Complementary Medicine

The best of natural and pharmaceutical medicine.

Eliminate Depression—Naturally!

Treating the blues without the Prozac.

Depression is becoming increasingly common, but often goes away with natural therapies. Although how we feel has a lot to do with psychological issues, it can also be dramatically affected by our biochemistry. Although doing one's "psycho-spiritual" work is important in treating any illness, you will be amazed at how much better you can feel when you optimize your biochemistry—naturally! This article will teach you how.

I'm tired of being depressed and want to be happy! How should I begin?

Let's look at both the physical and psycho-spiritual components—which is a good approach for any illness.

From a psychological perspective, depression usually represents repressed anger which has been turned inward. This is why choosing to allow yourself to be angry or even to sometimes go into a rage can be healthy when you're depressed—even if the people around you don't like it. You can tell when the anger is healthy because it will feel good. Remember though, that you are choosing to be angry, and what you are angry about is nobody else's fault (so don't beat up others with your anger). When you don't allow guilt to get in the way, notice how your depression decreases and you feel better after a good fit of anger!

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From a physical perspective, depression often reflects faulty biochemistry. Begin by asking yourself this simple question—"Do I have many interests?" If the answer is yes, you're probably not depressed but rather have other physical problems causing how you feel—for which effective treatment is available—and not depression. If you do not have many interests, you probably are depressed and the treatments below will be very helpful for you. Fortunately, depression is very treatable.

How do I treat these underlying problems?

Happiness has its own biochemistry which can be powerfully balanced and enhanced naturally. Let's start with the basics:

1. Overall nutritional support is essential, and I would recommend a good multivitamin powder (my favorite is the Energy Revitalization System).

2. Begin a walking program. Research has shown that walking briskly each day is as effective as Prozac for depression.

3. Get more sunshine (maybe while you are walking ;-) Inadequate sunlight is a common cause of depression (called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or "SAD"), which should be considered if your depression is worse in the winter.

4. Use natural therapies if needed to get eight hours of sleep a night. Ambien is also reasonable, but ~ 1% of people will get severe depression which doesn’t begin until after they’ve been on the Ambien for over a year. If the Ambien is causing it, it goes away within a few days of stopping the Ambien.

These simple steps are very healthy in general, and will usually help improve how you feel considerably!

Sounds like a good foundation. What can I add specifically for the depression?

1. Take fish oil. Fish oil has been shown in numerous studies to be very helpful in depression and many other psychological problems. Most of your brain is actually made of DHA (docohexaenoic acid), one of the 2 key components of fish oil. In fact, taking fish oil during pregnancy (see next week's article) markedly decreases the risk of post partum depression. Fish is called "brain food" for a good reason! If you have depression or other psychological problems, try eating 3+ servings of salmon, tuna or herring each week, and/or take fish oil. Be sure the oil is toxin and mercury free, and not rancid. Take 1 teaspoon or 3 (1,000 mg) capsules 3x day for 6 weeks and then you can lower it to once a day.

2. Optimize thyroid function. Natural Armour thyroid hormone (by prescription) has been shown to be very helpful in treating depression in two separate studies—even when thyroid blood tests were normal! Taking the thyroid hormone helped even when Prozac failed. Interestingly, only the forms of thyroid which contain T3 thyroid hormone helped. The T4 thyroid hormone found in Synthroid (and most thyroid prescriptions used by non-holistic physicians) was NOT effective.

3. Be sure to treat other hormonal disorders as well. Suboptimal testosterone and estrogen levels can frequently cause depression and are easily treated by Holistic Physicians. These hormonal deficiencies often need treatment even if the tests are low normal.

Happiness 1-2-3!

It is also critical that your body has what it takes to make the three key "happiness" neurotransmitters that your body needs. These are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. High dose B vitamins (a 50 mg B Complex) and magnesium (200 mg) are critical for energy production along with tyrosine and tryptophan for producing the hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to your feeling good! These are all in the vitamin powder above. In addition, 5HTP 200-300 mg at bedtime has been shown to be effective in several studies (after 6 weeks—need to be on the tyrosine with it to maintain effectiveness). If taking antidepressants, only take 5HTP with your Holistic Practitioners OK.

Most of you have heard of St. John's wort, and 25 double-blind studies with a total of over 1,500 patients have shown it to be as effective as prescription antidepressants—without the side effects.

Magnolia bark also has a long history of use in traditional Chinese formulas that relieve anxiety and depression without leaving you feeling like you've been drugged.

To paraphrase the Mastercard/Visa commercials:

1. Benefits of Prozac and prescription antidepressants… Prozac is only about 10% more effective than placebo.

2. Side effects… Despite 90% of the benefit coming from the placebo effect, most of the side effects come from the medication. These include loss of libido, weight gain, emotional flattening, and sometimes becoming downright suicidal (and perhaps even homicidal).

3. Getting back your full and happy feelings and your lost libido when you're able to wean off the Prozac, priceless...

For more detailed information on eliminating depression naturally, read my full article.

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., internist and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, researches treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.

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