Dealing with Depression with Supplements
If you are like many Americans, you have suffered a bout of depression at some point. Did you know that almost 7% of the population over the age of 18 is affected by depression in their lives? That is a huge number. That is a little over 14.5 million people. So, if you are feeling depressed, you are not alone.
Depression accounts for loss of work and issues in relationships for many people. The trick to it is that understanding that depression is in most cases not permanent. Additionally, gathering information, educating yourself and taking charge of your ailment will be both empowering and good for your self-esteem. It is important to know that you can take control of your depression and lead a normal life even when it is present in your life.
There is no cure for depression, but there are a number of things that you can do to lessen your symptoms. The first step is understanding your particular kind of depression. Please keep in mind that this guide is for general information. It is not a diagnosis or a substitute for medical care from a professional health care provider.
With that being said, let’s take a look at what kinds of depression there are and then learn the options for managing your symptoms.
Understanding the Types of Depression
Not all forms of depression are equal.
As understanding and acceptance of depression rises, the number of cases are also rising. This is happening as doctors and psychiatrists are working together, in conjunction with modern research, to understand the specific ins and outs of depression.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that there are 14.3 million people per year diagnosed with depression of some kind. The average onset of depression is 32 years old. However, children, teenagers and adults of all ages are prone to developing depression.
Out of those with depression, generally upon diagnosis your psychiatrist, therapist or primary care provider will discuss with you the kind of depression that you have.
Upon the onset of depression, you may feel like you are merely going through a funk. Often people will find that they feel low, they lack enthusiasm in things that they normally like to do, they feel less social or feeling tired and fatigued more and more often. These feelings can build up, developing into a deeper or long term depression of not treated.
It’s important to consider that each person is different and depression affects people in a variance of degrees. However, depending on the kind of depression that you are diagnosed with, you will more than likely find commonality with the following symptoms.
Common symptoms of depressive episodes:
- Extended periods of intense melancholy
- Increased desire to sleep and feeling fatigued
- Either a lack of interest or overindulging in food
- Irreconcilable or unpredictable states of anger
- Pessimism and inability to see the bright side of situations
- Long periods of apathy or lack of motivation
- Over reaching feelings of shame and/or guilt
- Unable to focus or think in a clear headed manner
- Disinterest in things you normally like doing
- Physical symptoms that cause discomfort
- Suicidal thoughts with or without a plan of action
When you discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider, they will want you to take certain steps in order to get better and find relief. Many people find that there are natural supplements that can also help them with their depression.
There are two main classifications of depression which are covered by either Major Depressive Disorder or Dysthymia. Let’s take a deeper look at what either of these kinds of depression can mean for a person that suffers from them.
Major Depressive Disorder
Almost 7% of the population is affected by Major Depressive Disorder. It often occurs with other conditions including personality disorders and PTSD.
Major Depressive Disorder is generally diagnosed if you have had at least two weeks of a depressive episode. Once a depressive period deepens and lasts a significant time amount, it is then categorized and treatment of some kind may be required.
Symptom of Major Depressive Disorder are similar to generalized depression.
These symptoms include:
- Ongoing depressed mood
- Lack of pleasure in activities
- Low self esteem
- Reduced or minimal sex drive
- Loss of motor skills or slowing
- Lack of energy and fatigue
- Excessive thoughts of death and/or suicide
- Acting on a suicidal impulse
Dysthymia Disorder is similar to Major Depressive Disorder in a number of ways. It similarly affects about 6% of the population over the course of a lifetime. It also has co-morbidity rates with other physical and mental ailments that can complicate the problem.
Rather than the intense and ongoing bursts of severe depressive feelings that can accompany Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder causes a general sense of apathy and lack of motivation over the course of two years. To be diagnosed with this disorder, then you need to have symptoms every day for at least two years (or one year for adolescents and teenagers). Additionally, during the time of symptoms you should not have had a manic or hypomanic episode. Even mixed episodes indicate other conditions such as Bipolar Disorder, which have additional symptoms not included in Dysthymic Disorder.
Some of the major symptoms of Dysthymia are:
- Difficulties with concentrating
- Inability or difficulty with making decisions
- Sleepiness, fatigue and lack of motivation
- Low self-esteem
- Insomnia or inability to sleep / stay asleep
Depression has been studied immensely. Today, the rules of diagnosis are dictated by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). They determine the classifications for types of depression and set the guidelines for treatment, billing and rules of prognosis.
Early research dates all the way back to the Greek culture. One highly noted physician and philosopher, Aretaeus of Cappadocia offered some of the oldest insight on the condition in his two books ‘The Treatment of Chronic Diseases’ and ‘On the Aetiology and Symptomatology of Chronic Diseases’. In recent years, there has been more study on the long-term effects of depression of all varieties.
With this research, doctors and scientists have been able to pinpoint triggers, coping skills and methods to deal with episodes so that people can function better. This makes sense, since all versions of depression are so prevalent in the population.
However, in spite of these advances in understanding the depressive disorder, there is no cure for it. The symptoms are highly treatable though. With a bit of effort, the right medications and supplements for depression you can find that there is hope and that depression (no matter what form) does not mean an emotional death sentence.
