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7 Natural Remedies For Depression

on March 1 | in Health, Natural Remedies | by | with 38 Comments

Did You Know . . .

That antidepressants only have about a 13% effectiveness rate? (1) That’s just a smidge better than a placebo! Considering that they may cause homicidal tendencies I believe it’s time we rethink our approach. Depression is REAL, and it deserves to be taken seriously. Here are five things we can do to help our bodies heal.

Remedy #1: Eat. Good. Food.


When someone is depressed, what does the psychiatrist do?
Give them a pill. Where does it go? In their gut. We’re well aware of the power of something we put in our bodies to effect our state of mind, but do most of us realize the potential of food to function this way? Because it absolutely does. What we eat shapes how we experience the world in a profound way.

When it comes to treating depression I believe food is much more powerful than pills. Our bodies are brilliant chemists. They know exactly what to do with food in order to synthesize it into the perfect form for our needs. Unfortunately, they are not alchemists. They can’t turn trans-fats into brain building omega-3 goodness.

In the case of people with “unexplained” depression (depression not connected with painful events or stressful circumstances), the root cause is often nutrient deficiencies. The body’s internal chemist simply don’t have all the materials it needs to synthesize “feel good” chemicals. Even people eating a good diet can experience a rapid depletion of vitamins B, C and E as well as magnesium and potassium in times of intense stress or illness.

Which Deficiencies Are Associated With Depression?

[pullquote_right]The best book on depression and food I’ve seen is Rebuild from Depression, by Amanda Rose, who understands the condition from bitter experience. ~ Nina Planck, Author of Real Food[/pullquote_right]The list of usual suspects is pretty long, but I’ve posted it below in case you want to skim. For a more methodical approach Rebuild From Depression can teach you to identify a nutrient deficiency, locate the best supplements / vitamins available, and select and prepare foods to maximize those nutrients in their diets.

  • Vitamin D: Called the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is actually more accurately classified as a hormone. A study “among the elderly in 2006 showed that those with lower Vitamin D levels were 11 times more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms.” (2) Absorption rates are much higher when our bodies produce Vitamin D via time in the sun, but supplementation with lard from pastured pork, cod liver oil and eggs also play a vital role in keeping levels where they should be.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids: Prozac “works” by increasing serotonin levels, but a much safer way to accomplish the same goal is through serotonin enhancing foods like wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring. Cod liver oil is also a good source. “Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids. In countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in North American. Postpartum depression is also less common.”(3) Note: Though it does not contain omega-3’s coconut oil is also a serotonin enhancing food. (4)
  • B-Complex Vitamins: Especially B-12, B-6 and folate (B-9). “B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in these.” (1). For a complete list of B-vitamins and what they do check out this article. Note though, that “folic acid” is actually a synthetic form of folate. Good sources of B-vitamins are eggs, salmon and beef.

Update: Vitamin B3 may also be a significant factor. Please see this post and this one for more details.

  • Magnesium: “Deficiency can result in depressive symptoms, along with confusion, agitation, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as a variety of physical problems. Most diets do not include enough magnesium [due to modern farming practices and water filtration] . . . stress also contributes to magnesium depletion “(5) Though I pretty much exclusively recommend magnesium oil over internal supplements, I read an article from Cheeseslave that is very informative. (She recommends magnesium oil too and even shows how to make it. She just also recommends internal supplements :))
  • Vitamin C: Low levels can cause generalized depression, extreme tiredness and outbursts of hysterical behavior. Nearly all vitamin C supplements are synthetic and may cause kidney stones. For natural sources try oranges, kiwi fruits, broccoli, black currants and potatoes, red pepper, parsley, green leafy vegetables (especially kale), green pepper, tomato puree, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage (especially savoy), strawberries, watercress, spinach, grapefruit, melon (all types), peas, raspberries, spring onions, turnip and tomatoes. (6)
  • Calcium: “Depletion affects the central nervous system. Low levels of calcium cause nervousness, apprehension, irritability, and numbness.”(7) Homemade bone broth is an excellent source of calcium.
  • Zinc: “Inadequacies result in apathy, lack of appetite, and lethargy. When zinc is low, copper in the body can increase to toxic levels, resulting in paranoia and fearfulness.” (8) Liver, beef, scallops sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds are all great sources of zinc.
  • Iron: “Depression is often a symptom of chronic iron deficiency. Other symptoms include general weakness, listlessness, exhaustion, lack of appetite, and headaches.” Caution: Iron deficiency often indicates that iron loving microbes (Actinomyces spp., Mycobacterium spp., pathogenic strains of E. coli, Corynebacterium spp., and many others) are living in the digestive tract and hogging all the goods. Increasing iron intake without balancing gut flora to contain more beneficial bacteria only causes the pathogenic ones to grow stronger. It does very little to help with anemia.
  • Manganese: “This metal is needed for proper use of the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Since it also plays a role in amino-acid formation, a deficiency may contribute to depression stemming from low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Manganese also helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent hypoglycemic mood swings.” (1) Food sources are spelt, brown rice, spinach, pineapple and pumpkin seeds
  • Potassium: “Depletion is frequently associated with depression, tearfulness, weakness, and fatigue.” (9) Sources are swiss chard, lima beans, yams, spinach and lentils
  • Salt: According to Dr. Mercola, “Sodium deficiency actually creates symptoms that are very much like 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.”

