Natural Remedies for Depression
It has been a hard year for all of us. Sadly, I have been seeing a lot of depression with my family, friends and clients. I even had a family member take their own life this year. This blog post was a hard one to write, but one that I hope helps someone.
Before I started my job as a nutritionist, Craig (my husband) and I had some really tough curve balls thrown our way. All I wanted was to become a mother. I was a rock climbing guide and I loved my job but I made minimum wage, and with the bad economy came bad news. Craig lost his job which was our main source of income. Shortly after that happened, I went to have my yearly physical and I was a puddle. I cried at the drop of a hat. We couldn’t pay our house payment, we sold our cars, I was worried that we were going to lose our house and our dream of adopting children.
My doctor immediately thought she would be a helpful “problem-solver” by offering me an antidepressant. She did not check my vitamin D levels (which ended up being low after I had them checked with a new doctor), nor did she check my liver health, which is a leading cause of depression. Not to mention the fact that I was also training for a marathon, which added stress to my adrenal system and caused sleep issues.
My doctor also did not ask if I had high histamine issues or if I was taking a probiotic. All of these should be a prerequisite for patients to test and incorporate before being offered these mind-altering, addictive drugs that have lots of side effects. We would save a whole heck of a lot of money on health insurance!
On top of that she did not ask what my diet was (this is the same doctor that didn’t ask about my diet when I had severe IBS — needless to say, after this visit, I changed doctors). In biology class, we are taught that our blood is manufactured and begins in the bone marrow. In Chinese medicine, we are taught that our blood begins on the end of our fork. Yep, we really are what we eat.
One of the most common and serious ailments I see in my office is depression and anxiety.
Our brain and cells are over 60% fat. With the trends and tips that health magazines and commercials push on us, it is no wonder depression is sucking us all down! Before my passion for nutrition came along, I had a passion for donuts. I was an athlete and thought I could get away with eating what I wanted, as long as I worked out. Not true! Even though I ate enough calories, I was starving myself … specifically, I was starving my brain. Even though my stomach was filled with “substance,” my brain kept telling me to eat; A diet that includes a fat-free Yoplait yogurt for breakfast, a Slim Fast for lunch, and a “Healthy Choice” frozen meal for dinner (which have more sugar than a full-sized Snicker’s candy bar!) starves our bodies at the cellular level.
Getting off antidepressants is tough. Before going on them, I would consider some reasons that could be causing depression as well as try a few natural supplements.
Obviously, there are times in life where terrible tragedies can cause depression in addition to some of the reasons that I list below and in those cases, medication may be the answer but following these tips will also help in your healing process. They helped me tremendously and my prayers are that they help you too. I have had too many loved ones in my life take their life due to depression and this is why I want to bring light to this detrimental struggle.
THINGS THAT INCREASE DEPRESSION
1. HIGH HISTAMINES AND DEPRESSION
High histamines WILL block serotonin and often causes depression!
Itchy eyes? Drippy nose? Overwhelming sneezing? Seasonal allergies affect over 36 million Americans and they aren’t just an annoying physical issue, we now know that there is a true link with allergies and depression. High histamines bind with serotonin (our feel-good brain neurotransmitter) and are blocked from entering the brain which leads do depression.
I do want to lead with saying that depression isn’t always caused by allergies, many things cause depression and this is just one area. But it is important for allergy sufferers to understand their low mood isn’t just because they are miserable with allergy symptoms.
The allergy trigger is an immune reaction that discharges cytokines, which are protein molecules used for cellular communication. When the cytokines signal the brain, they bring ill feelings and they are present in allergies. High histamines block serotonin getting to the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of contentment and happiness. The low serotonin causes low moods, intense cravings for sugar and sleep issues.
Children are more vulnerable to intense swings in moods and behaviors related to allergies because their bodies are more sensitive. When allergies engulf children’s immune system, they have more sleep issues and outbursts.
Side effects of allergy medications such as Allegra and Zyrtec often cause irregular sleeping patterns that increase irritability. If you get the medications with a “decongestant” the added benefit comes with a price. The decongestant chemical that comforts your scratchy eyes and throat also adds stress to the prostate and heart, as well as causes insomnia.
