Natural depression treatments
Philip Rouchotas, MSc, ND
Got the February blahs? You could be one of many people who suffer from the winter blues. Fortunately, natural options exist to lift your spirits.
The post-New Year’s let-down encompasses feelings of bleakness and burnout that affect a number of us in the aftermath of the holidays. Many people are affected by blue feelings in the New Year, and for those struggling with depression, these feelings often worsen.
For many suffering with depression, mood-enhancing medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants, are often perceived as the only way to cope with these feelings on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunately, recent evidence suggests that these medications are not necessarily effective for those with mild to moderate depression. In a study of 4,041 patients started on one common SSRI, only 108 patients (under 3 percent) were still in remission and did not either relapse or drop out of the study after 12 months.
Furthermore, the side effects that some experience while taking antidepressants—such as dizziness, increased anxiety, and decreased sex drive—may leave patients looking for other treatment options.
Fortunately, several natural therapies have been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression.
Large meta-analyses have shown that the omega-3s found in fish and fish oil supplements are effective in the treatment of depression when the oil contains at least 60 percent EPA. Oils that are DHA-based or contain equal amounts of EPA and DHA have been shown to be ineffective for the treatment of depression.
Vitamin D supplementation has also been shown to improve mood in patients with major depression. One study of 441 patients found that those who had supplemented with at least 20,000 IU of vitamin D each week for a year showed significant improvement of depressive symptoms. The placebo group, meanwhile, showed no significant improvement.
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is a well-researched and well-accepted natural treatment for depression. A review of 29 trials has concluded that St. John’s wort extract may be just as effective as standard antidepressants in treating depressive symptoms and that this treatment may be achieved with fewer side effects when compared to conventional medicines.
No one currently on antidepressants should discontinue use of these medications without medical consultation and supervision, as this may cause worsening depression and anxiety. Appropriate use of natural therapies in consultation with a health care professional can help ease the process of weaning off such medications, and can help manage depression in patients who are not medicated.