In my previous column I wrote about the physical, emotional, social and environmental causes of depression. Today, I am going to write about a naturopathic way to treat depression.
Let’s start with diet. Depressed people usually don’t eat well and a poor diet aggravates their emotional distress. A diet that is healthy for the mind and body is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. High fat and sugar tend to aggravate depression while addictions to cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine can actually cause a depression. Anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia are frequent side effects of too much coffee.
Studies show that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressants for many people with mild cases of depression. Regular exercise can improve your self-image and provide an outlet for anger and anxiety. It also decreases stressed-out hormone levels while increasing endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators. Walking, swimming or cycling every other day can help achieve these wonderful results.
Reduce your stress. Daily deep breathing can help relax your nervous system and enhance your sense of well-being. Some great relaxation techniques are guided audio tapes, meditation, visualization or deep-breathing. I often find that a five-minute relaxation exercise three times a day really helps reduce stress because it interrupts the ongoing stress pattern.
Depressed and stressed people often show marked deficiencies in the B vitamins and vitamin C and a high potency multi-vitamin and mineral can be very helpful.
Amino acids are necessary for the production of most of the body’s natural anti-depressants – the hormones, neuro-transmitters and the endorphins. The amino acid tryptophan is a building block for seratonin. Phenylalanine and Tyrosine are precursors to dopamine. Tyrosine is also the precursor to the thyroid hormone. Extensive studies show that supplements of tryptophan and tyrosine are as effective for some people as conventional anti-depressants.
When it comes to herbs, St. John’s Wort is the star. According to extensive European studies, St. John’s Wort prevents the breakdown of neurotransmitters and can be more effective in alleviating depression than many standard drugs. What’s more, St. John’s Wort has very few side effects. Studies show St. John’s Wort is effective in significantly decreasing anxiety, insomnia and feelings of worthlessness.
Light therapy is a treatment used for people suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
Depression is often caused by a complex interplay of factors. I recommend that you seek a counselor who uses a variety of techniques to treat depression.
Approximately 25% of the population will go through a depression at some point in their lives. These natural healing methods of lifestyle changes, vitamins, herbal medicines and counseling have helped many. Why not give them a chance to help you too?
Dr. Paulette Roscoe is a naturopathic physician who practices in Nanaimo. She welcomes your calls at 754-1733.