Depression is a pretty complex condition. Most people assume that depression occurs due to unfortunate or unwanted events in a person life, however, this is not always the case. In fact, genetics, nutrition, and neurochemistry also play a very significant role in depression.
In this article, I will cover methods of managing depression naturally without adverse effects.
Depression can occur as a result of several factors including:
–Abuse – Sexual, physical, emotional and even verbal.
–Death or Loss – This results in grief which increases the chances of developing depression
–Personal problems – Lack of social life, poor grades, being cast out by friends or family
–Substance Abuse – These people tend to also suffer from depression
–Medications – Certain medication like corticosteroids, result in an increased chance of depression
–Chronic Illness – People suffering from chronic illnesses tend to become depressed about their circumstances especially when it affects major aspects of their life
–Genetics may also play a role.
–Poor nutrition, etc.
When a person is depressed, certain neurotransmitters within the brain such as “Serotonin” tend to be less present. According to research, people suffering from depression or who have a history of depression tend to have a smaller “Hippocampus”. The Hippocampus is a part of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe. When the Hippocampus is small in size, it has fewer Serotonin receptors.
Importance Of Counseling
Above all else, in clinical depression, counseling is needed. Just being able to release your emotions and talk it out, helps a person to deal with their situation. Being able to openly admit that there is a problem, is the first step toward healing.
Many people are able to recover from depression on their own but, having someone to guide you through the process of healing can be quite beneficial and at times, much needed.
Also, writing down your feelings in a journal can be therapeutic as it helps to let out your emotions.
Firstly, we can assist the brain in producing serotonin by consuming an adequate amount of B-vitamins and l-Tryptophan. In order to make the neurotransmitters responsible for making a person feel better, we must give the body the raw materials to build those neurotransmitters.
The brain can be supported with the use of psychotropic medicinal plants known as Nootropics.
Nootropics aid in treating depression by improving the function of the brain, assisting in the regeneration of brain tissue and reversing damage. These are needed to help to restore and improve the brains’ ability to produce neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, etc.
These nootropics are used for treating Psychiatric and Neurological disorders and research backs up the claims of these medicinal plants. According to Ayurveda, these herbs work more effectively when combined with other herbs of similar nature. A common combination used by Ayurvedic doctors is Bacopa Mennieri and Ashwagandha.
These two herbs when combined are highly beneficial for improving brain function, regulating hormones, improving the mood, and supporting and production of neurotransmitters.
Several clinical trials on Ashwagandha and Bacopa Mennieri have proven their ability in treating Depression. These herbs have been studied for its effects on stress, depression, and anxiety, and in all these studies they have been proven to be highly effective. (see study 1 & study 2)
The most common way for doctors to treat depression is to put patients on anti-depressants. Most anti-depressants are “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors” aka SSRIs.
St. Johns Wort is gaining much attention for its ability to support healthy levels of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine (see study). In studies, it has improved symptoms of depression similarly to standard anti-depressants (see study). Note that it also has little or no side effects, especially when compared to most SSRIs which can be quite problematic in other areas of life (Eg. Reduced sexual desire, etc)
Dr. Robert Brown, a clinical associate professor at the University Of Virginia School of Medicine says “Exercise produces chemical and psychological changes that improve your mental health. It changes the levels of hormones in the blood and may elevate your beta-endorphins. Exercise may also improve the function of the autonomic nervous system.”
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, exercise has been proven to regenerate neurons (brain cells), which is something that was previously considered to be impossible. The effects of exercise on the body, brain, and mind are severely over-looked by most doctors.
A simple exercise like walking for an hour first thing in the morning can help elevate your mood and reduce Cortisol, the stress hormone that plays a huge role in depression. Yoga is also known to reduce stress and should be practiced by those suffering from depression.
Firstly, Serotonin is produced from an amino acid known as Tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP which is then further converted into Serotonin. As I have mentioned earlier in this post, B-Vitamins are also essential for producing Serotonin and in addition, the consumption of Vitamin C is also associated with better moods. Diet plays a huge role in treating depression, in fact, a persons’ diet is responsible for their mental health since all the raw materials needed to produce neurotransmitters, come from your food.
Nutritious foods such as pomegranates, avocados, green vegetables, eggs, fish and whole grains are essential for a persons well-being. A good amount of dietary fat is required for proper brain function, so eating eggs, almonds, avocados, pure butter, nuts, and seeds is a must!
Tryptophan-rich foods include Walnuts, Eggs, Cheese, Salmon, Pineapple, etc.
B-Vitamins can be found in Berries, Eggs, Lean meats, Organ meats, Fish, Chicken, and Dark leafy vegetables.
In addition to this, Tryptophan requires healthy gut bacteria to be properly metabolized, so consuming foods that are rich in probiotics is also essential. In fact, there is a substantial amount of evidence linking probiotics and gut health to mental health.
Probiotics sources include Buttermilk, Kefir, Yogurt, etc.
Try your best to eat organic.
Natural Mood Improvement
Mucuna Pruriens, a herb known for its high L-dopa content and potent aphrodisiac effects, can be used for enhancing one’s mood. A lot of people in the Alternative Health community believe that this is due to its L-dopa content, however, I do not entirely agree. L-dopa may be a precursor for dopamine, however, it’s not the only ingredient in Mucuna Pruriens. In fact, the pods of the herb contain Serotonin. Although research has shown that deficient serotonin may be associated with increased dopamine, in animal studies with this herb, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels were all restored. Much more research is needed on this herb especially since L-dopa is NOT THE ONLY active chemical in it, however, it is safe to use for mild mood improvement. I personally recommend using this herb in moderation and preferably only when a person is feeling a little down rather than in the case of “Clinical Depression”.
1. “Ashwagandha – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.”Ashwagandha. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.
5. Bakhru, H. K. A Complete Handbook of Nature Cure: The Most Comprehensive Family Guide to Health the Natural Way. Mumbai: Jaico Pub. House, 1994. Print.
(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
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by Dr. Nishal R.