How Do Antidepressant Drugs Compare with Natural Treatments?
Virtually everyone has felt down at one point or another. Whether from a relationship disappointment, an unexpected job or financial event or the death or illness of a family member, it’s not uncommon for us to have to deal with strong negative emotions as part of life.
Recently, with the development of powerful pharmaceutical drugs that affect brain chemistry, more and more people are being given drugs to help them deal with such events. Either you, or someone you know is probably taking one of these drugs.
Ironically, although these drugs are very useful to manage life-threatening major depression (their originally intended use), they are also being used in many, many other ways. These so-called ‘off-label’ uses include minor and temporary, situational depression, PMS and menstrual problems, arthritis, childhood behavioral problems and even chronic pain.
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I find that the body is an incredible mirror of what we think, eat and do. As a result I’m always curious about natural ways of approaching these kinds of problems. I also am curious about the long-term effects of medications to treat them.
Consider for a moment these facts about pharmaceutical antidepressants:
- The most common type of antidepressant, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – for example, Paxil, Luvox, Zoloft, Serozone and Prozac), act by preventing the breakdown of the brain chemical serotonin. Low levels of serotonin exist in many people, including those who are depressed.
- When taken for a year or longer, SSRIs cause the brain to stop storing serotonin in nerve synapses.
- SSRIs do nothing to increase the amount of serotonin being created by the brain, they only prevent what is there from being broken down as quickly.
- Common side effects of these drugs include sexual dysfunction, nausea, nervousness and insomnia, agitation, and anxiety.
The chemicals in your brain (called neurotransmitters) are related and interact with one another. Ideally there will be sufficient amounts of each, but not too much of any one. Also, the ratios between neurotransmitters can be crucial.
Pharmaceutical anti-depressant drugs don’t do anything to increase production of serotonin or other neurotransmitters. In addition, they are often prescribed solely on the basis of symptoms, without any assessment of the actual state of a person’s brain chemistry. If you doubt this, ask someone you know who is taking them if their doctor did any sort of lab work to determine the need for their anti-depressant.
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What about natural approaches to treat depression?
Fortunately, there are many natural ways to relieve depression and low emotional and mental states. These include:
- Limit carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined carbs.
- Eat according to your body’s metabolic needs. See the following article for more information on this.
- Exercise. Adequate amounts of exercise can help you lower your stress and enhance your moods. Vigorous exercise helps your brain release endorphins, natural mood enhancers and pain relievers.
- Get a healthy amount of sunshine. This increases your body’s production of vitamin D, which is helpful to combat depression. The right amount of sun may be different for each person, and you definitely don’t want to burn.
- Take high Omega-3 fish oil supplements. These can help with depression.
- Talk with someone who can help you resolve issues from your past that may be contributing to your depression. Old patterns are not necessarily helping you in your present life. There are powerful ways to change these for the better.
If the above doesn’t help sufficiently, or if you want to see faster relief, you can take advantage of neurotransmitter testing and re-balancing. I offer this service in my clinic. Contact me if you’d like to know more. My contact information is at the end of this page.
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