The grave matter of “depression” is one that is talked about more openly now than ever before. Word of mouth and the media is increasingly bringing to our attention that a shocking percentage of the population faces depression or anxiety. It is not just people of a certain age group, gender or social strata that are affected. According to the World Health Organization, it is a common problem affecting over 300 million people of all ages from around the globe.
Left untreated over a long period, depression can even lead to the patient causing self-harm. Each year, approximately 800,000 people die due to suicide. It is the second leading cause of death in the age group of 15-29-year-olds.1
Side Effects Of Taking Antidepressants
In order to be diagnosed as depressed, the depressed mood must last longer than two weeks. The diagnosis must also include four other changes in functioning which involve energy level, level of concentration, sleeping habits, eating disorders, problems with self-image or thoughts of suicide.
Once diagnosed, effective treatments such as psychological treatments (like interpersonal psychotherapy) and antidepressant medication would help. Possible adverse effects that are associated with antidepressant medication should be considered while deciding the treatment for a patient. The decision whether a patient needs medication depends on various factors such as the severity of the depression and the age of the patient.
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Sleep disturbance2
These commonly used antidepressants may be effective, but you should also be aware of natural alternatives which support the body, mind, and spirit in a very safe way.
Natural Alternatives To Antidepressants
1. Omega-3 Fish Oil
Packed with essential fatty acids and omega-3 fats, Omega-3 fish oil works on multiple levels and promotes a healthy body. It not only acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, but it also supports optimal brain chemistry. Taking enough omega-3 fats is essential for the body to transmit nerve signals correctly, without which you would be anxious and depressed. You can easily find this supplement at drug stores but it is better if you consume whole-food omega-3 sources like Pollock, freshwater trout, Atlantic mackerel, arctic cod, Atlantic haddock and wild salmon. Plant-based sources include seaweeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax, and hemp.
Getting a healthy amount of vitamin D is essential for the body and mind. Vitamin D is needed for immunity, bone, and teeth health, as well as a healthy mood. Vitamin D level should ideally be between 50 ng/ml and 100 ng/ml on a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. Ask your doctor if you should be taking vitamin D supplements and if so, how much. You can also encourage natural vitamin D production by getting 10-20 minutes of sunshine every day.
Probiotics have multiple functions; it supports digestion, increases immunity and it aids proper absorbance and assimilation of nutrients. The gut contains over 100 million neurons, giving it the nickname “the second brain”. In fact, 90 percent of the serotonin is produced in the gut, not the brain. Thus, for your ability to deal with stress, overall mood, and well-being, maintaining healthy gut flora is critical.3
Vitamin B12 is found to be on the lower side for most people. In order to get tested, you should get a blood test done. Ideally, the results should show 400-500 pg/mL. If this is not the case, ask your doctor for daily supplements or a B12 injection. The injection will act quickly. To see notable improvement it may take more time with sublingual tablets in comparison to injections. Lower levels of B12 may lead to low energy, foggy thinking, and low mood.
5. Tryptophan And 5-HTP
5-hydroxy tryptophan is produced by the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is naturally found in eggs, poultry, fish, seeds and nuts. You can also consume it in the supplement form. 5-HTP must be synthesized for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin to take place. 5-HTP may be absorbed better by the body, but Tryptophan is a gentler supplement which is generally well tolerated. When compared to L-tryptophan, 5-HTP offers more powerful serotonin. These supplements have been proven to help with panic disorders, sleep disorders, depression, and binge eating as well.4
L-theanine is an amino acid that is known to promote relaxed alertness, without side effects like drowsiness. It is mostly found in green tea.5 The amino acid is absorbed in a matter of half an hour of consuming, promoting concentration and a “zen” feeling. It is found to be particularly useful for those suffering from stress and anxiety. It helps with balancing mood, to relax, fall asleep, or concentrate by affecting the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA in the brain.
|↑1||Depression. Who Health Organization.|
|↑2||SSRI Antidepressant Medications: Adverse Effects and Tolerability. US National Library of Medicine|
|↑3||Bested, Alison C., Alan C. Logan, and Eva M. Selhub. “Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part II-contemporary contextual research.” Gut pathogens 5, no. 1 (2013): 3-3.|
|↑4||Wyatt, RichardJ, DavidJ Kupfer, Albert Sjoerdsma, Karl Engelman, DavidH Fram, and Frederick Snyder. “Effects of L-tryptophan (a natural sedative) on human sleep.” The lancet 296, no. 7678 (1970): 842-846.|
|↑5||Juneja, Lekh Raj, Djong-Chi Chu, Tsutomu Okubo, Yukiko Nagato, and Hidehiko Yokogoshi. “L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 10, no. 6 (1999): 199-204.|