Depression_cover image

Lose The Blues!

  • What Is Depression?
  • How Can Diet Help You?
  • Why Is Exercise Important?
  • Which Supplements Can Affect Your Mood?

Find Out How To Change Your State. Look Inside….

Depression is so widespread in the US that it has been called “the common cold of mental disorders”.

The CDC reports that at any given time about nine percent of adult Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression. (Nine percent represents over 22 million individuals!)

They also report that major depression, a long-lasting and severe form of depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44.1

In addition, women are about 70% more likely than men to suffer from depression.

These statistics don’t include those under 18 nor those who are not seeking treatment but who just “have the blues”.

In this issue of Nutrition News, we present some natural remedies for losing the blues. Of course, these include the principles of healthy living as well as several OTC supplements which have been shown to alleviate this condition.

Depression_cover image

TOPIC: DEPRESSION

Make efforts to bolster your mental health by being more authentic in all aspects of your life. Too often, we walk around wearing masks, pretending to be something we’re not. We fake it [all the time, everywhere]— and then we wonder why we wind up depressed. Consider signing up for a course to help you get in touch with your authentic self. Practice letting your freak flag fly and watch how your mood lifts.

Lissa Rankin, MD, Psychology Today, March 2011

Lose The Blues!

• What Is Depression?

• How Can Diet Help You?

• Why Is Exercise Important?

• Which Supplements 

       Can Affect Your Mood?

Find Out How To Change Your State.

Look Inside….                      

Lose The Blues!

Depression is so widespread in the US that it has been called “the common cold of mental disorders”. The CDC reports that at any given time about nine percent of adult Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression. (Nine percent represents over 22 million individuals!)

They also report that major depression, a long-lasting and severe form of depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44.1 In addition, women are about 70% more likely than men to suffer from depression. These statistics don’t include those under 18 nor those who are not seeking treatment but who just “have the blues”. 

In this issue of Nutrition News, we present some natural remedies for losing the blues. Of course, these include the principles of healthy living as well as several OTC supplements which have been shown to alleviate this condition.    

Poor lifestyle habits, including an inferior diet and lack of exercise, can stress the body and result in bouts of depression. Excessive alcohol, caffeine, and sugar intake are contributing factors (as is smoking). There are also health conditions with symptoms which include feelings of depression. These include hypothyroidism, insomnia, PMS, allergies of various kinds, Candida albicans infections, exposure to toxins, and fatigue. (This can come from various sources, including chronic lack of sleep, disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.)

If you feel down-in-the-dumps for more than a month, get a complete physical. In a study at The University of Texas Medical Center, researchers gave physical examinations to 100 clinically depressed patients. An amazing 90 percent of these people were found to have a previously unrecognized physical illness. In addition, a physical should include a complete hormone profile. Subclinically low hormone levels are too frequently overlooked as a cause of erratic emotional states. Further, any degenerative disease can initiate otherwise unexplainable mental states, including depression and even suicidal ideation.

Put “Bs” In Your Bonnet 

I

nadequate amounts of any vitamins or minerals can result in atypical mental states. In the context of depression, the B vitamins – B12, B6, folic acid, and inositol – are particularly important. These vitamins are needed for a process called methylation as well as in the production of the monoamine neurotransmitters. (Methylation and monoamines are discussed below.) 

Both folic acid and B12 deficiencies have depression as a symptom. According to Michael T. Murray, ND, correcting these deficiencies results in a “dramatic improvement in mood.” This result is attributed to the part these vitamins play in the formation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, one of the monoamines. Both of these vitamins are also necessary to the synthesis of phosphatidylserine, the major phospholipid in the brain.

Doses of 800 mcg of folic acid and 800 mcg of B12 along with 1000 mg of vitamin C and 1T of flaxseed oil are recommended by Dr. Murray for brain health.2 

Vitamin B6 also has many functions in brain chemistry. Pertinent here is its part in monoamine synthesis. This may also be the reason why people who are low in B6 respond so well to supplementation. The typical effective dose of B6 is 50-100 mg.

Israeli researchers have discovered that depressed people also show low inositol levels in brain and spinal fluid. Both depression and panic attacks have been alleviated by large doses of this vitamin. The dose is 12 grams given in three doses. Stomach ache is the only reported side effect. Perhaps this could be avoided by building the dose slowly.

Monoamines and Your Moods

T

he monoamines are mood influencing neurotransmitters. The two types are excitatory and inhibitory. In the healthy brain, they balance each other. The excitatory monoamines are norepinephrine and dopamine. The basic raw material for these get-up-and-go neurotransmitters is the amino acid tyrosine. When unopposed, the result is overarousal, fear, anger, tension, aggression, violence, obsessive-compulsive behavior, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. The inhibitory monoamines are serotonin and melatonin. Their raw material is tryptophan. A deficiency in serotonin (called “serotonin deficiency syndrome”) can result in depression, sleep disorders, obesity, and addiction.

