9 Holistic Health Approaches For Managing Depression Without Medications
1.) Learn About Chronic Inflammation In The Body
What is inflammation? Inflammation refers to your body’s process of fighting against things that harm it, like infections, injuries, and toxins, in an attempt to heal itself. When something damages your cells, your body releases chemicals that trigger a response from your immune system. Chronic inflammation is referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting several months to years. One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes from the grocery store.
What are the symptoms of chronic inflammation?
What causes inflammation in the body?
Sugar & high fructose corn syrup, like candy and soda
Artificial trans fats, like french fries and fast food
Vegetable & seed oils, like canola oil
Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pastries
Excessive alcohol | Smoking
Research: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation) ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/ https://www.health.harvard.edu/promotions/sumo/fighting-inflammation https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261561418325408 https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/quick-start-guide-to-an-antiinflammation-diet https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423#causes
2.) Stay Away From Added Sugar
Ever notice that the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave? Eating sugar releases opioids and dopamine in our bodies. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key part of the “reward circuit” associated with addictive behavior. When a certain behavior causes an excess release of dopamine, you feel a pleasurable “high” that you are inclined to re-experience, and so repeat the behavior.
Every time we eat sweets, we are reinforcing those neuropathways, causing the brain to become increasingly hardwired to crave sugar, building up a tolerance like any other drug. As you repeat that behavior more and more, your brain adjusts to release less dopamine. The only way to feel the same “high” as before is to repeat the behavior in increasing amounts and frequency. A diet high in added sugar may cause obesity, weight gain, headaches, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, increased gut permeability and inflammation in the joints.
Sugar goes by a lot of different names — Here is what to look for on nutrition labels:
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
Research: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10284150500485221 https://academic.oup.com/clinchem/article/64/1/64/5608937?login=true https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763407000589 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/ https://digitalcommons.onu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1173&context=paw_review https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261561418325408
3.) Learn About Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas that controls the amount of glucose in your bloodstream at any given moment. It also helps store glucose in your liver, fat, and muscles. It regulates your body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Insulin is made by the beta cells of the pancreas and released into the blood when the glucose level goes up, such as after eating. Insulin resistance, also known as impaired insulin sensitivity, happens when cells in your muscles, fat and liver, don’t respond as they should to insulin, a hormone your pancreas makes that’s essential for life and regulating blood glucose (sugar) levels.
Symptoms of insulin resistance:
extreme thirst or hunger.
feeling hungry even after a meal.
increased or frequent urination.
tingling sensations in hands or feet.
feeling more tired than usual.
high blood sugar levels
excess abdominal fat (a large waist)
Under normal circumstances, insulin functions in the following steps:
Your body breaks down the food you eat into glucose (sugar), which is your body’s main source of energy.
Glucose enters your bloodstream, which signals your pancreas to release insulin.
Insulin helps glucose in your blood enter your muscle, fat and liver cells so they can use it for energy or store it for later use.
When glucose enters your cells and the levels in your bloodstream decrease, it signals your pancreas to stop producing insulin.
Insulin resistance occurs when excess glucose in the blood reduces the ability of the muscle, fat, and liver cells to absorb and use blood sugar for energy. Anyone can develop insulin resistance — temporarily or chronically. Carbohydrates are the main stimulus that causes insulin blood levels to rise. High carb diets tend to lead to spikes in blood sugar, which put more pressure on the pancreas to remove sugar from the blood. Obesity (being significantly overweight and belly fat), an inactive lifestyle, and a diet high in carbohydrates are the primary causes of insulin resistance. Reducing your carb intake, and exercise, will significantly help increase insulin sensitivity.
Foods to stay away from:
Foods high in sugar (cakes, cookies, ice-cream, donuts, candy)
Carbohydrates (starches): Cereal, white bread, potato chips, muffins, white pasta, tortilla wraps, bagels, fruit juice, flavored yogurt, cereal bars, soda, fancy coffee drinks, crackers, granola.
Research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC380258/ https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.315896 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3936017/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5174139/
4.) Incorporate Exercise, HIIT Into Your Routine
Exercise and physical activity have beneficial effects on depression symptoms that are comparable to those of antidepressant treatments. Research thus far is showing that exercise and physical activity can be used as therapeutic means for acute and chronic depression in the general population. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
High intensity Interval Training decreases symptoms of depression and increases cognitive benefits. One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that HIIT led to moderate improvements in mental well-being, depression severity, and perceived stress. It was also suggested that HIIT may improve sleep and psychological distress compared with non-active controls.
What is HIIT? High-intensity interval training is a training protocol alternating short periods of intense or explosive anaerobic exercise with brief recovery periods until the point of exhaustion, which thereby relies on the anaerobic energy releasing system. During anaerobic exercise, you burn calories and improve your cardiovascular health.
Research:https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2790780?guestAccessKey=67cf8fd3-e6b0-49af-be4f-d08f5219fc7b&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=041322 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.643069/full https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/56/5/279 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Petros-Dinas/publication/47792364_Effects_of_exercise_and_physical_activity_on_depression/links/0c96053120a828eee9000000/Effects-of-exercise-and-physical-activity-on-depression.pdf
5.) Try Yoga
Yoga means union. It is a systematic practice of physical exercise, breath control, relaxation, diet control, positive thinking, balance, and meditation aimed at developing harmony in the body, mind, and environment. The practice entails low-impact physical activity, postures (called asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), relaxation, and meditation.
