Natural depression remedy

The Good Life Letter 

10th April 2011

  • Discover how the bravery of a sports star led to a media frenzy
  • A serious medical condition which comes in many forms
  • Natural depression remedies that really work

I'm not a big fan of cricket, although I recognise the sporting achievement of those teams who competed in the recent World Cup - especially the plucky Irish!

But there was a sub story to this event which really made me seethe.

One of the England camp, Michael Yardy, left the team having been diagnosed with depression. More importantly than the diagnosis was the fact that this poor chap actually gave a series of media interviews to explain what was happening to him, and how he was going to deal with it.

You would have hoped that this led to an increase in public awareness about the condition, and a perked interest in the national media to discuss ways of supporting sufferers.

But, you would be asking too much.

What we did get was a raft of Neanderthal media pundits, presenters and reporters giving vent to their ill-informed opinion and even less welcome editorial comment.

"How can he be depressed" drawled one such monkey brained specimen, "he plays for England and is earning in a week what I get in a month."

There was more of the same from all quarters.

This attitude really does show a complete lack of understanding about what depression is, and how dramatically it affects the sufferer and their family.

Feeling a bit upset or having a touch of the blues isn't being depressed. Those suffering from depression can't just pull themselves together and get on with it.

This is a real clinical condition, which needs careful diagnosis and then proper supportive management.
Of course, the diagnosis stage can identify that someone's lifestyle, diet or relationships has a bearing on their condition, however, it is not always simply a matter of talking things through which will help resolve the situation.

There is much more to it than that. Things that can be done to help manage the symptoms and develop a longer term treatment plan to restore the person back to health.

Know your enemy

The onset of depression is often characterised by being either lethargic or highly anxious, making people either utterly miserable or in a complete emotional state prior to the condition commencing.

Within these two major classifications there are a number of variations ranging from what is known as major depression which tends to be the most common, manic depression with severe mood swings and psychotic depression which can be the most difficult for others to cope with.

Major depressives spend their time in a very morose state, feel unimportant and ignored and suffer from a loss of interest in relationships, food and their own well being. Sufferer becomes more and more withdrawn and insular, making it difficult for others to reach them to try to help.

With manic depression the sufferer has bouts of high excitement followed by deep pits of misery, and it is these extremes of mood that make it so difficult for others to know how to approach them, and also how to frame strategies to facilitate their recovery.

Once a level of psychosis is detected, then the person can be a danger to themselves or others as they battle to deal with visual and aural disturbances that lead them to believe that they hear voices or witness disturbing events.

So, I think it's fairly obvious to see that even the most basic of knuckle dragging scribes could understand that 'feeling a bit depressed' doesn't really mean anything.

For those who have to live with the daily trauma of one of these conditions - or live with someone who does -  the road to recovery is a long one, with varying success and often significant consequences to their course of treatment.

Naturally, the main stream medical approach centres on drugs. Mood altering drugs known collectively as anti-depressants. These medications promote the production of neurotransmitters by the body which makes it able to improve neural communications and should lead to a stabilisation of mood and emotional state.
The problem with these compounds is that unlike the bodies own production system which can react to an over supply by turning off production, there is no feedback mechanism for a drug which is being taken into the system.

Effects of high levels of neurotransmitters in the blood vary but have been linked to heart arrhythmias, high blood pressure and sleep disturbance - none of which are useful side effects if you are suffering from depression in the first place.

A BBC news story on Friday claimed that prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs rose 40% over the last 4 years.  While the story goes on to link the rise in depression to the economy, I was pleased to hear Marjorie Wallace, Chief Executive of the mental health charity SANE saying "what's happened is a that a lot of the stigma has lifted on depression.  It's OK to say you have depression and people in general are getting much better information about what it is and they are coming forward and talking to GP's more about it".  Long may that trend continue! And kudos to people like Micheal Yardy for forging the path.

But what can you do to help yourself without becoming reliant on anti-depressants?

The natural approach to combating depression

This is one of those areas of health that you need to be talking to your GP about, don't risk your chances of recovery by heading off on your own when there are so many ways that your health care professionals can help you.

Before commencing on any of the suggested approaches below you really do need to talk them through with your GP.

Diet: I have seen work which suggests that high energy diets can help increase the sufferers metabolism and increase their ability to engage with those around them. The problem with this approach is that a high sugar buzz may provide the desired result, however, its impact is short-lived and the subsequent depletion of glucose from the brain causes an even deeper low.

So, try to include as many complex carbohydrates in the diet rather than the simple sugars as these will give a more prolonged and release of energy. In addition protein rich foods are ideal for promoting neural activity.

Nuts, seeds and grains provide the necessary starches whilst turkey and chicken are rich in tryptophan and vitamin B6 which build the important neurotransmitters. Other protein rich foods like salmon and mackerel also have the advantage of being high in omega 3 fatty acids which nourish nerve cells.

Herbs and natural supplements:

Probably the most well known is the extract of St Johns' Wort, a herb which has been used for decades to treat depression - and one which has been successful in clinical trials often with very few side effects.

A compound called melatonin has been linked to natural body rhythms, and it is this hormone which increases during the hours of darkness in the body - effectively acting as a chemical signal to all the biochemical systems to slow down. In this way it acts to calm the body and can be especially useful in those depressive states which were as a result of a high anxiety onset.

In the recent past tryptophan was also given as a supplement, however a contaminated batch in 1989 leading to around 1500 people being permanently disabled has meant many stockists are very wary of it, and the use of melatonin has grown to replace it.

To my absolute joy and delight I discovered that hops are able to calm the nervous system... unfortunately this doesn't make beer a cure as the alcohol has the reverse effect on mood!

Ginseng has the ability to boost energy levels in the body as well as stimulating and improving brain cells.
And for mild anxiety, worry, calming "exam nerves" or wedding jitters you can't do better than Valerian Tincture.  It also aids sleep and clams the mind but doesn't make you drowsy the next day.

I do hope that our glorious media types will stick to what they know best in the future, whatever that may be, and leave the consideration and support of complex medical conditions to those with a little more knowledge and capability to see past the jaundiced views of the pub bigot.

Right, I'm off to tackle the last of that weed clump which nearly did me in the other day.

Enjoy your weekend,



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