Holistic Mindset for Anxiety & Depression
We all encounter depression and anxiety in different chapters of our novel lives. Some may go through bouts, and some may define their life by it.
But at some point, all of us are likely to experience these psychological states of the mind.
Someone that you are close with may be experiencing this right now.
But just because we are capable of depression and anxiety, does not mean that we should have to live this day-in and day-out.
According to the World Health Organization, as of 2016 there are an estimated 615 million people in our world, or close to 10% of the population, that suffer from clinical anxiety and depression . Now 10% may not sound like a lot, but 10% is actually more people than the entire population of the United States and Canada combined (which only equates to 360,895,700 - and those are 2017 stats ).
Losing someone that is close to you, getting laid off from work and going through a break-up are all examples of life stressors which may trigger your emotions of feeling sad, lonely, negative, nervous or anxious. Experiencing a life event such as this can without doubt bring you into a state that you may have never felt before, and for some it can take years to bring yourself back.
Some people however, experience these feelings on a daily basis, for no apparent reason. Feeling unsatisfied with work, feeling alone, wanting to stay in bed all-day, making irrational decisions out of pain and fear - feelings of depression can be debilitating and often times when this is happening, we isolate ourselves in our own world.
While depression is often considered as a state of low energy, mood and motivation, and anxiety is considered to be a state of high energy, panic and fear - the two can be well related. Anxiety and depression are fickle friends and it is common to be depressed and experience anxiety and vice-versa. In fact; nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder .
Now, a trip to your MD with a case of depression/anxiety will likely get you an autographed prescription for one or multiple drugs. SSRI's (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are the most commonly subscribed antidepressant, used for both disorders; better known as Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft .
Our global antidepressant market has an estimated growth to approximately 13.4 billion dollars by 2021 . We need to talk more about anxiety and depression and get to the bottom of what is going on - what ARE these drugs doing for people - are antidepressants the promising answer for everyone? A 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that in many cases: for someone who experiences what is known as mild or moderate anxiety or depression; SSRI's are no more effective in treatment than a placebo pill . That's actually rather frightening, considering millions of people are taking an over-prescribed drug that may not even be working for them, and if the drugs aren't helping, you may feel as is you're destined to experience this, for life (not to mention the tole that these drugs take on your body).
The answer for many mild to moderate cases of anxiety and depression should not be to pop a prescription pill and expect to feel like a ray of sunshine - we need to explore the root cause of what is going on. As hard as it is to read between the lines of anxiety and depression, there are different modalities in which you can support your body, mind and spirit.
There is a time and a place for Western Medicine, for many cases of severe anxiety and depression, medications may be life saving. However sometimes it may serve the benefit of questioning a simplistic diagnosis after discussing your condition for only a short time with a rushed practitioner.
If you are looking to get down to the root cause of your anxiety and depression, and get on track to thrive & be vibrant, the following are some promising solutions which have been shown to positively improve both disorders.
If you aren't already taking a probiotic, I truly believe this is the most important supplement that you could possibly take. A probiotic will not only help to support your immunity and digestion; probiotics also play a role in how well you absorb and assimilate nutrients (you aren't just what you eat, you are what you digest!).
Your gut is known as your 'second brain', although it's not the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making, your gut contains more than 100 million neurons which enables us to "feel" the inner universe of our GI tract. Your gut is equipped with its own reflexes and senses which break down food, absorb nutrients, and expel waste; all which require chemical processing, mechanical mixing and rhythmic muscle contractions to move everything on 'down the line' . Your second brain controls all of this gut behavior, independently (is that not so cool!?). Back to the topic - 90% of your serotonin is actually produced in the GUT, not the brain . Making healthy gut flora a key player in your mood, your ability to cope with stress and your overall well-being . More and more studies are now showing the impact of probiotics for depression.
Since we have thousands of different strains of bacteria in our gut, and each of us has a unique makeup - finding the perfect probiotic for your may take some trial and error. Some worth trying first are Garden of Life Mood+ formulated by Dr. Perlmutter, a medical doctor, neurologist and expert in the human microbiome. Two other brands which come highly recommended are Natren Healthy Start System or Dr. Ohhiras Fermented Probiotics 
Rich in essential fatty acids, and our ideal source of omega-3. Fish oil supports the body in numerous ways, a natural anti-inflammatory and supporter of cognitive health and optimal brain chemistry. Typically we are getting in too many omega-6 fats, which are found in vegetable oil, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil in concentrated amounts. Omega-6 is also naturally present in almost every nut, seed and grain, making it very easy (unless you are very aware) to over consume omega-6.
