This is a common question we get as naturopathic doctors in our practice- people seeking natural solutions to depression or low moods. Many people suffer with low moods or depression affected by weather/seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months or an on-going low mood throughout the year. Sadness, crying, anger, withdrawing from social activities are common symptoms of depression but physical symptoms such as poor concentration, fatigue, decreased libido and a loss of interest in activities that usually were found pleasurable are also very common.
From a naturopathic perspective there are many angles to approach this from, simply meaning- many different solutions to look at. For the next 3 weeks we will have a new post of various topics that are important to consider when treating depression.
Week 1: Nutrition
Diet is a first approach. Refined carbs and sugars trigger a decreased mood and increased anxiety. A balanced diet protein (legumes, raw nuts, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, tofu with each meal), complex carbohydrates (veggies, fruits, brown grains such as rice, quinoa, spelt, kamut) and healthy fats (olive/fish/flax oil, avocado and raw nuts and seeds) will put energy in your step and help boost mood.
Balanced meals will have a protein source + whole grain + healthy fat. For example, Chicken or fish with brown rice and steamed broccoli or salad with olive oil dressing (low sugar).
Snacks: Fruit with raw nuts (almonds, pecans etc), hummus & veggies, veggies & raw nuts, protein smoothie or protein bar.
Week 2 Natural Depression Solutions: Stress Management
We live in a world of high stress- rushing with kids, responding to work emails on all our new “techy” gadgets and upkeep of daily responsibilities leaves many people in a state of adrenal fatigue. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are similar to depression including low energy, decreased motivation to do things, difficult waking in the morning, low libido, decreased ability to handle stress, difficult to enjoy life, “brain fog” thinking and memory loss.
ROUTINE is the number one activity to support adrenals. Any time you change your routine the adrenals help you adapt to that change. Eating times through the day, balancing blood sugar with diet, bed/wake times and work times- keeping these consistent helps regulate the adrenals.
Prioritizing your “To Do” list – what can be delegated to your children, spouse or a friend? Or can you possibly drop a couple things from the list- lower your standards of what “must” be done! Yoga has been shown to increase GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps improve mood and decrease anxiety in studies. Many naturopathic remedies such as B complex and adaptogenic herbs (rhodiola, licorice, Siberian ginseng) also help support adrenals. Check with Dr. Wales or I at your next visit to assess if these are appropriate for you.
Watch for next week to learn about the thyroid and treating neurotransmitters imbalances in the body naturally.
Week 3 Natural Depression Solutions: Assess Thyroid and Treat Neurotransmitter Imbalances
Thyroid – It is imperative to have your thyroid assessed when dealing with depression. Depression is a symptom of low thyroid, or hypothyroid. Your naturopathic doctor will want to do labwork but also check basal body temperature and iodine levels as well. In our office, we also use the Thyroflex test that will assess the reflex of the arm, this also assesses thryoid.
Physical chemical imbalances– for many people there is a chemical imbalance that can be treated naturally through various nutritional and herbal remedies. Vitamin B6 is a co-factor needed to produce serotonin. From a naturopathic perspective, working on digestion is key to helping with optimal absorption of these important nutrients for mood. 5 HTP or St. John’s wort can also be used to increase serotonin levels.
I hope you enjoyed this three part weekly series on natural solutions to help improve mood. We would be happy to discuss further with you individual natural solutions to help elevate mood and feel your ultimate best throughout the day in your next visit. I look forward to helping you along your journey of health one step at a time!
Dr. Bunzenmeyer ND