The importance of serotonin to emotional equilibrium is reflected in the popularity of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. By inhibiting the breakdown and reuptake of existing serotonin, the brain then has additional serotonin. Although the actions of these drugs frequently have the desired emotional effect, not surprisingly, their use can result in a number of undesirable short and long term side effects.3

NATURE’S Rx

In this section, we discusss a number of natural substances that lift your spirits with their antidepressant properties.  

You’ll Never Feel The SAMe

Dubbed “Sammy”, S-adenosyl-methionine has the same uplifting effect no matter how you pronounce it.4 Studies indicate that SAMe may be the most effective of all the natural antidepressants. Research shows it to be faster acting with fewer side effects than either prescription antidepressants or other natural antidepressants. While both 5-HTP and St. John’s wort are useful for the treatment of mild to moderate depression, SAMe has been used successfully to treat major depression. Not only can it be taken with tricyclic antidepressants, it is recommended to be taken along with SSRIs by non-

responders.

Depressed patients using SAMe show increased levels of serotonin and dopamine. It’s involved in the methylation process, and also influences the production of  the phospholipids (e.g., phosphatidylcholine and -serine), creatine, myelin sheath (for nerves), and more. Methylation is one of the essential metabolic processes and is 

involved in dozens of vital body functions, including the regulation and control of gene expression, detoxification, hormone activity, and neurotransmitter development (our interest in SAM).

SAM is synthesized from the essential amino acid methionine and ATP. (ATP, adenosine-triphosphate, is the principal form of chemical energy in the body.) The by-product of SAM synthesis is homocysteine.5 Under normal circumstances, homocysteine is recycled back into methionine and the cycle continues safely.

Methionine, vitamins B12, B6, folic acid, and zinc are the nutrients necessary for methylation. The richest food sources of methianine are meat and eggs. Good plant sources are avocados and sunflower and sesame seeds. B12 is found mainly in animal proteins and also in kelp and the algaes. B6 is in beans, grains, and vegetables; folic acid, in fresh fruits and veggies; and zinc, in beans and grains. When not enough of these nutrients are present to support methylation, our bodies can become swamped with homocysteine. Too much methionine results in high homocysteine levels.6 

Supplement formulas which lower homocysteine levels also promote the body’s production of SAM. Generally, such formulas contain the B vitamins we’ve discussed. Zinc and/or a substance called betaine TMG (trimethylglycine) may also be included. TMG also disarms homocysteine.

  Tissue levels of SAM are typically low not only in people suffering from depression but also those with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and various liver disorders. People with these ailments may also benefit by taking SAMe. 

 

Patients in depression studies are given 400-800 mg of SAMe daily in divided doses. Best taken on an empty stomach, start with 200 mg at night.

Give Me Five 

– HTP, That Is. 

5-HTP (L-5-hydroxytryptophan) is a step in the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into the neurotransmitter serotonin. The most studied of all neurotransmitters, serotonin plays an integral role in feelings of well-being, self-worth, calmness, security, relaxation, confidence, and concentration. It is also a precursor for the synthesis of melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone (See Nutrition News “Melatonin, Beyond Sleep”.) Like SAMe, 5-HTP does not interrupt normal metabolic pathways for its antidepressant effect. Instead, it gives the brain material for serotonin synthesis.

Only 1-2% of all serotonin in the body is produced in the brain. Serotonin cannot cross the blood brain barrier. The tryptophan needed for its synthesis is provided by protein intake. Decreases of dietary tryptophan can profoundly lower brain serotonin levels. The food highest in tryptophan is spirulina; followed by duck. Others include tofu, turkey, fish, and lentils. In fact, the effectiveness of SSRIs is dependent on the availability of tryptophan (or its derivatives like 5-HTP). 

Further, when protein foods are broken down to their component amino acids, they compete for receptor sites. However, 5-HTP is not an amino acid, and isn’t subject to this competition. Supplementation insures that some 5-HTP does reach the brain.

A number of studies show that 5-HTP can elevate brain serotonin levels naturally and alleviate serotonin deficiency syndrome without the use of SSRIs. Some research shows that 5-HTP delivers results equal to those of SSRIs. In one double-blind study, clinically depressed patients were dosed three times daily with either 100 mg of 5-HTP or 150 mg of fluvoxamine (an SSRI). During the 6-week study, both groups experienced a significant and nearly equal reduction in depression. At the end, the percentage of improvement from baseline was greater for the participants taking 5-HTP.

Besides its ability to improve your mental state, there is evidence of 5-HTP’s usefulness in alleviating anxiety, obesity, insomnia, migraines, addictions, and even fibromyalgia. Many people who previously used tryptophan for sleep now use 5-HTP. It is ten times more potent than 

the amino acid. An hour before bed, take 50 mg with water or juice.7

St. John’s Wort: A Cautionary Tale

The ability of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) to alleviate mild to moderate depression has been shown in dozens of clinical studies. The hoopla began in 1996 when a meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal concluded that evidence showed St. John’s wort (SJW) to be “more effective than placebo for the treatment of mild to moderately severe depressive disorders.” Plus, Germany’s Commission E (the German FDA) had previously approved the use of SJW as safe and effective for the treatment of mental disturbances, including depression, anxiety, and nervous unrest.