I help clients daily with histamines and depression. It is a layered approach!
If you have high histamines, cut out histamine foods as well as adding in a natural D-Hist supplement (click HERE.)
2. LOW PROTEIN DIETS AND DEPRESSION
Amino acids that come from animal protein are the building blocks for neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Not all protein sources are created equal. Prioritizing animal sources of protein is essential to building a happy brain. Most clients I work with fear protein in worries that too much protein turns into sugar. If you believe this, please watch THIS helpful YouTube video.
Animal protein is also filled with cholesterol which is essential for a healthy brain!
3. LOW CHOLESTEROL AND DEPRESSION
Have you been put on a statin drug to lower cholesterol for a “preventative measure?” I suggest to find a new doctor! Not only is this bad for your sex drive, muscle tissues and memory, it is also terrible for increase in depression.
Our brain is over 60% cholesterol. When we starve our brain and cells of this valuable nutrient it has been proven to increase risk of depression by 300%!
A new study published in the Cochrane Library, which reviews drug trials, examined data from 14 drugs trials involving 34,000 patients and found evidence of “short-term memory loss, depression and mood swings,” that had been deliberately underplayed by the drug companies funding the research.
Even though statin drugs cause a greater risk of a toxic liver, kidney failure, muscle damage, depression and cataracts, they are still being pushed to the public as a ‘preventative measure!’ Women are often mistakenly pushed on these cholesterol lowering drugs after menopause because CHOLESTEROL MAKES HORMONES. If your body (ovaries) are no longer producing these hormones, your cholesterol goes up to try to make your body do so. So if you have your cholesterol checked, most doctors are alarmed and mistakenly place menopausal women on these drugs trying to forcefully push cholesterol down. This is also why men who take statins also often have lower sex drive or also take Viagra; you need cholesterol to make hormones.
To read more on cholesterol and diet, click HERE.
4. SUGAR AND DEPRESSION
It’s no secret that sugar is terrible for our physical health, but it is also detrimental to our mental health.
Too often during times of sadness, we want to eat our feelings, like a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I remember doing that and it never made me feel better. Consuming a large amount of sugar often increases feelings of sadness, depression, and irritability.
Sugar causes depression because of the rapid rise in insulin that happens after you eat sugar. More insulin means a neurotransmitter imbalance and reduced serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and acetylcholine. A ketogenic diet induces epigenetic changes, which stimulate the energetic output of our mitochondria, reduce the production of damaging free radicals, and favor the production of GABA.
Ketosis reduces the toxic effects of excitatory pathways in our brains which will naturally lower depression.
When I say sugar, I also mean carbs. A cracker may not taste sweet but once you eat it, the cracker has one fate; it turns into sugar in the blood, causing insulin to rise.
5. GLUTEN AND DEPRESSION
Patients with depression or anxiety are told they have a chemical imbalance. I have found numerous clients who are suffering from mood disorders to be gluten sensitive. When they eliminate gluten from their life, they become a whole new person. But how could a food cause depression? Let’s take a look.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Have you ever put flour and water together to make your own gooey paste? In Poland, they use this for wallpaper paste. I’m not putting that “gummy” paste in my body: it causes way too much inflammation.
After the digestive tract, the most commonly affected system to be irritated by gluten is the nervous system. It is thought that gluten causes depression in one of two ways. Gluten causes inflammation in the body. A gluten-sensitive individual’s immune system responds to the protein gliadin. Unfortunately, that protein is similar in structure to other proteins present in the body, including those in the brain and nerve cells. A cross reactivity can occur where the immune system “confuses” all proteins in the body for the protein gliadin. This is called cellular mimicry, where the body attacks its own tissues, and inflammation results.
Research shows us that patients with symptoms involving the nervous system suffer from digestive problems only 13% of the time. This is significant because mainstream medicine equates gluten sensitivity almost exclusively with digestive complaints.