Sufficient intake of omega-3 is essential, or your body many not be transmitting nerve signals properly, which may leave you feeling depressed or anxious . It is ideal to consume whole-food omega-3 sources such as wild salmon, arctic cod, atlantic haddock, freshwater trout, pollock and atlantic mackeral (which are the lowest in mercury levels). Hemp, flax, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and seaweeds are some examples of plant based sources; however these 'ALA' sources of omega-3 have been researched and clearly indicate that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is extremely limited. Less than 5% of ALA gets converted to EPA, and less than 0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA .
Since your body cannot produce omega fatty acids, supplementation in most cases is essential for optimal health. A Fermented Cod Liver Oil with Butter Oil combo is one of my personal favourite, whole-food options, another is New Chapter Wholemega Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil. Vegetarian and vegan options include the Nordic Naturals Algae Omega.
This unique amino acid is primarily found in green tea. Studies show that theanine promotes a calm and relaxed alertness, without drowsiness. Beneficial for those who suffer from stress and anxiety and find it difficult to focus, relax, or fall asleep. Theanine is absorbed within 30-40 minutes and works to create the feeling of “zen” while still promoting concentration. Theanine influences the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and GABA in the brain, beneficial for balancing the mood, sleep and learning capacity. Theanine reduces the feelings of stress by inhibiting some of the actions of norepinephrine (a stress hormone) in the central nervous system.
Check out Zen Theanine by AOR, they suggest taking just one daily for results . For a complete guide to stress release and stress management, check out this Recharge program, designed to detox stress - so you can thrive & be vibrant.
Your body may already have sufficient vitamin B12 stores, the best way to check is through a blood test from your practitioner. In the words of my own MD, we should aim to be around 400-500 pg/mL. However many of us fall far below that level, and for those who are outside of the optimal range; this may contribute to a low mood, foggy thinking and low energy, among other symptoms.
Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products and is produced in small amounts during fermentation. Plants however, do not contain vitamin B12 unless fortified .
It is best to work with your practitioner to determine which supplementation would be most beneficial for you, however with vitamin B12 look for a sublingual methylcobalamin, available in 1,000 mcg or 5,000 mcg such as this brand by Genestra or this brand by AOR. You may also speak to your naturopathic doctor about B12 injections which are a quick solution for boosting depleted levels, B12 as a daily supplement is often most beneficial to maintain healthy levels, it takes quite a while to see a significant increase in your levels with sublingual tablets in comparison to injections (especially if you are prone to lower levels).
This hormone-vitamin plays many roles in the body, it's well known for it's responsibility in immunity, bone and teeth health - but vitamin D may also improve neurotransmitter function, and is already known for it's role in a healthy mood.
On a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test, your levels for should be above 50 ng/ml and no higher than 100 ng/ml. Being at the low end of this range may leave you feeling sub-optimal . Studies have shown that taking 4,000 IU of a vitamin D3 daily, to be a safe level for maintaining healthy levels . When the season permits, getting in 10-20 minutes of unprotected sunshine per day is ideal for natural vitamin D production (anyone up for a sunny vacation?). For supplementation my brand of choice is Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion 1000 IU.
Tryptophan & 5-HTP
Your body makes 5-hydroxy tryptophan (5-HTP) from the amino acid tryptophan; found naturally in nuts, seeds, poultry, fish and eggs, to name a few. While tryptophan is widely available in the foods we eat and is the available in supplement form. The conversion of tryptophan to serotonin is a two-step process in which 5-HTP is must first be synthesized, as an intermediate step.
Trytophan is considered to be more of a gentle supplement and is generally well tolerated, however 5-HTP is better absorbed and crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it then gets converted into serotonin. 5-HTP may offer a stronger serotonin support than L-tryptophan, and clinical trials have confirmed the efficacy of 5-HTP supplements for depression, sleep disorders, binge eating and panic disorders .
Going back to probiotics, since 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, there are multiple cases of 5-HTP supplementation providing little to no improvement, so I again stress the importance of gut health. AOR makes a well researched 5-HTP by the name of Tryfonia Max.
All in all, there are many alternative solutions to positively support your body and alleviate the disorders of of anxiety and depression. There are many more natural supplements such as St. Johns Wort, Holy Basil, BioStrath and B-Complex Vitamins which have been shown useful. I hope this information is of much benefit for you. With anything, always remember that practices of self-love and self-care are never selfish. The longest relationship that you will ever have in the history of your life, is with yourself. Get on track to feeling your very best!
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light." - Albus Dumbledore
Please never stop any medications without consulting your practitioner. This article was designed for informational purposes and is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, or substitute as a form of medical advice. Please consult with your advising physician before making changes to your lifestyle.
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