I feel I am dealing with depression, but would FIRST like to
see if I can alleviate it with natural OTC supplements. I just don’t like to be
on prescription medication. Ever since I had kids 3 yrs ago, I get
frustrated/angry/irritable fast, am sad a lot, and I always seem to be tired.
Is there anything you would recommend that I could try?
Thank you so much for this question. It is a situation I see over and over
again. So many people, particularly
women are feeling like something is wrong with their health but they don’t know
what it is. They feel tired, run down,
irritable, angry, depressed and anxious in addition to unwanted changes in
their body like weight gain, low energy, thinning hair and dry skin. Many women also report to me that they are
losing their memory and are having trouble concentrating.
A trip to the doctor is often fruitless because all the
blood work that is typically run comes back completely normal. Both the doctor and the patient are often
perplexed so a recommendation is made to reduce stress or start an
anti-depressant. In many cases an anti-depressant
will help the symptoms, but it is not addressing the causes of the issue.
With that said, there are some people who have a true
chemical imbalance in their brain that may need to be treated with an
anti-depressant. You know if you are one
of these people if you have struggled with depression your entire life. However, if you have just developed these
issues more recently in your adult life, chances are it is related to something
Why you feel this
The most common cause of these symptoms is related to
changes that occur in female hormone balance after having children combined
with a reduced ability of your body to make energy.
Imagine how you would feel emotionally if every morning you
woke up before your alarm clock, feeling totally refreshed and energized and
that feeling lasted all day. The
stressors you normally face throughout the day would be so much easier to
handle because your body would have the energy to deal with them properly. When you constantly feel tired or run down
because your body cannot produce enough energy you will feel overwhelmed and
overstressed by the responsibilities of your day. This leads to the anger, sadness and
frustration you are feeling.
The Hormone Piece:
Female hormone balance can be a very delicate issue and
disruption can easily occur after bearing children and after being under
chronic stress, which usually occurs after bearing children. Conventional gynecologists will not typically
recognize this as an issue unless significant symptoms are noted around the
time of the period or if other problems are occurring in the female
reproductive tract. In addition, the
only treatments available are birth control pills or anti-depressants for a
situation like yours. However I strongly
suggest you talk with your gynecologist about your hormones if you have not
already. He/she may be able to provide
some valuable testing which may give some insight into your situation.
There are some natural tools you can use to help bring
better balance to your hormonal system.
I highly encourage you to consider these options particularly if you
find that your depression symptoms get worse prior to the onset of your menses.
Vitex (also known as
This herb has been used for thousands of years to help
females regulate hormones. It acts on
the brain to balance the output of the two most important female hormones,
estrogen and progesterone. It can be
taken as a capsule or in liquid form and works best when taken first thing in
Evening Primrose Oil:
The essential fatty acids in evening primrose oil are
thought to stimulate the production of progesterone. In many cases, chronic stress can deplete progesterone
levels causing an imbalance between this hormone and estrogen. When that happens women are under greater
influence from estrogen which is associated with symptoms that are similar to
classic PMS symptoms (irritability, weepiness, agitation, frustration and food
cravings). Typical does range from 500mg
-1500mg per day.
Milk Thistle (or any
liver support herb):
The liver is responsible for detoxifying and eliminating all
hormones produced by the ovaries. If
liver function is sluggish, excessive hormone levels can build up causing an
imbalance in the system. By supporting
liver function, the body is assisted in eliminating all un-needed hormones
which helps to create better hormonal balance.
One of the biggest issues for women in this situation is
thyroid function. If you have not had
your doctor check your thyroid function you need to do that right away. If it has been checked, but you were told it
was normal I suggest you check it again according to my standards.
Most thyroid tests will miss something I call sub-clinical
hypo-thyroidism. I have written about
this many times and you can read the full story on my Vitabase blog at http://www.vitabase.com/blog/energy/sub-clinical-hypothyroidism.aspx
Thyroid function is the most important factor when it comes
to energy production and having a case of sub-clinical hypothyroidism can lead
to many of the symptoms you are experiencing.
As outlined in the above linked article you will need to have three very
specific thyroid tests called TSH, Free T4 and Free T3. Use the parameters in the linked article to
assess the results of the test to make sure your thyroid is working
properly. Most likely you will need the
assistance of a skilled practitioner to interpret and treat your thyroid
because the endocrinology system can be quite tricky.
In the meantime, to support your thyroid you can increase
your intake of foods that are rich in iodine.
Kelp is one of the best natural sources of iodine and can be included in
the diet or taken as a supplement.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that is very helpful for the
thyroid and can easily be taken as a supplement. It is also very helpful for
certain types of depression so you may want to really consider this one.
The last system to consider is the adrenal glands. These organs are responsible for helping your
body deal with stress and produce energy.
Frequent short term and long term stress in your life can deplete their
reserves and diminish the energy producing capacity of your body as well as
reduce your ability to handle stress.
Vitamin B12 taken under the tongue in the form of
Methylcobalamin can be a great way to support your adrenals in recovery from
stress or fatigue.
Other B vitamins are also very important; specifically
Vitamin B5 and Vitamin B6 so taking a B-complex can also be helpful.
There are some herbs that are also very supportive to the adrenal
glands and can greatly improve energy levels and ability to cope with
stress. Rhodiola, Ashwaganda, Holy Basil
and Ginseng are among some of the best.
I recommend finding a product that contains a mixture of these herbs and
taking it first thing in the morning and then again around noontime. I would avoid taking them in the evening
because they can be stimulating and may interfere with sleep.
If you can start with some of these basic principles I think
you will find that things will start to improve. There are other natural products to consider
for depression issues like St. John’s
Wort and SAMe which can also be very effective.
In my experience I have found that if the underlying issues outlined
above are properly addressed than often times antidepressants (both natural and
pharmaceutical) are not needed.
Back to all Questions
View More by Dr. Kevin Passero