I've had several comments from readers wanting to know natural alternatives to pharmaceutical antidepressants. As mentioned in a recent blog , SSRI's (the most popular group of antidepressants) decrease bone density by an average of 4% . Another problem with SSRI's (this group of drugs includes amitriptyline, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and others) is a drop in dopamine levels. This phenomenon, detailed in the book Prozac Backlash by psychiatry professor at Harvard, Joseph Glennmullen, can result in apathy, violence, suicide, and sexual dysfunction.
I recommend 4 things to treat depression naturally:
- 5-HTP has been shown in numerous studies to be effective in most cases of mild to moderate depression. SSRI's decrease the uptake, or breakdown of serotonin, and that creates trouble in your bones and plays a part in lowering dopamine levels. 5-HTP is converted to serotonin easily in your brain. Thus, you create more of the mood-enhancing molecule without the negative side-effects associated with SSRI's. Use 50-300 mg per day. It works best if taken on a relatively empty stomach with some juice (insulin apparently helps carry it into your brain--the sugar in the juice causes you to excrete insulin).
- DL-Phenylalanine is a precursor to both dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which can be deficient in people with depression. DL-phenylalanine is safe and effective. Doses vary up to 500mg.
- Omega-3 supplementation has been shown in numerous studies to be effective in treating depression. You can't go wrong with it--its also excellent for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer's! Read more on omega-3's with references on depression here. I recommend starting at a dose of 6-9 grams of omega-3 per day for 1 month, then taking 2-3 grams per day. Look for a ratio of 2-to-1 of EPA-to-DHA.
- Learn tools to re-create your brain. Everyone who experiences depression can benefit from directed exercises to cultivate happiness and peace. Check out some techniques on the stress-reduction page.