Conventional medicine’s go-to answer for depression is prescription antidepressants. These medications are riddled with side dangerous side effects and I simply cannot advocate their use—especially when there are safe, natural, and extremely effective alternatives for treating depression.
Here at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we instruct patients in lifestyle changes, prescribe nutritional supplements, and administer therapies that work wonders for brightening mood and lifting depression naturally. Let’s take a look at my top recommendations.
1. Diet. The foods you eat can absolutely make a difference in mood. Eating a healthful diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and healthy fats will give you sustained energy and boost mood and well-being. On the other hand, a diet rich in sugars and starches, trans fats, and empty calories will leave you tired and sluggish.
2. Exercise. Perhaps the single most effective mood elevator is exercise. We all experience an improvement in mood after a brisk walk or other physical activity. Exercise increases not only the dopamine in the brain, but also endorphins. And endorphins are the neurotransmitters that help relieve pain and create a sense of well-being. In addition, physical fitness tends to decrease anxiety, hostility, and other stress-related disorders. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least four times per week.
3. Fish Oil. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines linked with depression. Several studies have shown that people who frequently consume fish have decreased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. Other studies have demonstrated that lower levels of omega-3s are associated with depression in older people and with postpartum depression in women. The suggested dose is 2,000-5,000 mg per day.
4. 5-HTP. 5-HTP is the direct precursor to serotonin, and while 5-HTP shines in other categories (sleep, carbohydrate carvings, etc.) it is particularly helpful when it comes to depression. 5-HTP has been compared with both tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs and found to be equally effective in treating depression, yet with fewer side effects. Look for 5-HTP in health food stores or online. The suggested dose is 100–200 mg daily in divided doses.
5. SAM-e. S-adenosylmethionine, or SAM-e, works wonders for people with depression. A 2012 Harvard study found it to be effective, well tolerated, and fast—working in most cases within days, rather the weeks required for many therapies. The suggested dose of SAM-e is 200-400 mg twice a day. Note: People with bipolar disorder should not use SAM-e.
6. B-Vitamins. Depression is a major symptom of various B vitamin deficiencies, including vitamin B-1 (thiamine), B-12 (cyanocobalamin), and vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine). Your multivitamin should give you at least two to three times the RDA of the B-complex vitamins, including 100 mg of vitamin B-6.
7. Dilantin. Emotional upset, anxiety, fear, irritability, and other signs of depression are often associated with excessive electrical activity in the brain. Dilantin, a drug generally used to control seizures, helps normalize that activity and eliminates the “static” that causes so much emotional distress. It requires a prescription, and many doctors are unfamiliar with this off-label use of Dilantin, but it’s worth trying to find a physician who will prescribe it. The suggested dose is 100 mg once or twice a day.
8. Neurofeedback. Another great treatment for depression is neurofeedback. People who are depressed often have disturbances in the electrical activity in specific areas of the brain. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that helps normalize this activity. Electrodes attached to the scalp monitor and transmit information to and from the brain while patients simply relax and watch a program on a computer monitor. Sessions last about half an hour and are repeated as needed until healthy brainwave patterns are restored. To receive treatment at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call 866-611-3720.
*** If you have severe depression, seek professional help. Do not discontinue any prescription antidepressant without consulting your physician.