Antidepressants vs. Natural Remedies

Antidepressants vs. Natural Remedies
Antidepressants vs. Natural Remedies

Faced with the threat of election night chaos, my landlords asked me to decide yesterday whether or not to board up the windows of our two Washington DC restaurants.

But even if the streets stay calm, there’s no doubt turmoil will fill the hearts of many that night. No matter the election’s outcome, learning that the number of Americans using antidepressants has increased this month wouldn’t surprise me.

While going through one of the most difficult years in memory, we’re living in a deeply divided country. For anyone in search of a way to deal with the distress, however, research has revealed better options than pills.

Last week, I quoted Dr. Michael Greger on the questionable effectiveness of prescription antidepressants. The research, he says, hasn’t shown “… a clinically significant advantage for antidepressant medication over a sugar pill – most¦ of the benefits of antidepressants are due to the placebo effect.”

So, if you’re not keen on the idea of lifting your spirits with a “fake pill,” here are some clinically proven natural alternatives.

In this NutritionFacts video, Dr. Greger discusses a Duke University study of 156 men and women over 50 who suffered from major depression. The participants were divided in three groups and assigned one of three 16-week treatments:

  • Aerobic exercise

  • An antidepressant

  • Both exercise and the antidepressant

After 16 weeks, participants on the antidepressant alone scored in the normal range on the Hamilton Depression questionnaire.

But so did the other two groups, who “… did not differ statistically… adjustment for baseline levels yielded essentially identical results.” 

Dr. Greger’s conclusion? “So we can say with confidence that exercise is comparable to antidepressant medication in the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder.”

In a second video comparing the side effects of drugs vs. exercise, he observes that physical exercise comes out on top:

“Whereas side effects of antidepressants include things like sexual dysfunction and insomnia, side effects of exercise include enhanced libido and better sleep, decreased body fat, improved muscle tone, and a longer life.”

So exercise relieves depression as well as antidepressant medication, but without unwanted side effects. But it’s not the only natural solution to the problem of depression.

This NutritionFacts article details a U.S. study in which more than 2,000 participants had their blood carotenoid levels tested. Its findings?

Those with the highest levels had a “… lower likelihood of elevated depressive symptoms, and there appeared to be a dose-response relationship, meaning the higher the levels, the better people felt.”

How can you boost your carotenoids?

Eat tomatoes! Their ruby-red color comes from lycopene, which Dr. Greger praises as “…the most powerful carotenoid antioxidant.” In fact, when about a thousand people were studied, “[T]hose who ate the most tomato products had about half the odds of depression.”

Tomatoes not your cup of juice? Don’t let that stop you! A metastudy of nearly 300 thousand Canadians showed that:

“[G]reater fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with lower odds of depression, psychological distress, self-reported mood and anxiety disorders and poor perceived mental health.”

For now, I’ve decided to not to board up my restaurants’ windows. I want everyone in our nation’s capital to feel welcome to come in for a plant-based meal.

And no matter where you are in the country, please join me in a commitment to stay faithful to an exercise routine, increase your fruit and vegetable consumption and load up on tomatoes – because natural remedies are safest.

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