The first line of treatment that most conventional physicians and so-called "experts" would advise for depressed individuals is to take antidepressants. In fact, these medications are among the most commonly prescribed drugs today (along with antibiotics) and are taken by more than 1 in 8 Americans.1
But there's mounting evidence that antidepressants are not as effective as originally marketed.
New studies have shown that in many instances not only are antidepressants no more effective than placebo pills for depressed individuals,2 but they also come with a long list of side effects that can further cause your health to spiral downwards.
Why Antidepressants Can Do More Harm Than Good
Antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), known by brand names such as Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and Celexa, were actually found to be linked to symptoms of mania or bipolar disorder.3
Women who took SSRIs during the second and/or third trimester of their pregnancy were also found to give birth to children who were predisposed to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).4
What's worse, there is compelling evidence that shows that SSRIs may actually be contributing to suicide. SSRIstories.com is a website that archives thousands of credible and published reports on how SSRIs and other antidepressants are a significant risk factor in suicides and other violent behavior.
The stories are quite disturbing, detailing dangerous and violent actions by people on SSRIs.
Even U.S. soldiers fall victim to the dangerous effects of antidepressants. During the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, the rate of suicide in troops was actually – alarmingly – higher than the combat fatalities themselves, and the majority of these rates were among soldiers who had never even deployed.
These soldiers were given prescriptions for different antidepressants, including Prozac, Zoloft and Cymbalta.6,7
These findings make it clear that antidepressants should never be used to address depression. Instead of taking these medications, you should turn to natural remedies and lifestyle changes to alleviate this disorder.
Changing Your Lifestyle May Help You in Coping With Depression
Sometimes, a few lifestyle tweaks may be all that's needed to help bring your mood and mental health back in optimal condition. If you want to learn how to deal with or beat depression naturally, you can start by implementing these basic lifestyle changes:
• Address your vitamin D deficiency. Studies have consistently shown that having low levels of vitamin D had a significant effect on a person's mental health.
8 If you're struggling with depression, it may be helpful to have your vitamin D level checked, so you can address any insufficiency or deficiency.
Sunlight exposure is the best way to optimize your levels, but if that's not possible, vitamin D3 supplementation is a viable alternative. Just keep in mind that if you take a vitamin D3 supplement, you need to take magnesium and vitamin K2, since these nutrients work in tandem.
• Get enough exercise. Exercise may help treat mild to moderate depression without any damaging side effects. Maintaining an exercise schedule can also prevent you from suffering a relapse.9
• Eat healthy. Consuming well-balanced meals every day will help minimize your mood swings and give you enough energy. Remember to consume a low-sugar, non-GMO diet that is instead rich in healthy omega-3 fats and probiotics (either from fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement).
• Get enough sleep. Depriving yourself of sleep can worsen your sadness, irritability, moodiness and fatigue. Aside from aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep per night, make it a point to practice healthy sleep habits, such as removing EMF-emitting gadgets from your bedroom, sleeping in total darkness and setting a sleep schedule.
• Reduce your stress. Excessive stress can worsen depression and put you at risk of relapse. Eliminate the stress triggers in your life and employ stress-relieving techniques like meditation and the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to keep you happy and worry-free.
Herbs, Nutritional Supplements and Other Safer Remedies
There are herbs and other nutrients that have been used for thousands of years to help ward off mild to moderate depression. These act as mood boosters and help eliminate chronic hopelessness and sadness.
Here are some natural cures for depression that you can try – they are no doubt much safer than conventional medications:10,11
✓ St. John's Wort — Native to western Asia, Europe and northern Africa, St. John's wort has been linked to increased levels of serotonin, the "feel-good" hormone in the brain.
One 2008 review of 29 studies conducted on this plant found that it was just as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of mild to moderate depression – but without the negative effects.12 This herb interacts with certain medications, however, so consult a physician prior to using it.
✓ Zinc — A study published in Biological Psychiatry found that having low levels of this nutrient in the blood is linked to depression, so taking a high-quality zinc supplement may be an essential strategy in warding off this disorder.13
One research found that just taking 25 milligrams of zinc supplement helped eased depression symptoms.14 This nutrient can also increase the levels of omega-3 fats in your body.
✓ Saffron — Ingesting the stigma (the end of the flower's rod-like stem) may be effective in treating mild to moderate depression, according to a study published in Alternative Medicine Review.15
✓ S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) — It works like a synthetic version of the natural mood-boosting chemicals in your body.16 Be careful not to take too much, though, as it can lead to upset stomach and constipation.
✓ 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) — Taking this may help improve your serotonin levels. In fact, when your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first produces 5-HTP. There is also evidence suggesting that it may even outperform a placebo when it comes to providing relief from depression.17
✓ Folate — People with depression have been found to have low levels of folic acid, its synthetic version, in their body. You can get folate naturally from foods like lentils, beans, avocado, sunflower seeds and dark leafy greens.18
✓ Aromatherapy — Essential oils have been used for thousands of years to help relieve different ailments and aches. Now studies are determining its potential in helping alleviate depression and other mood disorders. One study found that inhaling citrus fragrances can help reduce doses in people taking antidepressants, and promote normal neuroendocrine levels and immune function.19
Meanwhile, cancer hospice patients who inhaled lavender oil through a humidifier experienced positive changes in anxiety, depression, blood pressure levels and pain. They also had a better sense of wellbeing.20
You can also try acupuncture for your depression. One study found this traditional Chinese practice may be as effective as antidepressants (yet safer). A separate study also found that it may help treat the side effects of these medications.21
If All Else Fails, Seek a Professional and Trustworthy Therapist
If none of the strategies above have worked in battling your depression, then it may be best for you to seek a trustworthy mental health specialist as your next step for treatment. He or she will help determine the best method to treat your depression. The three most common types of depression counseling are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and interpersonal therapy.
By working with a qualified therapist, you will learn practical techniques on how to reframe negative thoughts and adapt behavioral skills to combat this disorder. You may also learn the root of your depression, allowing you to understand how you feel the negative emotions, what the triggers are and how you can stay healthy.
Just remember one thing: make sure that you truly connect with your therapist. He or she should be caring and supportive, and must readily guide you without any hesitation to help you overcome your depression, leading you toward recovery.22