Depression, Anxiety and Panic Attacks are very common and a major cause for disability. Many sufferers of these symptoms are taking SSRI type anti-depressant drugs such as (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil etc.) and many are looking for an alternative because of adverse side effects, or perhaps the drugs are simply not working for them. In this article, we will take a look at what causes depression, the commonly used anti-depressant drugs and the natural alternatives.
Causes of Depression: Depression is believed to be caused by a deficiency of a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain called Serotonin. The actual scientific evidence for this belief is lacking. The theory which is the basis for this belief is the following: abundant presence of Serotonin in the brain promotes feelings of well being, calm, personal security, relaxation, confidence and concentration. Serotonin Deficiency, on the other hand, has believed to be associated with depression, anxiety, alcoholism, insomnia, violence, aggression, suicide and compulsive gambling. Serotonin is one of many chemicals in the brain which allow the brain cells to talk to each other, and without this chemical communication between brain cells or neurons, we would be unable to have creative thought.
Side effects of Anti-Depressant Drugs: The SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) type anti-depressant drugs are believed to work by helping increase Serotonin in the brain. However, as David Healy writes, there is nothing selective about the action of this class of drugs and the results of the drug on the brain neurotransmitter system can be unpredictable.
The conventional medical system considers the SSRI drugs to be effective in the short term for depression and anxiety. However, they come at the cost of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, constipation, sexual dysfunction with loss of sexual desire, inhibition of orgasm, and impotence.
The efficacy of SSRI drugs for children and adolescents is now under attack by Dr. Jon Jureidini.
Efficacy in adults is also now under question by Dr. Irving Kirsch, who describes the "dirty little secret" known to researchers that SSRI drugs response is not much different from placebo response.
Another problem is that SSRI-type drugs are associated with violent or suicidal behavior. Peter R. Breggin, M.D., author of the book, "Talking Back to Prozac", says that SSRI type drugs should not be prescribed to children under age of 18, because of suicidal behavior, suicide attempts or related behavior like self-harm, hostility, and aggression. A similar warning was issued in an August 2005 report from Europes Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. News media reports also suggest this problem. For example, the April 29,1999 issue of the Washington Post states that the young leader in the Columbine High School shooting tragedy was taking an SSRI-type antidepressant drug.
Dr. Peter Breggin believes that he has uncovered withheld information from the drug manufacturers that SSRI type anti-depressants can cause irreversible brain damage as well as parkinsonion tremors called tardive dyskinesia. See his book listed below under recommended reading.
You might ask the simple question: wouldn't it be more logical to relieve depression by increasing the amount of Serotonin in the brain with a natural substance which has none of the side effects of the SSRI-type antidepressant drugs? The answer to this question is, Yes, this can be done very easily by oral ingestion of a naturally occurring essential amino acid called Tryptophan which is the immediate precursor to Serotonin in the brain's manufacture of Serotonin. Tryptophan is found in many foods, is safe and can be purchased at the health food store in the form of 5HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) or the basic L-tryptophan which is a naturally occurring amino acid.
There are numerous medical research studies showing that 5HTP is safer and more effective than the SSRI-type antidepressant drugs. Dr. Poeldinger compared the antidepressant effects of 5-HTP to a prescription Prozac-like drug, and he published his findings in 1991 in the Journal of Psychopathology. The 5-HTP patient group showed better treatment response than the Prozac-type drug group, yet had significantly fewer and less severe side effects.
Dosage and Safety of 5HTP:
There is a vast body of published scientific literature on 5-HTP showing its safety. The main side effect of 5-HTP is gastrointestinal (GI) upset gas, nausea, diarrhea, and cramping. The recommended 5HTP dosage is to start at a relatively low dose of 25 to 50 mg and increase gradually up to a maximum of 200 - 300 mg daily. The B vitamins are co-factors for the use of Tryptophan, so it is a good idea to supplement with B vitamins when taking 5-HTP.
