Alternatives to Medications that Cause Depression
The United States is a very medicated nation. It’s obvious from the shear amount and variety of TV commercials for prescription drugs, new and old. Those medications may be helping you physically, but there’s a good chance that they are also hurting you mentally.
A recent landmark study showed that 1 in 3 adults takes a medication linked to depression. That’s more than 82 million people—and that number is growing. What’s more, the medications linked to depression are some of the most commonly prescribed medications: Prilosec, Zantac, Xanax, beta blockers, painkillers, proton pump inhibitors, ACE inhibitors (for high blood pressure), and anti-convulsant drugs.
And the more of them that people took simultaneously, the more likely that they reported feeling depressed.
There’s a lot to unpack in this study. So, if you or someone you love takes any of the above-mentioned medications, please continue reading to learn how these drugs are related to depression. I’ll also show you natural ways (as in, not taking another prescription) to treat depression and prevent the root causes of it.
One Landmark Study, Many Implications to Your Health
Before you jump to any scary conclusions, it’s important to note that this report isn’t solely a cause-and-effect narrative about these common medications. Indeed, depression is a side effect for many of them, but that doesn’t mean everyone will experience it because of medication.
But it is true that taking more than one of these medications increases your likelihood of experiencing depression. Bear in mind that taking multiple medications could also mean you’re in poor health, and that alone can be a depressing thought.
And finally, some people have depression and have had it for a long time. Some people’s brains appear to be wired that way, whether due to genetics or their upbringing, so they’re more likely to experience depression regardless of their medications.
So there are many reasons why people report feeling depressed. What this study keenly points out though is that these medications are linked to it—and it’s a strong link.
More than 26,000 adults were studied. Of them, 15 percent of those who took 3 or more of those drugs were depressed. By comparison, among those who did not take any of those prescriptions, only 5 percent reported feeling depressed regularly.
Separately from this report, use of medications with depression and suicidal thoughts as potential side effects is on the rise. And only in extremely rare circumstances are these warnings written on the box or bottle. You would think that suicidal thoughts deserve a little more than a “by the way” style warning from your doctor.
All this leads to some heavy questions that the medical community needs to ask itself: Why has depression become one of the leading causes of disability? Why are suicide rates climbing? Is it really just a coincidence that depression and suicide rates are climbing in lockstep with the economic and political power of Big Pharma? Why are physical health and mental health treated separately when they clearly intertwine?
Rethink What You’re Taking and Why
If this study proves one thing, it’s that it’s critical that you talk to your doctor before, during, and after you take these medications. Always be ready to ask about the risks and benefits of any medication. And if you begin taking one, take notice of how it’s making you feel.
Perhaps an honest loved one can help point out if you are acting or seem to be feeling differently than you normally do. I know my family will always keep it real with me!
It’s not my place to tell you, “Stop taking these medications.” But if you take these medications regularly, I do urge you to talk with your doctor about their potential side effects—especially if you feel a change in your attitude or outlook as a result.
And I strongly encourage you to consider other ways—natural, side-effect-free ways—to treat everything from acid reflux, heartburn, chronic pain, high blood pressure, anxiety, heart disease, epilepsy, and more.
Many common diseases and ailments are prescribed medications for treatment when there are natural alternatives that are effective and carry zero-to-little side effects. Let’s jump right into them!
Magnesium and Nattokinase for Lowering Blood Pressure
Nattokinase is a fermented soy extract that is a true superstar for lowering blood pressure quickly and naturally. It usually starts working in about 8 weeks and comes with very low risk of side effects. Look for a supplement with 2000 fibrin units (FU).
Magnesium carries an impressive array of benefits, but to me its power to improve your heart health stands out. It helps relax your blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more smoothly—thus lowering your blood pressure. Look for a supplement that contains 480 mg/day.
Melatonin and Probiotics for Acid Reflux and Heartburn Relief
Acid reflux occurs when the potent brew of stomach acids escapes up through your lower esophageal sphincter (LES). It often does that when your LES does not tightly seal after allowing food to enter your stomach. Melatonin helps tone and seal your LES, protecting the mucus membranes of your esophagus from that burn.