Leaky gut is one piece of Celiac and auto immune disorders. Leaky gut is detrimental to our mental health because we need good gut bacteria to produce serotonin and other neurotransmitters. If the gut lining is damaged, you are unable to assimilate all the nutrients, amino acids, probiotics and prebiotics to build healthy brain chemistry.
Maybe you don’t have celiac but you have a gluten sensitivity. A gluten sensitivity can also increase anxiety and depression because of its interference with protein absorption. Specifically, the amino acid tryptophan is essential for brain health. Tryptophan is a protein in the brain responsible for the feelings of well-being and relaxation. A deficiency in this protein can be correlated to feelings of depression and anxiety.
90% of serotonin production occurs in the digestive tract. So, it makes sense that food effects our mood!
When I tell clients to eat “gluten free” they often grab all the “gluten free” prepackaged foods on the shelf, but that most likely will cause more mood issues and weight gain and will slow the healing process in your gut. Rice flour, the common flour substitute in gluten-free products, is higher in calories, higher in carbohydrates, and lower in nutrients than regular flour. It can cause more inflammation in our body. Gluten Free products increase insulin too much causing the same issue as if you had too much sugar.
6. DAIRY AND DEPRESSION
Many clients of mine have gotten off anxiety medication when we also eliminate dairy. Too often people start a ketogenic diet and eat way too much cheese, butter, cream cheese, not to mention the heavy cream in the coffee (a double wammy for anxiety!)
Many of my clients find they have increased anxiety within minutes of consuming dairy products. Dairy is very inflammatory for many people. It can cause issues with constipation, diarrhea, bloating, as well as causing high histamines. When histamines are high, they block neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA (the feel good, relaxing brain chemicals).
7. CERTAIN MEDICATIONS AND DEPRESSION
Ambien is a well-known drug for sleep. It is also well known for increasing depression.
I had a client that was on Ambien a few years ago and she refers to the time taking it as “her lost years!”
Be aware that some drugs can cause mood imbalances.
8. LOW GOOD GUT BACTERIA AND DEPRESSION
Gut health and depression is something I am very passionate about, because the medical field has failed me terribly in this department. When I was a young teenager I suffered with severe acne. My mom took me to the doctor and without asking what my diet looked like, he put me on a strong dose of antibiotics that I was on for years! I can now pinpoint that moment as a huge health changer for not just my physical health but also my mental health.
Sure, I was happy the acne was gone but my moods started to down-spiral. I was always a really happy kid, but I remember that was a time that I started to get very sad times. Why you ask? Just because of an antiobiotic? Yes, these powerful antibiotics that teens are being put on for acne wreak havoc on our gut where serotonin is produced. Our gut health directly correlates to our moods. What is so detrimental is that I was on these antibiotics for years without realizing the damage they were doing.
I trusted my doctor. This long-lasting downhill spiral of my gut health causes intense sugar cravings and caused me to gain weight. The weight further lowered my happy-go-lucky spirit. Man, if my doctor just would have asked what I ate and knew that the cereal and skim milk I had to start off each day was the culprit of my acne I wouldn’t have gone through all of the issues I did.
My favorite brand of probiotics is Just Thrive and we all take it daily! My boys are from Ethiopia and you would assume, not being exposed to American illnesses and viruses, they should have been sick often but they were and are never sick! Their good gut bacteria helps keep them healthy! Probiotics are so important for gut health and so much more. Most of our immune system starts in the gut. I love that JustThrive probiotics don’t have to be refrigerated! Plus being non-GMO, dairy free, gluten free and more I know there isn’t any hidden junk in it that I don’t want in my body.
Probiotics are so helpful for lowering depression too! Our moods come from a healthy gut!
A high-quality probiotic helps balance your bowel flora, which naturally can help eliminate Helicobacter (also known as H. pylori, an overgrowth of bad gut bacteria). A healthy gut contains good bacteria in the digestive tract that helps digest food and combat harmful invaders. These healthy bacteria release compounds that we can then absorb and make use of vitamins and minerals. You aren’t what you eat, you are what you ABSORB!
