“I am feeling so down, and nervous these days. It’s been going on for a while. My doctor has tried many different medicines, and I keep getting side effects, and don’t want to depend on them to feel normal. The antidepressants seem to stop working, and the tranquilizers make me feel like a zombie. Is there another way?”
Yes! There are natural remedies free of side effects which have been shown to be at least as effective as prescription drugs. In fact, the earliest trials of the first “SSRI” antidepressant, Prozac, were rigged to make them look more effective than they really are [see the article: “Is it Prozac? Or Placebo?” by Gary Greenberg].
And it’s been shown that these medicines may cause people to remain depressed (thus needing more medicine) over a longer time than they would have if they had not taken them in the first place [see the book: “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by Robert Whitaker].
Sometimes, it’s your diet that may be bringing you down. A remarkable number of people get the blues or become anxious whenever they eat sugar [see the book: “Sugar Blues” by William Dufty]. Gluten is another very common culprit. And food allergies are often a factor. These can be diagnosed with simple blood tests.
Stress management training can be very effective for chronic anxiety. We can actually retrain our nervous system to be mellower. It’s not as hard as it sounds.
For depression, we often find that SAMe (s-adenosyl methionine) is effective. In head-to-head trials, it easily matched or exceeded the effectiveness of anti-depressant medicines, and is virtually free from side effects. That’s because you already have SAMe in your body, which uses this molecule to provide methyl groups, which your brain needs to function properly.
By a similar process, high doses of methyl folate, a natural B vitamin, and Trimethyl Glycine (another methyl donor) can help restore your mood.
SSRI medicines (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft, work by artificially preventing the natural mood-elevator serotonin from being naturally reabsorbed in the brain, so it hangs around longer than is natural. As an alternative, you can take l-tryptophan or 5-hydroxy-tryptophan, which are already in your brain, and from which you can naturally make more serotonin. These help both depression and anxiety.
SNRI medicines (selective norepinephrine inhibitors), such as Cymbalta and Effexor, work by blocking the reabsorption of norepinephrine in the brain. Instead, you can take l-tyrosine, a natural amino acid (protein building block), which is used by your body to make more of this important neurotransmitter (nervous system messenger).
If you’re already on antidepressant medicines, don’t start any of these remedies on your own. The combination might cause you to have too much of these neurotransmitters in your system.
An herbal remedy, St. John’s Wort is very effective for treating depression. It has two components, hypericin and hyperforin, which are both needed for optimal effect. But watch out—it can interact with various medicines, including oral contraceptives, which can become less effective at preventing pregnancy.
L-theanine is a natural extract of green tea, and is very effective for anxiety, without the drowsiness and dependency one usually sees with the use of tranquilizers.
Finally, my favorite remedy—exercise! For many folks, depression and anxiety are just “exercise deficiency syndromes”. Get outside if you can, especially if you have depression which appears during the winter months. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and will generally improve if you regularly expose yourself to natural sunlight (best around 10 AM), and may also require daily exposure to full spectrum artificial light. And with more exercise, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of getting a heart attack. One less thing to be depressed and anxious about!
Author: Barry Elson, MD, Medical Director, NorthamptonWellness.com
Note: The blog posts are for educational purposes only. They are not to replace personal consultation with a qualified health provider.