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Natural Treatment of Depression

written by: RoseMarchick • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 7/26/2010

Several supplements offer natural treatment for depression. They include exercise, amino acids, vitamin B6, St. John's wort, and fish oil.

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    Natural Treatment of Depression

    Depression is a common but serious condition. According to a 2007 study by Donald Brown, ND, Alan R. Gaby, MD, and Ronald Reichert, ND, 13 percent to 20 percent of adults exhibit some symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. Some will consult doctors and try prescription medication to relieve symptoms, while others will try natural remedies and alternative methods in an effort to find a natural treatment for depression.

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    Exercise

    Exercise releases norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, elevating your mood. This is an immediate reaction to exercise, and often why people compare the great feeling of exercise to a drug, such as “runner's high.” It may seem counter-intuitive to use up energy exercising when depressed, however, according to research conducted by Richard Merritt from Duke University, regular exercise can keep brain levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine higher, decreasing long-term depression symptoms.

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    Amino Acids

    Recent studies and research of the brain show that often depression is the result of certain chemical deficiencies, primarily serotonin, and norepinephrine. There are amino acids that can increase how the brain processes and absorbs these chemicals, and these often provide rapid and simple relief for depression. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid the body makes from another amino acid called phenylalanine and is an essential component of several important neurotransmitters, including epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. L-Tyrosine is available in supplement form.

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    Vitamin B6

    Vitamin B6 is the cofactor for enzymes that convert L-tryptophan to serotonin and L-tyrosine to norepinephrine. Therefore, depression could result from a deficiency of vitamin B6. In the same study, Brown, Gaby and Reichert found that four out of seven depressed patients had subnormal plasma concentrations of pyridoxal phosphate, the biologically active form of vitamin B6.

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    St. John’s Wort

    There is not a full understanding of how St. John's wort works as an antidepressant. Literature points to its ability to inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. Brown, Gaby and Reichert report that "more than 20 clinical studies have been completed using several different St. John's wort extracts. Most have shown antidepressant action either greater than placebo or equal in action to standard prescription antidepressant drugs."

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    Fish Oil

    Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, MD, from the Mayo Clinic reports that a number of studies suggest that fish oil supplements may be an effective add-on therapy for depression. Preliminary research suggests fish oil may be as effective as prescription antidepressant medication — but combined, the two are more effective than taking either alone. The primary benefit of using fish oil as a treatment is that there are no known side effects. Fish oil has many health benefits besides the treatment of depression, and results can often be seen within only a matter of weeks, making it an ideal supplement for the natural treatment of depression.

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Is there any benefit to taking fish oil supplements for depression?: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fish-oil-supplements/AN01399

    Dr. Amen: Depression & Mood Disorders: http://www.amenclinics.com/clinics/information/ways-we-can-help/anxiety-depression/

    Altering the Brain's Chemistry: http://www.healthyplace.com/depression/alternative-treatments/altering-the-brains-chemistry/menu-id-68/

    University of Maryland Medical Center: Tyrosine: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/tyrosine-000329.htm

    Exercise Fights Depression: http://hdlighthouse.org/see/diet/triad/exercise/duke.htm

    Amino Acid Supplements for Treating Depression: http://www.healthyplace.com/depression/alternative-treatments/altering-the-brains-chemistry/menu-id-68/

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.