Meanwhile, probiotics increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut that break down food and fight possible food-borne disease. In sum, the more help your stomach acid gets breaking down food, the less likely it’ll swish and swash up to your LES. I recommend that you take no more than 6 mg/day of melatonin. And be sure to only take it at night, 30—60 minutes before bed time. It may take a few weeks to really “kick in” but in studies, 100% of patients reported significant improvement after 8 weeks. Meanwhile, look for a probiotic supplement with at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per dose.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, Indian Gooseberry and Vitamins B6, B12 and C for Cardio Health
These vitamins and supplements—especially when combined—are a supercharged way to improve your cardiovascular health in several ways. They can lower your total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and triglycerides, boost HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and promote and maintain healthy blood pressure and overall circulation.
Look for a daily supplement with 5 mg of vitamin B6, 100 mg of vitamin B12, 50 mg of vitamin C, 800 – 1500 mg of omega-3 EFAs, and 500 mg of Indian Gooseberry extract.
L-theanine and GABA for Chronic Stress and Anxiety
I think we all experience stress and anxiety to a degree, but some of us suffer from unhealthy amounts of it daily. In addition to ruining your day, chronic stress and anxiety damage your long-term health. Chronically elevated cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”) can cause a host of conditions such as diabetes, depression, heart disease, liver disease, acid reflux, nausea and much more.
Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) and L-theanine are natural stress and anxiety fighters. GABA is an amino acid that you make in your brain that releases serotonin in stressful situations. But sometimes you need more than your own body can produce—especially if you experience chronic stress and anxiety. Look for a supplement with 100 mg/day.
L-theanine is another amino acid. It stimulates production of alpha brain waves, which help your mind calm down in the face of stress and anxiety. It helps tone down the “brain chatter” that keeps a lot of us awake at night, making it an effective sleep aid as well. L-theanine is found in abundance in green tea and supplement form. Look for a supplement that has 200 mg/day.
CBT & Massage for Depression and Pain
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy that can be used to treat depression and pain. A CBT-trained therapist won’t encourage you to lie on a couch and talk about your mom. They’ll help you develop new ways of talking to yourself, to reframe the way you deal with depression and pain so they’re less absorbing and you can focus on other parts of your life. This improves your quality of life and lowers your stress, which can actually lower your pain, in a virtuous cycle.
Massage is another drug-free therapy which acts on lowering stress. So many adults are lonely that they’re touch-starved, and a massage therapist is a friendly, therapeutic way to experience healing touch. In addition, if your pain problems are caused or worsened by muscles being held oddly or misaligned, a therapist can hep physically relax and pull your body into better shape.
Curcumin, Omega-3 EFAs and White Willow Bark for Chronic/Arthritic Pain
The dangers of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are finally starting to sink into the medical community. But what’s missing from the conversation is a safe and effective replacement.
Enter curcumin, omega-3 EFAs, and white willow bark. Each are natural pain and inflammation fighters. Numerous studies show that they are just effective as aspirin and ibuprofen in treating pain and reducing inflammation, plus they do so without any side effects. I recommend that you take at least 480 mg/day of white willow bark.
Meanwhile, curcumin and omega-3 EFAs are most effective when taken daily. Take 1,500 mg of curcumin, broken into 2-3 doses, over the course of the day. Meanwhile, take 1,000 to 1,500 mg of omega-3 EFA daily. Look for a higher ratio of EPA to DHA.
You Can be Healthy AND Happy
Bottom line, the more medications you take, the more likely you are to suffer from their side effects. In several ways, depression and suicidal thoughts are common threads that connect many of those drugs. Before beginning any new prescription, have a frank discussion with your doctor about the side effects. If you currently take one of many medications linked to depression, talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of tapering off them and consider natural alternatives that are free of side effects.
Aubrey, Allison. “1 in 3 Adults in the U.S. Takes Medications Linked to Depression.” NPR. Published June 12, 2018.
Last Updated: December 6, 2018