Thursday, December 14

Natural Treatments For Depression

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     Depression has been called the common cold of psychiatric illnesses.  About 13-20% of the population has a touch of it at any given time.  However, only 2-3.5% of us suffer major depression.  Women get depressed more than men, but bipolar disorder affects the sexes equally.  How do you know that you’re depressed?  Syd Baumel in his book “Dealing With Depression Naturally” comments, “Passive negativity – being stuck – is the hallmark of depression, the heart is a barren chamber, devoid of positive feelings and impulses.  It may even feel like you’ve lost your soul.  In psychotic major depression, the negativity becomes delusional.  The rich believe they’re bankrupt; the healthy that they’re dying (or dead), the virtuous that they’re guilty of unspeakable sins, even that they’re the Devil himself.  Physically, the negativity of depression manifests itself in tiredness and fatigue, in an increased sensitivity to body aches and pains, and in a neuropsychological dulling of the mind’s edges (enough to make some elderly persons seem senile).  The severely or psychotically depressed may think, say and do everything in extreme slow motion, and may even be catatonically “paralyzed.”  People who have major depression may sleep too much or suffer from insomnia.  They may overeat or starve themselves.  They feel hopeless, sad, and in despair.  I suffer from depression and I cannot get life insurance because of it.  Major insurance companies consider depressed persons to be too much of a risk of suicide.

Should I Take Antidepressants?

     There are many antidepressants on the market that are prescribed for depression – Effexor, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Elavil, Sinequin, etc..  However, the side effects may include weight gain, loss of libido, dry mouth, memory impairment, and many other unpleasant effects.  If you suffer from major depression your mental health professional will probably insist on you taking antidepressants.  I suffer from bipolar disorder so I have to take medication for depression or I would not be able to function.  The frustration I have with medication though is that for the first few weeks the antidepressants seem to lift me up and then, as my body becomes accustomed to the drugs, I find that the therapeutic effects are diminished.  What I’m going to talk about in this article are natural supplements that can brighten a dark mood and can be taken while you are taking antidepressant medications.  If you suffer from mild to moderate depression you may be able to use herbs and supplements exclusively and forgo the drug treatments all together.  You have to decide if your depression is severe enough to put up with the side effects of the antidepressant drugs or not. Certainly, if you are suicidal you should seek counselling, a help line, or professional help.

Mood Sabilizing and Enhacing Supplements

     I found an interesting Internet site at: which discusses some supplements that may boost the mood stabilizing effects of psychiatric medications.

Lecithin and Bipolar Illness

 It recommends taking Lecithin (Phosphatidyl Choline) to help bipolar depression.  The site comments, “A fairly convincing number of studies suggest that this substance has significant effects on the manic-depressive, with some claiming that it stabilizes moods while others suggesting that it serves as a mood depressant.  It is probable that it actually as both actions.  For that reason, although lecithin may be useful in helping to stabilize moods, it should probably be used cautiously, with the patient starting at a fairly low dosage (perhaps 2 capsules of a 35% concentration of the substance per day) and then
Increasing gradually until moods are stabilized or mild depression is encountered. … The recommended amount of this substance for this use seems to vary widely – some people suggest that relatively small amounts (perhaps 3-12 capsules per day) can be quite effective, while others suggest that only much greater amounts tend to be fully effective … .  Even if lecithin is only particularly successful in reducing mood swings, however, this may still be helpful for those who want to reduce their dosages of prescription medications (for instance, because of side effects at higher amounts) or for those who suffer  less mood swings.  Most writers seem to recommend splitting the doses of lecithin over the course of the day (2-3 times per day), or taking the full dosage at night.  With bipolar illness eliminating the manic phase is important in controlling the depressive phase, because what goes up must come down.

Phenylalanine for Depression

     In “Dealing With Depression Naturally” Syd Baumel reports, ‘L-phenylalanine’s antidepressant effect first became apparent in 1966 when intravenous infusions induced euphoria in patients with Parkinson’s disease.  Nearly 20 years later, low doses of LPA were added to the regimen of 155 depressed patients unresponsive to an antidepressant drug.  Sixty-nine recovered; 15% improved.  That same year, at a major Chicago medical center, large doses of LPA were administered to 40 mostly ‘refractory’ (treatment resistant) depressives.  Eleven recovered; 20 improved.  Shortly thereafter, a psychiatrist reported that half of the depressed bipolar patients he treated with a low dose of LPA recovered rapidly.’  You may be a candidate for phenylalanine supplementation if you are suffering from severe mental or physical stress, are hypothyroid, have Parkinson’s disease, have chronic pain, or are addicted to stimulants.


     Depression is thought to result from a shortage of serotonin and taking L-Tryptophan can enhance antidepressant medication.  Syd Baumel comments, ‘Depressed persons tend to have low blood levels of tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is made, and low levels of tryptophan relative to other amino acids that compete with it for passage across the blood-brain barrier.  More importantly, abundant laboratory research suggests there is a deficiency of serotonin or serotonin activity in the brains of most depressed (and bipolar) persons, especially those who are (or were) violently suicidal … In about six out of seven clinical trials, tryptophan has performed equally well with antidepressant drugs against major depression.  I take 3 grams of L-Tryptophan at night to help me sleep and to augment my antidepressant medication.  My doctor gives it to me on prescription.

Fish Oil

     On the Internet site: it points out that, ‘All valid studies show that people who get less fish oil have significantly more depression and bipolar and those who get more fish oil have less mental disorders.  Here are a few examples: Depression is 60 times higher in New Zealand, where the average fish consumption is 40 pounds a year compared to Japan, where it’s 150 pounds a year … An Israeli study of 20 patients with major depression found fish oil resulted in ‘highly significant benefits’ by week three compared to a placebo.’  I have found that taking fish oil has helped me not to crash as much.  Some people recommend taking pharmaceutical grade fish oil.  You would have to get that from a pharmacy or an Internet company.


     For mild to moderate depression it is worth trying things like St. John’s Wort or SAMe.  However, for severe depression a combination of medication and supplements are needed.  If anxiety is a problem with the depression the B vitamin Inositol will help in the dosage of 500 mgs. up to 4,000 mgs. .  I find that 500 mgs. is plenty for me and it is just as good as an Ativan under the tongue.  Some people who are stressed out and depressed find that taking a high potency B 50 complex helps them deal with stress.  Depression can be endogenous or related to stressful circumstances.  If it is coming from a physical illness like bipolar depression then supplements and psychotropic drugs are needed. However, if the depression is stemming from events around you like grief from a loss you may need specialized grief counselling.  Whatever the cause of depression other self-help things that are important are regular exercise, a healthy diet, light therapy, recreation, and adequate rest.   If your depression is threatening your life, then please reach out for professional help.

Source of Help in a Suicidal Crisis (for worldwide #’s)
UK Samaritans UK 08457 90 90 90 (price of a local call)
Ireland 1850 60 90 90 (price of a local call)
USA 1-800-SUICIDE  or 1-800-273-TALK
Canada and USA 1-800-NEW-LIFE
USA American Suicide Prevention 1-888-333-2377


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