Natural Treatment Options for Depression


During the Holiday season the sun drops away and many people experience symptoms of seasonal depression. it is always important to have your depression symptoms diagnosed and managed by a qualified health care practitioner. The following is a list of my favorite go-to treatment options for depression that I like to try with patients before perusing more aggressive pharmaceutical options as a last resort.  

1. Exercise-There are many extensive studies on how moderate to heavy exercise can actually treat symptoms of depression and sometimes be more effective than pharmaceutical drugs. Exercise release endorphins which are the neurotransmitters we secrete when we are feeling happy and energized. Many times when we are depressed the last thing we want to do is exercise but a quick motivational push to start can get the ball rolling on making us feel better. Even a short walk around the block in the fresh air can sometimes do the trick.

2. Dietary changes-Diets high in sugar and low in protein can be detrimental to the production of essential neurotransmitters. Limiting sugar and increasing protein and healthy fats can help give your body the building blocks it needs for effective neurotransmitter production. Probiotics, which can balance the gut microflora, can also be helpful in managing depression symptoms as a huge majority of serotonin your body creates is produced in the GI system.

3. Vitamin D-Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin which most people are severely lacking. Numerous recent studies have shown a correlation with low vitamin D levels and depression. Supplementing with 3-10K IU per day (may even go as high as 50k per day in certain severe depletion cases) may be necessary to replenish the bodies reserves. You should always have your levels checked and monitored by your doctor before starting supplementation.

4. 5HTP-Amino acid precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is the main neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well being. It is the main target for pharmaceutical drugs (like Prozac) which block its breakdown and re-uptake into cells. Supplementing with 5HTP we are actually giving the body the building blocks it needs to produce serotonin. A typical starting dose can be anywhere from 50-300 mg up to three times per day.

5. L-Theanine-An amino acid that helps modulate the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain. Glutamate is one of the main excititory neurotransmitters so calming it down can help the brain feel a greater sense of ease and well-being. High in green tea this amino acid is responsible for many of the beneficial effects of green tea. A typical starting dose is usually 100-600mg daily.

6. L-Tyrosine-Amino acid precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine, nor-epi and epinephrine. Low levels of these neurotransmitters have also been associated with depressive symptoms. Typical dosing is 500-1000 mg per day.

7. St John's Wort-An herbal product that mimics the effects of pharmaceutical drugs like Prozac. St john's wort works in the same way as Prozac by increasing the availability of serotonin in the brain. Unlike 5HTP which can increase the production of serotonin, St John's wort (and other SSRIs) only make the serotonin you already have more available for use in the brain. A typical starting dose is 300mg three times/day. Need to be careful if also on an SSRI like Prozac as too much serotonin can cause severe illness (Serotonin Syndrome).

8. GABA-The main neurotransmitter responsible for putting the brakes on an overactive brain. Sometimes called the "calming" neurotransmitter it can be helpful for patients who also experience a great deal of anxiety with their depression. A typical starting dose is between 500 - 1000mgs twice a day.

9. SAMe-Essential nutrient responsible for increasing levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, epi and nor-epinephrine. Usual starting dose is 200mg on an empty stomach twice/day (Can go higher). Can cause some negative side effects: nausea, agitation, and insomnia.   

10. NAD+-NAD+ is a critical nutrient for the production of energy in every cell of the body. Also present in neurons NAD+ can help stimulate the production of the neurotransmitters we need to feel well. Oral and IV supplementation can replenish this essential mitochondrial support nutrient. NADOVIM is the only supplement on the market that has NAD+ and not its precursors.

11. EFT-Emotional freedom technique-A technique that involves repeating certain affirmations while taping specific acupuncture points on the body. Can be highly effective at turning mood around. There are many youtube videos online describing the technique.

12. Journaling and challenging negative thoughts-Probably one of the most straight forward options on the list but one of the most difficult to implement. Really examining the thoughts that are at the root of our depressive symptoms can be extremely challenging. Writing them down and working though them yourself or with your doctor can be the most effective long term treatment for any form of depression.