Every person on earth has probably experienced depression, at one time or another. But for approximately one out of four women, and one of eight men, depression is an ongoing problem. It comes in many shapes, triggered by a different life events and situations. Before you turn to potentially dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, you may want to consider some natural approaches.
Summer is winding down, and in the next few months the days will be getting shorter. For many people, lack of sunlight and time out-of-doors result in SAD, seasonal affective disorder. For earlier generations, this was less likely to be a problem. Most people worked in agriculture, and were exposed to much higher levels of bright light, even during winter.
Light levels are described in lux, a measure of illumination. Outside light intensity (even on cloudy days) can exceed 1,000 lux. That level is unlikely to ever be achieved indoors. One study showed that people who worked 30 hours a week averaged only 1,000 lux exposure for half an hour a day in the winter, and and hour and a half in the summer. We are living in a state of bright-light deprivation.
Exposure to bright light increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, in response to light. It is also produced in blood platelets, the central nervous system and digestive tract. Scientists now know 95 percent of your body’s serotonin is found in the digestive tract, which is closely connected to the brain through the vagus nerve, and through a newly discovered pathway in the lymphatic system.
Serotonin is often called the “feel good” hormone, and it is important in regulating mood. Your body also produces about 40 other neurotransmitters critical to mental health. Many depression drugs act to increase serotonin and other transmitters in the brain. Unfortunately, many of these drugs have extreme side effects, sometimes exacerbating the very problems they are designed to solve.
Here are some natural treatments for depression:
1. Bright full-spectrum lighting – If you suffer from SAD, your first line of defense should be to buy and use a full-spectrum light.
2. A gut-friendly diet, along with probiotics – Stay away from sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates like white flour, and bad fats. Replace those with organic fruits, vegetables and chicken, wild-caught fish, and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. Supplement with probiotics to increase the “good bacteria” in your gut.
3. Tryptophan – This amino acid is a precursor to serotonin, and for many people, it relieves symptoms of depression within a week or two.
4. Aerobic exercise – Thirty minutes of exercise cause your body to release mood-enhancing endorphins and raise your serotonin levels.
5. Fish oil and other essential fatty acids – These have been shown to improve mood.
7. Lithium Orotate – This form of lithium is often effective in improving symptoms of bipolar illness.
8. B Vitamins – These vitamins work synergistically, so take the B-complex vitamin.
For best results, consult with a natural health practitioner. The remedies described above are only a few in the natural toolbox.