Wouldn’t it be easier to just close the nutritional gap with supplements? Yes, it would! Unfortunately, most “whole food” based supplements are not what they seem, so as much as possible I recommend sticking with actual food. Besides, we’re talking about butter, bacon and salt — not rice cakes! Oh yes, a Weston A. Price style-diet should cover your nutritional bases. However, if your depression is severe or you have other issues you’d like to deal with (such as ADD, eczema, weight issues, anxiety and adrenal burnout) I highly recommend looking into the Gut & Psychology Syndrom (GAPS) diet.

Having said that, I think quality herbs such as St. John’s Wort are helpful for some people – just not folks that are pregnant, nursing, or taking certain other medications (here’s the full breakdown of contraindications).

Remedy #2: Ditch The Donuts

Certain foods – especially sugar, grains, and any processed food- can have druglike effects that worsen depression. According to Dr. Mercola, “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. 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.

Remedy #3: TLC For Your Body

Go for a walk or bike ride. Rebound. Learn to swing dance or find another way to exercise that’s fun. Get a massage (yes, you!). Restore balance with reflexology. Exhale tension via a quiet yoga session.

Remedy #4: Earthing

Earthing improves hormone function, reduces cortisol levels (the stress hormone), and reduces inflammation (intestinal inflammation has been linked to depression). In the study I wrote about here nine of the twelve participants reported waking up less frequently, and 9 reported having more energy in the day and feeling more refreshed. Nine also reported less anxiety, stress and depression.

Remedy #5: Do Something Creative

Oh sure, you can paint, start a journal, or bake an afternoon away. But why not consider some other options. Like, um, these? Except #9. Definitely don’t do that one :)

Remedy #6: Probiotics

Probiotics are absolutely essential because they help us absorb nutrients from other foods. This is one of the few supplements I take in addition to eating fermented foods like pickled peppers and carrot dilly sticks.
Sleep deprivation is strongly implicated in depression, so consider winding down your evenings early with a cup of chamomile tea.

Recommended Reading

What natural treatments for depression have you found helpful?

Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please work with your trusted healthcare provider to develop a healing protocol that works for you.

 

 

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38 Responses to 7 Natural Remedies For Depression

  1. Lyndsay Pfenning Stradtner via FB says:

    Nettle infusions help regulate adrenals and are packed with depression fighting nutrients.

    Acupuncture is also very effective as is chiropractic.

    • Sharlene Mackie Ferizi says:

      I would love all of this info, but it is so much at once, is there somewhere I can receive it as a pdf and save it and then I can access it and pour over it more than once and get some real help out of it instead or reading once article and then not seeing it again. Thank you, I am not very computer literate, so I need help with any special instructions or links to save and so on. Thank you, Sharlene Mackie Ferizi

  2. Thank you, Lyndsay Pfenning Stradtner! I wanted to include more info on the adrenals but it was already a **little** long. We love nettle in this house . . . maybe I should do a post all about adrenal therapy!