Take 900-1200 mg daily in divided doses. Purchase a product standardized to 0.3 hypericin or 5% hyperforin. Best to take the smallest effective amount. Hyla Cass, MD, well-known integrative psychiatrist, writes that more won’t give any further effect. She also notes that, like prescription medications, it can take up to six weeks to experience the effects of SJW. Once  stabilized, the dose can be tapered off. A small number of people experience gastric upset with St. John’s wort so take it with food. Also known to make the skin photosensitive, wear sunscreen and sun glasses.

Dr. Cass brings to our attention the other medicinal uses of St. John’s wort. These include strong antiviral and antibacterial properties, wound healing, insomnia relief, PMS help, and alleviation of menstrual cramps. And, yes, SJW is the basis for the homeopathic remedy Hypericum.8

Why “A Cautionary Tale”? Initially thought to be free of side effects, now a number of conditions preclude the use of SJW. Balch, Stengler, and Balch write not to combine SJW with digitalis nor with Rx antidepressant medications nor other meds that alter neurotransmitter levels. In addition, it should be avoided by those with bipolar disease or those taking antiviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. Don’t combine with drugs that prevent organ rejection, The Pill, theophylline or aminophylline, Prilosec or Coumadin (or their generics). Further, SJW is not to be taken by those in chemotherapy.

More Mood Modifiers

Ginkgo biloba extract. According to Murray, researchers began studying the antidepressive effects of GBE when patients participating in double-blind studies for cerebrovascular insufficiency noticed an improvement in mood.

 

Murray has recommended that people over 50 use GBE rather than St. John’s wort for depression. For this purpose, standardized GBE is taken at 80 mg three times per day (twice the amount suggested for memory problems). He also recommends that this be accompanied by 1200 mcg of folic acid and an equal amount of vitamin B12.

DLPA, or D, L-phenylalanine, can be very effective as an antidepressant. There seem to be three reasons for its efficacy: increased production of a stimulant neurotransmitter called PEA (phenylethylamine, brings new meaning to the phrase PEA-brain); increased endorphin levels, and increased norepinephrine production. These biochemicals create a synergistic antidepressant effect.

DLPA tablets come in 375 mg. Take 3/d in divided doses just following meals. Follow this instruction until a reduction in symptoms is experienced, usually 4-6 weeks. Then reduce to 1/d and eventually discontinue.

  Fish oil, rich in the omega 3 fatty acids needed by the brain, is on the Nutrition News matrix supplement list. It is rare in our diets and is needed for just normal functioning. In one study, fish oil was given to patients who were unresponsive to their medication. When fish oil was added to their regimen, a significant number experienced a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms.

Take 1-7 grams of combined EPA and DHA fish oil.

And, don’t be in D-nial. Healthy vitamin D levels are a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. According to Joe Mercola, MD, people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels. Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among 95% of US adults. Also, a lack of vitamin D may be why some people suffer from SAD.

Siri Says: First, numerous studies have shown regular exercise to be comparable in its effects to antidepressants. Just 3 hours a week, about 30 minutes a day, can profoundly reduce depression. Not as easy as taking a pill, exercise is so much better for you. Secondly, sometimes just finding someone you trust who will help you work through your feelings can make all the difference in the world. Lastly, remember, you have to get healthy before you can get happy. oxox Siri

  

Footnotes:

1 Major depressive disorder, MDD, simply major depression is defined by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) as severe symptoms that interfere with one’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes. For more information about clinical depression, search  “NIMH and depression”.

2 Always take B12 with folic acid to prevent folic acid’s ability to mask a B12 deficiency.

3 Side effects include increased nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, allergic reactions, drowsiness, light-headedness, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, nausea, and impaired urination. Blunted sexual response is not unusual. 

4 The e in SAMe designates the stabilized form. SAM itself is produced by the body.

5 Readers may recall that high homocysteine levels are a marker for heart disease risk. 

6 Looking at this information, it is easy to understand why vegetarians seldom (if ever) develop high homocysteine levels while many individuals who consume a diet heavy in animal proteins but without the supportive fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes develop heart problems. On the other hand, vegetarians are more likely to be at risk of getting too little methionine. It is a limiting amino acid in soyfoods.

7 Penn State, Hershey, reports that people who took 5-HTP went to sleep quicker and slept more deeply than those who took a placebo. Researchers recommend 200 to 400 mg at night to stimulate serotonin. FYI: May take 6-12 weeks to be fully effective.

8 This remedy is good with Arnica for injury and trauma, and is especially recommended for fear such as stage fright. Its Greek name, Hypericum, refers to its ability to keep evil spirits away.