Most people will experience depression at some point in their lives. In cases of mild to moderate seasonal depression, there are some natural ways to treat the blues without a prescription pad. The most commonly prescribed anti-depressant medication is called an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reputake Inhibitor) and is designed to slow the body’s natural depletion of serotonin, making more of it available for brain function. Treating the symptoms with a pill makes for a good band-aid, but it also comes along with a host of side-effects such as weight gain and loss of sexual desire, to name just two. Aiming to raise your serotonin levels naturally through diet, exercise and supplementing with herbs & amino acids, is a natural and healthy way to treat the root of the underlying physical issues.
Evaluate Your Diet
* The most basic thing you can do for your body is to avoid food allergies. Most commonly caused by wheat products and cows milk, food allergy reactions affect the body’s energy levels and moods.
* Chemicals found as contaminates and additives in food directly affect brain function and neurotransmitter levels. Buy your produce organic and opt for ‘un-packaged’ when shopping for groceries.
* Stay away from sugars and refined foods like pop and candies. These highly processed treats cause a raise in the body’s glycemic index (the rate at which the sugars from food are absorbed into the blood). This causes a sudden increase in blood sugar, and results in a following decrease which causes rapid mood changes, irritability, and leaves the body feeling sluggish.
* Eliminate stimulants such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine as they are all addictive, toxic, and disturb the body’s ability to relax.
Make Time for Exercise
* Raising your heart rate while exercising stimulates your body’s natural elimination process, leaving the body feeling energized and cleansed of naturally occurring toxins in the blood and bowels.
* Regular, moderate exercise encourages a natural production and release of endorphins (a protein molecule) which promote a natural feeling of well being.
Natural Supplements for Brain Function
* Vitamin B6 (baked potato with skin, bananas, garbanzo beans) is a good support for neurotransmitters.
* B12 (eggs, poultry, fish) and Folic Acid (asparagus, spinach) helps to support nerve structure and function.
* Vitamin C, (red berries, kiwis, bell peppers) directly supports the adrenal glands.
* Calcium (milk, cheese) and Magnesium (yogurt, almonds) support a good night’s sleep when taken at night, and an energized start when taken in the morning.
* Iodine (seaweed, fish oils) supports good thyroid function.
* Tyrosine (avocado, fish, poultry) is an amino acid found in protein which supports energy and thyroid function.
* Tryptophan (turkey, peanuts) is directly related to the production of serotonin. Most people who suffer from depression are found to be low in this essential amino acid. Tryptophan can be found as a supplement called 5-HTP.
* Methyl-containing nutrients such as methionine, choline, and trymethylglycerine (sesame seeds, fish, cauliflower, tofu) are particularly important because adrenaline cannot be produced in the body without them.
* A quality vitamin supplement should provide all the above suggestions and supply a good daily dose of each.
Meditation and Alternative Medicine
* Meditation is recommended because it increases tolerance to stress and promotes a healthy self-image.
* Orthomolecular Medicine is a practice which incorporates psychiatry with natural supplementation to balance brain chemistry. (see http://www.orthomed.org/)
** Cases of severe, chronic, or long term depression should contact a health care professional to discuss the most natural treatment possible for your individual needs.
Elson M. Haas, Buck Levin (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. US, Ten Speed Press.
This article was originally published on Agora National in August 20, 2010 and republished here with Leah Webber’s permission.
Leah Webber is a freelance writer, part time student, and full time mother. Currently studying with the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, she aims to earn her diploma as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist within 2 years.