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herbs, diet to treat depression?

 
pioneer
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I had a severe depression/SAD while I was at uni and am now very alert for signs of SAD in myself. The biggest thing for me personally was a week of enforced sunshine and exercise - my parents dragged me skiing for a week. It wasn't a cure but it was the start of a fairly rapid improvement.

Personally, when managing my own issues, I prefer to look at lifestyle first then if there was still a problem I'd look at "treatment" (herbal/conventional) next. Basic things like; daily regular exercise, exposure to natural daylight, removing "attention traps" (tv, computer etc...), avoiding places that lead to negative behaviours (eg when at home I was tending to sleep excessively, so I avoided going home in the day), getting friends involved in helping you.

The last one is really important - they want to help, but they don't know how unless you tell them. When I was struggling I gave them orders - "take me to your place and feed me tea", "sit and work with me while I do this project"... they made a huge positive impact on me from really small things.

I spoke to them about that time years later and their comments were illuminating - they were far more worried for me than I realised, wanted to help me but really didn't have the first clue how to help.
 
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Location: Colo
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Diet is a big one.
Not just short-term diet of "what did I eat yesterday?"; but the effects that long-term diet has on gut microbiota. Lots of new research is (finally) being done in the area of gut microbiota and health effects. It takes a while, if ever, to turn it around. With the mainstreams affinity for 'sterile' conditions, antibiotics, and GMO's; it an uphill battle for anyone trying to re-populate and/or shift their gut population.

Also, stress. What causes chronic stress is unique to individuals. But, I think today's society is a big cause of chronic stress to most people. Permaculture could help a lot of people with this area, and diet too.
 
gardener
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One thing that I have read about consistently is being grateful. I am teaching middle school students right now and the least grateful seem to be the least happy. I have studied societies in which hardly anyone ever is depressed, commits crimes, has mental illness or even get sick, have heart attacks or cancer. They spend most of their time exercising in their gardens/farms, but they live around other people. They are connected enough to each other that they notice when someone else doesn't feel well. Usually they go to that person's house and say, "let's go for a walk." They do , they talk, everyone adjusts and they feel better. They tend to play music and crack jokes all day long. Art and culture are integrated naturally into life, not separate from it. Typically everyone is living on a subsistence level, so no one is poor because everyone is poor, but there is remarkably little stress, and they really enjoy their food, which is also their medicine. They are really connected to nature. No one really has power over anyone else. They are all working together on the same things. They don't have time for war, TV, video games, being mean, or harming others.
John S
PDX OR
 
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I second Galadriel Freden.

I have been reading and listening to everything I can get my hands on with regards to a Paleo/Primal diet for the past two years. Most recently, I read, "Grain Brain," by Dr. David Permutter. The damage grain and carbs do to our brains is real, and it can manifest in a multitude of ways. Depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, to name a few.

I recommend looking into this diet to learn for yourself. As many big names in the Paleo/Primal world would say, "give it a try for 30 days, and see if it makes a difference." What have you got to lose? What have you got to gain?

Honestly, knowing all the crappy things our Standard American Diet does to us, and coming to realize all the ways it has adversely affected my own health (just made a new discovery today), despite eating an 80/20 Paleo diet for the past two years, has me more than a little depressed today.
 
pollinator
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Johnny Niamert wrote:Diet is a big one.
Not just short-term diet of "what did I eat yesterday?"; but the effects that long-term diet has on gut microbiota. Lots of new research is (finally) being done in the area of gut microbiota and health effects.



I don't know anything about this but it seems very very plausible. Glad some research is being done.

I haven't seen anyone bring up the fact that your guts contain many of the same neurochemicles as the brain. That seems relevant to me. In fact your guts produce most of your serotonin. If you weren't aware now you know

http://www.wisegeek.com/which-has-more-neurotransmitters-your-gut-or-your-brain.htm
 
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For me, watching what I think about is the biggest thing. Everyone has positive and negative things in their lives. It's what you dwell on that shifts your state of mind. I first noticed this when I was in therapy for depression. Every time I talked to the therapist, I would feel worse. All she wanted to do was talk about all the bad things that had happened in my life, and the more I talked about those things, the more depressed I got.

