Diagnoses of depression and depressive-like states are becoming much more common with rates escalating at a rapid pace. When examining the prevalence of depression, it becomes obvious that no population is excluded. From children to the elderly, depression seems to hit all age groups. It is also clear that with the rising numbers of people diagnosed, women appear to be diagnosed almost twice as much as compared to men. It is estimated that in the U.S., 17 million people suffer from depression annually with 4% being adolescents, 12% being women and 7% being men.
Depression can range from mild, to moderate, to severe cases and often include the following symptoms:
change in appetite or weight
lack of energy
diminishing sex drive
inability to make decisions
low self-esteem (feelings of worthlessness or guilt)
lack of interest in or enjoyment of activities
Along with the rise of cases of depression, an explosion of pharmaceutical drugs intended to treat depression are also taking hold. Anti-depressants, specific serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have become one of the most accepted approaches to treating depression. Prozac, zoloft, paxil, celexa are all SSRIs widely prescribed. SSRIs work by altering a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called serotonin which appears to improve mood. In short, they allow for more serotonin to be circulated in the brain in order to improve the messages being sent from nerve to nerve.
While SSRIs can be helpful to many that have been diagnosed with depression, they do not come without side effects. Some of the most common side effects are:
Problems with Sexual Functioning
decreased sexual desire
delayed or absent orgasm
decreased vaginal lubrication
Weight Gain or Weight Loss
If you commence treatment with a SSRI and begin to have hostile or suicidal thoughts, consult your doctor immediately.
Natural Approaches to Depression
Mental illness is different for everyone. This article is by no means a recommendation to stop taking any medication currently prescribed for you. You cannot simply stop taking an anti-depressant. Like other drugs that effect brain chemistry, you must taper off slowly with the guidance of your physician. However, if suffering from mild or moderate depression, there are natural steps that can be taken to improve mood and energy. These steps include:
1. Eliminate white sugar (cakes, cookies, white bread and pasta) as they have been shown to bounce around blood sugar and insulin levels and affect brain function. There is evidence that people who suffer from depression tend to be insulin-sensitive. Substitute with whole grain foods such as spelt, kamut and flax bread or pasta. In addition, visit the Truestar Nutrition Section to design a meal plan specific to you which is perfectly balanced with the best type of carbohydrates, fats and protein.
2. Eliminate or greatly decrease the amount of caffeine you are consuming. Depression can be a side effect of a coffee/caffeine addiction. Substitute with distilled water, green tea and herbal teas.
3. Include a high quality fish oil supplement into your diet daily. The omega-3 fats found in fish oils and cold water fish have been shown to improve mood and help alleviate depression. For more information on supplements that can be helpful, visit the Truestar Vitamin Section and complete your own personal profile.
4. Visit a natural healthcare practitioner and investigate the possibility of food allergies. There is preliminary evidence that certain food allergies (dairy, wheat, gluten etc.) can be linked to depression.
5. Exercise daily. Exercise has been shown to release endorphins, the feel good chemicals that improve mood and brain function. Visit the Truestar Exercise Section to learn more.
Do not be shy about having an open conversation with your doctor about natural approaches to treating your depression. Exercise, food and supplements are all powerful approaches that affect brain chemistry, improve mood and can be used in addition to other medical approaches. To read more about natural approaches to depression, visit our Encyclopedia of Health.