Talking to Your Doctor
Because the rules that are used for a depression diagnosis require seeking out of treatment of some kind, it is estimated that depression is much more rampant that reported. If you are feeling any of the common symptoms of depression, it is important to notify your primary care provider about the symptoms. Try to keep a journal about your feelings and bring it in. This helps for you to give an accurate explanation of your symptoms and can help your doctor give you a proper diagnosis.
Tips and What to Expect In Office
When your doctor first sees you for depression you can expect to be asked a lot of questions. This can feel invasive. Feelings are hard to talk about. But understand that you are not alone and this is not the first time that your doctor has had this discussion with someone. Men and women both suffer from depression and your doctor has likely seen many people with a range of mental health problems.
In most cases, depression will lead to a referral to a therapist (MST) or a psychiatrist. Sometimes procedure for this can be dictated by insurance, as may some other diagnosis tools be too.
Keep in mind that depression can often present in ways that mimic physical illness. One person may complain of feeling like they are so tired and fatigued that it could sound like they have anything from PMS to a sleep disorder. Another person may indicate a decrease in interest towards eating with the inability to sleep. Cancer and gastrointestinal disorders both have this symptom as well.
Your doctor will want to rule out any potential physical ailments or conditions before making a definitive definition of depression.
Sometimes people will think that the doctor doesn’t care, that they are just pushing depression supplements or medication at them without fixing the problem. Be patient and understand that all of the information that they need (including family history or even details about your own history that you may not feel comfortable indulging in)
There are a number of treatment options for depression but most commonly you will be referred to therapy and do a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in conjunction with potential medications or supplements for depression. Your doctor will work with you to determine thebest route.
Stay patient while trying to find a solution to your depression because it can often take 3-6 months to find the right program for you that will address your personal treatment goals and needs. If you take medications or supplements for depression, they can take up to 3 months to build up and be effective in the body.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common options that you may be presented with when you seek out help for your depression symptoms:
Mood stabilizers work with your body’s natural chemistry to balance out your overall emotional demeanor. Essentially, they aim to balance out a lack or overstimulation that your body
Common Side Effects of Mood Stabilizers:
- Excessive feelings lethargy
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Indigestion or upset stomach
- Rapidly cycling emotional states
- Symptoms similar to the common cold
Anticonvulsants are designed specifically for seizures and seizure disorders. However, through study, it has been found that medications such as lamotrigine and gabapentin help with some aspects of Major Depressive Disorder as well. It specifically is helpful for people that suffer from intense agitation and irritability, as it can calm them down and give a more relaxed mood. This can help alleviate the general angst some people feel while depressed.
Common Side Effects of Anti-Convulsants:
- Sleepiness and fatigue
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Fuzzy or clouded vision
- Heightened heart rate
- Negative reaction to sunlight and artificial UV light
- Skin rashes
- Menstrual issues in women
- Body Tremors and shakes
- Weight Gain
Perhaps the most common medications for depression are antidepressants. These kinds of medications generally target dopamine and serotonin levels so that your body can process better. When this happens, your mood increases with the balancing of chemicals.
Common Side Effects of Antidepressants:
- Feeling nauseous or indigestion
- Feeling wound up
- Decreased or complete lack of a sexual drive
- Issues performing and enjoying sex
Often a good source to get educated on the conditions of depression, you often will need to work with a psychotherapy professional. They can help you to attain coping skills to fight your depression and also to learn about options of the illness.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A talking based therapy that has been proven to be beneficial to patients with depression. This is one of the most common methods of therapy used in America and often is done in conjunction with a therapist that provides talk counseling, a psychiatrist that will manage medications or recommend supplements for depression.
Family dynamics are important for those with depression as it can provide them with direction and reinforcement to persevere through their illness. This method of therapy is especially helpful for family units or couples that also have relationship issues that are sometimes exacerbated by the symptoms of depression.
Sleep medications are helpful if you suffer from insomnia or any other sleep disorder. Lack of sleep can cause interference with hormone levels and pile on stress that can induce depression symptoms or make them worse.
Common sleep medications include supplements for depression that can also induce those restful periods that the body needs.
Some common sleep supplement options include:
- Valerian (Valerian Root)
One of the most natural ways that you can work to manage your depression,whichever variety, is by incorporating supplements into your diet that counteract the side effects of the illness. Thankfully there are many to choose from. Take a look and learn about the specifics of depression supplements that can help you.
St. John’s Wort
Also known as Hypericum perforatum, Saint John’s Wort is a type of flowering plant native to north and south America, northern Europe, New Zealand, and parts of south Africa. While the plant is grown commercially in some parts of Europe, it is list as a noxious weed in over twenty different countries due to its invasive nature as well as the general toxicity of the plant. The name “Saint John’s Wort” comes from the fact it traditionally flowers and is harvested on June 24, Saint John’s Day.
What Does St. John’s Wort Do?
While not all studies are conclusive, most done with Saint John’s Wort have come to the conclusion that the herb is an effective alternative to antidepressants, and has fewer side effects than most common antidepressants.
