Treating Depression

From the CAM/ Report

CAM options for treating depression

About 20 million Americans suffer from clinical depression. Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, are thought to contribute to depression. Depression is also associated with diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, hormonal imbalance, hypoglycemia, stress, impaired thyroid function, environmental toxins, and unhealthy lifestyles.

There are eight criteria for depression according to the DSM. Five of them, if they persist for two weeks or longer, strongly suggest that the person is depressed.

CAM treatment options

There are a range of CAM options that complement counseling. For depression associated with a nutritional imbalance, a multivitamin supplement may help treat symptoms. Some patients, especially those taking oral contraceptives, are deficient in folic acid and vitamin B12, which work together. Omega 3 fatty acids are also deficient in some patients suffering from depression. Potential deficiencies should be evaluated by a doctor.

Depressed patients may have low levels of tryptophan, which delivers serotonin to the brain. In some studies, 5-HTP has been shown to be as effective in treating depression as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like fluoxetine (Prozac).

St. John’s Wort has been studied extensively and is helpful. Caution, St. John’s wort does increase the risk of bleeding and should be monitored. Also, patients must be sure to tell their healthcare provider that they are taking the herbal remedy. Kava, a member of the pepper family, seems to work best with depression and anxiety. The risk of liver toxicity from kava is controversial, and should be considered before starting treatment.

The bottom line?

Though it may not be easy, depression can be managed. Complementary treatments, when properly administered and combined with counseling may help many patients. Moreover, for patients without insurance or those unwilling to take prescription antidepressants, they may be effective and less expensive.

Emily Matthews is  applying to masters degree programs across the US, and loves to read about new research into healthcare, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes for mastersdegree.net in Seattle, Washington.