One in four American women are on prescription drugs for stress, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400 percent between 2005 and 2008, according to a survey conducted by the CDC, with women three times more likely to use antidepressants than men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 15 million American adults suffer from major depression, and 40 million more have anxiety disorders.
Most patented antidepressants "work" by boosting the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain. Although the FDA and other licensing authorizes have approved SSRIs and other antidepressants for the treatment of depression, there are doubts about their clinical efficacy.
Meta-analyses of antidepressant medications have reported only modest benefits over placebo treatment, according to a meta-analysis published in PLoS Medicine. A new study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, revealed that antidepressant drugs work no better than talk therapy, placebo pills, or basically anything else, at relieving depression.
In yet another study with 2,500 people, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine found that 20 percent of those taking Cymbalta and similar drugs for depression actually do worse than people who are given placebo pills not containing any drug.
Antidepressants are handed out like candy, do not address the cause of depression and, in reality, do more harm than good. There's even a designer antidepressant, Pristiq, for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Side effects of antidepressant use are: diabetes, immune dysfunction, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of stroke, psychosis, anxiety, brittle bones, detachment from reality, weight gain or loss, suicidal ideation, male infertility, decreased libido, decreased bonding with partner, nausea, constipation/diarrhea, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, weakness and fatigue.
Aside from their side effects, antidepressants alter the biochemistry of the brain, and can be very difficult to discontinue. Antidepressants should never be used long term (longer than three months) because they change plasticity in the brain.
Depression is a sign that your body, life are out of balance
Pre-disposing and often overlooked factors to consider: addiction to sugar; amino acid deficiencies; Candida and/or parasites; chronic viral or bacterial infections; carbohydrate sensitivity; dental poisoning; drug and alcohol addictions; essential fatty acid deficiencies; food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances; gluten intolerance; gut dysfunction; heavy metal body burden; hormone dysfunction (most common is hypo adrenal and hypothyroid), even though blood tests show "normal," subjective indications reveal otherwise; lack of protein intake; moldy environments; pharmaceutical medications (very common in the elderly); psychological stress; Thiamine deficiency; vitamin D and sunlight deficiency.
Did you know?
• Bacteria in the gut can increase risk of depression.
• Inflammation drives depression to depleting serotonin.
• Inflammation in the gut equals an inflamed brain, which puts you at risk for depression and dementia.
• The second brain is through the gut. The majority of serotonin is made in the gut, NOT the brain.
• Low folic acid is related to depression in the elderly.
• There is an association between depressive symptoms and zinc deficiency.
• Statin drug use is linked to depression and diabetes.
• Low levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with a significantly increased risk of developing depression in men.
• Depression has also been linked to an inflammation marker in blood called C-reactive protein (CRP).
• There is an inverse relationship between vitamin D status and depression.
• There is a connection between depression and diabetes.
• What happened in your early childhood, in utero, and even sometimes before conception, through epigenetic effects, can influence your innate biochemistry and cause you to be more susceptible to depression. It's so important to remember that if life's unexpected left turns seem to weigh heavier on you than on others, it's not your fault. And there are certainly things you can do to make yourself feel better.
Safer, more effective ways to deal with depression
• Fix your gut, over two-thirds of neurotransmitters are made in the gut. The majority of serotonin, 95 percent, is made in the gut, not the brain. If your gut is inflamed or not functioning optimally, production of serotonin will be impaired and the end result is depression.
• Exercise. If a person with depression chooses just one, it should be exercise. It is the No. 1 cure for depression across the board. Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that moderate and intense daily exercise work just as well as antidepressant drugs. For women who had a family history of mental illness, moderate exercise worked best. For those who had no family history, intense exercise was more effective. More intense exercise was most beneficial for men in general. While aerobic exercise will temporarily increase feedback to the brain, anaerobic weight training has a more permanent affect.
• Full spectrum lighting. Sunlight without sunscreen 20 minutes daily
• Yoga and meditation.
• Support the body with appropriate nutrition. Specifically, essential fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, thiamine, magnesium and zinc. Low zinc has been linked to depression in women. An easy trick to tell if you're low in zinc is to take a look at your fingernails. If you see white spots under the nails, chances are you are low on zinc. Other tests for zinc deficiency include serum alkaline phosphate values, and the aqueous zinc taste test. Also, low vitamin B levels increase risk of depression in men and women.
• Ditch the sugar, gluten, bagels, cereals, soda, HFCS, processed foods and pasteurized diary products. Consume a low glycemic nutrient-rich, whole food diet. A high glycemic diet depletes the brain of necessary fuel stores because blood sugar changes so rapidly. A high glycemic diet results in elevated blood sugar, high insulin spike and higher cortisol secretion, compounding existing problems. Avoid low-calorie diets, which are often associated with depression due to vitamin and amino acid deficiencies. Include fat and plenty of quality, organic, animal protein (full of amino acids) at every meal.
• Log in a journal. Those who express gratitude through logging things, people or an experience in a gratitude journal are happier, more optimistic, and tend to exercise more.
• Deal with your stressors and find a type of stress relief that best works for you, like craniosacral therapy, chiropractic, massage, EFT, osteopathic manipulative therapy, acupuncture, etc.
• Write in a diary. Expressive writing is especially helpful for those who have experienced a traumatic event. Spend anywhere from 2-10 minutes a few times per week writing your thoughts and feelings. Expressing your story through writing in a diary increases happiness, encourages a solution, and boosts psychological and physical well-being.
• Urinary neurotransmitter testing check total body load.
• Amino acid therapy. Amino acid imbalances are linked to everything from depression to fibromyalgia. Most depressed individuals have low levels of amino acids. Amino acids work well as neurotransmitter precursors and agonists, but they take time to work. And, just as important, make sure to look for the cause of your low levels. Quite often, that cause turns out to be hypochlorhydria or low stomach acid.
Consider how your choices and circumstances may be affecting your outlook on life. Look at your environment, your sleep patterns, your diet, how you spend your time, and with whom you spend it. Be kind to yourself. Love and nurture yourself. Take some time to find what feels good and right for you. With some deep reflection, supportive guidance, and hope you can feel good again - in body, mind and spirit.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at www.PaulaOwens.com.