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Beating the Blues

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Beating the Blues

Itâ??s always tempting to recommend successful holistic remedies to your friends--in the case of depression, itâ??s absolutely necessary.

It’s always tempting to recommend successful holistic remedies to your friends–in the case of depression, it’s absolutely necessary.

Unlike most disorders, a person suffering from depression may not be capable of embarking on a self-help protocol, leaving it up to loved ones to provide outside intervention and guidance. Armed with an understanding of the condition and these powerful holistic tools, you could make an enormous difference in a friend or relative’s life.

Depression is not a weakness or a state of mind that one can easily "snap out of." It is a health disorder that interferes with feelings, thoughts, behavior and physical functioning. Women have a one in 10 chance of developing a chronic state of despair and anguish–twice the risk that men face. Severely depressed individuals may experience apathy and helplessness that perpetuates the cycle of passivity and indecisiveness.

Light Blue, Deep Blue

All of us go through feelings of sadness, disappointment, anxiety or despair. A depressive response to a particularly difficult situation can be natural and healthy. It may enhance abilities to overcome emotional challenges while allowing an increase in creative problem-solving techniques. The down time may provide an opportunity for healing insight, reevaluation and transformation. A few blue days grant us an excuse to slow down and re-program.

Clinical depression, unlike transient blues, is out of proportion to life’s situations and may occur or reoccur for no apparent reason.

Early signs of depression may include a lack of motivation, an inability to concentrate, mood swings and crying for no obvious reason. Other symptoms might include loss of appetite, erratic sleeping patterns, and a complete loss of interest in daily activities–including ones that normally provide pleasure. A clinically depressed individual may withdraw completely from life’s activities. Thoughts of death and suicide are not uncommon. The incidence of serious depression often increases with age.

There is no single cause for depression but many cases appear to be linked to abnormalities in brain chemistry, namely lower levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter in the brain that is closely related to mood.) Some cases of depression are linked to poor nutrition and inadequate vitamin consumption. Food allergies and hypoglycemia can also cause mood swings and irrational behavior.

Where to Turn

A healthy diet that provides a good balance of all important nutrients with an emphasis on cultured dairy products, bananas, turkey and soy based foods is best. These foods are natural sources of tryptophan, which is necessary in the formulation of serotonin.

Eat small frequent meals to help keep blood sugar levels in balance and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Calcium (1,200 mg daily) and magnesium (400 mg daily) work best when taken together at bedtime and are essential to the proper functioning of the central nervous system. One hundred mcg of trivalent chromium taken three times a day will help keep blood sugar levels in balance while folic acid (low levels are often found in a depressed person) works closely with vitamin B12 (vital to the creation of red blood cells.) The effective dosage of vitamin B12 is highly variable from one person to another but a daily dose of 1,000 mcg taken sublingually (under the tongue) with 100 mg of a vitamin B complex is recommended. Vitamin C with bioflavonoids (500 mg twice daily) increases resistance, and helps combat fatigue.

Ginkgo biloba increases the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and may help relieve symptoms of depression. Kava kava may assist in easing mental anxiety and anguish. Oat straw, high in silica, helps support the central nervous system and Siberian ginseng is known to improve the balance of important neurotransmitters.

Valerian extract taken one hour before bedtime may reduce sleeplessness in some people. It should not be taken in conjunction with alcohol, antihistamines, antidepressants or other psychotropic drugs and is recommended for acute insomnia only, not as part of an overall program for chronic insomnia.

St John’s wort may help to alter brain chemistry while improving the immune system in such a way as to improve mood and ease depression but should be used with caution. Evening primrose oil (two 500 mg capsules three times daily) will lift the spirit because it produces hormone-like substances (prostaglandins) which are key to many chemical processes.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Sometimes when days are short and sunlight is reduced or nonexistent, the retina of the eye fails to send proper messages to the hypothalamus, which, in turn, transmits signals to keep the rest of the body in its regulated state. SAD, often called "the winter blues" frequently affects those living in northern climes during the cold winter months.

People with SAD have lost the natural rhythm that signals the body to fall asleep and wake at the proper times. As the days grow shorter, a lack of sunlight affects hormone levels, especially that of melatonin (often found in higher levels than normal in SAD subjects.) Sufferers oversleep without feeling refreshed; crave carbohydrates; feel anxious and irritable; and become frustratingly difficult. Increasing consumption of vitamins C and B may assist in reducing listlessness and strengthen the nerves. Borage juice and herbal teas made from licorice root are recommended for melancholy and depression.

Bright light therapy (available in the form of light boxes or portable light visors) has demonstrated dramatic improvement in SAD symptoms. This treatment involves exposure to intense light, up to 2,500lux (technical measure of brightness) under specified conditions. Individuals undergoing light therapy orient their head and body toward the light while reading, eating or doing some other activity but do not look directly at the diffusing screens.

Most importantly, don’t wear yourself out. Providing your loved one with tools to recovery and helping guide them is all you can do–the rest is up to them.

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