Depression is more common than we’d like to believe. One in five people will suffer from depression within their life. There are numerous factors involved in depression; trauma, unemployment, bereavement, and more. Although there are various factors, clinical depression is highly influenced by chemical imbalances (RCPsych, 2014)
When you go see a doctor, the first thing that will be recommended are anti-depressants. Although they can be effective, they’re harsh on your body. Not only do they yield side effects, they’re highly addictive. Within America, the use of anti-depressants increased by 400% in recent years (Harvard University, 2012).
We are going to focus on treating depression through more natural remedies. It’s crucial to work with your body and mind so that you maintain a healthy balance.
What Exactly is Happening During Depression?
We all feel sad from time to time, that is normal. Depression is a prolonged illness that leaves people feeling immensely sad, hopeless, and exhausted. If you suffer from depression, you know that it can have crippling effects on your life.
When you feel depressed, there’s generally an issue within your brain chemistry. The key to avoiding, or improving depression is neurotransmitter balance. Your neurotransmitters play a crucial role in how you feel. These neurotransmitters are simply chemicals; it’s important to maintain a healthy balance.
The main neurotransmitters that affect our mood are:
Serotonin: This neurotransmitters is highly correlated with depression. It helps to keep our emotions stable. When serotonin is depleted, you begin to feel the effects. Low levels will not only affect your mood, it’ll affect how you feel overall.
Norepinephrine: This helps our body respond to stressful situations. It is believed that individuals who have a low functioning norepinephrinergic system are more likely to suffer from depression.
Dopamine: This neurotransmitter drives our reward system, and pleasure centre. Low dopamine may hinder you ability to feel pleasure from various activities. This lack of pleasure is commonly seen in depressed individuals.
Why Choose Natural Remedies?
There are various reasons why natural remedies are a more beneficial option. They not only allow you to avoid medicine, they improve your overall wellbeing.
As mentioned, anti-depressants are extremely additive. Approximately two-thirds of individuals taking anti-depressants will experience withdrawal symptoms. They also cause thousands of deaths each year. These medications can create devastating effects. The following are reasons to avoid prescription anti-depressants:
Your brain: Some individuals experience ‘serotonin syndrome’; serotonin levels become too high. This is usually triggered by combining anti-depressants with another substance. In our modern chemical cocktail world, this is not uncommon. You should stop taking anti-depressants if you’re showing the following symptoms; confusion, sweating, muscle twitching, shivering, diarrhoea, and/or agitation. If ignored, these symptoms can become much more severe. Severe symptoms include; seizures, arrhythmias, a fever, and even unconsciousness (NHS, 2013). Your brain will also build up a tolerance, meaning the same dosage will no longer work. You will either need to increase dosage, or switch to another option. It’s this bouncing back and fourth that is of high concern.
Your internal health: Anti-depressants have been linked to; sudden cardiac death, blood clotting, stomach bleeding, liver toxicity, and more. One of these risks alone is reason enough to seek out alternative options.
Behavioural Aspects: Suicidal thoughts are believed to be associated with antidepressants, and have been reported since their release. It is also common to become withdrawn, affecting social aspects of your life.
Nutrition and Depression
There’s a solution right in front of us, we consume it everyday. The food we eat has a massive effect on our mind and body.
The neurotransmitters mentioned above are synthesized from amino acids. A large portion of the amino acids needed are known as ‘essential amino acids’. This means that our bodies can not create them, and we need to obtain them through our diet. These amino acids help regulate both mood, and stress levels. For example, tryptophan is extremely important in terms of depression. It is an essential amino acid, and needs to be consumed in our diet. It is directly related to serotonin, which in turn affects our mood.
We have become so accustom to eating highly processed, and refined foods. As well, we’re a society that loves fast food. Not only do these choices create negative consequences for our health, they’re directly linked to our brain. The longer you consume low nutrient foods, the worse your health gets. This includes your brain health, and brain chemicals become affected. Your natural brain chemicals become depleted, and you begin to feel worse and worse. This is why it’s so important to eat a nutrient-rich diet.
Our modern society is not only eating the wrong foods, but many are not eating enough. With our work schedules, it’s not uncommon to skip a meal or two. If you have gone a whole day without eating, your energy levels decrease due to low blood sugar. This has a direct effect on your mood as well. We’re simply not getting the nutrients that our bodies need. This is fuelling depression, and overall poor health.
Try to consume more omega-3 fatty acids. This is not only found in fish, but flax seeds, walnuts, and tofu also have high levels. Consume more dark leafy greens; spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. They’re packed with so many beneficial nutrients. Dark chocolate has also been linked to aiding depression symptoms. This needs to be real dark cocoa, buy organic when possible.
Exercise and Depression
Once again, we’re busy. Many will complain that they do not have time to exercise, but you do not need to join a football league to exercise. Research has shown that exercising even three hours a week, improved depression symptoms just as effectively as Prozac. This can be as simple as walking to and from work each day.
When we exercise, we increase blood flow to the brain. We also begin to increase endorphins, these are responsible for making as feel good. Exercise also promotes high levels of serotonin, and norepinephrine. This has been seen across a large sample of studies. You truly can walk your way to a happier life.
You do not need to be the next cardio master, just make a habit of regular exercise. If you have a dog, take them for a long walk three times a week. It will benefit your mood, and your dog will be thrilled. If you want to spend more time with a friend, invite them to go on walks with you. You can get some exercise, and increase your social time. Gardening is also a great way to increase exercise, it’s also highly rewarding.
Herbs and Depression
Herbs have been used for years as a natural remedy for anxiety, and depression. The following are some herbs to keep in mind.
John’s Wort: This herb has shown results beyond reasonable doubt. It is used to treat mild, and moderate depression. Studies have shown it to be as effective as anti-depressants.
Camu Camu: This plant yields a berry with the highest concentration of Vitamin C in the world. When consumed, it tends to balance your body. This is shown to relieve symptoms of depression.
Maca: This root vegetable is packed with nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It increases energy, and boost immune function. It was first shown to relieve depression symptoms in women suffering from menopause.
Whether you’re suffering from depression or not, incorporating healthy herbs is a great idea for anyone. They provide numerous benefits, improving overall health.
If you, or someone you love is suffering from depression; there’s hope. It is important to try and avoid excessive amounts of medication. Natural remedies can be highly effective, while promoting your overall well-being.
More importantly, natural remedies will not yield negative side effects. Treat your mind and body as part of your team. Work together, and you are bound to see results. Consume a nutrient-rich diet, and exercise more regularly. If you take care of your mind and body, they will take care of you in return.
Harvard University. (2012). What Causes Depression? Harvard Medical School. Retrieved on May 27th, 2014, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/what-causes-depression-2.htm
NHS. (January, 2013). Antidepressants- Side Effects. NHS. Retrieved on May 25th, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Antidepressant-drugs/Pages/Side-effects.aspx
RCPsych. (March, 2014). Depression: Key Facts. Royal College of Psychiatrists. Retrieved on May 27th, 2014, from http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/depressionkeyfacts.aspx