Science says that depression can occur due to multiple factors and triggers. Genetics, chemical imbalance in the brain, and environmental stress are all contributors to a debilitating illness that can take over your whole being. You lose yourself in depression and the depression becomes you.
Unfortunately, lots of people don’t even notice that they are depressed until it becomes too late. It happens so gradually that most people don’t even think about it. Crying spells that started suddenly become everyday occurrence. Constant sadness and feeling low, not taking pleasure in just about anything. You pretend you’re normal for the sake of yourself and others, trying not to acknowledge what your body and mind are telling you. You start to withdraw from your friends and family and want to be by yourself, alone, enjoying the silence. It is hard to live with depression and only people that have experienced this illness of the mind can understand the feeling of not being interested in anything, not being interested in life itself.
Lots of people seek help from doctors and medical providers. Prescribed medicine comes with many side effects that can take a toll on our body as science is yet to understand what causes depression and how to treat it from the offset, not just treating the symptoms. You may turn to homeopathy trying to find the cure. The problem is that if you have other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, blood clots, cancer, etc. it may be very hard to find the right herbal treatment that wouldn’t cause side effects or contraindications with the prescribed drugs you already take.
Assuming that you are otherwise perfectly healthy, here is the list of natural supplements and treatments that might work for you:
- Vitamin D3 our body stores vitamin D3 for future use. We absorb plenty of it during summer months and it should keep us well stocked up for the winter. The problem is that if you live in northern countries, such as Canada and Scandinavian countries, it may be hard to get daily requirement of vitamin D3 from the sun alone. Winters are long and our storage of vitamin D3 gets depleted fast. You may want to consider adding a supplement since without enough vitamin D3 in our body we may become depressed. Suggested dosage when taking a supplement for treatment of seasonal affective disorder that is associated with depression is 400 to 800 IU daily.
- Omega-3 is type of fat that we want to have enough of and we want our body to store it. The most important ones are EPA and DHA which are mostly found in certain types of fish. Omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and have multiple other benefits for our body such as cardiovascular. Consuming foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, improves eye health, helps fight depression and anxiety, reduces symptoms of ADHD in children, fights autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis etc, improves symptoms of mental disorders, improves sleep etc. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get enough Omega-3 through our diet alone. If you consider taking a supplement, find one that is high in EPA and DHA. Recommended daily value for depression treatment is 1000 to 2000 mg of EPA.
- Vitamin B complex: this so called “stress formula” helps alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety and is great in reducing “fight and flight” response of the body. Vitamin B complex is a group of different vitamins B that are combined in a formula that targets adrenaline and fear receptors. Overall, taking vitamin B complex on a regular basis may help you feel more calm and relaxed. If you are taking Vitamin B complex in a supplement form, take 1 pill daily.
- Magnesium helps us relax by calming nerves and anxiety. It also helps with insomnia and falling asleep. It is often combined with Calcium and Vitamin D3 in a supplement form. Magnesium increases energy levels, helps with painful muscles and spasms and also protects our heart, which is a muscle as well. Taking Magnesium daily may help with constipation issues and decrease frequency of migraines. Magnesium can be found in different foods such as fish, beans, dark leafy greens, avocados, yogurt, nuts, dried fruits, whole grains etc. If you are taking magnesium in a supplement form, recommended daily value is 400mg.
- Antioxidants play important role in treating depression as they help reduce cell damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause lots of damage to our body, such as memory decline, fatigue, depression, irritability, cancer, stroke, asthma. Research has shown that antioxidants may reverse decline in cognitive abilities that is associated with aging. Good sources of antioxidants are berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. Other sources of antioxidants are apples, chocolate, green tea, chamomile, red wine, pomegranates, etc. It is recommended to take antioxidants through fruits and vegetables rather than supplement form.
- Mindfulness meditation is bringing awareness to your body and mind by focusing on breathing and being present in the moment. In this type of meditation, you don’t want to change anything but rather acknowledge what is happening around you, and if there is nothing that can be done at the moment, just accept it and let go. Mindfulness meditation brings relaxation and inner peace. It can be practiced anywhere on daily basis. Research has shown that it is very effective in fighting depression and anxiety. Benefits of mindfulness meditation are significant. Just by breathing deeper, diaphragm gets extended in the body and provides more oxygen to the brain which in turn makes a person more relaxed and calm, by dropping the blood pressure almost instantly. If you are unsure where to start, search for guided meditation on YouTube and find one that helps you relax.
- Yoga list of benefits of practicing yoga are tremendous. Starting from exercise to relaxation and just focusing on awareness of yourself, your breath and your body. Yoga may be practiced either through slow and restorative motion or gentle hatha, and vinyasa to more hard core and intensive types. Yoga has been practiced for centuries in the Far East, but recently gained momentum in the Western countries. People are turning to self-help with stress that accompanies daily lives and practicing yoga helps many to rewind and relax while getting benefits of good exercise at the same time.
- St. John’s Wort is a plant that may treat depression symptoms by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. If you opt to use St. John’s Wort, make sure you are not using any other prescribed anti-depressants. St. John’s Wort may have contraindications with various medications and you should check with your medical provider or pharmacist whether St. John’s Wort is the right supplement for you.
Lots of people prefer to deal with depression naturally, thorough combination of right diet, exercise and supplements. What may work for some may not work for you. Everyone is different and our response to stress is different. If you are diagnosed from mild to moderate depression, it is advisable to either try therapy or medication, not necessarily both. Perhaps you may benefit from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) alone. Lots of employers include coverage for a registered psychotherapist and this option should be certainly exercised, regardless of other treatments you’re using. While modern medicine may prefer to deal with symptoms rather than cause of mental disorders, it is up to the individual to research all possible options and decide what course of treatment to take.
While it is certainly advisable to trust the opinion of your medical doctor, don’t look at the prescribed treatment plan as your only option. Single episode of depression may last about a year, and if not treated properly the first time there is about 75% likelihood of return vs. 25% of return if properly treated the first time. Depression may be a life long illness but it does not have to be. Not today, when there are so many treatments options available and when information about medication or supplements is a fingertip away. Do your research, become informed and make a choice.