Did you know that one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder? According to the U.S Census, this translates to 57.7 million people over 18 years of age, and of these reported, 40 million have an anxiety disorder, including depression.
Mental Health Awareness week in October brings awareness to these issues to overcome stigma, provide support and educate the public on important health initiatives to manage these conditions. According to medical doctors, Douglas Levinson and Walter Nichols, Professors at Stanford School of Medicine, there may be genetic changes that can increase the predisposition to depression and certain anxiety disorders, however more research is needed to understand the cause fully. What we do know is that depression and anxiety are complex problems and can have multiple factors contributing to their diagnosis. Studies have shown that a deficiency in nutrients, such as vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and amino acids, can also play a large role in contributing to symptoms and worsening of these issues long term.
Natural Supplements for Depression
What is Depression and Anxiety?
Many who suffer with anxiety disorder may also suffer from depression, and the same goes for those who suffer from depression, may be affected by anxiety. The good news is the treatment for these disorders typically involve similar interventions. With depression, one may feel sad, unmotivated, hopeless or disinterested in daily activities, whereas anxiety can occur before or after depression, or can be experienced all on it’s own. Of course, it’s common for everyone to feel this way every once in awhile, but when this feeling is ongoing, lasting weeks and interfering with daily life, is when it can lead to a diagnosis.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Symptoms of Depression to look out for include:
- Mood Changes
- Personality Changes
- Personal Habits Changes
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness, hopelessness or pessimism
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Overeating or appetite loss
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Common symptoms of Anxiety include:
- Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Problems sleeping
- Cold or sweaty hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Muscle tension
Genetics and Depression
Is there a gene that makes one more susceptible to depression, or is a nutritional deficiency at the root cause? Research has linked certain nutrient deficiencies with specific genes, making some people predisposed to having lower concentrations of vitamins, such as vitamin D, B12 and B6 in the body.
Supplements for Depression and Anxiety
Diet and Supplements for Depression
Traditionally, pharmaceuticals are used as treatment in managing mental health issues, however, we know now there’s much that can be done with alternative measures that are less invasive with little to no side effects. The following supplements have been researched to be effective at addressing and managing anxiety and depression:
Deficiency of Folic Acid and B12 have been found among those with depression, alcoholism, and recurrent mood disorders. Treatment using folic acid supplementation has been shown to improve response to antidepressants and possibly give an even better outcome, especially if B12 is used concurrently. It is also interesting to note that populations with traditional Chinese diets (naturally rich in folate), such as in Hong Kong and Taiwan, have high serum folate concentrations. These countries have overall very low rates of depression, especially when compared to Americans.
In 1949, Australian physician, John Cade, discovered that lithium salts have a tranquilizing effect which controlled and treated a host of mood disorders. The FDA then approved lithium salts as a drug for manic illnesses in 1970. For decades now psychiatrists have been prescribing lithium, alone or in combination with other anti-depressants as a treatment for a variety of anxiety disorders, such as depression and mania. Lithium can increase serotonin turnover and therefore enhance serotonin neurotransmission. Studies show that it can reduce suicide risk, and prevent future manic and depressive episodes.
SAMe (S-adenosy-L-methionine) is a natural molecule in the body that has been studied as an antidepressant alternative. SAMe may affect the quantity of neurotransmitters, which helps communication between the brain and the body. Unlike other alternatives to antidepressants, such as St John’s Wort, SAMe works quickly, which can produce changes in mood within days rather than weeks for antidepressant treatment, and months for herbal treatment. SAMe is known to be very safe, although uncommon, gastrointestinal upset may be a side effect for some.
The ginkgo tree is one of the oldest species in the world, dating back to 2600BC. It’s uses, including therapeutically, varies greatly. Ginkgo has been documented to improve blood flow and circulation which may help with memory loss, dizziness, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and even mood disturbances, all which are common in anxiety disorders.
Herbs have been used for centuries for a variety of issues. They are a great alternative to manage anxiety with little to no side effects.
Lavender can be helpful with restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, migraines and depression. German chamomile has been studied to also assist in trouble with sleeping and restlessness. Passionflower can help with insomnia, gastrointestinal upset, palpitations, and high blood pressure that can all result from chronic anxiety and ongoing stress. Herbs can be taken in a variety of ways from inhalation (aromatherapy), applying directly to the skin (diluted with a carrier oil), or even placed in hot baths to gain benefits. Every person’s body will react differently, although in general most have a positive result, rather than a negative experience.
Incorporating physical activity, getting enough sleep and practicing mindful exercises are all ways to approach any type of anxiety in an integrative way. It takes more than just drugs or supplements, but support from these can greatly assist in recovery and management.