NATURAL ALTERNATIVES FOR MOOD DISORDERS
When it comes to treating depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders, the best course of action is to address the underlying cause. You may just want to take a pill that covers up your symptoms. But if you prefer to get to the root of the problem and treat it naturally, there are many options that are safe, effective, and affordable.
For people who are interested in treating the underlying cause of their mood disorder, one of the safest and most effective treatments is classical homeopathic medicine. Homeopathy is a natural form of medicine which stimulates your body’s innate ability to heal. Rather than suppressing your symptoms like most conventional treatments, homeopathy helps you heal from the inside out, working towards a cure of your illness.
Your body has built-in mechanisms that allow you to heal. This is evident in cases of a cold or a small cut; your body mounts a reaction to the virus or the skin injury and initiates a healing response. Homeopathic medicine works with these innate mechanisms to restore health by speeding up the natural process of the healing. In the case of anxiety or depression, your body has the ability to correct underlying hormonal or chemical imbalances so that mood can be normalized; sometimes, however, we can forget how to heal. Homeopathic medicine reminds your body of how it can heal naturally by giving it a boost in the right direction to promote hormonal and chemical balance.
There are no side effects from homeopathic remedies, so it is the ideal choice for anyone who is looking for alternatives to medications with unwanted adverse effects. This makes it very valuable for treating children or adolescents with behavioral or mood disorders, especially because of the increased risk of suicide associated with conventional antidepressant medications in adolescents.
Homeopathy is also an excellent choice for women during pregnancy or lactation, and is often very effective for women with post-partum depression. Another advantage is that homeopathic medicine does not interact with conventional medications, so it is possible to begin homeopathic treatment while still taking other prescriptions.
Most people see positive results from homeopathic medicine within 2-4 weeks of treatment. Because homeopathy corrects the underlying cause rather than just treating the symptoms of anxiety or depression, you are likely to start feeling like yourself again without needing to be on medications for an extended period of time.
Acupuncture is the virtually painless insertion of ultra-thin sterile needles at specific points in the skin with the intention of balancing the body's energy and reducing pain.
For treating depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders, there are specific acupuncture points that can be very helpful. Your doctor will check your pulse, listen to your symptoms, and make some physical observations to design the perfect acupuncture protocol for you as an individual.
One of the best things about using acupuncture to treat anxiety or depression is that the treatments can also benefit other aspects of your health, such as your sleep, your overall energy, and other health conditions.
With acupuncture, there are no pills to take, so you do not have to worry about remembering to take medications. If you are on medications for depression or anxiety and want to stay on these prescriptions, or taper off the medications over time, we can get you started on an acupuncture program without worrying about any drug interactions. Acupuncture can also be safely combined with other natural therapies for faster results; homeopathic medicine, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicine can be added to your treatment plan to speed up your improvement.
BOTANICAL MEDICINE (HERBAL MEDICINE)
Botanical (herbal) medicine is ideal for anyone who wants a natural alternative to taking medications with harmful or unwanted side effects. Botanical medicine can be very effective for treating a variety of conditions, and may be used in combination with other therapies in order to restore health. Certain herbs have been used to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as:
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum)
- Passion Flower (Passiflora)
- Lemon Balm (Melissa)
- Kava (Piper methisticum)
- Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus)
- And many other herbs
St. John’s Wort can be helpful for symptoms of depression. This herb works by prolonging the time that serotonin is in the blood, thereby allowing serotonin to work longer. St. John’s Wort also slows down the reuptake of dopamine and GABA from the synaptic cleft. This can result in feelings of happiness, relaxation, and better energy.
Passion Flower, Lemon Balm, and Kava are often helpful for anxiety, because they promote mental tranquility and reduce restlessness. These herbs can also be used to help with insomnia.
Siberian ginseng can help to improve energy, promote better physical endurance, and also can reduce the negative effects of stress. This type of ginseng is energizing, but somewhat less stimulating than some of the other types of ginseng available.
Before you try any of these herbs, check with a naturopathic doctor to determine the ideal dose, or whether one herb or a combination of herbs would be best for your symptoms. Botanical medicine works well in combination with other natural therapies, and many of the best formulas for depression and anxiety contain both vitamins, amino acids, and herbs, for optimal mood support.
Some patients notice an improvement in symptoms with supplementation of certain amino acids or herbs that specifically increase or decrease serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, or other neurotransmitters. I have not found these supplements to be quite as helpful for people with more severe mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. However, these supplements are usually safe and can reduce symptoms in some cases.
While medications can improve symptoms by increasing the amount of serotonin or dopamine between two nerve cells, we can supplement specific vitamins, amino acids, and herbs to actually increase or decrease your body’s own production of neurotransmitters.
Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins in your body, and neurotransmitters are made from certain amino acids, with the help of vitamins and minerals. For example, L-tyrosine is used in the body to make dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Certain herbs can be used to improve neurotransmitter function as well.
Your cells have the ability to make serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and other neurotransmitters. When you are deficient in certain nutrients, it is harder to make enough of the neurotransmitters you need to feel happy and relaxed. You can take all the Prozac you want, and still have symptoms because your body simply is not making enough serotonin in the first place.
These supplements are not the end-all answer, however. They may be natural and safe, but they are still not truly correcting the deeper imbalance. They are adding something to a system that may be functioning improperly. But why is it functioning improperly? I always prefer to get to the underlying cause of why the body and brain is not working ideally, and see if we can correct the real problem.
I do not like to waste time when my patients are sick. I like to get to the real cause of the disorder and fix that, rather than covering it up. Even natural supplements, like St. John's Wort, can cover up the problem. It is basically a natural form of Prozac. Lifestyle changes, counseling, homeopathic medicine, and whole food nutrition are first-line therapies in my practice for restoring health and psychiatric balance. Later we may use other supplements, and if the patient desires we can use medications in conjunction with naturopathic therapies. My goal is always to get to the root cause of the problem, and start there with a comprehensive plan of action.
NUTRITION FOR IMPROVED MOOD
People with depression or anxiety are often deficient in certain nutrients. B vitamins are used in your body during the production of neurotransmitters, and thus are very important for maintaining a healthy mood. Vitamin C is used in high levels by the adrenal glands to manage stress. Calcium and magnesium are essential for reducing muscle fatigue, and helping you get a restful night’s sleep. People with depression, anxiety, or insomnia will use extra B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium, so supplementing higher doses of these nutrients may be an essential part of your treatment. If you become deficient in any of these nutrients as a result of stress or poor nutrition, you can develop new symptoms of depression or anxiety.
We can give you high-dose vitamins and minerals in a capsule form to replenish your nutrient status. Intramuscular injections of vitamin B12 can give you an energy boost as well, and help to stabilize your mood.
EXERCISE & NUTRIENT-RICH FOODS
The best way to prevent depression or anxiety is proper physical exercise, stress management and healthy nutrition. Some patients find that regular exercise alone can dramatically improve their mood, regulate sleep, and reduce fatigue. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, omega-3 oils, and lean protein will benefit your overall health, as well as your mental well-being, by providing your body and brain with the nutrients you need every day. Massage therapy and regular exercise are excellent ways to reduce stress and increase endorphins to help you feel happy and relaxed.
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"My mood has improved tremendously. After acupuncture the first time I slept like a baby -- better than I have in years." --Taryn, 33 year old woman with anxiety, depression, and insomnia treated with homeopathic medicine and acupuncture. Taryn was able to stop her medication for bipolar disorder after only 3 weeks of starting naturopathic medicine.