Natural Depression Remedies

Older black man comforts distraught older white man
October 21, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Depression begins with feelings of sadness or worthlessness that just won’t go away. Then, as the individual withdraws from family and friends, the process spins silently out of control. Isolation increases, as does hopelessness and depression.

Untreated depression can devastate your health, elevating the risk of suicide, self-medication with addictive substances, and the possibility of accidental fatal overdose by combining drugs and alcohol in an attempt to feel a little better.

Even taking those concerns off the table, health is so severely impacted by depression that these patients tend to experience longer recoveries from surgery and illness, and symptoms of existing conditions often become worse.

Depression also makes you more vulnerable to life-threatening, serious concerns, including cancer, viral infections, and even dementia.

Unlike some conditions—a broken bone, for example, or a fever—people suffering from depression often don’t know exactly what’s wrong.

“I don’t know why I’m so tired all the time,” is something I hear from depressed patients on a daily basis. It takes an in-depth discussion and lots of questions before it’s clear that the patient is depressed and doesn’t know it.

Depression’s wide range of symptoms makes diagnosis difficult. As a doctor, I know that depression is not always unrelieved sadness and crying jags.

Sometimes depression manifests itself as outbursts of rage, especially in men. Withdrawing from friends and family is another key symptom, along with:

  • Digestive troubles
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in people and things that used to be enjoyable
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Irritability or short-temper
  • Lack of libido
  • Anxiety

So what’s the big deal? If someone’s depressed, why not just take an antidepressant and get over it?

Actually, it’s not that simple. And antidepressants are not very good solutions. These drugs have awful side effects, including nausea, sweating, dizziness, constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, decreased sex drive, headaches, weight gain, and much more.

Even worse, studies show antidepressants work for less than half of the people who need them, leaving the others to suffer in silence.

Unfortunately, that’s what often happens. Patients who are depressed tend to be shoved aside or forgotten. And that’s when dangers like the ones listed above begin, even though there are outstanding remedies available.

When I’m treating a patient with depression, I always start with the basics. Depressed individuals rarely exercise, eat right, or care for themselves properly, all of which make the problem worse.

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It’s important to shine a light on those behaviors and get the person to agree to a healthy, whole foods diet, daily exercise, and a few targeted supplements—especially when they don’t feel like it.

Here are my three recommendations for escaping from depression’s vicious cycle:

MOVE: Even people who aren’t depressed try to avoid exercise. Very bad idea! I’ve reviewed dozens of clinical trials and worked with thousands of patients suffering from depression. Exercise is at the top of my list of recommendations for beating the disease.

There is nothing as effective as exercise for relieving depression. Period. End of discussion. So find something you like to do—walk, jog, dance, swim, whatever—and get busy!

POP A PILL: But make sure it’s the right pill. Start with curcumin, an extract of the spice turmeric. Curcumin has a long list of health benefits, including easing joint pain and reducing deadly inflammation.

But curcumin also shines when it comes to relieving depression. A recent study found that it was as effective as Prozac for treating major depressive disorder, the most serious form of depression, without producing suicidal thoughts, as pharmaceutical products often do.  I recommend taking 1,500 mg daily in divided doses.

LUBRICATE YOUR BRAIN: Experts know that low blood levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs), like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are linked to depression. And studies have shown that supplementing with these critically important nutrients benefits your entire body, especially your brain.

That’s why I recommend the good fats in EFAs to all patients experiencing depression. Take at least 3 grams daily of a purified, sustainable source of omega-3s containing my preferred ratio of brain-boosting DHA to EPA (2.5 to 1).

At the same time, it’s important to reduce your intake of bad fats from processed and prepared foods. The more bad fats (oils made with safflower, soy, corn, and sunflower) you eat, the harder it is for your brain to function properly.

Low-quality fats interfere with your brain’s neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that direct many bodily functions and play a big role in mood.

Be aware that non-invasive tests are available that measure your brain’s levels of neurotransmitters, substances that play a role in depression, and many other aspects of health. Your body’s production of neurotransmitters slows as you age. A deficiency of certain of these substances could easily contribute to depression and other complications. Ask your health-care provider if a neurotransmitter test is available.

If you or someone you know seems to be losing the battle with depression to the point you are concerned about suicide, please get help right away. Call the free crisis helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or reach out to one of these online crisis centers. If the situation is dire and you suspect the individual may harm himself or another, call 911 right away.

One last thought: Half the people who die of suicide in the United States use a firearm. If someone in your house is having a depressive episode and you own guns, please store them offsite until your loved one’s mental health improves. At the least, store the ammunition and the weapons separately, each in a locked unit to which the depressed person doesn’t have the key or access code. The more effort involved in getting a loaded weapon, the less likely one is to actually use it on oneself.

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