Reversing Depression/Anxiety, Naturally
Reversing Depression/Anxiety, Naturally
It is estimated that one out, of every five Americans will experience a form of depression at some point in their lives.
Unfortunately, even in my own practice, I've witnessed a tragic misconception about depression -- that people who are depressed could "snap out of it," if they wanted to. Because of this attitude, more than 30 million Americans troubled by emotional illness never get the help they need. The results are devastating.
Depression sufferers feel hopeless, inadequate and unable to cope with daily life. Their self-esteem is shattered and so are their ties with family and friends. What's more, depression is often lethal. Up to 30 percent of people with serious mood disorders take their own lives.
Plus, there's an economic toll. The government puts the expense for all types of depression at $44 billion each year: $12 billion in medical, psychiatric and drug costs; $8 billion in depression-related suicide; and $24 billion in work absenteeism and lost productivity.
Recognizing and understanding depression
Feeling "blue" from time to time is a normal part of life -- we all experience the sadness of failed relationships, the loss of loved ones, etc. Periods of sadness that are mild and short-lived do not require medical help.
But if enjoyable activities, the passing of time and confiding in friends, family or even psychotherapists fail to alleviate emotional pain, you may be suffering from a biological form of depression. Such disorders, triggered by chemical changes in the brain, call for medical treatment. They cannot be cured by talking to a therapist or by reading a self-help book.
While the causes of depression are not fully understood, new technology has provided valuable insight. Scientists now believe that depressed people have decreased amounts of certain mood-regulating chemicals called neurotransmitters.
What causes depression?
Although there still is much to learn about specific causes of depression, we do know that environment, genetics, psychological and physiologic factors may all play a part. Clearly a traumatic event or loss can also lead to depression. The challenge of diagnosing and treating an individual case is in discerning which of these factors plays a part. More often than not, however, it's a combination of these factors.
Although pinpointing the primary factors contributing to one's depression may be a daunting task, mainstream medicine is beginning to learn to take a more holistic approach. This is because a person's living habits and diet are more often major contributors.
Often the patient will be fully aware that certain behaviors, like alcohol or drug abuse, play a role in their depression -- yet few realize the powerful impact of nutrition. It's widely accepted, for example, that caffeine, sugar, alcohol and smoking increase the likelihood of depression. Unfortunately, not many realize that the Standard American Diet (SAD) may be a major culprit.
Diet affects mood
Research indicates 50 essential nutrients that are required to build and support health. These nutrients work together to repair damage in our bodies and to build and support health -- this includes our emotional health as well.
The absence of any one of these essential nutrients can cause illness and even death. Unfortunately, government studies as well as firsthand evidence shows that Americans are seriously deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.
It's widely accepted that certain nutrients like the B vitamins affect brain function. In fact, the 13 vitamins are of particular importance in preventing depression. A vitamin B-3 or niacin deficiency has been known to lead to a number of psychological problems, including depression, apathy, anxiety, mania, dementia and delirium. Deficiencies of vitamin B-12 and folic acid, as well as vitamin C, may also lead to depression. On the other hand, supplementation of B-12 and folic acid has been shown to stimulate the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin needed for vibrant mental health.
Researchers have also known for years that many mental problems, especially in the elderly, have direct links to B-12 deficiencies. Estimates are that at least 50 percent of all major personality changes that manifest after middle age are a result of a B-12 deficiency. Hundreds of patients suffering from all types of psychiatric problems have been returned to normal with B-12 therapy.
It's also important to point out that the proven beneficial dosages of B vitamins (as well as all other nutrients for that matter) are many times the government's RDA. Plus, for someone to achieve these beneficial levels -- even with the healthiest of diets -- is literally impossible. This is why supplementation is critical.
The dangers of Prozac
Unfortunately, few realize that there are safe and effective nutritional approaches to treating depression, as evidenced by the extreme popularity of Prozac. Since its introduction in 1987, more than 11 million people worldwide and 6 million in the United States have taken the drug. This represents sales of more than $2 billion each year!
Its popularity seems to have been unaffected by the number of side effects that many of its users experience. These include nausea, insomnia, headaches, nervousness, anxiety, drowsiness, anorexia, diarrhea, dry mouth, sweating and rashes. Amazingly, these are considered mild by the medical profession!