There is one note of caution: Do not combine 5HTP with anti-depressant drugs unless you have medical supervision. Similarly, those wishing to reduce or eliminate their anti-depressant drugs with 5-HTP, should do so only with medical supervision.
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum):
There is a large body of medical literature showing the benefits of this herb in the treatment of depression. A recent study by Dr.Szegedi published in the March 5, 2005 issue the British Medical Journal, compared St. Johns Wort to a SSRI type antidepressant drug. One group of 122 patients received 900 mg. of St. Johns Wort three times per day for 6 weeks and the other group received the SSRI drug. At the end of the trial, Dr.Szegedi concluded that St. Johns Wort extract (hypericum extract) had fewer side effets and was just as effective as the SSRI drug in the treatment of moderate to severe depression with fewer side effects.
Dosage, Side effects and Safety of St Johns Wort:
We dont really know how St Johns Wort works, but it seems clear that it works very well. When you buy St. Johns Wort supplements, you should look for a label that says it contains at least 0.3 percent of Hypericin and Pseudohypericin. The usual dosage is 300 mg to 1800 mg per day of the 0.3 per cent extract. Side effects are mainly minor gastrointestinal complaints and mild allergic reactions like itching. Because of possibility of drug interaction, St Johns Wort should not be used in combination with any other drugs or SSRI anti-depressants unless under medical supervision. The American Society of Anesthesiologists issued a warning in 1999 against taking St. Johns Wort just before surgery because of a dangerous interaction with anesthetics.
When I was a medical student many years ago, Lithium Carbonate was a popular prescription anti-depressant medication. Lithium is a naturally occurring mineral found in the water supply. The observation has been made that in the Texas counties with the highest lithium content in the water supply, you will find the lowest rates for homicide, suicide and violent crimes.
Lithium carbonate works really well as an anti-depressant. The problem with Lithium Carbonate is that the dosage needed is very high, and it requires blood monitoring to avoid toxicity. Lithium Orotate, on the other hand, is more bio-available, and safer than the Lithium Carbonate. The reason for this is that Lithium Orotate can be used at very low doses and is still effective.
Dr. Jonathon Wright, who incidentally takes Lithium Orotate himself, recommends 10 to 20 milligrams of Lithium Orotate daily as a preventive measure. Dr. Wright thinks that lithium may be useful in treating Alzheimer's disease, senile dementia, and possibly Parkinson's disease. Lithium protects brain cells from a whole variety of toxic molecules, including patent medications. It can also promote brain cell regeneration and increase brain cell mass. In essence, the research suggests that lithium is a brain anti-aging nutrient. Dr. Wright feels that unlike the 5HTP and St Johns Wort which should not be combined with SSRI drugs, Lithium can and should be used along with any patent medicine being used for depression, anxiety, or any other "mood-altering" reason, since it will protect brain cells against their unwanted toxic effects.
No adverse side effects have been reported from Lithium Orotate in recommended dosages and it is approved for sale as a nutritional supplement without a prescription.
In conclusion: There are safe natural supplements that can chase away the "blues". However,as usual, it is recommended that you work closely with a knowledgable health care professional. To find one in your area, call the AmericanAcademy for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) 1-888-439-6891, http://www.acam.org/.
5HTP, Lithium Orotate, and St Johns Wort, can all be obtained without a prescription from your local health food store or at Vitamin Research Products, Carson City, NV89706, 800-877-2447.http://www.vrp.com/
The Anti-Depressant Fact Book: What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Luvox by Peter R. Breggin, M.D (c) 2001
Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Won't Tell You About Today's Most Controversial Drug, by Peter R. Breggin, MD 1994, St. Martins Press.
Prozac Backlash, by Joseph Glenmullen, MD
Let them Eat Prozac, by David Healy MD
Jeffrey Dach MD
7450 Griffin Rd Suite 180/190
Davie, FL 33314
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