Fortunately, it works the other way too. If you go out of your way to think of positive things and things to be thankful for (a warm house, enough food to eat, chocolate, pictures of your kids, etc.), you will feel happier. It's hard to do when you're already depressed because your brain is inclined to keep thinking negative thoughts since, as someone mentioned above, it has been "rewired" to think that way because that is how you have been thinking. It's not impossible, though, just hard. You have to make a conscious effort to catch yourself when you start thinking something negative and not only put that thought out of your mind, but come up with something positive to think about instead.

I can't guarantee that this will work for everyone, but it works for me. Fresh air and exercise help too.
 
Johnny Niamert
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Landon Sunrich wrote:
I don't know anything about this but it seems very very plausible. Glad some research is being done.



Gut microbiome affects most aspect of health. From lymphatic and immune systems, to bone marrow and cell formation, to brain and behavioral function, and "auto-immune" diseases.

Even being born vaginally vs. cesarean and being breast or bottle fed can influence a person for life, because of the microbes transferred during.

The researchers found that infants born by cesarean delivery were lacking a specific group of bacteria found in infants delivered vaginally, even if they were breastfed. Infants strictly formula-fed, compared with babies that were exclusively or partially breastfed, also had significant differences in their gut bacteria.
Infant gut microbiota influenced by cesarean section and breastfeeding practices; may impact long-term health



To bring it back to the topic at hand...
In the first few days after birth, a baby's gut becomes home to diverse families of microbes that normally hang around for a lifetime. These colonist microbes outnumber your own cells. But they pose no threat of declaring themselves a ruling majority and taking over your body. They are allies, helping you digest your food and assisting in protecting you from disease. And they send important signals to your brain.
...
Depression, for instance, might be related to snafus in stress-axis signaling that microbes can influence. But the bugs may also affect the brain more directly, adjusting the sensitivity of nerve cells in the gut that send signals to the brain to influence behavior. Gut bacteria also appear to alter the chemical activity of nervous system messenger molecules such as serotonin, an important player in mood disorders including depression.

Microbes at home in your gut may also be influencing your brain



To open up another can of worms. . .
Sutterella sequences represented ~1 to 7% of the total bacterial sequences, and this is a very large effect size on the ileal mucosal composition of the autism phenotype, rivaling or perhaps exceeding the effect size of the ileal Crohn's disease phenotype. This study opens a new field of investigation to study the etiology or consequences of GI comorbidities in ASD.
A Microbial Association with Autism
 
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I was depressed most of my life...really depressed, ongoingly. And then we went off gluten and casein, for my daughter...we all just felt great, our minds and bodies improved in a dozen ways. The effect on my child was astounding! From ADHD/aspie behavior, very young for her age, she became - normal! I really recommend this to parents.

Anyway, I have blood type B, so I was certain I could eat dairy Anyway, three different times, over a few years, I ate LOTS of dairy when out to eat with my husband. It took 3 times for me to "get it" - but after the third dairy date, I was in the recliner in our living room, weeping and telling my husband and daughter why life was so bad - and I suddenly realized: I am only depressed when I have had casein! I stay away from it like the plague (including sodium caseinate, a common food additive) and I am well and happy.(casein is the hard protein in milk (curds) that becomes cheese; whey doesn't bother me).

There are a lot of reasons to stay away from milk, anyway, unless you have your own dairy cow and drink the stuff unpasteurized And even then, it may have the wrong alleles and give you undigestible (brain altering) milk. If you want more info read The Devil In The Milk. Also, the super-pasteurization we have now kills the one most heat-resistant enzyme WHICH IS THE ONE THAT MAKES CALCIUM AVAILABLE TO THE BODY. So, oops...
 
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Betsy Carraway wrote:
There are a lot of reasons to stay away from milk, anyway, unless you have your own dairy cow and drink the stuff unpasteurized And even then, it may have the wrong alleles and give you undigestible (brain altering) milk. If you want more info read The Devil In The Milk. Also, the super-pasteurization we have now kills the one most heat-resistant enzyme WHICH IS THE ONE THAT MAKES CALCIUM AVAILABLE TO THE BODY. So, oops...



