Depressed? If you’ve spoken with you family physician about feeling depressed and you were offered an antidepressant without any medical testing or alternative solutions, know that you are not alone.
The use of antidepressants in the United States has skyrocketed in the last decade. According to the New York Times, “One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.” Even more disturbing is that “nearly two-thirds of a sample of more than 5,000 patients who had been given a diagnosis of depression within the previous 12 months did not meet the criteria for major depressive episode as described by the psychiatrists’ bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or D.S.M.).”
So before you run out and fill that prescription, consider the following:
There are a number of reasons that we end up with a mood disorder but they all come down to an imbalance or deficiency in one of the following: neurotransmitters, hormones, or the immune system.
The 3 most common are Norepinephrine, Serotonin and Dopamine. They interface and in so doing affect our mood.
There are other important neurotransmitters as well that can become unbalanced by drugs or medications.
“Okay…how do I know if my neurotransmitters are unbalanced?”
That’s a great question! You can test this. I tell my patients to speak with their physicians about the Neuroscience NueroAdrenal Panel. This saliva and urine test measures
- Cortisol 4 times in one day
Estrogen and testosterone are the most likely hormones to become unbalanced causing mood disorders. Adrenal fatigue is another common cause of anxiety.
“Okay…but how do I test my hormones?” Again, talk to your physician. If your hormones are found to be out of balance you can supplement with bioidentical hormones. This is not the same as traditional hormone replacement.
Immune System Failure
Seventy percent of the immune system is in the gut. The majority of Americans suffer from leaky gut and do not realize it. The gut is now seen as the little brain. Leaky gut = Leaky brain (anxiety, depression, & dementia.)
What to do:
- Heal the gut – Clean food, bone broth, & probiotics
- Supplement with antioxidants. There are two type of antioxidants: enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants.
- Enzymatic antioxidants break down and remove free radicals and require the minerals zinc, copper, manganese, and iron.
- Non-enzymatic antioxidants are vitamins C and E, glutathione, lipoic acid, carotenoids, and CoQ10.
- Pterostillbene (improved version of resveratrol)
- Astaxanthin – Although it’s technically a carotenoid, it deserves its own special mention due to its superb nutritional advantage. It is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene, and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E.
Like resveratrol, it can also cross the blood-brain barrier, AND the blood-retinal barrier – something that beta-carotene and lycopene cannot do.
- Vitamin C – Important structural component of bones, blood vessels, tendons, and ligaments.
You can get vitamin C from raw, organic vegetables and fruits, but you can also take it as a supplement or have it administered intravenously (IV). Note that most of the vitamin C in the US is synthetic and likely to contain GMOs. Real vitamin C is hard to find. When taking a vitamin C supplement, opt for one made with liposomal technology, which makes the nutrient more absorbable to your cells. The best brand is LipoNaturals.
- Vitamin E – Natural vitamin E is a family of eight different compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols so always get one that contains all 8.
- Take Low Dose Naltrexone- An opioid blocker that reboots the immune system especially if you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, cancer, Alzheimer’s or vascular disease.
- Supplement with foods that have been shown to have antidepressant and antianxiety properties.
- Hemp Seeds – have been shown to have antidepressant and antianxiety properties. Of the 20 known amino acids, hemp supplies them all, including the essential ones the body can’t produce. Also high in fiber, hemp seeds are more digestible than any other high-protein food, including meat, cheese, eggs, human milk, or cows’ milk. They’re also high in antioxidants, and minerals like iron, zinc and copper as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, carotene, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Finally they contain chlorophyll, sulfur, phosphorus, phospholipids, and phytosterols. They help people suffering from tuberculosis, psoriasis, and even colon and prostate cancer.
- Cherimoya – Another natural antidepressant is a plant called Cherimoya. It is used in traditional Mexican medicine for its anxiety-relieving, anticonvulsant, and tranquilizing properties, and positive effects on depressive disorders.
