment such as computers, lights, stereos, etc.) usually causes an imbalance in serotonin production in the human brain.  Appropriate serotonin levels are usually associated with an easing of tension and stress.  Machines which produce negative ions and ozone for our enclosed environments can help create a more balanced, healthful living situation especially during eh winter (indoor) months.

SAMe for Depression and More

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a nutrient with a long history of medicinal use in Europe, where it is used to treat depression, arthritis pain, and liver disease.  SAMe is a naturally occurring compound found in nearly every body tissue and fluid.  It influences the brain’s production of dopamine and serotonin, both of which control mood and it also alleviates pain and inflammation in patients with arthritis.  In addition, SAMe has antioxidant properties and it contributes to cell signaling and the production of various neurotransmitters and hormones.  SAMe also enhances bile flow and protects the liver from toxins.  One huge advantage of SAMe is that it works quickly and can be taken on an as-needed basis.  Its positive effects can often be felt in just 1-3 hours.

Is L-Tryptophan Better Than Antidepressants?

Tryptophan has been shown to be helpful for sleep, calming frayed nerves, weight loss, mood enhancement, pain tolerance, appetite control, chemical addition, jet lag, and more.

The question remains, how does this amino acid compare to SSRIs in treating clinical conditions?  A study done by a team of Swiss and German psychiatric researchers comparing the L-tryptophan with the SSRI, Fluvoxamine (Luvox), found that depression was alleviated more predictably with tryptophan, and while side effects are commonly reported for Luvox, the Physician’s Desk Reference does not list any for tryptophan.  The researchers went on to conclude that it actually treats a broader range of symptoms known as serotonin deficiency syndrome, which may manifest as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, aggression, nervousness, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and migraines – many of the same symptoms that are being treated today in humans with SSRIs.

Tips for making tryptophan work for you:

  • Take it with a B-Complex vitamin
  • Take it with Ester-C (vitamin C)
  • Take all of the above with fresh fruit juice
  • Make sure you take it on an empty stomach

This combination greatly improves the ability for this amino acid to cross the blood-brain barrier and convert into serotonin.

Exercise too

Many studies indicate that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.  Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms.  But smaller amounts of activity – as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time – can improve mood in the short term.  “Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it’s initially too hard to do more,” Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.

Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn’t fully understood.  Some evidence suggests that exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain.  Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects.  All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self=doubt and hopelessness.

Many doctors are just now becoming familiar with proven treatments for depression which have been employed for hundreds of years.  For more information about any remedy mentioned here, as well as other proven techniques to treat depression, please stop by Sunshine Natural Foods, or give Rob a call.