I have to stand up for raw milk as a wonderful food and creator of mental as well as nutritional well being. My experience from milking my own cows and consuming raw milk on a daily basis over the last six years, is that raw milk has virtually no relation to pasteurized milk in the way that it interacts with our bodies.

Like Johnny was talking about with the gut microflora, I have found that raw milk is very effective at correcting a bad balance in the intestional microflora. It provides both antibodies that attack bad bacteria, and also re-innoculates the digestive tract with healthy bacteria. The way that raw milk targets both the good and the bad is vastly superior to vegetable ferments, which add only the good bacteria, without the live antibody compounds to heal an unhealhty gut.

The worst thing agribusiness ever did was to convince people that milk and raw milk are even related. Heat treatment obviously kills all the living enzymes and bacteria in the milk, but it also modifies the structure of the casein, making it much less digestable.

Raw milk is a medicinal food. It heals and nourishes the gut bacteria. Raw milk makes people feel good, and that is a happy thought.
 
John Suavecito
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Likewise, many foods that cause problems are better for us when fermented.
Milk becomes yogurt, kefir,
Cream becomes buttermilk.
Beets, which have a lot of sugar in them, still have the antioxidants, but less sugar when fermented.
Grains and beans are predigested and have more bioavailable nutrients when fermented, and fewer anti-nutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.
Vegetables, which are great, are even better as sauerkraut and kimchi.
The gut is often referred to by doctors as our second brain, and there have been studies showing a relation to mental health.
Prebiotics and probiotics help our digestion.
John S
PDX OR
 
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I recently read a book The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi http://psych.ku.edu/tlc/

The book is fantastic. It gave me insight to my wife's depression and has helped her a lot. The six steps he recommends are listed below--From http://psych.ku.edu/tlc/Elements.html

1) Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids come from naturally occurring plants and animals that eat them. These fatty acids have been shown to have antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties, and studies indicate that they help serotonin and dopamine circuits in our brains function more efficiently. Our bodies cannot produce Omega-3 fatty acids, and our diets generally do not provide the optimal Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio necessary for an antidepressant effects. Thus, we recommend that you supplement your diet with omega-3 fatty acids. You can buy Omega-3 fatty acid supplements at a drugstore or health food store. We recommend brands that give you 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA per day (this amount has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms and improve mood). This supplement can be taken by those on
antidepressant medications, as there are no known interactions. In general, however, it is always recommended that you inform your doctor of any changes or additions to medications or supplements you take. Other Supplements: 2000 IU Vitamin D daily; Multi Vitamin daily; 500mg Vitamin C daily; Evening Primrose Oil 500mg weekly.

2) Anti-Rumination Strategies

In the ancestral environment, people had less time to sit alone and think negative thoughts. There were often activities to do, or other people around to serve as distractions. This is no longer the case, and many people in the modern environment may find they have plenty of opportunity to ruminate. Rumination, a habit that many depressed people get into, is dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings. Rather than coming up with a solution to a problem and acting on it, people with depression often let their negative thoughts spiral out of control. It is important to recognize rumination for what it is and put a stop to it immediately. Rumination only makes peoples’ moods worse. When you find yourself doing it, do one of these things: call a friend, exercise, write down the negative thoughts in a journal, or do some other pleasant activity (like knitting, reading, or another hobby).

3) Exercise

Exercise is one of the most beneficial, but most difficult elements of TLC. A cardinal symptom of depression is low energy, which makes exercise difficult. Initially, it takes a lot of energy to exercise, but once you begin, you’ll find that you have increased energy, and subsequently, increased mood! In fact, several studies have found that exercise is about as effective, if not more effective, than most antidepressant medications. We’ve found the most effective exercise schedule to get antidepressant effects is 35-40 minutes of moderate physical aerobic activity, at least three times per week. Aerobic exercise is anything like running, walking fast, biking, or playing basketball, which gets your heart rate elevated to about 120-160 beats per minute. Anaerobic exercise (like yoga or weightlifting) is better than nothing, but the strongest antidepressant effects have been observed from aerobic exercise. Lots of people report that finding a regular exercise partner and routine helps them stay motivated.