- Rhodiola – Rhodiola is an herb thought to strengthen the nervous system, fight depression, enhance immunity, elevate the capacity for exercise, enhance memory, aid weight reduction, increase sexual function and improve energy levels.
- Passionflower. A few small clinical trials suggest that passionflower might help with anxiety. Passionflower is generally considered safe when taken as directed, but some studies found it can cause drowsiness, dizziness and confusion and is best taken at night.
Of questionable use are:
- Valerian. In some studies, people who used valerian reported less anxiety and stress. In other studies, people reported no benefit. Valerian is generally considered safe at recommended doses, but since long-term safety trials are lacking, don’t take it for more than a few weeks at a time. It can cause some side effects such as headaches and drowsiness.
- Chamomile. Limited data shows that short-term use of chamomile is generally considered safe and can be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Use of chamomile can cause allergic reactions in some people who are sensitive to the family of plants that includes chamomile. Other members of this family are ragweed, marigolds, daisies and chrysanthemums.
- Lavender. Some evidence suggests that oral lavender or aromatherapy with lavender can reduce anxiety; however, evidence is preliminary and limited. Oral lavender can cause constipation and headache. It also can increase appetite and the sedative effect of other medications and supplements and can cause low blood pressure.
- Lemon balm. Preliminary research shows lemon balm can reduce some symptoms of anxiety, such as nervousness and excitability. Lemon balm is generally well-tolerated and considered safe for short-term use, but can cause nausea and abdominal pain.
- Kava. Kava appeared to be a promising treatment for anxiety, but reports of serious liver damage — even with short-term use — caused several European countries to pull it off the market. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings but not banned sales in the United States. Avoid using kava until more rigorous safety studies are done, especially if you have liver problems or take medications that affect your liver.
- Manage Your Sulfur
Sulfur deficiency is a greatly overlooked source of ill health and mood disorder. There are four primary sources of sulfur and all are deficient in US diets:
- Cholesterol Sulfate – The mother of all hormones is Cholesterol Sulfate, which we get from the sun shining on our skin. Without it the other hormones do not function.
USE A UVB LAMP REGULARLY TO INCREASE CHOLESTEROL SULFATE
- Vitamin D3 Sulfate – Mother of all vitamins, although it is not really a vitamin, but a hormone that comes from the production of Cholesterol sulfate. Critical for the immune system.
USE A UVB LAMP REGULARLY TO INCREASE VITAMIN D3 NATURALLY
- Glutathione Disulfide – Mother of all antioxidants
SUPPLEMLENT WITH ORGANIC SULFUR CRYSTALS to SUPPORT GLUTATHIONE
- Broccoli sprouts – Fresh broccoli sprouts contain Sulforanphane, which is an organosulfur compound that acts as a powerful antioxidant. It has an amazing impact on joint pain and arthritis. It is also an “exceptionally rich source” of enzymes that “detoxify” cancer-causing compounds.
EAT RAW BROCCOLI SPROUTS 4 OR 5 TIMES A WEEK
- Fight Free Radicals with Antioxidants
- Organic Sulfur Crystals
- Vitamins C, D, E, K, and A – Get A, D and K from fermented Cod liver oil in exactly the right combination (never supplement with A alone.) Take C in liposomal form from a compounded natural source.
- Cholesterol sulfate – from sunshine
- Vitamin D3 – from sunshine
- Foods high in polyphenols
Finally, there are things you can do, that do not cost a penny, that can help minimize anxiety and depression.
The research is very clear, exercise is a must for minimizing anxiety and depression. It does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, in your brain. It also de-stresses you. Medication and yoga are also excellent for reducing stress. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. A sauna can relax you or perhaps you need something very physical like a game of tennis or kick boxing. Try watching a funny movie, or something that makes you feel good. Do not exercise excessively – High Intensity Interval Training combined with weight bearing exercise is the best combination. Any aerobic exercise should be limited to no more than half an hour as oxidative stress (more free radicals)
Build a solid support system
A support system composed of friends, family and, if necessary, professional counselors, can help you work through your emotional stress.
