Depression is a worldwide epidemic. In America, over 16 million adults struggle with this condition. Antidepressants are the third most common medication taken in our nation, with a laundry list of side-effects that many are unaware of. They also have an increased suicide risk! Thankfully, functional medicine has uncovered a better solution with absolutely no risk and no side-effects!
What is Depression?
Depression, often called clinical depression, or major depression, is a psychological disorder. Symptoms include overwhelming sadness, irritability, low sex drive, feelings of apathy, and loss of pleasure. Physical symptoms include exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia, lethargy, and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts commonly occur, with over 90% of suicides linked to depression.
Depression occurs for many reasons, including the following:
- Nutrient Deficiency
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Emotional Disturbance
- Neurotransmitter Imbalance
- Genetic vulnerability
- Toxicity in lifestyle or environment
Each of these possible causes involves a shift in the body’s chemical makeup. For example, a high-stress lifestyle results in an abundance of cortisol, a hormone that prevents deep relaxation. Conventional birth control pills alter the body’s natural reproductive hormones, causing sharp peaks of both estrogen and progesterone throughout the menstrual cycle, which could be the root cause of PMS.
For decades, antidepressants have been the go-to prescription for anyone suffering from the symptoms of depression. These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft and Prozac, selective norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta, norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors like Wellbutrin (NDRIs) tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Aventyl, and also monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like Emsam.
All forms of antidepressants increase the risk of suicide, and all also have their own side-effects. I’ve listed a handful below:
- Weight Gain
- Blurred Vision
- Increased Heart Rate
- Sexual Dysfunction
It is postulated that depression occurs when neurotransmitters in the brain misbehave. These include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Antidepressants alter the behavior of these neurotransmitters to increase mood regulation. For this reason, serious withdrawal symptoms occur when these medications are discontinued.
Where Antidepressants Fall Short
In addition to their startling warnings, these medications also fail to address the disorders occurring in other areas of the body. For instance, serotonin production occurs in the gut! Decreasing its reuptake, as with SSRIs, fails to increase production of this essential neurotransmitter. Without being addressed, gut health will continue to decline, as will the level of serotonin, causing an increase in both dosage and side-effects. The kicker, anti-depressants have been shown to be almost as effective as a placebo in clinical trials!
Functional medicine is customized to you. Rather than giving you a prescription to mask the symptoms of a disorder, a functional medicine practitioner will both identify and treat the root cause. This means that your practitioner may order tests to identify certain deficiencies, conditions such as allergies, and other tests specific to your symptoms. This allows your practitioner to gain a full portrait of your health instead of just piecing together a diagnosis based on your complaints and a few vital signs.
You will be an active participant in your treatment plan. This will include examining your lifestyle, assessing your diet, and also supplementing to overcome any deficiencies your lab results reveal. While this may seem like a lot of work, the only side-effect is better health for your entire body!
Treating Depression, the Way Nature Intended
One of the best things about functional medicine is that you don’t have to wait in line at a pharmacy, or on the phone to refill a prescription. Because you’re treating your body with whole foods, herbs, vitamins, and minerals, your treatment can begin immediately. However, be sure to check in with your practitioner before starting any new remedy. It takes time to find the root cause. In the meantime, here are some of the most common treatments for depression to get you started:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Both a powerful anti-inflammatory and essential for neurotransmitter function, Omega-3s are a fantastic natural alternative to antidepressants. Aim for 1,000mg per day. Use a high-quality supplement, or consume wild-caught fish regularly.
St. John’s Wort
This herbal supplement is recognized for its powerful mood-boosting abilities.
Vitamin B Complex
B vitamins support brain health and also provide the body with energy.
This family of herbs includes Rhodiola, Ginseng, and Eleuthero, to name a few. These herbs help the body “adapt” to stressful situations, and also support its transitions through different moods.
If you or someone you love is suffering from depression, know that both your body and mind are capable of healing. Depression does not mean that you have to take a pill every day or live the rest of your life in despair. Reaching out to a functional medicine practitioner like myself is the first step. While it can be hard to see beyond the depths of depression, know that it is a chemical imbalance and that it can be cured when the underlying cause is discovered and treated. I have dedicated my life to helping people reach their health goals, and would love to help you do the same. Please contact me for a FREE consultation now.
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.