Like many other chronic illnesses, depression can be caused by a wide variety of factors and is characterized by several out of a long list of symptoms. It affects people of all ages, races, and nationalities and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is the most costly of all diseases, largely because it disables people who would otherwise be productive. It is estimated that 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences depression severe enough to require medical attention, with women twice as likely as men to develop depression.
A major depressive episode is diagnosed when a patient suffers from a combination of psychological and physical symptoms that are a significant change from the person's prior level of functioning. It requires more than just a sad mood for the diagnosis to be made. A major depressive episode can be devastating and often affects every aspect of a person's life. Beyond a sad mood, there is often great fatigue and apathy, an inability to enjoy once-pleasurable activities, disturbed sleep, increased or decreased appetite, and a low sex drive. Depression generally leaves it sufferers feeling worthless, hopeless, guilty, irritable, or angry. Even a touch of the blues can impair the immune system, and serious cases often go hand-in-hand with other chronic illnesses. People with severe cases have constant thoughts of death and suicide. Depression can be deadly. Approximately one out of eight people will kill themselves during a major depressive episode.
Although it is often normal and healthy to experience sad moods in response to a trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, a major depressive episode is characterized by inappropriate sadness that persists or is out of proportion with its apparent cause. Clinical depression can further be categorized into unipolar depression, marked by recurring episodes of sadness, and bipolar depression, in which the sadness alternates with periods of elation and mania. Unipolar depression is by far the more common of the two. Both kinds of clinical depression can be caused by a number of factors, including constant tension and unresolved stress, genetics, chemical or hormonal imbalances, chronic illness, poor diet, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, and even inadequate sunlight.
If your depression is clearly reactive to stresses or events in your life, many of the following therapies may ease some of your discomfort and help you work your way through the source of your sadness. Professional counseling is also a good idea. If you suspect that you are clinically depressed, first consult a doctor to rule out any underlying illness (such as a thyroid problem), then see a psychologist or a psychiatrist for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Obviously, it is best to work with a doctor who embraces natural therapies and will work with you to find the cause of your depression. The suggestions here will support your therapy and will point you toward possible causes or aggravating factor of your disorder.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch and Mark Stengler
Super Prescription #1 SAM-e - LifeSource Product Take 200 mg of an enteric-coated form two times daily on an empty stomach for two weeks. If you notice improvement, stay on this dosage. If there is a little improvement, then increase to 400 mg two to three times daily. SAMe increases the concentration of brain neurotransmitters that are responsible for your mood.
Super Prescription #2 5-HTP - LifeSource Product
Start with 50 mg taken three times daily on an empty stomach. Dosage can be increased to 100 mg three times daily if necessary.
Super Prescription #3 St. John’s Wort - LifeSource Products Take 300 mg of a product standardized to 0.3 percent hypericin three times daily (total of 900 mg).
Super Prescription #4 B - Complex – Vitamin B - LifeSource Product Take a 50 mg B-complex one to two times daily. B vitamins such as B12, folic acid, and B6 are intricately involved in neurotransmitter metabolism.
Super Prescription #5 Omega 3, 6 9 - LifeSource Products - See All of our Omega 3 – Fish Oil Products. Take this product as directed on the bottle. Essential fatty acids such as DHA improve neurotransmitter function.
Super Prescription # 6 Ginkgo Biloba - LifeSource Products
Take 60 to 120 mg twice daily of a standardized product containing 24 percent flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones. Ginkgo improves blood flow to the brain and enhances neurotransmitter activity.
Super Prescription #7 Multivitamin – High Potency – LifeSource Products - See All of our Multivitamin Products. This provides a base of nutrients involved with brain function. Either liquid or tablets.
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Some research has shown that increased levels of Inositol appear to be a promising treatment for depression
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A depressed person will usually have several of the following symptoms:
- Inability to enjoy things
- Mood swings, at times characterized by unexplained weeping
- Felling of apathy, worthlessness, helplessness, irritability, or guilt
- Sleep problems (either insomnia or sleeping too much)
- Appetite disturbances (eating too little or too much)
- Headaches, backaches, and digestive problems
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Increased anxiety
- Decreased sex drive
- Avoiding social situations
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Any of the following can cause depression by itself, but most depressed people are affected by more than one factor.
- Tension and stress
- Unresolved emotional issues
- Chronic illness or pain
- Neurotransmitter imbalance
- Hormonal imbalance, especially after childbirth or as a result of oral contraceptives and other synthetic hormone medications; commonly occurs with PMS and menopause
- Preexisting conditions-most commonly, hypoglycemia, anemia, sleep apnea, low adrenal function, and thyroid gland malfunction
- Alcohol and recreational drug use
- Poor diet
- Food allergies
- Nutritional deficiencies (particularly of B12, folic acid, B6, B1 tyrosine, and tryptophan)
- Lack of sunlight
- Medications, including corticosteroids, antihistamines blood pressure medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics, and some pharmaceutical antidepressants
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Sleep disturbances
Depression is caused by inadequate nutrition. Even if that's not the cause with you, a sound diet will help create healthier brain chemistry. Eat a good diet balanced with complex carbohydrates are high in serotonin, a deficiency of which can cause depression and insomnia.
Soy, beans, lean poultry, eggs, nuts (walnuts are excellent), and seeds are excellent sources of protein, which will boost your energy levels. Have some several times a day.
Consume cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and cod, three times a week.
You need to keep your sugar levels regulated, so instead of eating three large meals a day, try five to six smaller ones.
Consume 1 tablespoon of ground-up flax seeds daily. This is a good source of fiber and essential fatty acids. Sprinkle on a salad or mix in a shake.
Add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil or an oil blend to your salad daily for healthful essential fatty acids.
Foods to Avoid
Many depressed people have hidden food allergies. Any food is a potential allergen, but wheat is the product most often linked to depression.
Dramatically reduce your intake of hydrogenated / partially hydrogenated and saturated fats, which only increases fatigue and sluggishness.
Caffeine and refined sugar may make you feel temporarily better, but your body soon "crashes" from the high, leaving you even more exhausted or irritable. They also deplete vital nutrients from your system. Eliminate these substances from your diet.
Alcohol is a depressant, so avoid wine, beer, and liquor. If you are so unhappy that you feel you need alcohol, talk to a doctor or a therapist.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
If you're depressed, you're experiencing powerful and probably continuous levels of stress. It is vital for your emotional and physical health that you find at least one way to control anxiety, fear, or tension. Prayer, counseling, and positive mental imagery are all helpful.
If you sense that your depression is more than you can handle, don't hesitate to seek help from a psychotherapist, a religious advisor, or a support group. It helps a great deal to talk to people who have worked with others in great emotional pain.
Make an effort to stay in contact with beauty. If you have a garden or live near a nice park, spend as much time there as possible. And try to bring some of that beauty indoors: buy yourself a bouquet of flowers, listen to a favorite CD, or hang a watercolor of a nature scene on the wall in your office.
Regular exercise has been shown to be effective in improving depression. Try to get some physical activity every day for thirty minutes.
It may sound facile, but one quick way to feel better, at least temporarily, is to go dancing. Dancing releases endorphins, powerful hormones that will raise your spirits and you'll benefit from the touch of other people, not to mention the pleasure of losing yourself in the music.
Helping others with their problems is a great way to relieve depression.