According to the ADAA depression affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Many who suffer from depression also suffer with anxiety.
When I searched to find out how many prescriptions are being written for depression and anti-anxiety medications the most recent data I could find was from a 2011 report by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). In that report the NCHS states the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.
YIKES! What is going on?
First of all, do anti-depressants really work?
~ Remember that SSRI’s and other anti-depression & anxiety medications do not help your body make more of any neurotransmitter you might have a problem with. These drugs suppress (as the name indicates; Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) or shunts some action (as all drugs do). This is also why many people have their medications changed when the medication they are on stops being “effective at treating their symptoms.”
While the numbers of people being put on SSRI’s and ant-anxiety medications are deeply troubling what’s even more concerning is that we don’t actually know how many people on these drugs are finding they are not effective.
In some studies these medications have not been found to be much more effective than a placebo. When you factor in the side effects it makes me wonder why so many clinicians continue to prescribe these “treatments” in simple blind faith?
~~Doesn’t it make more sense to begin by looking to find and address the underlying body system imbalances that are driving people to become depressed and anxious in the first place?
Here’s a list of some common contributing factors that should be addressed in anyone with depression and anxiety.
If you or someone you love suffers from these conditions this Depression DIY Guide might help…
- Nutritional deficiencies top the list.
It’s quite common for people with anxiety and depression to have low Vitamin D, inadequate B 12 and folate (and other B vitamins) and be deficient in minerals such as zinc and magnesium.  Another common problem are with essential fatty acids (actually a deficiency) because of unhealthy fats the brain can’t use found in processed and packaged foods. Most doctors run conventional serum lab tests. These panels typically include testing for only a few nutrients such as vitamin D, folic acid and iron. The CBS panel therefore does not provide much useful information in terms of micro-nutrient status.
And, even if your doctor does run testing for a few more of these micro-nutrients they most likely won’t flag these as too low because they are taught to diagnose based on diagnostic ranges which are very wide, instead of optimal ranges, which are much narrower. Second most AMA trained doctors believe in RDA’s (if they do believe in supplements at all). The trouble with RDA’s are that they are too broad and do not take into account how your body actually uses up these nutrients. Finally, using serum blood bound to protein measurements to evaluate nutrient status is not the best/most accurate method to measure micro-nutrient status. A better testing method exists that looks inside the cell and measures lymphocytes. This is the type of testing I find most useful.
~ Read more about the food and mood here: http://nourishholisticnutrition.com/is-the-food-you-eat-fueling-your-depression-a-look-at-the-second-brain/
- Poor GUT health is a major contributor to mood problems.
Many people with depression and anxiety begin to notice they feel much better once they start to heal their GUT and can digest food properly. I can’t begin to tell you how people I have worked with notice less depression just from cleaning up their diets and restoring a healthy gut!
Having a healthy balance of helpful flora and digestive enzymes allows you to obtain required co-factors for hundreds of metabolic processes going on in your body. When these signals are working in the GUT they travel up to the brain via the vegus nerve and lead to better emotional and cognitive health…think about this in terms of inflammation and you begin to get the reason why this is so key to emotional health. In fact, we have more serotonin (an important neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy) in our GUTs than we have in our brain! 
An essential first step to any depression/anxiety recovery program is to identify and eliminate any foods you are intolerant too. Uncovering and addressing pathogens like yeast, h. pylori clostridia and SIBO must not be overlooked. This approach is supported by the work of many leading functional physiatrists and neurologists who understand the connection between GUT and brain health…. I have written more about this here: http://nourishholisticnutrition.com/depression-its-not-in-your-head-its-in-your-gut/
~ Keep in mind skipping meals, inadequate protein, processed foods and toxic fats all contribute to nutrient imbalances and emotional swings.
- Blood sugar swings can be an emotional roller coaster.
While what you eat and don’t is important when you eat is equally as important. One of the biggest mistakes depressed people make is succumbing to an erratic eat, sleep and wake cycle. The body responds to a regular schedule of eating at about the same time each day as well as going to bed and waking at about the same time of day. When the body works better so too does the mind!
Eating regularly scheduled meals and snacks helps ensure steady blood sugar regulation so you avoid surges and crashes. Some signs of low blood sugar appear when you’ve gone too long without eating. Common symptoms are irritability, nervousness, feeling faint or dizzy, headaches, forgetfulness and confusion, craving something sweet and coordination problems.  If you experience these request and A1C test from your physician and then begin following a consistent meal timing schedule.
- Poor Lifestyle choices leave you feeling blue and worried.
A little self-love goes along way. Honoring your body means establishing boundaries to preserve your energy and keep your focus on your goals. Saying no to stress triggers like reactive foods, social situations and certain people who rob you of your energy is often needed to preserve your sanity.
Other self-help actions you can take are to learn and practice mindfulness. You can learn more about that here: http://mbct.com/
Meditation or just sitting quietly in nature also help as these activities initiate the relaxation response which naturally calms an anxious mind.
- Thyroid problems could be one of your root causes of depression.
Low thyroid hormones, and the common occurrence of sluggish, poorly functioning adrenals, can play a role in a variety of emotional and behavioral symptoms and disturbances, including anxiety, excessive fear, mood swings like bi-polar, rage, irritability, paranoid schizophrenia, confusion, dementia, obsessive/compulsive disorders, and mental aberrations. 
T3 (which must be converted from T4) is essential for regulating the action of serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is important for quelling anxiety. Low levels of T3, (or is blocked T3) can trigger neurotransmitter abnormalities leading to mood and energy changes, including depression.
Think you might have low thyroid? Download the self-test(s) here: Hypothyroidism Self Test Questions
If you find your results point to possible thyroid health problems you will want to begin working with a skilled medical doctor to evaluate your thyroid panel labs, basal temperature test results and other physical and emotional presenting symptoms. This is essential to successfully correcting a thyroid problem. Please be aware that most AMA trained MD’s do not run complete thyroid panels and do not know about the work of Broda Barnes or the basal temperature test. 
I hope you can see that much can be done to help yourself out of depression and anxiety through making nutritional and lifestyle changes. Additionally there are a number of herbal products that act to reduce tension and promote well being.
If you’re considering other non-drug options and wondering where to start I can help guide you (just read some of my Success Stories to see what others have said about working with me).
Questions? Fill out my ARE WE A FIT? form and we can chat.
References; links & foot notes:
 The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross, M.A.
 Stop the thyroid madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed.
 Hypothyroidism Type 2 the Epidemic, by Dr. Mark Starr, M.D.