Serious depression and anxiety can be very debilitating and stop people going out, prevent you from working or participating in many social activities, luckily this is the minority of people with depression.
There is a much larger group of people with mild to moderate depression, and the number is growing. Figures show that in the U.S and Australia the use of anti-depressants has increased from 6.8% to 13% of people over the age of 12 from 2005 to 2013.
This is a large increase in the prescription rate of antidepressants, especially considering that many studies show that use of anti-depressant medication is often not more effective than placebo, and not as good as an exercise in the treatment of depression.
The reason that anti-depressants do not work for everybody is because anxiety and depression are complex conditions that can have many causes, and not just a deficiency in serotonin which is the neurotransmitter that the drugs boost.
There are a number of natural ways to treat depression and anxiety including:
Depression and anxiety are much more common conditions in the Western world, this can be for a number of reasons, and a big factor in the high incidence of depression is a diet high in processed foods and refined carbohydrates.
Often when you are depressed you crave sugary processed foods, this helps to give you a temporary boost to your mood, but will often make things worse in the long run.
Making the switch to a whole foods diet, with a focus on having some quality protein, fats and lots of fruits and vegetables can make a significant change to your mood and energy levels. Especially if you combine diet with the other recommendations.
There have been multiple studies showing that exercise and spending time in nature can have a more positive effect on mood than anti-depressants.
Exercise can mean going for a walk for 30 minutes, ideally with a friend, participating in team sports or going to the gym. If your just starting out even doing a few minutes a day can be beneficial, if you don’t have time to exercise doing something short but high intensity can give you great results.
Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature and soaking up some sunshine can help with depression. If you live in a city find a park or green zone where you can get some nature, and once in a while take a trip to a national park or wilderness area.
Meditation is a great skill to learn, and has been shown to be highly effective at helping symptoms of depression and anxiety.
One of the complaints that I hear from people is that it is difficult to learn, one of the best programs that I have found for both adults and kids who are near to meditation, or even experienced people is the Zen 12 Program that only requires 12 minutes a day.
There is no one “magic” supplement for depression and anxiety, and the key to treatment is to find out the cause of why some one is feeling anxious or depressed.
Herbs and nutrients that can be helpful depending on the cause and the individual person can include magnesium, zinc, 5HTP, amino acids, B vitamins, passionflower, magnolia, theanine, withania/ ashwaghanda, Kava and many others that have good research and traditional use for combating anxiety and depression.
There is no one test that identifies somebody has depression or anxiety, and diagnosis is normally done by assessing each
Thyroid, adrenal and sex hormone imbalances can all lead to mood disorders. Identifying and correcting hormone imbalances can correct the underlying cause behind depression.
Thyroid conditions are often under diagnosed due to most doctors only testing TSH levels, this does not identify all thyroid problems, and it is very important to also test free T4, T3 and reverse T3 to understand how the thyroid is working.
Click to learn more about thyroid testing here.
Adrenal and sex hormone imbalances can also affect mood, long term stress can lead to imbalances in cortisol levels, this can affect your neurotransmitters as well as lead to fatigue and depression.
Low testosterone in men and women can lead to depression, and for women an imbalance in progesterone and estrogen can lead to many depression and anxiety symptoms, especially in the week or two before the menstrual cycle.
Click to learn more about testing adrenal and sex hormones here.
In the last 10 years there has been a lot of research into gut function and the role that our beneficial and pathogenic bacteria play in our health.
Imbalances in your bacteria are strongly associated with anxiety and depression, even if someone does not have many digestion symptoms! Bacteria in our intestinal system control our cravings for food, energy levels, can lead to brain fog and many other symptoms seemingly unrelated to digestion.
The Organic Acids Test (OAT) is a urine test that measures metabolites of metabolism, this can give us a lot of information on energy production, fat metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, methylation, bacterial infection, candida infections and neurotransmitters.
I call the OAT test “my favourite test” as it tells me so much information about a person’s health, this helps to guide specific treatment strategies, identify what supplements are the best for each person and identify blocks in a person’s metabolism which can effect weight loss and energy levels.
Click to find out more about the Organic Acids Test.
Pyrrole disorder is caused by an imbalance in copper and zinc in the body, it maybe an excess of copper, or low levels of the copper binding protein called ceruloplasmin which leads to a lot of free copper.
This can lead to a wide range of symptoms with anxiety and depression two of the most common, specific forms of zinc, B6 and other nutrients can help to bring this back into balance over several months. The first step is to get your levels tested.
Click to find out more about testing your copper/ zinc and pyrrole disorder.
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