Created using pelagic fish such as sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel, which are types of fish that live near the water’s surface as opposed to deep dwelling fish, which are cooked down to separate the healthy oil from the fish’s remains. Fish oil has been the topic of medical study since the mid 80’s due to the discovery that greenland eskimos, who have a diet high in N-3 fatty acids found in fish oil had a considerably lower rate of mortality from coronary heart disease.
What Does Fish Oil Do?
Only for the last 15 years has fish oil been considered as a possible supplement for mitigating the effects of depression. This is due originally due to a study published in 1998 in the “Journal of Affective Disorders” which noted significantly lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the red blood cells of patients with depression.
An additional follow up study was published after this in 1999, in the “Archives of General Psychiatry”, which found that over 60% of manic depressive patients who took a 10 gram daily fish oil supplement had a noted improvement in their symptoms, meanwhile less than 20% of the placebo group saw any change.
Also known as Bacopa Monnieri, Brahmi is one of the oldest known medicinal herbs in the world, with its use dating back to around 5000 BCE with its use Ayurvedic medicine. The name Brahmi comes from the word Brahma, the Hindu creator god. Originally Brahmi was prescribed for a myriad variety of illnesses and conditions including tumors, inflammation, indigestion, epilepsy asthma, ulcers, as well as many other less physical ailments. In modern medicine it is now used as a mood stabilizer, memory enhancer and antioxidant.
What Does Brahmi Do?
While not all of the effects are fully understood, its been seen in recent studies that bacosides, a compound found within Brahmi, both increase the rate synaptic transmissions in the brain, and increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter popularly believed to be a major contributor to feelings of happiness or well being.
Otherwise known as Withania Somnifera, Ashwagandha root is an herb native to India that has been used for centuries for the treatment of a variety of ailments both mental and physical. While it has been used for many different medical reasons, it is now most often being used in western medicine for the treatment of depression and anxiety.
What Does Ashwagandha Do?
While not a lot of research has been done on the medicinal effects of Ashwagandha root, Some studies have shown that it works as an effective adaptogen. Adaptogen are called that due to their ability to help the body adapt, from moderating stress levels and alleviating signs of stress, to boosting the immune system.
L-Tyrosine or 4-hydroxyphenylalanine which is its chemical name is one of the amino acids responsible for the synthesis of protein. Found in many high protein food, L-Tyrosine was first discovered in the mid 1800’s in casein, a type of cheese protein. From this discovery is where it gets its name, Tyrosine from the greek Tyri which means cheese. There are many foods that are a good source of L-Tyrosine including; Cheese, yogurt, milk, turkey, chicken, fish, almonds, peanuts, avocados, and many soy products.
What Does L-Tyrosine Do?
When people think of a mood stabilizers they generally don’t think of L-Tyrosine due to it being an amino acid, but scientific opinions on this are now changing. The primary reason it is now believed that L-Tyrosine may be an effective mood stabilizer is because it works as a precursor or building block to a number of beneficial neurotransmitters including Dopamine which partially controls mood. At the same time as Dopamine rises within the body, the hormones Norepinephrine and Epinephrine which partially control and cause stress responses decrease, reducing anxiety.
Used for thousands of years as a natural anti-anxiety treatment and sleep aid, valerian root is an herb native to Europe, Northern Asia, and Southern Africa. Named after the latin word Valeria, which means “To be strong/ Healthy”, Valerian root is harvested in many points around the globe for its fibrous root mass or rhizome, which contains Flavonoids, Alkaloids, and GABA, all of which are proven mood stabilizers and have an anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) effect
What Does Valerian Root Do?
While some of the science is inconclusive, a majority of research has found that it can be a beneficial supplement for the treatment of depression. This effect is primarily from its effect as a natural anticonvulsant and sedative. These properties are produced from the bodies metabolizing of GABA as well as essential alkaloids.
Panax or asian ginseng is one of eleven known varieties of ginseng, has been used for over one thousand years for enhancing mood and mental focus. Naturally found growing across the globe from China and Korea all the way to north America, panax ginseng is now used by millions in the pursuit of homeostasis, which is the state of internal stability.
What Does Panax Ginseng Do?
Due to its effect as an adaptogen, panax ginseng has multiple complex effects on the body. These effects are caused by over twenty ginsenosides, chemicals similar to steroids found uniquely within the Ginseng plant.
These ginsenosides work in a complex fashion on the body, working as a depressant on one organ or gland, while acting as a stimulant on another. Additionally, recent studies have concluded that ginseng supplement use can prevent neuron degradation, which can prevent some symptoms depression.
It is important to note that most supplement treatments are not approved by the FDA. They are not considered medicine, but have properties that can help.
With a structured self-management system, including a functional treatment plan and healthy lifestyle, living with this condition is entirely manageable. As with any mental illness, the key to successfully managing the condition is believing in your own ability to overcome the symptoms and then doing whatever is necessary, for your specific situation, to make certain you do.
A Note on Treatment:
This guide is not to be used as a diagnostic tool or to treat any variation of bipolar disorder. Before you approach any kind of diagnosis or treatment, please talk to your primary care physician or therapist. The writing in this article is meant to be informational only.