Polluted food causes problems on two fronts: It drives more free radicals which destroy the immune system and it lacks antioxidants which we must have to support the immune system. Without an intact immune system, we are vulnerable to disease processes that drive anxiety and depression. Avoid fructose, sugar and grains in order to normalize insulin and leptin, both of which are powerful tools against depression. Clean eating is 100% grass-fed, organic, wild caught and fresh instead of processed. (See Clean Eating Protocol)
Eat the Right Fats
Coconut oil is at the top of the list and should be used to cook with but should also be used as a supplement. Duck fat, ghee from grass fed beef and raw butter are the only oils to use for cooking. (See infograph on fats) Supplement with a high quality omega 3 krill oil and use fermented Cod Liver oil, which has the right combination of vitamins K, A and D, all of which are critical for clear thinking and mental calm.
Get UVB light from the sun
The research is also very clear here, people with the lowest vitamin D levels are 11 times more prone to depression than normal.
What to Avoid
- Sugar and Gluten
Americans are OD’ing on sugar, sugar substitutes and gluten. It is critical to avoid fructose, sugar and grains in order to normalize insulin and leptin, both of which drive depression when they are out of balance.
- Food Allergies/Sensitivities
Eating foods that you are allergic or sensitive to can drive considerable anxiety and depression. Have yourself tested and eliminate those foods. In many cases you can add them back in as your gut heals. For example, it is common for people to be allergic to dairy and not know it.
This is a game of avoiding free radicals while increasing antioxidants. We explored increasing antioxidants above. Now lets look at avoiding the things that put us more at risk. In general, the body knows best and does it best. When we interfere with medications, we usually make things worse. This is certainly true when it comes to mood disorders. Here is what Dr. Richard Mercola says about antidepressants:
“First of all, when looking at the research literature, short-term trials show that antidepressants do NOT provide any clinically significant benefits for mild to moderate depression, compared to a placebo. As you know, all drugs have benefit-to-risk ratios, so if a drug is as effective as a placebo in relieving symptoms, it really doesn’t make sense to use them as a first line of defense.
And yet doctors all over America prescribe them as if they were indeed sugar pills! However, it gets worse. Research into the long-term effects of antidepressants shows that patients are no longer really recuperating from their depressive episodes as was the general norm prior to the advent of modern antidepressants. The depression appears to be lifting faster, but patients tend to relapse more frequently, turning what ought to have been a passing phase into an increasingly chronic state of depression.
Long-term studies now indicate that of people with major depression, only about 15 percent that are treated with an antidepressant go into remission and stay well for a long period of time. The remaining 85 percent start having continuing relapses and become chronically depressed.
According to Whitaker’s research, this tendency to sensitize your brain to long-term depression appears to be the same both for the earlier tricyclic antidepressants and the newer SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
In addition, SSRI’s have been shown to increase your risk of developing bipolar depression, according to Whitaker. Anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of children who take an antidepressant for five years convert to bipolar illness. In adults, about 25 percent of long term users convert from a diagnosis of unipolar depression to bipolar.
This is a serious concern because once you’re categorized as bipolar, you’re often treated with a potent cocktail of medications including an antipsychotic medication, and long-term bipolar outcomes are grim in the United States. For starters, only about 35 percent of bipolar patients are employed, so the risk of permanent disability is great. Another risk inherent with long-term use is that of cognitive decline.”
Finally, anyone whose physician is prescribing them antidepressants without taking the time to rule out underlying medical reasons why they could be feeling “depressed” should do themselves a favor and get a second opinion.
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED), as well as obesity. She is also the author of The Sun Plus Diet, due out in summer 2016.
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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship. This information is not necessarily the position of Dr. J. Renae Norton or The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity.
©2016, Dr. J. Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr. J. Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2016, Dr. J. Renae Norton. http://www.eatingdisorderpro.com/