Alternatives to Antidepressantsby Lauren Deville on Mar. 30, 2012, under Natural Medicine Tips
Depression is the most common mood disorder in the US. Medically it is treated most effectively with drugs in the classes of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), TCAs (Tricyclic Antidepressants), and occasionally MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors).
Although these medications can work very well, if you’ve been on them for any length of time you probably know that there are some unpleasant side effects, including sleep disturbances, digestive disorders, sexual dysfunction, and occasionally even a worsening of depression or anxiety.
The Naturopathic Approach:
Naturopathically the first step is always to identify and eliminate the root cause if possible, and depression may result from a number of other conditions or situations.
1) Your cortisol levels may indicate whether adrenal fatigue plays a role. The clinical picture can also heavily inform whether we need to treat your adrenals.
2) Hypothyroidism can sometimes result in depression as well, so we will need to rule this out if it seems like a solid clinical possibility.
3) Exercise is critically important! If you choose one and only one (physical) therapy for your depression, this should be it. Exercise increases endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals in your brain, and helps to stabilize cortisol (see #1), among other things. It also helps you to look and feel better physically, which helps you to feel good mentally as well.
4) We will eliminate “natural” depressants from your diet, including (but not limited to) alcohol. It’s also very important for you to have adequate nutritional support from your diet, since some depression can be caused (and it can certainly be worsened) by particular nutrient deficiencies. Together we will select the most beneficial dietary alterations for you.
5) In some cases I test neurotransmitter levels in my patients who suffer with depression (or other neurological conditions). That way I can prescribe the specific nutritional building blocks your body needs to create new mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, as opposed to the pharmaceutical approach of blocking the breakdown of existing neurotransmitters or stimulating neurotransmitter receptors. This is generally a better choice, because pharmaceuticals may cause the body to compensate by producing fewer neurotransmitters or decreasing its number of available receptors, which creates dependency and perpetuates the problem.
6) Certain vitamins and supplements help to maintain healthy signal conduction in your brain. (If you think of #5 as building the cars, this would correspond to maintaining the highway.) There are certain botanicals and homeopathic remedies that can also be very effective for this.
Finally, I spend a good deal of time talking to my patients who struggle with depression, and together we devise techniques to help manage and improve daily symptoms. Some may be as simple as stress management techniques, but the importance of a good counselor in certain cases cannot be overstated.
Are there topics that you’d like me to cover in future articles? Email me your suggestions!
Dr Lauren Deville is board-certified to practice Naturopathic Medicine. To receive her free e-book, “Ten Nutritional Supplements Everyone Should Have,” or to receive her monthly health and wellness newsletter, please sign up at www.drlaurendeville.com.