Acid reflux can often be caused by H. pylori, a pathogenic organism; it’s the only bacterial organism in the stomach that is never killed by hydrochloric acid. Probiotics can attack H. pylori and other harmful organisms.
A healthy gut contains good bacteria in the digestive tract, which helps digest food and combat harmful invaders. These healthy bacteria release compounds—such as vitamins D and K2— that we can then absorb and make use of. Taking antibiotics for the treatment of acne also kills good gut bacteria, which can cause Candida overgrowth and increase skin outbreaks.
Supplement with a high-quality probiotic like Just Thrive and take it in the morning when you eat. For most people, one capsule a day is an appropriate amount. Sadly Craig took very powerful antibiotics for a year to help kill Lyme Disease so he needed more probiotics during that time to restore his good gut bacteria. If you also had to take antibiotics or have a recovering immune system, take two or three capsules a day until your gut health is restored and make sure to not take at the same time as you consume the antibiotic, then drop to one capsule per day.
9. HARMFUL FATS AND DEPRESSION
Do not skip over this point because you do not think you eat any trans-fats or harmful vegetable oils. Even I was guilty of consuming these not too long ago. They are found in most mayonnaise, salad dressings and if you go out to restaurants, most foods are fried in these harmful fats.
Harmful fats like hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils are found to change the structure of our cells. These fats cause our cells to no longer “talk” to each other like they should. This miscommunication causes many issues such as insulin resistance, depression, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and many other serious issues. Read more on harmful trans-fat facts HERE.
10. ASPARTAME AND DEPRESSION
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener linked to anxiety and depression. It is found in diet sodas, sugar-free gum, FLINSTONE VITAMINS!, light yogurt, light salad dressings and many other foods.
Aspartame has been found to “eat” tiny holes in our cellular membrane. When this happens, things like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), cancer, mood disorders and many other serious issues will show up.
Check out the gross ingredients in Flintstone Vitamins, filled with food dyes, hydrogentated vegetable oils and harmful sweeteners:
Ingredients: Sorbitol, Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Phosphate, Choline Bitartrate, Sodium Ascorbate, Ferrous Fumarate, Gelatin, Natural & Artificial Flavors (including fruit acids), Pregelatinized Starch, Vitamin E Acetate, Stearic Acid, Carrageenan, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Castor), Magnesium Stearate, Zinc Oxide, Niacinamide, FD&C Red #40 Lake, D-Calcium Pantothenate, FD&C Yellow #6 Lake, Aspartame†, Xylitol, FD&C Blue #2 Lake, Cupric Oxide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Sucrose, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Acetate, Beta-Carotene, Monoammonium Glycyrrhizinate, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Biotin, Vitamin D, Magnesium Oxide, Vitamin B12.
11. SMOKING AND DEPRESSION
Smoking damages the mitochondria as well as lowers neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin, which in turn increases anxiety and depression.
12. ALCOHOL AND DEPRESSION
Most people know that alcohol is a drug that is a depressant (not a stimulant).
Often times people grab a drink when they are feeling down which just increases feelings of sadness.
Alcohol also increases bad estrogen by 70%. This in turn lowers progesterone. A glass of wine may help you chill at first, but after the buzz, you often find you suffer from not being able to sleep and anxiety increases even more than before the wine.
Alcohol affects every organ of the body, its most dramatic impact is upon the liver. Alcohol metabolism permanently changes liver cell structure. T4 thyroid hormone is activated into T3 in the liver, not in the thyroid. Keeping your liver healthy is essential to our moods. In Chinese medicine, when someone is depressed or anxious, they look to the health of the liver first!
Alcohol also dehydrates us. It may sound simple, but hydrated cells are happy cells!
NATURAL WAYS TO LOWER DEPRESSION
1. Get your Vitamin D level checked!
Low vitamin D levels can cause sensitivity to pain, Seasonal Effective Disorder, digestive issues, nervousness, pale skin. It is best to increase with sun exposure on bare skin without sunscreen for 20 minutes a day. However, this isn’t possible when it is 20 below zero in Wisconsin! Also, if you have dark skin like my boys, you have a natural sunscreen.