In addition, Prozac can cause a great deal of sexual dysfunction -- far more than the Physician's Desk Reference acknowledges. The PDR claims that only 2 percent of patients suffer from loss of libido or diminished sexual response. But when surveys are taken of the patients now taking the drug, 34 percent report sexual difficulties. Plus, since the drug has only been around for a short time, no one really knows what the long-term effects may be. To me, this is unacceptable, especially when there are safe and effective alternatives.
St. John's Wort
Clearly, the most popular natural choice for depression is St. John's wort (hypericum). This herb has been used for more than 2,000 years. In Germany, there has been a multitude of studies demonstrating the beneficial effects this herb has in the treatment of depression.
The results of these studies have only recently found their way into American and British medical journals. In one such review of 23 clinical trials in the Aug. 3, 1996 issue of the British Medical Journal, the conclusion was that "St. John's wort is more effective than a placebo in treating mild to moderately severe depression." And even more impressive, "it appears to be comparably effective to many pharmaceutical antidepressants while producing fewer side effects."
I recommend 900 mg. of standardized 0.3 hypericin to my patients, combined with the B-complex and other nutrients that follow.
S-Adenosylmethionine, or SAM, is an important physiological agent. SAM is involved in more than 40 biochemical reactions in the body. It functions closely with folic acid and vitamin B-12 in methylantion reactions. These reactions are critical in the manufacture of many body components especially brain chemicals.
There are five principal conditions where SAM is used; depression, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, liver disorders and migraine headaches. Based on the results from a number of clinical studies, it appears that SAM, as a natural antidepressant, is as or more effective than St. John's wort. SAM is better tolerated and has a quicker onset of antidepressant action than tricyclic antidepressants.
One of the factors that contribute to anxiety is our stressful lifestyles. Kava comes from the root of the Piper methysticum- a member of the black pepper family. Kava has been in use in the South Pacific for centuries. It's known as the king of the herbal stress relievers, according to herbalists. It acts as a muscle relaxant, a mood elevator and libido enhancer. It can both enhance a meditative state and sharpen your senses, as odd as that sounds. The effects of kava have been compared to those of diazepam (Valium), but when you take kava you remain alert. Patients who use it tell me that it makes them just feel good all over! I recommend a daily dosage of 100 mg. of Kava Kava (55% Kavalactone).
So much has been reported about ginkgo biloba lately (especially in conjunction with Alzheimer's), you'd think that it was only recently discovered. In actuality, the ginkgo tree can live for thousands of years and the extract from its leaves has been used for medicinal purposes for just as long. While traditional Chinese herbalists use ginkgo to "benefit the brain," modern scientific studies show it does just that -- and much more. Additional benefits include the treatment of depression.
I personally have been taking ginkgo for years for its ability to aid circulation, especially to the brain, and for its tremendous antioxidant properties as well. I suggest taking 50 mg. of standardized 24/6 ginkgo biloba extract each day for proper brain function.
A combination alternative
Many companies have jumped on the natural bandwagon and are offering capsules and tablets of the herbs I mentioned above. One I highly recommend is Neuro-Lift, by Nature's Wealth, which combines my recommended dosages of the herbs in addition to a full B-complex, ester-C, vitamin D, a full mineral complex, DHA and plant enzymes.
There are many herbal alternatives for depression. If you think you might be suffering from depression, please talk to a healthcare professional. We can help.
The warning signs
If you have felt sad or down in the dumps in recent weeks, or if you've lost interest in many or all of your normal activities, then you may be suffering from depression. The warning signs include:
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Chronic low energy or fatigue
- Restlessness, feeling less active or talkative than usual, feeling "slowed down"
- Avoidance of other people
- Reduced interest in sex and other pleasurable activities
- Inability to derive pleasure from presents, praise, job promotions, etc.
- Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem or an increased level of self-criticism
- Reduced levels of accomplishment at work, school or home
- Feeling less able to cope with routine responsibilities
- Poor concentration, having trouble making decisions
Measurements & Data Corporation.
By Lyle F. Parks