Alternatives to Antidepressant Medications for Mild to Moderate Depression*

 

 

Supplements
Herbs

Like good nutrition, supplements are helpful in forming a good foundation for mental health. Women who are depressed are frequently low in B6, B12, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. The following is a list of supplements that are helpful in depression.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, flax seed or roasted hemp seeds)
  • B-complex
  • B6 (75 mg)
  • B12 (100 mcg)
  • Folic acid (400 mcg)
  • Choline (150 to 500 mg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Caution: The effects of these have not been studied with breastfeeding mothers.]

St. John’s Wort: SJW is a safe and effective herbal antidepressant. It is used widely in Germany for mild to moderate depression. It has been shown to be as effective as tricyclic antidepressants without the numerous side effects. It improves mood and the quality of sleep. More information on St. Johns Wort here.

Dosage: 300 mg three times/day of SJW standardized to contain 0.3 percent hypericin.

Kava: Kava is used for depression with anxiety. It can be sedating. Not widely studied, but is used in indigenous cultures to promote relaxation.

Dosage: 45 to 70 kavalactones, three times daily.

SAM-e: (s-adrenosyl-methionine). SAM-e is a substance that naturally occurs in the body and is crucial to central pathways of metabolism in the cells of all animals. It eases depression by producing serotonin and dopamine. SAM-e is widely used and studied in Italy and Germany for depression and arthritis.

It can be very expensive to take.

Dosage: 400 mg in the morning on an empty stomach. If depression doesn’t clear in a week, double the dose to 400 mg twice daily.

Diet Exercise Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Your brain needs carbohydrates (complex or simple) to make serotonin—a neurotransmitter that is frequently low in depressed people. In order to achieve an antidepressant effect, 45 grams of carbohydrates must be eaten with little or no fat, and with no protein for at least an hour after eating the carbohydrates.

In addition, a well-balanced diet can be an important foundation for mental health. As a general rule, you should eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reduce fat, salt, caffeine, and refined sugars.

Exercise is also an effective treatment for depression. Daily physical exercise boosts mood by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine, and by releasing endorphins. Endorphins relieve pain and create a sense of well-being, and tend to be low in people who are depressed. Twenty to sixty minutes of walking or other activity (even weight lifting) can help your mood by creating the very chemical changes that medications create.

Exercise can also be an important adjunct to other treatments.>

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a highly effective treatment for depression. Its central premise is that depression is caused by distortions in thinking. Types of distortions include assumptions of powerlessness in a situation, the tendency to focus only on negative aspects and downplay the positive, and assuming that others are thinking negative things about you.

Cognitive therapy helps clients identify these distortions and replace them with more accurate (and less self-defeating) cognitions.

 

*Not to be used for severe or suicidal depression. Call your doctor immediately.