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Surviving the Holiday Blues: Supplements

Supplement suggestions to combat depression

For the weeks leading up to what many think is the most stressful time of the year, I’ve presented various methods of stress relief and natural ways to approach depression. In this last article on the topic, I’d like to expose readers to some herbal and supplemental options that assist the brain to be well and perform well.

There are certain universals that can be applied to humans pretty much across the board. But, there are particulars for each person as well. For the particulars, may I recommend making an appointment with a holistic practitioner, who will take the time to assess bothyour physical and mental symptoms – not just one or the other. 

Main Line Nutrition Services in Narberth offers a slew of assessments including nutrition counseling, herbal remedies, and shiatsu massage.  Empirical Point Acupuncture in Chestnut Hill offers far more than acupuncture. Experienced herbalist and Chinese Medicinal practitioner, Sharon Sherman will use all the tools at her disposal to address your particular needs. Molly Kellog, RD. LCSW, takes a holistic and highly knowledgeable approach to the mind/body connections. She is both a psychotherapist and a nutrition therapist , which means that she knows how that which you put into your body (or that which you don’t) effects both your body and your brain. 

Without an appointment, you may want to use some supplements that have been clinically shown to help a wide spectrum of people suffering from depression. 

Omega Fatty Acids (in the forms of EPA/DHA) found in FISH OIL*.  The research on this is, ‘overwhelming’ to say the least. Nearly every brain condition you can think up has been tested or studied in regards to Omega Fatty Acids.  And every study has shown that those who have higher daily intake of Omega Fatty Acids are less likely to have negative brain issues. And, for those who do have a condition (such as depression, bi-polar, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc) either experience a lessening (or even elimination) of symptoms, or a slowing of the progression of symptoms (such as in a disease like Alzheimer’s).

I cannot make medical recommendations, however, I can report on what has been found. It seems that clinical trials which see improvements (cardiovascular, rheumatoid arthritis, bi-polar disorder, depression…) have patients taking over 2,000 mg (2g) or more of EPA/DHA per day. It seems that the only warning is for people who are taking blood thinners, since fish oil will do that naturally. Also, you must tell your doctors when you take fish oil because you should come off of it before surgery (up to two weeks before in some cases). 

Otherwise, increasing your intake of Omega fatty Acids seems  to have a long list of benefits such as improving brain issues of all sorts, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. 

Several experts (including Dr. Daniel Amen (neuro sciences), and Dr Oz (cardiovascular surgeon and pop phenomenon) say that every person should be taking a daily multivitamin and fish oil. My psychologist (Dr. Jonathan Morley of Chestnut Hill) agrees. 

Other Herbal Supplements for Depression:  There are many herbs that can help with anxiety or depression: GABA, Kava Kava, Valarian root, 5Htp, SAMe, L-tryptophan, St. John's Wort, and Taurine to name a few. 

The problem is that depression can arise from different places in the brain, and something like St. Johns Wort or SAMe could do wonders for one person and increase the problems in another. This is similar to medications like Wellbutrin: for some, it’s a miracle drug; for others (if you are bipolar, for example) it could flip a very dangerous switch. That is why consultation with a medical professional (and also your own research) is so essential for people suffering serious depression. 

However, like Omega Fatty Acids, it seems that GABA, L-tryptophan, taurine and valarian root are all fairly universally beneficial when it comes to depression. And, if you would like to do a little self testing, Dr Daniel Amen provides a wealth of information on the topic of depression and has a self test that could help you narrow down your ‘brain type’ and start on some new healthy habits. 

And what better time to get ready for some healthy habits than now? 2012 is right around the corner – you could make it a healthier and happier year.

So after all these weeks, my suggestion is simply this: if you are feeling depressed or stressed during this holiday season, take it as a warning, and make some changes in your life: whether you begin a yoga class at Yoga on the Ridge, seek counseling at Interac, go for acupuncture at Lyceum Wellness Center, start an exercise regime at the Y, address your nutrition, revisit your faith, join a meditation group, start using fish oil supplements, or seek pharmaceutical aid from a medical doctor.  Your life is a miracle - embrace it and treat it like one! 

Note: If you are having suicidal thoughts, or desires to harm yourself or others, seek a medical professional (preferably a psychologist or psycho-pharmacologist) immediately to discuss medication options.  If it feels like an emergency, please call the National Suiside Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK  or 1-800-273-8255

* The most reputable brands for fish oil are: Coromega, made by European Reference Botanical Laboratories; Dr. SearsNordic Naturals (which can be purchased at WholeFoods) and Omega Brite. The typical dosage of fish oil is 1 to 2 g a day for prevention, 2-4g per day for battling existing conditions.

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