One in 10 Americans now take an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40’s and 50’s, the figure is approximately 1 in 4. That’s roughly 11% of all Americans, over the age of twelve, taking pharmaceuticals for depression or mental health issues, according to the Harvard Medical Journal. Staggering figures, especially since more people are being diagnosed with psychological conditions, than ever before.
Individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions who are currently on prescribed medications, don’t wish to go the pharmaceutical route, or are just considering their options; may wish to consider alternative means of treatment. “Alternative” or natural medicine offers many modalities of holistic healing. Hippocrates states, “The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
Depression, characterized by malcontent feelings, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts may be a person’s response to stressful events, abuse, hormonal imbalances, biochemical abnormalities, an auto-immune disease or other health-related causes. Recurrent, constant or severe depression needs to be properly diagnosed by a professional healthcare provider, so that treatment – whether by traditional or natural means, are appropriately utilized. Lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, supplementation with herbs & vitamins, behavioral therapies, mindfulness & bodywork all have beneficial effects with depression management.
Lifestyle Management: Building a “tool-box” of effective life-skills is imperative to an individual’s total wellness – mind, body & spirit. 1. Process your emotions, don’t bottle them up, 2. Practice self-care/pampering routines, 3. Maintain proper nutrition, 4. Foster community & build a social support system, 5. Find stress relief activities and/or a hobby, 6. Get enough sleep, 7. Learn to increase gratitude & reduce negativity, 8. Engage in a regular spiritual practice, 9. Exercise regularly.
Dietary Adjustments: Food allergies, overly-processed foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and drugs all play a role in an individual’s psychological health. Eating a whole-food, heavily plant-based regime will increase the amount of beneficial nutrients consumed; thereby assisting the body to heal itself.
Vitamin/Herb Supplementation: Bio-chemical imbalances, characterized by amino acid and other nutrient deficiencies may cause a variety of mental illnesses. Individuals who wish to take a natural approach can work with a naturopathic doctor to correct many of these imbalance through vitamin, herb and amino acid supplementation. Although there are many natural supplements that may be beneficial to depression and mental illness, these are some of the most supportive constituents:
Primary: Quality multi-vitamin, Probiotic (20 billon CFU or above), Digestive enzyme, Methylated B-Vitamins (folate, B12, B6, B-Complex), Vitamin D3, Iron (if deficient), Essential fatty acids/Omegas (plant or animal-based), Amino acid complex, Ginkgo Biloba, St. John’s Wort (if well tolerated), Bee pollen/Royal jelly.
Secondary: 5-HTP, GABA, DLPA, SAMe, L-tyrosine, Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Ashwagandha, Curcumin.
Additional Support: Inositol, NADH, Phosphatidylserine, Magnesium, CoQ10, L-glutamine, Vitamin C with bioflavonoids.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness maintains a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we don’t judge our thoughts as “negative” or “positive” in any given situation. When an individual practices mindfulness, they tune into the present moment, rather than a focus on past events or an anticipated future challenge. Examples of mindfulness techniques: meditation, biofeedback, EFT (emotional freedom techniques), visualization/guided imagery, positive self-affirmations and breathing techniques.
Bodywork: Bodywork is a general term for practices involving touch and movement, in both Eastern and Western medicine, where the practitioner or individual may use manual and energetic techniques to promote health and healing. Examples of bodywork, may include: light aerobic exercise, yoga, acupressure/acupuncture, massage therapy, tai chi, and PMR (progressive muscle relaxation).
Other Alternative Therapies: A few alternative treatment modalities, shown to aid depressed individuals include: music therapy, light therapy, and NST (neuro-structural integrative techniques).
Behavioral Therapies: Some people with moderate to severe depression may also benefit from the inclusion of behavioral therapy, administered by a trained professional. These therapies may include: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), IPT (interpersonal therapy) and/or FFT (family-focused therapy).
Many cases of depression are well-managed by natural and alternative means. But, more severe cases may also need to include allopathic medicine. Depression and other mental illnesses affect the entire person, therefore treatment must include a comprehensive approach. Disease management needs to encompass feeding the mind, nourishing the body and caring for the soul.
“Astounding increase in antidepressants used by Americans”
By Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health
Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical Journal
Health Publications, October 20, 2011
“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
Quote, Hippocrates, Greek Physician (460 BC – 377 BC)
Healthy Healing – An Alternative Healing Reference
By Linda Rector Page, ND, PhD
Ninth Edition, Pages: 194 & 195
Healthy Healing Publications, September 1992
Depression Free, Naturally
By Joan Mathews Larson, PhD
First Edition, Entire Book
New York, NY, United States
Ballentine Books – The Random House Publishing Group, January 2011
The Natural Pharmacy
By Schyler W. Lininger, Jr., DC; Alan R. Gaby, MD; Steve Austin, MD; Donald J. Brown, ND; Jonathan V. Wright, MD; Alice Duncan, DC, CCH.
Second Edition, Pages: 532 & 533
Prima Publications, Random House, Inc., Healthnotes, Inc., 1999
Greater Good, “The Science of a Meaningful Life”
“What is Mindfulness?”, May 2010
By Jon Kabot-Zinn
National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
“Therapy & Techniques”
Glossary: Therapy & Techniques