4) Light Exposure

This element of TLC is most helpful to people who notice that there is a seasonal component to their depression. We recommend that people get at least 30 minutes of bright light exposure per day. You can actually go outside in the sun (take off the sunglasses, but leave on the sunscreen!) or get light exposure from a special light box that emits the same amount of light (10,000 lux). You should try to get light exposure at the same time every day. Some people like to sit by it while they eat breakfast and read the paper. Some like to sit by it while they read or study in the evening. Experiment to see what works best for you. And don’t miss a day of light exposure if you can help it. This is something that will only work for you cumulatively if you are consistent!

5) Social Support

Our ancestors lived in small tight knit communities. Rarely did one do something alone, and community members looked to each other for entertainment, comfort, safety, and support. You have probably noticed that as you or someone you love becomes more depressed, there is less motivation to seek out others for socializing. Evolutionarily, our brain may interpret depression as an illness. Just as we keep away from others when we have the flu (which gives us time to recover and keeps others from becoming infected), our natural inclination when depressed is to withdraw from our social networks. Unfortunately, this worsens depression. Thus, it is important to lean on friends and family, not only to get needed social support, but also because spending time with others is a good way to distract yourself from rumination. Try to reconnect with loved ones from whom you’ve grown apart. Telling friends and family about your struggles with depression can help them better understand what you are going through. For family and friends that do not live nearby, utilize phone calls, email, or video chatting.

6) Sleep Hygiene

Many today see sleep as expendable. When there is extra work at the office, studying for finals, or just a late night TV show to watch while you unwind, it is easy to cut into valuable sleep time. Our ancestors did not have many of these distractions – when the sun went down, there may not have been much else to do but sleep. While everyone varies in the amount of sleep they need, the average is approximately 8 hours of sleep per night. One of the biggest risk factors for depression is sleep deprivation. Thus, it is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule and protect that time for sleep that may be pushed aside when our lives become hectic. To create a healthy sleep pattern, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Prepare yourself for bed by having a “bedtime ritual”. Dim the lights, turn off the TV and computer, put on your PJs, and do a quiet activity like read. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for several hours before you plan to go to bed.
 
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I'm an herbalist and student of Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to TCM pain cannot exist without a fundamental blockage of qi and/or blood. Generally this falls under the pattern of stagnant liver qi. Move your qi! Express yourself, dance, draw, paint, permaculture design, whatever it is you do. Do what you love. Exercise, move your body and let the energy flow (qi gong is great). I find these three things do be of utmost importance. If you are having a bad day, think, "Have I exercised? Have I expressed myself creatively?", most likely after you do so you will feel a whole lot better.

As for herbs. My favorite herb for treating depression in general is Albizzia, also known as mimosa, or the tree of happiness. The bark and the flower are effective for all sorts of emotional issues, probably the most effective herb for depression. The plant is also very beautiful, and fixes nitrogen, whoohoo stacking functions! Here is a great article about this wonderful plant...http://www.planetherbs.com/specific-herbs/albizia-the-tree-of-happiness.html

I'd also recommend that if someone was experiencing serious depression, and not getting the results they need with treating themselves, to see a practitioner of traditional medicine. Generally either Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda. It is not always as easy as this herb for that symptom, but requires a more holistic view of the unique energetics of the person, and what herbs can balance those energetics, a subtle art indeed. You deserve to feel good! Some times we need some help from an experienced healer.

Blessings
 
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Thank you for this wonderful forum, there is so much great information here.

As someone who found a way to end my life-long struggle with depression just two years ago, I feel compelled to share my own experience and what has changed my life in a beautiful way. I always believed that my mind was my own worst enemy, always dwelling in negative thoughts. I tried many different anti-depressant pills that only seemed to give me another terrible side effect. I was even hospitalized twice in mental health treatment centers for suicidal thoughts, hoping they could help me, but none of these conventional methods of dealing with suffering seemed to change my outlook on life. I saw a therapist for cognitive behavioral therapy and even tried hypnosis therapy. The therapy helped me find some motivation, but it still wasn't getting at the root of the problem.

