Treat Depression with Omega-3s
Have you or someone you know been feeling down for the past few weeks? Lost interest in things that used to be enjoyable? Or maybe you’re gaining weight, finding it difficult to focus, struggling to sleep, or sleeping too much?
When someone tells me they aren’t excited about anything any longer, that they’re down in the dumps most of the time, I get worried.
Here’s why: At least ten percent of the population suffers from depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The condition ranges from mild (dysthymia) to life threatening, known as major depressive disorder. Depression is on the rise. Experts predict it will be the second leading cause of disability in this country soon.
Untreated, depression can disrupt sleep, destroy appetite, job performance, and sex life. Depression alienates family, friends, and co-workers. It is also linked to physical ailments — headache, indigestion, fatigue, constipation, and back pain.
Most of us know what depression feels like. Short term, it’s a perfectly normal reaction to days when life hands you a lemon or two. But when feelings of sadness turn into long-term hopelessness and despair, or start interfering with day-to-day activities, it’s time to do something about it.
Some people have found relief with mindfulness meditation, while others have turned to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). But there’s another drug-free method I want to tell you about, a remedy that’s safe, effective, benefits your entire body, and is free of side effects.
Visiting a conventional doctor for depression typically ends with a prescription for an antidepressant. That doesn’t mean the depression will end, though.
Antidepressants have serious downsides. For example, they only work for about half of those who take them.
Two, they have very nasty side effects, including nausea, sweating, dizziness, constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, decreased sex drive, headaches, and much more.
And if that’s not enough, remember that it can be very difficult to quit, something doctors seldom mention when writing a prescription. The truth is, you need medical supervision if you decide to stop taking these drugs. Going cold turkey is not a good idea. That’s why I recommend you avoid them and use natural remedies instead.
Part of the problem is that mental health experts still don’t know exactly what causes depression. But here’s what we do know: the brain is mostly fat.
Brain cells thrive in an environment rich in a particular type of fat known as omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Babies, for example, need omega-3 EFAs, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), for proper development of their brains and eyes. And the DHA-brain connection doesn’t go away as you get older.
Not long ago, DHA was fairly easy to get from food. Cattle were pastured, so they ate omega-3-rich grass, not grain, like today’s feedlot cattle. As a result, meat and milk were excellent sources of good fats.
Today, unless you eat expensive, grass-fed beef or plenty of fish, which is full of toxins, you’re probably deficient in omega-3s. And if you’re living with depression, too few omega-3s may be causing the problem.
The first thing I recommend is eating less commercial or prepared foods – fast food, chips, margarine, snacks, and anything made with common vegetable oils, like soy, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oil.
The more bad fats you eat, the harder it is for your brain to function properly. These fats interfere with your brain’s neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that direct many bodily functions and play a big role in mood. They also contain high levels of inflammation-promoting omega-6 EFAs.
The key to improving emotional health with EFAs is balancing intake of omega-3s and -6s. The ideal ratio for omega-6s and -3s should be 2:1, but the typical American consumes roughly a ratio of 20:1 or worse!
The easy way to balance omega-3 and omega-6 intake is by simply cutting back on prepared and processed foods, while increasing consumption of omega-3s.
And there’s one more step that makes it easy to get depression-easing omega-3s in exactly the right proportions.
When my friend Jill asked me for advice, she described herself as “desperate” for relief. She’d been seeing a psychiatrist for depression. But after taking antidepressants for several years, she felt like she was treading water emotionally. Plus, she was not happy about the weight gain caused by the drugs.
I explained how to slowly taper off the prescription drugs. At the same time, I told Jill to take at least 3 grams daily of a purified, molecularly distilled, sustainable source of omega-3s in a formula balanced to help ease her depression and keep her brain in top working order.
Just a few months later, Jill came back to let me know how well she was doing. “No more crying jags or moping around all day,” she said. “And those 40 pounds I was complaining about? They’re gone! I couldn’t be any happier!
Last Updated: December 6, 2018
Originally Published: July 8, 2014