Article Of The Week - Sept 5-Sept 8 - Strategies for Dealing with the Blues

Last week I had a patient confide in me that she has been struggling with symptoms of depression.  In my 18 years of practice I have had countless conversations with people who are going through stages of their lives where they are struggling mentally or emotionally.

I took some time to do research on this topic and found out that Canadians rank among the world leaders in terms of anti-depression medication use.  A 2013 study found that Canadians rank #3 among the 23 developed nations that they studied, with approximately 9% of our population on these medications.  The other alarming statistic was that all countries studied are seeing sharp increases in the percentage of the population being treated pharmaceutically for depression.  Even children are taking these medications with greater frequency.

Given that so many of us manage the symptoms of depression with drugs, it's important to make an informed decision based on the efficacy (how likely it is that the drug will help) and the safety (possible side effects) of the prescribed medication.  Would it surprise you to know that, if you are suffering from mild to moderate depression, studies have shown that medications work no better than placebo?  That is, when people with depression took a “dummy pill” and were told that it was the real drug, it worked equally well in terms of alleviating their symptoms to the group of patients that actually were taking an actual drug.  People with severe depression appear to benefit more from medication than those with milder cases.  Go to the following link if you want to see the study...

Side effects of anti-depressant medication can include, but are not limited to; worsening depression, increased risk of suicide, headaches, anorexia, decreased libido, tremors and heartburn.  If you are going through the blues and are not struggling with a more severe form of depression, here are some recommendations of things you can do that have clinically been proven to benefit your mood and boost the neurotransmitters in your brain that play a part in feeling down:

  • Exercise – a number of studies have shown that exercise outperforms drug treatment.  Try brisk walking for 30-40 minutes or yoga 3-4 times per week
  • Take a good multi-vitamin with B vitamins.  Low dietary folate (vitamin B9) can raise your risk of depression by as much as 300%
  • Take a good omega-3 supplement.  I recommend krill oil, or fish oil if you are allergic to shellfish
  • Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimal at 40-60 ng/mL.  The best way to find this out is to get your blood tested through the office here or through another medical lab.  The best way to raise your vitamin D is to get more sun exposure
  • Take a good probiotic supplement.  Probiotics refer to friendly bacteria that you can get through your diet (kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt) or through a supplement.  Your gut health influences your brain health
  • Limit your exposure to electro-magnetic frequencies by removing yourself from wireless technology.  If you have wi-fi in your house, turn it off at night, remove cellphones, tablets and other electronic devices from your bedroom and don't hold these devices close to your body
  • Get outside.  Eco therapy has been shown to lower stress, improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.  Getting outside could be anything from walking a nature trail to gardening
  • Address the stress.  Identify the stressors in your life and ask yourself, how can I reduce my exposure to these circumstances.

Depression is no laughing matter.  If you are struggling with a more severe form of depression and dealing with darker thoughts, I would highly recommend finding a good therapist or support group to help manage these symptoms and promote healing.

For those of you feeling the blues, remember that brighter days are ahead!

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tim


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