Depressed woman

If you suffer from depression, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of Americans suffer from depression each year. Luckily, there is hope, and there are some natural ways to start feeling better.

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According to All About Depression, depression affects 19 million Americans each year. About 25 percent of women and 12 percent of men will become clinically depressed at some point in their lives. That’s pretty alarming — but there are ways to treat it.

Besides prescription drugs, natural ways to help prevent and cure depression exist. We spoke with holistic pharmacist and natural health author Sherry Torkos about the best ways to cure depression naturally.

Dietary recommendations by Sherry Torkos

A healthy diet helps balance mood. Eat small, frequent meals with quality protein, healthy fats and nutrient-dense, low-glycemic carbohydrates to maintain good energy and mood. Find some specific recommendations below.

Foods to include:

Salmon and salad

  • Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamins and minerals, which may be depleted in people with depression.
  • Cold-water fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health. Vegetarian sources of omega-3s include chia seed, flaxseed and nuts.
  • Turkey and salmon contain the amino acid tryptophan, which elevates serotonin production.

Foods to avoid:

  • Sugar, soft drinks and refined carbohydrates (white flour) can cause blood sugar fluctuations and trigger mood swings and irritability. Caffeine may also trigger mood swings and anxiety in some people; however, some recent research suggests it may play a protective role against depression. The antioxidants in coffee may protect the brain against free-radical damage.
  • Processed and fast foods often contain chemicals and preservatives that may upset brain chemistry.
  • Alcohol is a nervous system depressant and should be minimized or avoided completely, especially by those taking medication.

Lifestyle suggestions by Sherry Torkos

If you suffer from depression, it’s important to take a close look at your lifestyle and discover ways you can improve it. She suggests:

  • Woman doing yoga stretchAcupuncture. Studies have found it beneficial in combatting depression. It may work by stimulating
    the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Counseling. Therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist can be very beneficial. Some research has found cognitive therapy as effective as drug therapy.
  • Exercise. Research has shown that exercise produces powerful benefits for relieving depression and stress, and improving mood, well-being and sleep. Aim for 30 minutes to one hour of activity daily — walking, cycling, swimming, yoga or any activity you enjoy.
  • Massage and reflexology. Both help relieve stress and tension, and promote relaxation.
  • Adequate sleep. Quality sleep is essential for mental and physical health.

Supplemental support

  • Fish oil supplementsFish oil. It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the nervous system and support
    neurotransmitter function. Levels may be depleted in those with depression; studies show it can help combat depression, especially for those who are not finding getting adequate relief with antidepressant drugs.
  • Suntheanine. A patented form of the amino acid L-theanine. Studies show it reduces stress and anxiety without causing drowsiness or addiction, and also improves sleep quality. It works quickly to promote calming (30 minutes to one hour), and is well tolerated.
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Supports the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, improves communication between nerve cells and is an antioxidant, which protects brain tissues against damage from free radicals. Numerous studies demonstrate benefits for improving depression, with results comparable to conventional antidepressants. SAMe is well tolerated, has positive side effects (supports joint and liver health) and has a quick onset of action (two weeks). Not recommended for those with bipolar disorder (manic depression), as it can worsen the manic symptoms.
  • Vitamin D. A deficiency has been reported in many people with depression, and several studies have shown supplements improve mood.

More on depression

Depression fallout: The impact of depression on couples
How to reduce your risk for depression
Depression and stress hurt health

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