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As the number of people who suffer from depression continues to increase, more people are looking for ways to prevent and treat the condition without the use of drugs. In spite of the new medications that have been introduced over the last several years, side effects continue to be a serious problem. There is also a great deal of concern because not all drugs work on every person and they do not have the same effect on different individuals.
There are numerous supplements available on the market claim to help depression. However, some are much more effective than others. Two benefits of taking natural supplements in lieu of chemical treatments include 1) a decreased likelihood of an adverse reaction with other medications and 2) less chance of causing side effects of their own.
One thing that is important to keep in mind when using any natural remedy is that they have the potential to interact with other types of medications. You should always determine if there are any risks of taking them in combination with other medications you may be taking including antidepressant drugs. Also, only those that have researched to determine if they are effective and safe for use to treat depression should be used. Following is a description of some of the supplements that have been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These essential fatty acids are needed for complete health but they are not something that the body can make for itself. Instead, you must eat foods that contain them including fish like tuna and salmon, other seafood such as algae, and various oils from nuts and other plants. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain function but they are most predominately recognized as an aid in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Aside from being an anti-inflammatory, these fatty acids also play a role in memory and performance as well as influencing behavior. People who are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids experience mood swings and depression in addition to other symptoms. For this reason, many people have used Omega-3 fatty acid supplements as a natural treatment for depression.
Although symptoms of depression may be reduced when the supplements are used in combination with antidepressant drugs, this is a good alternative for those who are unable to safely take the chemical medications. Women who are pregnant or who are suffering from postpartum depression are examples of those who don’t want to take any medications that could hurt their baby directly or through their breast milk.
The Omega-3 fatty acids that come from fish oil provides docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is a type of fatty acid found in the tissue of the nerves and brains. A dosage of 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg each day can be beneficial to those individuals who are suffering from mild depression.
Although there are some potential side effects from taking fish oil supplements, taking them with meals can keep those at a minimum. These include belching, heartburn, bad breath, nosebleeds, loose stools and rash. It is important not to take high doses in order to get the benefits without risking reducing the efficiency of your immune system.
Many people prefer taking Fish oil supplements instead of getting the Omega-3 fatty acids they need from fresh fish because there is little risk of contamination like mercury and other types of chemicals.
St. John’s Wort
This herb has been used in Europe for a long time to treat mood disorders. Its effects are equal to some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for depression. This herbal remedy differs from a number of other natural treatments for depression in that it should not be taken in combination with antidepressant drugs. In addition, it should not be used in combination with HIV/AIDS medications or drugs used to prevent rejection of organs after transplant surgery. It also works a little more slowly than some others, taking about eight weeks to get the full effects. However, it is proven to be effective when taken on its own.
SAM-e (which stands for S-adenosylmethionine) is the synthetic form of a naturally occurring chemical in the human body. Like St. John’s Wart, SAM-e is more popular in Europe as a treatment for depression where it is used as a prescription drug. While it is still not approved by the FDA as a treatment for depression in the United States, it is sold as a dietary supplement. One advantage SAM-e offers over St. John’s Wart is that it works much faster.
All of the B Vitamins, particularly B6 and folic acid, are useful in treating those with mild depression. They can be used in combination with antidepressant drugs and often increase their effectiveness.
A Word of Caution
Supplements for depression, just like antidepressant medications, don’t affect everyone in the same way. While some people have had very good results, others may not experience any significant change in their mood. Always stick with the recommended dosage – don’t make the dangerous assumption that more is better. Also, make sure you know the potential interactions that are specific to each supplement. Most importantly, always check with your doctor before taking supplements for your depression, especially of you are taking medication or have any other health conditions.