Key Factors to Overcoming Depression Without Drugs
While there are instances where drugs may be warranted, antidepressants are rarely the most appropriate answer for depression. It’s important to realize that your diet and general lifestyle are foundational factors that must be optimized if you want to resolve your mental health issues, because your body and mind are so closely interrelated. Depression is indeed a very serious condition; however it is not a “disease.” Rather, it’s a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.
Mounting and compelling research demonstrates just how interconnected your mental health is with your gastrointestinal health for example. While many think of their brain as the organ in charge of their mental health, your gut may actually play a far more significant role. Research tells us that the composition of your gut flora not only affects your physical health, but also has a significant impact on your brain function and mental state. Previous research has also shown that certain probiotics can even help alleviate anxiety.19, 20
So the place to start is to return balance — to your body and your life. Fortunately, research confirms that there are safe and effective ways to address depression that do not involve unsafe (and ineffective) drugs. This includes but is not limited to the following. For additional suggestions, please review the links listed under Related Articles:
Eat real food Dramatically decrease your consumption of processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose), and grains. There’s a great book on this subject, The Sugar Blues, written by William Dufty more than 30 years ago, that delves into the topic of sugar and mental health in great detail. In addition to being high in sugar and grains, processed foods also contain a variety of additives that can affect your brain function and mental state, especially MSG, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Optimize your gut flora Increase consumption of probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables and kefir, to promote healthy gut flora. Mounting evidence tells us that having a healthy gut is profoundly important for both physical and mental health, and the latter can be severely impacted by an imbalance of intestinal bacteria. Remember your gut is your second brain and produces more neurotransmitters than your brain. Get adequate vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people. Optimize your vitamin D levels Vitamin D is very important for your mood. In one study, people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to be 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.21
The best way to get vitamin D is through sensible sun exposure. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that we know is related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that the perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through sun exposure.
Optimize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio To normalize your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take high quality omega 3 oils such as krill oil and radically reduce if not completely eliminate industrial processed omega 6 oils.
DHA, an animal based omega-3 fat, is crucial for good brain function and mental health.22 Dr. Stoll, a Harvard psychiatrist, was one of the early leaders in compiling the evidence supporting the use of animal based omega-3 fats for the treatment of depression. He wrote an excellent book that details his experience in this area called The Omega-3 Connection.
Evaluate your salt intake Sodium deficiency creates symptoms closely resembling those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt), however. You’ll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients. Exercise daily Exercise is one of the most effective strategies for preventing and overcoming depression. Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. There’s a growing acceptance that the mind-body connection is very real, and that maintaining good physical health can significantly lower your risk of developing depression in the first place. Get adequate amounts of sleep You can have the best diet and exercise program possible but if you aren’t sleeping well you can easily become depressed. Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression.