Our Merman Jay Fickess is back and sharing insights on how natural remedies can help ease depression.
If you are burdened with depression or know someone who is, you know that its effects can be seriously debilitating. Estimates are that depression is the second leading cause of disability in the United States. The disease is not a myth or a mood. You can’t think your way out of it, it’s not a reflection on character and it’s not a natural part of aging. Given the severity of the disease, it is not surprising that there are a number of medications available to deal with it. Some are more effective than others for a specific person and it’s often difficult to find the medication that works. Many people spend months or years on various medications that are more or less effective and often they continue to suffer while the search is on. However, there are several effective things that someone can do to help ease depression or in some cases eliminate it altogether. And they don’t require drugs.
The first thing to do is to find out if you are clinically depressed. This might seem obvious, but when you’re not feeling well, it can sometimes be difficult to know exactly what is going on. There are tests for depression that you can take online. A good depression test is found in Forbidden Cures: Proven Health Solutions Your Doctor Was Never Taught, published by The Institute For Natural Healing. Much of the information for this article is drawn from this book. If you think you might be depressed, go see a physician. He or she will run tests to rule out physical or environmental causes of your symptoms. Once you know you suffer depression, you are armed with information that will set you on the road to recovery.
There are tools to help recovery that don’t involve taking medication. If you have a clear idea of what is happening in your life right now, during depression and can set out some clear goals, then you can create a clear image of a healthier life. Keeping a journal is a powerful tool, particularly if you write about your feelings and goals and if you make journaling a daily practice. Exercise is a highly effective in combating depression. Do something to make yourself sweat every day.
It may come as no surprise that diet plays a critical role in the way that depression affects our lives. The culprits are the usual ones: sugar and carbs. Many people depend on them and cravings for foods with lots of sugar and carbs can be powerful. The problem lies in the sugar crash. After our bodies put out large amounts of insulin and adrenaline to break down the sugars, we feel a low that is often only cured by more sugar and carbs. For those who suffer depression, the low-energy mode is a precarious situation to be in.
Instead of sugary and high-carbohydrate foods, many of which are void of much nutrition, opt for foods that are higher in protein and healthy fats. Protein is important not only because it’s the building block for many of our bodies’ tissues but because amino acids are basic components of neurotransmitters. Lean meat, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. Choose organically raised food when you can since it doesn’t contain the herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals that a lot of food does.
Healthy fats are, not surprisingly, the omega-3’s that are found in fish and healthy oils like olive oil. Avoid the trans fats that are found in a lot of processed food. Omega-3 is concentrated in brain cells and plays a vital role in the areas of the brain that affect mood. The fatty acids that our bodies derive from the breakdown of oils are essential—we have to get them from diet because our bodies don’t produce them. EPA and DHA are the active ingredients in omega-3 oils; EPA is the critical component. The fact that it plays such an important role in brain function was made evident in studies in animals. Animals deprived of omega-3’s were low functioning, anxious and less capable of making decisions. Those who were fed diets high in omega-3’s showed results similar to the way that Prozac affects a feeling of well-being. In fact, the supplemented diets resulted in an increase in the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical in the brain that is responsible for a sense of well-being and is enhanced by many antidepressant drugs.
It is interesting to note that in countries where people eat a lot of fish, rates of depression are relatively low. And in countries where people don’t eat so much fish, depression rates are higher. Which leads to the next topic: where to get your omega-3. Start with wild Alaskan salmon. This fish feeds on algae, in part, and not the grains that farm-raised fish are, so the concentration of omega-3 oil is higher. But salmon isn’t the only source. Many other types of fish are high in omega-3, including anchovies, sardines, shrimp, mollusks and rainbow trout. Don’t like fish? Then try grass-fed beef and free-range chicken and eggs. Use olive oil for cooking but don’t heat it too high—no more than 380 degrees fahrenheit. It has moderate amounts of omega-3 and is also lower in omega-6 oil, which competes with omega-3 for use by the body. Walnuts and flax seeds also have the essential oils that your body needs. Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kidney beans and pinto beans also contain omega-3. Finally, you can take a taste-free fish oil capsule. But be sure to take those that have a ratio of EPA to DHA of 3:2 or 2:1.
There is good news for those who suffer clinical depression. Your doctor may prescribe something for you but the best news is that there are other tools to help. Look at it this way: with a few lifestyle changes, including eating well, getting exercise and avoiding stress, you might be your own most powerful tool in dealing with depression effectively.