I randomly met a girl who told me she was into Buddhism and had also been depressed, and she overwhelmed me with her genuine compassion and kindness. She understood me and the pain I was in more than anyone I had ever met in my life. I felt so much relief in my heart from her words that I was moved to tears. I thanked her, gave her a hug, and we went our separate ways. As soon as I got home I bought a book on Buddhism and started reading, determined to see what it was all about.

My depression had completely disappeared withing a month of studying Buddhism and meditating on my own. My entire view of life had changed and for the first time in my life I had peace of mind and was no longer tormented by my thoughts and emotions. The most important thing I learned is the practice of mindfulness and meditation. To simply bring my awareness to my breathing and my body, letting go of all the thinking and worrying, is a liberating experience.

With mindfulness and meditation, I learned to stop running away from my suffering and stop feeding my suffering. I learned how to look at my thoughts and feelings and say to them, "I know you are there my sorrow or my anger, and I will make friends with you so I can understand your roots." Slowly the more I would practice this the more I began to see the causes and conditions that were leading to my suffering. I've come a long way in the past two years and my life gets better every day as I continue to learn about and practice mindful living.

I apologize if this bothers anyone. My only hope is that this might help those who suffer as much as I once did. No matter what we believe in or what we do with our life, it's so important to be aware of how powerful our mind is and how important it is for us to develop and understand ourselves with the practice of mindfulness.

Here are some of my favorite resources for mindfulness if anyone is interested:
Thich Nhat Hanh's book - The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation
He has written over 100 books and has several practice centers - http://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/
Jon Kabat-Zinn's book - Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

May we all find peace and joy in this beautiful life we have.

In loving-kindness,
Chris Brickett
 
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Great thread! Lots of ideas here, wow, a super resource!!

I was diagnosed with depression in 1997 and took Zoloft for 2 years and tried many, many counselors. Then I found Dr. Peter Breggin's book "Talking Back to Prozac" where he dismantles pharmaceutical treatments entirely, shows why they are dangerous and explains how to get off them safely. He's testified in many court cases involving psychiatric drugs and he's been the most helpful resource for me personally.

Dr. Breggin's website http://www.breggin.com/

YouTube channel

Simple Truths About Psychiatry: Do You Have A Biochemical Imbalance? Dr. Breggin debunks the myth of biochemical imbalance and examines what is known about "mental illness." Further information may be found on Dr. Breggin's website and in his many books, including his latest: "Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and Their Families."

I also read many books on depression and psychology that helped me more than all the counseling (and cost less too):

Dr. Robert Firestone http://www.glendon.org/ He and his psychologist friends were shocked when their own children began having mental problems and experimenting with drugs. They formed a loose-knit group in the '60s who shared all aspects of their lives while maintaining separate families. They have weekly deep sharing sessions among the couples, among the families and the children too, and meaningful work for everyone. Healthy psychological principles, a focus on working on themselves to grow and become free, honest and direct feedback in a loving environment--- these are the keystones of their success. They bought apartment complexes and lived in community, created successful businesses together, had hobbies and traveled together, and sent their teenage children on a round-the-world sailing voyage annually. The dynamic, creative and interactive environment produced amazing results in everyone, freeing people from lifetimes of mental illness and giving their children rich and happy experiences that are still bearing much fruit today.

Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life". A simple but powerful book that started the positive changes for me. I'd clip it open on the treadmill and focus on just those 2 pages. I forced myself to do the exercises and that began the brain-re-training which I still practice today.

Depression is a sign that I need to change things in my life. It's not a chemical imbalance so much as figuring out how to live in ways that make me happy. This took years of figuring out and I want to say IT IS WORTH EVERY MINUTE. I made the hard choices, made the difficult changes and I'm incredibly happy!! Realizing that my marriage was not 'fixable' no matter how hard I tried, I gave myself permission to live in any way that made me happy. Women often turn off their own needs when raising a family and it gets harder to see our own selves. Journaling, meditation, exercise, earning my own income and living peacefully apart from my husband until the youngest child turns 18.... I was able to see how I wanted to live, think straight for the first time in 30 years, and end destructive thought processes that I was inflicting on myself and others. Dropping all judgments, loving people where they are, loving myself... I am a totally different person. And the world is a totally different place to me now.
 
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