  3. Lyndsay Pfenning Stradtner via FB says:

    Yes! That would be awesome. It will eventually be added to 52choices so I’d lOve to link you as a resource when it is!

  4. Angela 'Stewart' Wood via FB says:

    Sleep! My depression is at its worse when I don’t sleep well.

  5. Thanks, Angela ‘Stewart’ Wood! Adding that one in right now . . .

  6. Linnae says:

    Also- with the gut/brain connection- science is finding that probiotics can be extremely helpful as well!! Yay!! More reasons to eat more fermented foods! :)

    • Heather says:

      Good point, Linnae! I actually lumped that in with deficiencies even though it isn’t technically a nutrient. I think I’ll give it it’s own section instead.

  7. Also- with the gut/brain connection- science is finding that probiotics can be extremely helpful as well!! Yay!! More reasons to eat more fermented foods! :)

  8. I have been doing GAPS for a month. I’m off cymbalta with no withdraw. I took it for depression and fibro. I’ve never felt so good. I do worry about placebo effect though.

  9. Bailey Keenan via FB says:

    This is so awesome, thank you so much for this, Heather! I too would love to see a post on adrenal support.

  10. Linnae Dufresne – I lumped probiotics in with deficiencies even though they are not technically a nutrient. But you know, I think you’re right . . . just gave them their own section!

  11. AmandaLP says:

    Exercise!!! Exercise has been proven in many studies and many afflictions to be beneficial. (Depression, bipolar disorder, etc.)

    Elevating ones heart rate is better than anything else that you can do. Even while downing tons of sugar (which people with depression crave), exercise will be the best thing that one can do.

  12. [...] topic – a little something about depression Share [...]

  13. Margo Snider via FB says:

    Number 2 makes me sad ;). A post in adrenals would be great!

  14. Rachel says:

    I love information on naturally getting rid of depression. I had a pretty intense case a year ago, and the thing that helped me the most was teaching myself how to rethink. I read “The MInd/Body/Mood Connection,” which was a little lacking in the nutrition area, although better than nothing, but found it very helpful when talking about the thinking part of it. It took a long time, telling myself things I didn’t necessarily believe at first before I finally started to feel better. Along the way I learned a ton about how much the things we tell ourselves affect our behavior and feelings. The best part of my journey though, was I learned I can be in control of how I feel, and I don’t have to depend on drugs to control that. I find that both comforting and empowering.

  15. Angie Habermas via FB says:

    I would love an adrenal post too! I can’t wait to read this post when the little one is sleeping so I can concentrate better. =)

  16. Bailey Keenan via FB says:

    Btw, I never even knew that nettles were good for adrenals. I took nettle infusion towards the end of my pregnancy to boost up my vitamin k stores since I opted out of the vitamin k shot for my son. I did notice that it seemed to relieve my stress as well. Now I know why, thanks! :)

  17. TreaSon Holdings via FB says:

    Leaving abusive relationships… Unfortunately, I think that is a far too common problem as well.

  18. Lindsey says:

    I have dealt with depression a couple of times in my life, once after my second child was born and again recently after a stressful, devastating situation. My adrenals and thyroid are STILL recovering. Honestly, and I know this sounds so cliche, prayer and faith played a huge role in fighting depression. When you are so low and defeated that the only place you have to look is up to a loving God who knows your every need before you ask, you understand what it means to say “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Barring supplements, a whole food diet, sleep, counseling, and everything else I’ve tried, knowing that God’s power, love, and grace in my life will defeat that spirit of heaviness is the best depression remedy I know of. :)

  19. Robin says:

    I love this list! I think both this post and the one before it are so important for our world today. Too many people are struggling without having *all* the possible solutions. I have never personally had to deal with depression, so I don’t want to pretend to have all the answers. But I do think that we far too often neglect the very basic things that bring real health and happiness. I know that I would certainly start with this list before moving onto anything that has to come with a printed list of side effects. (Of course, it helps that we are already living the principles of this list…)

    Another great post, as usual.

  20. Having dealt with depression for most of my life, one of the best things you can do is have a good support network. I feel fortunate to have people in my life who are close enough that I can talk to them when I have had these issues burden me over the years. I may likely be going through therapy as well, to have an impartial ear and voice to help, but that’s waiting for me to figure out when I might be moving.

