Commentary

What Does the ‘Best Evidence’ Say About Antidepressants?

What Does the ‘Best Evidence’ Say About Antidepressants?

Adaptogens, herbal products that help lower cortisol and adjust your body to stress, can be helpful if your cortisol is running high. There are also other excellent herbs and amino acids that help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. For more tips and guidelines, see “Sleep — Why You Need It and 50 Ways to Improve It.” Optimize your gut health — A number of studies have confirmed gastrointestinal inflammation can play a critical role in the development of depression.59 Optimizing your gut microbiome will also help regulate a number of neurotransmitters and mood-related hormones, including GABA and corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression-related behavior.60

To nourish your gut microbiome, be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and traditionally fermented foods such as fermented vegetables, lassi, kefir and natto. If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is recommended. Also remember to severely limit sugars and grains, to rebalance your gut flora. Visualization — Visualization and guided imagery have been used for decades by elite athletes before an event, successful business people and cancer patients — all to achieve better results through convincing your mind you have already achieved successful results.61,62 Similar success has been found in people with depression.63 Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — CBT has been used successfully to treat depression.64,65This therapy assumes mood is related to the pattern of thought. CBT attempts to change mood and reverse depression by directing your thought patterns. Make sure your cholesterol levels aren’t too low for optimal mental health — You may also want to check your cholesterol to make sure it’s not too low. Low cholesterol is linked to dramatically increased rates of suicide, as well as aggression toward others. 66

This increased expression of violence toward self and others may be due to the fact that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors in the brain, which are approximately 30 percent cholesterol by weight.

Lower serum cholesterol concentrations therefore may contribute to decreasing brain serotonin, which not only contributes to suicidal-associated depression, but prevents the suppression of aggressive behavior and violence toward self and others. Ecotherapy — Studies have confirmed the therapeutic effects of spending time in nature. Ecotherapy has been shown to lower stress, improve mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.67 Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening, or simply taking your exercise outdoors. Breathing exercises — Breath work such as the Buteyko breathing technique also has enormous psychological benefits and can quickly reduce anxiety by increasing the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in your body. Helpful supplements — A number of herbs and supplements can be used in lieu of drugs to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include:

  • St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) — This medicinal plant has a long historical use for depression, and is thought to work similarly to antidepressants, raising brain chemicals associated with mood such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.68
  • S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) — SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) — 5-HTP is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants. When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement may raise serotonin levels. Evidence suggests 5-HTP outperforms a placebo when it comes to alleviating depression,69 which is more than can be said about antidepressants.
  • XingPiJieYu — This Chinese herb, available from doctors of traditional Chinese medicine, has been found to reduce the effects of “chronic and unpredictable stress,” thereby lowering your risk of depression.70

Guidelines for Safe Drug Withdrawal

If you’re currently on an antidepressant and want to get off it, ideally, you’ll want to have the cooperation of your prescribing physician. It would also be wise to do some homework on how to best proceed.

Breggin’s book, “Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and Their Families,”71 and/or “The Antidepressant Solution: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Antidepressant Withdrawal, Dependence, and Addiction”72 by Dr. Joseph Glenmullen can be helpful.

You can also turn to an organization with a referral list of doctors who practice more biologically or naturally, such as the American College for Advancement in Medicine at www.acam.org. A holistic psychiatrist will have a number of treatment options in their tool box that conventional doctors do not, and will typically be familiar with nutritional supplementation.

Once you have the cooperation of your prescribing physician, start lowering the dosage of the medication you’re taking. There are protocols for gradually reducing the dose that your doctor should be well aware of. At the same time, it may be wise to add in a multivitamin and/or other nutritional supplements or herbs. Again, your best bet would be to work with a holistic psychiatrist who is well-versed in the use of nutritional support.

If you have a friend or family member who struggles with depression, perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do is to help guide them toward healthier eating and lifestyle habits, as making changes can be particularly difficult when you’re feeling blue — or worse, suicidal.

Encourage them to unplug and meet you outside for walks. We should not underestimate the power of human connection, and the power of connection with nature. Both, I believe, are essential for mental health and emotional stability.

If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest hospital emergency department. You cannot make long-term plans for lifestyle changes when you are in the middle of a crisis.

This article was originally published by Mercola.com

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