When we adopted the boys from Ethiopia, which is on the equator and the boys spent the majority of the time outdoors, they had many tests done as soon as we entered the United States. One of the tests was a vitamin D test. They were both in the low 30’s which isn’t optimal.
When supplementing vitamin D, always take Vitamin D in the morning with a meal. Vitamin D is fat soluble. The recommendation for dosage is to do 1000iu per 25 pounds you weight just to maintain your levels. Click HERE to find the vitamin D supplement I recommend. Retest your levels 2 months after supplementing.
2. Add in Helpful Natural Supplements
There are certain vitamins and minerals needed to make serotonin which helps lower depression. Magnesium once was found in our water supply, but now that the soil is depleted of magnesium and most people drink bottled water, we are all walking around with magnesium deficiencies unless you are supplementing. Click HERE to find the one my family takes. This one is MUCH easier to swallow than the hard capsules.
I have helped copious amounts of clients stop depression with natural supplements. If you would like more personalized help with determining what your body needs to help feel happy again, click HERE.
3. Cleanse Your LIVER
In Chinese medicine, when someone is depressed, the first thing they do is look at the liver.
Could your liver be tired and toxic? Is that what is causing your depression?
Your liver is a “worker bee” that can even regenerate its own damaged cells, but our liver is not invincible. When it is abused with sugar, alcohol and lacks essential nutrients, or when it is overwhelmed by toxins and excess estrogens, it no longer performs as it should. Fat often builds up in the liver and just under the skin, hormone imbalances can develop, and toxins increase and get into the blood stream.
The liver metabolizes not only fats, but proteins and carbohydrates for fuel. It breaks down amino acids from proteins into various pieces to help build muscle; which directly impacts your calorie burn. It also transports amino acids through the blood stream for hormone balance; which is critical to avoid water retention, bloating, cravings, as well other undesired weight issues. There are many different amino acids that have a variety of important jobs. For example l-tryptophan is an amino acid that comes from protein that helps build serotonin. Other amino acids also help move waste such as excess “bad” estrogen, detoxification and elimination through the kidney, as well as many other functions like building muscles.
The liver’s most important function, and the one that puts it at greatest risk for damages, is to detoxify the numerous toxins that attack our bodies daily. A healthy liver detoxifies many damaging substances and eliminates them without polluting the bloodstream. When we cleanse the liver and eat the right foods, liver metabolism will improve and we start burning fat.
The thyroid hormone t3 is converted into the activated t4 in the liver NOT in the thyroid. Thyroid hormones influence a lot; including our moods! Check out this client testimony after I helped her with diet and supplements:
“Thank You Thank You! With your help, I am off the anti-depressant that I had been taking off and on for almost 20 years, wow I can’t believe it! I had been convinced that it was something I was going to have to take for the rest of my life. I feel great, I still get a little emotional the week before my period, but it is manageable. In addition to that, I am off the Armour thyroid. I will have my levels checked again in two months, but the last time it was checked I was holding in the normal range.
Also, when I started working with you I was on the verge of having my gallbladder out, which I am happy to say, I sill have my gallbladder with no significant issues. Anyway, thank you again, I know if I would not have found you, I would not feel so amazing!!!”
Seems simple, but dehydration is a leading cause of low moods and depression.
Many people claim they are crabbier on a low carb or keto diet. Why??? It isn’t because carbohydrates make serotonin. It is because carbohydrates retain water. When you eliminate carbohydrates, you release a lot of water retention which is why a keto diet is great for high blood pressure; however, this release in water also releases electrolytes.
Adding in extra salt is important when you begin the ketogenic diet because it will help you combat low energy, low moods, constipation and headaches. Instead of adding in carbs for increasing moods or energy, you must think about your diet and energy differently.
To combat the symptoms of the keto flu, you first must make sure to keep your water and electrolytes up; this is why salt is so important. When becoming keto-adapted, your kidneys release much of the salt (and associated water) that they hold onto with higher-carb diets. You need to add more water, salt and electrolytes to ensure that you don’t get dehydrated.
