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Many people have been diagnosed with depression or wonder if they should be diagnosed with depression.
Depression is widespread, and can be defined as a persistent feeling of sadness, irritability, hopelessness and helplessness. But, depression can also appear or manifest itself in other ways such as feelings of anger, discouragement, agitation, restlessness or irritability; fatigue or lack of motivation and energy; a feeling of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness or self-hate; changes in appetite—either over-eating or under-eating; inability to enjoy the activities you used to enjoy; an inability to cope with daily stress; difficulty with memory or fuzzy thinking; sleeping too much or too little; recurring thoughts of death or fantasies about suicide.


Depression can be situational as well—for example, there may be an understandable sadness over the loss of a job or a loved one.  The problem comes when the depression does not improve as time goes on. When someone is always or nearly always sad or feeling any of the symptoms listed above, then there may be an issue that can benefit from counseling and the wise use of natural alternatives to drugs.  It should be mentioned though, that if someone decides to use alternative approaches to drugs to help treat their depression, they should also do a number of other things.

See a counselor or therapist and maintain a relationship with your health professional

It is difficult to be objective when you are feeling down and depressed. You can’t analyze your feelings all by yourself.  So, whether a period of depression is situational or if it seems to be a recurrent problem that you just can’t shake, seeing a qualified counselor or therapist is always a good idea.  A trained counselor or therapist can teach you coping mechanisms and teach you how to avoid or deal with specific situations that may arise.  A trained counselor or therapist can give you an objective opinion about your situation, whatever that situation might be.

Therapy is actually pretty hard work—it’s not always very easy to take an objective look at your life and make a serious assessment of your best and your worst qualities. Taking a pill (or two, or three) is actually more the “easy way out”! Depending on your specific needs, the counselor or therapist may take a number of different approaches.  Find a counselor or therapist that you are comfortable with and trust—you have to be able to trust that your therapist will have your best interests at heart when you talk to them about your most personal feelings.


It’s also important to maintain a strong relationship with your health professional.  Most of the time, natural treatments work very well. When you combine the natural treatments with qualified therapy, it is very helpful nearly all the time.  But, if you are not improving, there may be the need to go with something stronger, at least temporarily. It can be very important to keep all your options open!

Natural alternatives to anti-depressant drugs

Vitamins, Fatty Acids and Minerals

The B-complex vitamins are essential for many, many biochemical reactions and they can be very important to maintaining a positive outlook and combating depression.  If you smoke, this is even more important because smoking depletes the B vitamins.  About a third of people with depression are deficient in folic acid, a B vitamin.

You should try to get 2-3 times the recommended daily amounts every day. Vitamin D has been implicated in helping adolescents with depression  and for depression in general.  The essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are also believed to be important in preventing depression. Getting a total of 3-4000mg of EPA plus DHA every day should be a goal. The minerals magnesium, zinc, selenium and chromium  should be taken daily also—sufficient amounts should be available in a good quality multi-vitamin with minerals.   

Neurotransmitter precursors

The neurons in the brain communicate with each other using various substances called neurotransmitters.  Precursors, or the building blocks of these substances are often sued because many times depression is due to low amounts of these neurotransmitters.  These precursors are generally amino acids or amino acid derivatives.  (Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins)  Some of the most commonly used amino acids or amino acid derivatives used are 5-HTP, acetyl-l-carnitine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, tyrosine and phosphotidyl serine.

Herbs

There are many herbs that have been traditionally used to treat depression.  These include St Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum), gotu kola (Centella asiatica), damiana (Turnera diffusa), ginkgo biloba, Lavender (Lavendula augustofolia) and yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe).  There are many commercially available combinations with these and other herbs—talk to a knowledgeable herbalist to find out what may be best for you.

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  • Photo courtesy of dorshemer on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dorshemer/255829894