Natural Methods vs. Mental Health Medications for Treatment of Depression
Society as a whole has become more aware of mental illness and most of us have had a bought with at least mild to moderate depression. All too often we are bombarded with media and television to instruct us toward medications as a cure for various ailments. Though, what is not discussed or explained is that many self-help and natural measures are just as successful in treatment as are medications, in particular with symptoms of mild to moderate depression.
So one must ask, why not use natural methods to alleviate these unwanted emotions rather than popping a pill. Truly many will seek out the quick fix of a pill and move on rather than making the effort of implementing holistic and healthy measures. One must ask if a quick fix or along-term solution is desired as those enticing commercials and ads do not divulge that when you stop taking the medications often times the unwanted mood symptoms return.
Lets look at the most popular medication types for depression and I will discuss what they do and then will enlighten all of you of some natural methods to replace this short term so called “miracle cure” that is pushed all over the media.
There are many classifications of antidepressants, I will only review the most common. These include SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor), SNRI’s (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor) , TCA’s (Tricyclic Antidepressants) and MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors).
Common SSRI’s –
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva, Brisdelle)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
Common Side Effects –
Nausea, trouble sleeping, nervousness, tremors, and sexual problems
Common SNRI’s –
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
Common side effects –
Nausea, drowsiness, fatigue, constipation and dry mouth
Common TCA’s –
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
- Trimipramine (Surmontil)
Common side effects –
Constipation, dry mouth, fatigue
MAO’s –are not discussed in this article as they are older medication, not commonly used due to dangerous interactions with other medications and are less effective than newer medications.
How These Medications Work
These medications are effective for treating depression through the preservation of Serotonin and Norepinephrine in the bloodstream. Serotonin and Norepinephrine are very important neurotransmitters that the body naturally produces and are used for various functions in the body. Serotonin in known as the feel good chemical as it is known to produce relaxation and tiredness, while Norepinephrine is compared to adrenaline and contributes to attention and concentration.
Improve Serotonin Creation
Serotonin is mostly found in the stomach, thereby diet is very important in the creation and maintenance of this chemical. Serotonin is created from the amino acid Trytophan that is found in food such as red meat, cheese and nuts. However, foods that are high in simple carbohydrates increases insulin and allow more tryptophan to enter brain resulting in an almost immediate calming effect. This chemical interaction is part of the reason these foods are so desirable and craved when stressed. Serotonin aids in sleep, mood health, sexual functions and healthy bowel movements. Low levels of serotonin have been related to depression. Other than food consumption, exercise is the most natural form of increasing serotonin in the brain and has been found equally effective in comparison to antidepressant medications. If unable to find an optimal level of serotonin in your food or exercise there are natural supplements such as 5-HTP, Vitamin B6 and B12 and folate which should be taken under the supervision of your physician.
Norepinephrine – is also a neurotransmitter frequently referred to as noradrenaline and is released in the bloodstream when needed for the “fight or flight” response. Increased levels help with mood by increasing energy and concentration. As with serotonin, norepinephrine can also be found in your diet as the building blocks of this neurotransmitter is created from the amino acid tyrosine. Some foods that contain tyrosine include bananas, beans, cheese, chocolate, eggs, fish/seafood, meat and oatmeal. Again exercise is a foundational factor to increased norepinephrine. Some supplements that have been known to help increase this neurotransmitter are tyrosine, L-phenylalanine, L-Carnitine, Arctic Root, Velvet Bean, Asian Ginseng.
In conclusion, it was once thought that a miracle was upon us when antidepressants became widespread and easily accessible. Though, it is well known that natural measures such as a well balanced diet of veggies, meat, dairy and nuts can help to manage poor mood among other ailments. In addition, adding essential building blocks necessary to create serotonin and norepinephrine through vitamins and supplements to our bodies will aid in mood balance. So the question remains – are these medications more harmful than helpful since most symptoms related to mild or moderate depression can be treatment holistically.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide information only. This is not a substitute for in person medical treatment, evaluation or diagnosis. If you believe that you may have depression it is imperative to talk with a mental health provider to evaluate appropriate treatment.
Annette (Gbemudu) Ogbru, PharmD, MBA; 2018; RX list webpage; Tricyclic Antidepressants; https://www.rxlist.com/tricyclic_antidepressants_tcas/drugs-condition.htm
Kristeen Cherney; Medically reviewed by Susan J. Bliss, RPh, MBA; April 17, 2017; Healthline Newsletter, What Medications Help Treat Depression?; https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/medication-list
Annamarya Scaccia , Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT, May 18, 2017, Healthline Newsletter, Serotonin: What You Need to Know, https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin
Marcia Purse, Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD; May 03, 2018; Verywell Mind, What is Norepinephrine’s Role in Treating Mood Problems?, https://www.verywellmind.com/norepinephrine-380039
BrainMD Life, November 1, 2016, 4 Ways to boost your serotonin, https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/4-ways-to-boost-your-serotonin/
Deane Alban, Reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC, November 25, 2018, Be Brain Fit, How to Balance Norepinephrine Levels Naturally, https://bebrainfit.com/balance-norepinephrine/