I suggest throwing out your regular table salt and replacing it with a quality mineral-rich sea salt like Redmond Real Salt. Redmond Real salt is essential for electrolyte balance and will give you energy. After a few months of using Redmond Real Salt, you will likely find that table salt has a chemical-like taste. Use code Maria15 to save 15% off your Redmond Real Salt order! You will love it!
5. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is required to produce our feel good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. A deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare; however, people taking hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and drugs for tuberculosis are at risk for a deficiency.
6. Add Probiotics
Probiotics protect the mucosal barrier from increased permeability. Promotes healthy mucosal and systemic immune responses. It helps increase SEROTONIN, which increases mood and decreases cravings which helps stay on the “healthified” way of eating easier. It helps with intestinal flora: relieves bowel irritation and related functional discomforts. Probiotics are the “good” or “friendly” bacteria that are normal inhabitants of the intestinal tract. Boosts immune system (everyone in my family takes this everyday). It improves digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Promotes regular bowel movements.
I once used Fish Oil for DHA/EPA; however, I know now how damaging fish oil supplements can be! Click HERE to learn more.
Now I personally take Beef Organ!
Bovine-brain derived phosphatidylserine was found to improve both behavior and cognition in elderly people with cognitive decline. Phosphatidylserine enhances the ability of enzymes in membranes of nerve cells to relay messages in and out of the cells. This product (bovine-brain phosphatidylserine) can improve memory in older adults, and can lower symptoms of depression. Included in whole brain extract are neurotrophic factors that support the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth of new neurons as well as sphingomyelin which plays a central role in the myelin sheath and cell signaling.
- Supports Brain, Memory & Mood Health
- Provides Brain Derived Glandulars Including Pituitary, Hypothalamus and Pineal Glands
- Provides sphingomyelin which plays a central role in the myelin sheath, cell signaling and apoptosis
- Provides neurotrophic factors that support the survival of existing neurons and encourage the growth of new ones
8. Try Essential Oils
We have an essential oil diffuser running at our house all the time!
Essential oils can be an extremely powerful addition to help increase moods. Click HERE to find my favorite essential oils.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR ANXIETY: BLEND 1: Place in a diffuser: Balance, Wild Orange and Lavender
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR DEPRESSION: Joyful blend, bergamot, roman Chamomile
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR LIVER CLEANSING: Use Castor oil packs at least two or three times a week. Rub THIS Castor oil on the liver area along with a drop of Zendocrine oil. Cover with some wool flannel, a towel, and a hot water bottle. Let sit for at least 45 minutes.
Find movement that you ENJOY!
I love to walk outside in the woods. Even in the winter, I put my snowshoes on and listen to an inspiring podcast (click HERE to find) or audiobook! Being in nature always lifts my spirits! Exercise and moving helps increase serotonin. I love to walk and ride my bike while listening to a book on my iPhone.
I exercise daily, not because of weight loss. I exercise because it is my natural anti-depressant. When life gets me down, my FIRST reaction is no longer food; food always made my depression worse! My first reaction is to go outside and be with nature.
Also, if you like going to the gym or have a big mirror at home, lifting weights and watching yourself get stronger in the mirror we have seen serotonin increase a lot in patients dealing with depression!
10. Try Red Light Therapy
I love my red light for helping with getting rid of wrinkles, but it is also wonderful for increasing moods!
Click HERE to check it out!
Use code: Maria
TESTIMONY OF THE DAY
Here is a photo of all the medications I am NO LONGER taking!!! I had depression, anxiety, thyroid issues, migraines, and chronic pain (fibromyalgia). You and your recipes resolved all those issues! I have lost 90 lbs and am a much more active, happy, healthier version of myself! You have helped to keep this a fun, interesting way of life. I have all your books and preorder the new ones when you announce them!
I am so grateful to you and your husband and the advocacy you do for this lifestyle. I am so grateful for all your knowledge, time, kindness and how all your recipes help enable me to make this a lifelong journey!
The important part is how much my life has improved, how happy I am!
Thank you thank you thank you for all you do!!!
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