Depression affects over 16 million American adults each year. It can have a variety of causes and can manifest in numerous ways.
In modern psychiatry, treatment of depression often includes prescription antidepressant medications called “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (or SSRIs). The trouble is that many of these drugs come with negative side effects.
Known side effects of antidepressants include:
- Serotonin syndrome
- Headaches, dizziness, or blurred vision
- Nausea, indigestion, or other gastrointestinal issues
Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that may be just as effective in relieving even moderate depression and severe depression symptoms. We’ll show you how.
What is Depression?
Depression is classified as a mood disorder, much like anxiety and bipolar disorder. According to the National Institute of Health, it is characterized by “a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest.”
Other symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Decreased energy
- Inability to concentrate
- Frustration or irritability
- Suicidal thoughts
We all may experience these things from time to time. What sets depression apart as a mood disorder is the severity of the symptoms and their continued presence over time. A trained medical professional can help make sense of this.
Causes of major depressive disorder can range from health factors to family dynamics. Some causes include:
- Genetic factors
- Family history
- Stressful life events
- Illness or injury
- Drug and alcohol use
Is there a quick cure for depression? There is no quick fix for depression. Because the causes of depression can vary significantly from person to person, it takes time to find the optimal treatment plan for each patient. Once a treatment plan has been decided, it can also take time for the patient to begin seeing results.
What are some natural remedies for depression? Natural remedies for depression can include a range of options, from dietary adjustments to exercise and even mindfulness practices. We’ll take you through a variety of these remedies below.
Treating Depression: Home Remedies, Therapies, and Supplements
There is a wide variety of alternative medicines available to help with symptoms of depression. In fact, complementary and alternative medicines are widely used by mental health patients. These can range from supplements and herbal remedies to simple lifestyle changes. Here is a look at some of the best options.
A set routine can help provide a sense of structure and purpose. Your daily routine encompasses your sleep habits, eating habits, and physical activity. These are all important aspects of balancing your mental health and well-being. Maintaining a set routine may also reduce anxiety, which can often accompany depression.
Get Good Sleep
Conversely, when we don’t get adequate sleep, we can suffer a host of consequences. One randomized controlled trial found that insomnia can cause mental health issues, including “psychotic experiences.”
Eat Healthy Meals
Good nutrition is often associated with physical health. However, what you eat can play a significant role in mental health, as well. Like good sleep, your diet can impact everything from your energy levels to cognitive function and feelings of stress and anxiety.
Your optimal diet will depend on your individual biochemistry and food sensitivities. However, a healthy diet generally includes whole foods over processed foods and foods rich in nutrients.
Get Your Body Moving
Even low levels of physical activity may have a profound impact on mental health. If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, the simple act of getting up and going for a walk may make all the difference.
Here are some more options to consider:
Physical exercise impacts more than just our physical health. Regular exercise can be highly effective in treating symptoms of depression. It can directly influence our mood state for the better. Exercise can also reduce inflammation, which is linked to depression and other mental health problems.
Yoga is a popular form of low-impact exercise that incorporates physical postures and intentional breathing. Practicing yoga can lead to health benefits like improved strength, flexibility, and peace of mind. In fact, yoga has proven to be a powerful addition to treatments for a variety of mental health issues.
Did you know that simply getting more sunlight can relieve depression? It’s true. Light therapy has long been used to help those with seasonal affective disorder, but it also shows promising results in helping people with other forms of depression and mental illness.
Sunlight is also important for maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to poor mental health.
Beyond the importance of sunlight, simply interacting with nature may improve mood and memory. All the more reason to get out for a stroll through your local park.
Mindfulness practices teach us how to be more present and aware of our thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness can improve our well-being by helping us manage our emotions and regulate our behaviors.
Here are some ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life:
Put Down Your Phone
We say phone, but this really applies to any screen time. Pay attention to how much time you spend watching videos, scrolling through social media, and playing online or video games. As screen time increases, mental health professionals are seeing a rise in mood disorders, including depression. Individuals who spend over 4 hours per day of screen time are more likely to suffer.
Make an effort to unplug every day and engage with the space around you.