When you do yoga, your brain cells develop new connections, and changes occur in brain structure as well as function, resulting in improved cognitive skills, such as learning and memory. Yoga strengthens parts of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought, and language. Think of it as weightlifting for the brain.
In the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine research suggests that yoga was effective in reducing and treating depressive symptoms. Studies using MRI scans and other brain imaging technology have shown that people who regularly did yoga had a thicker cerebral cortex (the area of the brain responsible for information processing) and hippocampus (the area of the brain involved in learning and memory) compared with nonpractitioners. These areas of the brain typically shrink as you age, but the older yoga practitioners showed less shrinkage than those who did no yoga. This suggests that yoga may counteract age-related declines in memory and other cognitive skills.
Research: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-for-better-mental-health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871291/
6.) Get Proper Sleep
Depression and sleep problems are closely linked. People with Insomnia, for example, may have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression than people who get a good night’s sleep. And among people with depression, 75 percent have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
To encourage a better nights sleep, Increase bright light exposure during the day. Bright light therapy is used to manage circadian rhythm disorders such as delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), a condition which shifts the normal sleeping pattern outside what is considered the social norm. People who have DSPS generally don’t fall asleep until several hours after midnight and have trouble waking up in the morning, making adhering to a normal work or school schedule difficult. However, if allowed to follow their own schedules, their quality of sleep is otherwise normal. Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. It affects your brain, body, and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
Research: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/depression-and-sleep-understanding-the-connection https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/sleep/advanced-sleep-phase-syndrome/treatments/bright-light-therapy.html
7.) Natural Supplements: Vitamin B
L-methylfolate is a form of a B vitamin used to treat depression. Folate, a B vitamin, is one of the 13 essential vitamins that the human body needs in order to properly function and grow. L-methylfolate is the bioactive form of this vitamin. L-methylfolate is the only folate form that is capable of passing the blood-brain barrier, a border created by endothelial cells that allows nutrients into the brain. Once it crosses this barrier, l-methylfolate participates in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine,and norepinephrine.
MTHFR is an enzyme that converts folate into L-methylfolate. Some people have a less active form of this enzyme, and this can be tested for by a simple blood test or a cheek swab. See your doctor. One study of 123 patients with either depression or schizophrenia found that a third of them had folate deficiencies. Patients with folate deficiencies were given either methylfolate or placebo. The patients given methylfolate improved significantly compared to placebo both clinically and socially, especially in mood, and the difference in improvements increased with time (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1974941/) .
In another study of 68 depression patients who did not respond to conventional antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs), 15 mg/day of L-methylfolate was given for 12 months. Of the 68 patients, 26 recovered completely from their depression and 35 experienced a reduction in the severity of their depression (remission), leaving only 7 who did not improve. None of the patients who had a full recovery experienced a relapse or recurrence of their symptoms during the trial. L-methylfolate can be found over the counter, and can be purchased on Amazon.
Research: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27035404/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27035404/
8.) Natural Supplements: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because your body can produce it when your skin is exposed to the sun. This essential, fat-soluble nutrient helps keep bones healthy and strong, promotes cell growth, and benefits immune function. It may also play a role in depression, as researchers have noted that many people with depression have low vitamin D levels.
Researchers have found that many people who have depression also have low circulating levels of vitamin D in their blood, so it is possible that the two factors are related (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28914205/). Studies have noted that various groups of people experience improvements in symptoms of depression after they start taking vitamin D supplements (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29958055/).
Vitamin D levels can be changed by a blood test at your doctor’s office. Your doctor can advise you. If your vitamin D levels are very low they may prescribe high doses of vitamin D. Typical maintenance doses of vitamin D are 2000 IU a day. Vitamin D supplements are found over the counter and can be purchased on Amazon.
Research: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28914205/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29958055/
9.) Overcome Depression Without Medications
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a groundbreaking approach to treating Major Depression. TMS has been used in research for over 30 years. TMS is FDA-approved for treating Major Depressive Disorder when medications don’t work. In clinical trials, TMS has been proven to be safe and effective. TMS is well-tolerated, and the effects are usually long lasting.
Non-Drug Treatment TMS may be an option for you when medications do not provide adequate response or produce unwanted side effects. TMS is virtually side-effect free. It simulates a location of the brain that is involved with controlling mood. Safe & Non-Invasive TMS does not require surgery or any invasive procedure. It is administered in a comfortable chair, you are awake, and the procedure is done on the outside of your head. TMS is extremely safe. Patients are able to come in for treatment and immediately resume normal activities, like work or school. Effective and Long-Lasting TMS is a highly effective treatment for patients with depression. In medical studies, more than half of patients respond and a third of patients achieve remission with TMS. This is remarkable, especially considering that most of these patients have been resistant to treatment with medications. TMS is long-lasting. Two-thirds of patients retain their response one year after treatment. For patients who may relapse into depression, about 85% of patients respond to a subsequent course of TMS. FDA-Approved for Depression In 2008, the FDA approved TMS for Major Depressive Disorder. It is now covered by most insurance providers. TMS is covered by all major Insurance companies:
Tufts Health Plan
Blue Cross Blue Shield
United Health Care
United Behavioral Health