Natural Alternatives to Antidepressants

Contributor: Saffron & Sage
Photographer: Madison Cline
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If you have ever combatted low mood or have been treated for depressive symptoms, antidepressants may have been suggested to you. Antidepressants are some of the most widely used medications in the United States, with one in ten Americans taking medication for their depressive symptoms. 

Depression is an extremely common mental illness, and often times Therapists and Psychiatrists believe that a combination of therapy and medication is the best approach. This may not always be the case though. For individuals who are not living with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or are living with depressive symptoms but do not show signs of a chemical imbalance, medication may not be the best route. Instead, a combination of therapy and more holistic remedies may be more effective.

 
 

NOTE: Please keep in mind that everyone experiences depression and recovery from depressive symptoms differently. The methods and treatment enhancing options mentioned in this article are suggestions designed to build a healthy lifestyle that can help construct a foundation for successful recovery from depression. We are not suggesting these as an end all be all to recovery, or to be used in place of medication if medication is necessary for successful recovery. 

The past 15 years has seen extensive research supporting the idea that changes to diet and lifestyle can reduce the symptoms associated with depression. Various studies have concluded there is strong evidence indicating that eating a vitamin and mineral rich diet can enhance mood, balance emotions and help aid in recovery without medication. 

There are many natural alternatives to medications, starting with indulging in foods rich in the vitamins and minerals we need. One vital vitamin family is the B vitamin family which includes folic acid. B-complex vitamins can work to establish emotional stability, but because they are not naturally created in the body, consuming them is necessary. Luckily, many common fruits and vegetables are rich in B-complex vitamins, such as avocados, dates, bananas, blackberries, strawberries, sweet potatoes, squash, kale and okra. 

Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to help. These fatty acids aid with the regulation of your central nervous system (centered around your brain). Since the early 2000s, multiple studies have pointed to the idea that there is a correlation between high traces of omega 3 fatty acids in the body and a lower rate of depression. Foods high in these fatty acids include fish, chia seeds, walnuts, and raspberries. 

Vitamin D has been known to decrease depressive feelings as well. Receiving the correct amount of vitamin D can ward off depressive symptoms and can also be a strong response to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Two of the most common ways to receive more vitamin D are through supplements (found in the vitamin aisle) or simply going outside. 15 minutes in the sun fulfills your vitamin D quota for the day!

Regular exercise is also a powerful force against depression. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which result in a good mood and more positive behavior. Anything from powerwalking to intensive cardio to yoga is considered exercise that will have a positive effect on mood, so get your sweat on! 

Finally, St. John’s Wort has been shown to be effective in treating depression in the same way many antidepressants are. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are some of the most common antidepressants on the market, and this herb contains two active compounds that work to regulate the brain’s serotonin as well. St. John’s Wort has helped reduce symptoms in many people, and taking it regularly is something to consider as well. 

If you and your Therapist or Doctor are discussing medication, or you feel as though you are experiencing depression, try adding some of these herbs and healthy habits into your daily regimen. Hopefully they’ll pave the way to a healthier and happier you.