Meditation is a mindfulness practice that brings awareness to our thoughts and feelings. It can be a powerful complementary treatment for depression. A 2019 study found that even brief meditation practices can improve mood, memory, and focus.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal can help you make sense of your thoughts and emotions. Logging how you feel can help you to build awareness of your patterns and triggers.
Many people associate journaling with keeping a lengthy diary of daily events. However, journaling can be as simple as taking short notes about your thoughts and feelings.
Positive affect journaling focuses on the positive aspects of one’s life. This type of journaling has been shown to improve well-being and decrease mental distress.
There are various forms of counseling and psychotherapy. In most forms of psychotherapy, the patient meets with a professional to discuss his symptoms and methods of coping. Studies show that just 6-8 weeks of psychotherapy can be effective in relieving depression.
Community support groups may also help with depression. Support groups provide a safe space for individuals to share their struggles. However, it may take 6 months or more to see improvement from support groups alone.
Supplements May Help
Some dietary supplements may help combat nutritional deficiencies related to depression. Others may have natural antidepressant properties, impacting the neurotransmitters in our brains. Here are some over-the-counter supplements that can help with depression.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a wild plant, also known by the botanical name hypericum perforatum. Native to Asia and Europe, this plant is often used as an herbal remedy for mood depression and anxiety.
St. John’s wort impacts neurotransmitter concentrations in the brain. Some studies show that St. John’s wort was more effective than placebo in treating depressive symptoms. It may even have effects comparable to antidepressant medications.
Ginseng has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It helps regulate the body’s response to stress. It also has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that ginseng can reduce symptoms of stress-related depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that can be found in fish oil, seeds, and nuts. They are important for brain health and development. Studies show that omega-3 supplementation can be effective in helping to treat major depression.
B vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 play important roles in producing and regulating neurotransmitters. B vitamin deficiencies can negatively impact levels of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), all of which boost mood.
Long-term supplementation with folate and vitamin B12 may help decrease depressive symptoms.
We know vitamin C deficiency can cause physical ailments like scurvy, but it can also impact mental health. Taking vitamin C can improve overall mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of health issues, from mental health problems to chronic disease. Unfortunately, it is also a prevalent problem. Vitamin D affects 14% of the global population, including 40% of American adults.
For those with vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may reduce symptoms of depression and improve quality of life. Just be sure to take it with vitamin K2, so your body can properly absorb it.
In addition to the natural remedies above, there are some other options to discuss with your health care provider. Some of these are available in over-the-counter as well as prescription forms. Others may only be prescribed or administered by a licensed professional.
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is a compound that occurs naturally in the body. It’s a chemical that helps with hormone regulation. Some studies have found SAMe a promising treatment for psychological disorders.
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is a chemical with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Many people who suffer from major depressive disorder exhibit increased inflammation and oxidative stress. NAC can help reduce these symptoms and improve symptoms of depression.
Certain types of depression are associated with low levels of serotonin. 5-HTP supplements can help the body produce more serotonin and overcome the body’s deficiencies.
Ketamine comes in multiple forms and can help treat a variety of conditions. The drug was originally researched for anesthetic applications. However, ketamine also possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-depressive qualities.
What to Avoid
Sometimes our health problems, mental and otherwise, can be less about what we’re lacking and more about what we’re getting too much of. Additionally, mental health issues can result due to underlying neuroinflammation due to inflammatory foods such as seed oils, hydrogenated fats, and processed foods. Here are some common factors that may be negatively impacting your physical and emotional well-being.
You probably already know alcohol consumption is associated with a greater risk of health conditions, including multiple types of cancer. What many people don’t know is that alcohol can also worsen psychiatric disorders. While many people drink to “take the edge off” at the end of a hard day, that cocktail might have the opposite effect long-term.
Added sugars are common in a host of western foods. Unfortunately, consuming an excess of these sugars can negatively impact a number of biological factors that are implicated in mental health and depression.
If you know what causes your depression and negative moods, you can take steps to avoid these things. As mentioned before, journaling can help up build this awareness. Some common triggers of depression include:
- Stressful events
- Lack of sleep
- Injury or illness
- Lack of physical exercise
When to Seek Help
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or other mental illness, you are not alone. It is always good to talk about your mental health concerns with a trusted healthcare provider.
Need More Information?
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