  21. Sandy (NZ) says:

    Two things…give myself permission to feel down, and to let myself wallow in it for a while (not too long). I know this doesn’t help someone who is in the throes of a deep depression, but quite a few of us suffer depression and are still at a reasonably high functioning level. I have a stash of feel good movie Dvd’s and nice mood music to indulge in then too.

    The other major thing for me was to find out that part of my depression is caused by a chemical sensitivity and so cutting that out of my world. In my case it’s aspartame (Nutrisweet) and I was getting it mostly by drinking diet sodas regularly (this was about 18 months before I stumbled across the concept of Nourishing food and you’all awesome blog creators that are so helpful!). My depression was SAD (the more debilitating form of Winter Blues) and a year after refusing to eat anything with aspartame, I had my first mild winter in years, only about as low as normal people get, I reckon, and i didn’t need my light therapy once! A miracle!

    Also, before I found out that aspartame was my kryptonite, a visit to a hypnotherapist and the affirmation CD she personalized for me to use at home also was a help.

  22. Diane says:

    This was a really timely post for me. I’m weaning off my depression medication and have been searching out the best things I can do for myself to make sure I can successfully live without it. I’ve suffered from depression since my teens, and about 6 months ago started following The Primal Blueprint. I’ve been amazed at how much this lifestyle has improved my many health issues, and honestly, I NEVER thought I’d be able to go without the depression meds because my depression has always been so severe, so this is all nothing short of miraculous to me. I’m already doing “most” of the things you suggest, and plan to add the ones where I’m lacking. Thanks!

    • Diane says:

      Just wanted to follow up to my original comment, as of 3 days ago I am no longer taking depression meds!! I weaned myself off of Cymbalta and Welbutrin carefully, over time, so as not to suffer the withdrawal symptoms that can be pretty severe when going off of these drugs. I’m happy to report that I’m feeling terrific! I want to offer encouragement to anyone who has suffered from depression and would like to have their life back. The suggestions in this post, if followed diligently, really do work!

  23. Jeanette Clapper Westhoff via FB says:

    How about placenta encapsulation?

  24. Elle says:

    This article is fantastic! So much depression is actually caused by deficiencies and nobody likes to say so! I’m so glad you put this together. I sent it to a friend of mine who has major depression episodes and it was a great way to gently help her with her problems. God Bless You Heather for the effort you put in to help all of us!

  25. AnnMarie Deis says:

    You mentioned calcium. I’d also like to mention that TOO MUCH calcium is also a cause for depression. I have been having my excessive calcium levels monitored throughout the winter, so researching this obscure problem has taken on a pastime for me. Just my two cents. :) Great article and tips!!!!!

  26. I have dealt with depression for years and have been on all sorts of anti-depressants. These are great remedies that work BETTER than anti-depressant medications (at least in my case). After I improved my diet and started taking supplements like fish oil (Omega 3’s), magnesium, etc… I’ve noticed my symptoms improve dramatically. Thanks for the great tips. I haven’t heard of probiotics helping, but it makes total sense. Thanks again ;)

    • Heather says:

      Love that you shared here, Jill! People are often skeptical that nutrition can make a dramatic difference in our emotional health but it is sooooo, true. Thank you for sharing your story!

  27. Vhinz says:

    Hi Heather,

    Nice list you got there, I personally follow tips number 1 and 3, a 30 minutes walk + healthy diet keeps me away from stress. I’ve also noticed that on your blog post title it was 7 natural remedies, why on its permalink it was mommypotamus.com/5-natural-remedies-for-depression/ I think it would be better if you can fix the permalink as well.

  28. [...] Also, here are 7 natural remedies for depression that will benefit just about everyone. [...]

  29. Great article. I’m thrilled to see more and more talk of natural remedies. Antidepressants don’t work for millions of Americans, and they are desperate for solutions. People are not only suffering, they are dying!

    I was one of the lucky ones. I cured myself of depression using an art called Qigong (similar to Tai Chi). Now I teach Qigong, and I’ve helped my students do the same. So Qigong is another one to add to the list. :-)

    Here’s a link to my article on Depression and Qigong, if anyone is interested: http://flowingzen.com/1912/depression-kills-qigong-saves/

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