With all the stress in this day and age, it is not uncommon for people to experience periods of depression. To deal with this problem, many are taking anti-depressant medication. Doctors are prescribing these drugs for treating symptoms caused by the epidemic of low serotonin in this country. Before turning to drugs to treat the symptoms of depression, we should treat the undering problem, low serotonin production.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs such as Prozac and Zoloft) will not be as effective if you are missing basic nutrients such as Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D and Magnesium.
These SSRIs work by blocking naturally occurring biochemical processes in the body. They act as 'dams' in our brains, preventing the reuptake of serotonin, thus keeping the serotonin at the nerve endings. If there is not enough serotonin to begin with, the SSRIs will not be as effective as they could be at improving depression and anxiety. The potential side effects of SSRIs, many of which are unknown, are a concern. Some of the more common side effects are osteoporosis, falling, low libido, monotone feeling, insomnia, weight gain. Recent studies have seen increased rates of suicide especially in children and teens!
To naturally increase the serotonin levels in your body, you should provide your body with the building blocks to produce serotonin.
1. Include adequate protein in your diet:
Serotonin is made from the amino acid, tryptophan, which we get from protein. Eating adequate amounts of dietary protein is critical. The average person requires 40-70 grams (up to 90 grams for a very active athlete) of protein daily. Eating a serving of protein the size of your fist at every meal will provide adequate protein for most people. Examples include two eggs, a chicken breast or a large serving of beans.
2. Take daily supplements so your body can make serotonin from the tryptophan in your diet.
Magnesium malate, glycinate or citrate: 100 – 300 mg 2x per day
Vitamin B complex: 10 – 50 1-2x per day
Vitamin D: 800 to 2000 IU per day in Winter
Vitamin D: 400 to 800 IU per day in Summer
3. Support digestion by taking digestive enzymes and probiotics:
Imbalances in intestinal flora, 'dysbiosis', can contribute to depression by altering the immune system. Dysbiosis means there are too many bad bacteria and not enough friendly bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. When dysbiosis is present, digestion is usually compromised to some degree.
Dysbiosis can make you tired, alter your immune system, upset your hormonal balance and can make it difficult for you to think clearly. Dysbiosis can cause anxiety, depression or mood swings. Restoring healthy balance in your gastrointestinal tract is one of the foundations of your health.
If the above suggestions do not improve your mood, the next step is to take an amino acid such as 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP) which is required by the body to produce Serotonin.
5-HTP has been available for several years and has been intensively researched for the past three decades. It has been available in several European countries since the 1970s. Work with a health care professional about the best dose for you.
Warning: do not take 5-HTP if you are taking any medications that are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI)!
Remember that depression is not a Prozac deficiency. Too little protein; too much sugar, caffeine or alcohol; long standing nutrient deficiencies, and poor sleep patterns can add up to significant depression for many people. A great source of information can be found in the book called, The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, MA
Take the time to evaluate your lifestyle and the nutritional quality of your diet before you decide to pop a pill to make life fight depression.