Everyone has an occasional bad day or bad week, when you just don’t feel right – tired, sad, gloomy, or lacking in energy and enthusiasm. But can you imagine waking every morning to the worst day of your life, when the only emotions you feel are regret, despair, self-loathing, sadness, exhaustion and hopelessness? For people with severe depression, life can be overwhelming and bleak. And unfortunately, depression is very common–more than 19 million Americans have depression, or a related problem, bipolar disorder. Whether these problems are mild, moderate, or severe, they exact a terrible price on the lives of the people suffering from these conditions. Drug companies are marketing to these people who are desperately trying to get their lives back. You can’t watch TV these days without seeing an ad pop up that recommends a prescription drug for this debilitating condition. Unfortunately, these medications are often risky and can create almost as many problems as they attempt to solve, including weight gain, complete loss of sexual function, joint stiffness, hair loss, and most paradoxically, suicidal thoughts. However, there are proven, safe, natural supplements that can have a huge impact on these diseases. Whether you are just going through a period of low mood, or whether you have more serious problems, these natural therapies are an effective part of any treatment for depression and bipolar disorder.
What Causes Depression?
The causes of major depression aren’t completely understood. They can have a genetic component, and people with parents who suffered from depression are typically more likely to experience it themselves. Certainly, traumatic events and chronic stress can bring about depression, as can hypothyroidism, cancer and cancer treatment, and lack of sleep. Nutrition – or the lack thereof – can’t be ruled out, either. In any case, during depression our brain pathways don’t function properly. Signals that should get through – things that would give someone hope, for instance – simply don’t connect. The biochemistry behind all of this is extremely complicated, and in fact, can seem elusive. This may account for huge amounts of medications prescribed each year for depression, many of which try to inhibit the breakdown of specific neurotransmitters (like the older drugs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors – MAOIs – which help prevent the breakdown of serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine, and the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – SSRIs-which specifically target serotonin) or at least modify the nerve signals in the mind. However, these medications bring many problems with them, too, and for many people, they may have to be switched often from one drug to the next.
Curcumin – A Botanical Depression Fighter
Curcumin – the prime compound from the spice turmeric – is already known as a strong anti-inflammatory. In fact, it’s my top recommendation to relieve any kind of pain because the cause of most pain is inflammation. But a recent surprising research finding is that curcumin – as long as it can be absorbed – looks very promising for dealing with depression and anxiety, too. Stress and anxiety create oxidative damage in the brain. Aside from curcumin’s ability as a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which reduces DNA damage to cells throughout the body, curcumin reverses other physical effects of stress and depression. It reduces inflammatory markers in the bloodstream, which travel through the brain, and it prevents low levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. Very recent research shows that curcumin also promotes neurogenesis – brain cell formation — notably in the frontal cortex and hippocampal regions of the brain. It turns out that your rate of neurogenesis is correlated to your level of depression. People who have been very severely depressed have much lower rates of neurogenesis that people without depression. This is a very novel pathway for fighting depression, as it addresses brain issues on a much deeper basis than merely adjusting levels of brain neurotransmitters. It is one of the most promising research findings on healthy brain function in many years of investigations of this disease. In one study, pending publication, comparing BCM-95 curcumin to fluoxetine (brand name is Prozac), 60 people took either this special curcumin, fluoxetine, or a combination of curcumin and fluoxetine. The curcumin performed as well, or slightly better, than the drug in many measures. In assessing participants who showed excellent or good effectiveness of the assigned medications, patients in the fluoxetine group reached 70%, but patients in the curcumin group were rated even better, at 75%.
Unfortunately, standard curcumin’s bioavailability is very poor. Because of this, clinical trials have used increasingly larger dosages (up to 10-12 grams daily) in order to get even a small amount into the bloodstream. While no toxicity is associated with curcumin, even at these very high dosage levels, cost, comfort and compliance may be an issue. Some companies have focused on approaches to improve curcumin’s bioavailability by adding lecithin and/or piperine, which can be problematic. However, there is a revolutionary curcumin extract that has been extremely successful. By formulating micronized curcumin with phospholipids and turmeric essential oils, comparison testing has shown that it has up to 10 times the bioavailability and greater blood retention time than standard 95% curcumin extracts, and 6.3 times more than curcumin complexed with lecithin and piperine. This study was done on a type of curcumin called BCM-95® curcumin, and it is the best curcumin I have ever worked with. Not only is absorption important to anyone who wants to see fast effects from their curcumin without having to take huge dosages, it’s important to avoid curcumin products blended with piperine because piperine interferes with almost every prescription drug and can have adverse effects on the liver. BCM-95 curcumin does not use piperine, and additional studies have shown it is safe and effective.
|Terry recommends a curcumin natural depression fighter with these ingredients. Look for it at your local health food store:|
|Proprietary Complex Curcumin (BCM-95®) Micronized (Curcuma longa) Rhizome Extract, phospholipids, turmeric essential oil||375 mg or 750 mg|
Omega-3s –Fish, But Not Fish Oil
Did you know that depression increases the risk of what doctors call “cardiovascular events” by as much as 7 times in people who already have cardiovascular disease? Up to 27% of people with CVD are also clinically depressed. And, although depression could be seen as a fairly understandable response following a heart attack, people who are medically healthy – but are depressed – still have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3’s can address both conditions simultaneously! While omega-3s are already great for building strong, flexible arteries, they also help prevent depression and the body and mind’s reaction to stress. Depression is partially due to inflammatory cellular damage, much like cardiovascular health, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and physical pain. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish have been shown to relieve the symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety, improve concentration, and help women suffering from postpartum depression. Why does it work? Because at a cellular level, DHA is a component of neuronal membranes – tissues that make up our nerve cells and brain. By supplementing and, (due to generally low omega-3 intake) changing the fatty acid composition, you change the activity of receptors embedded in the membranes, too. Fish truly is nutrition for your brain. In the same way you need nutrients and not junk food for getting into shape for physical challenges; you need to provide the same nutritional support for your brain, too. EPA also affects the activity of neurons, and studies show a relationship between depression – and even schizophrenia – in individuals with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells. Five (out of six) double-blind, placebo-controlled trials investigating schizophrenia, and four (out of six) trials looking at treatment for depression, have found omega-3s a beneficial and therapeutic intervention. So I am a big advocate of eating healthy, omega 3-rich fish, but most people also need supplements to address mood issues. Some seek to get more omega 3s on board with fish OIL, but it doesn’t do any good if it isn’t absorbed well, or is potentially toxic. Fish oil supplements are a very imperfect attempt to get more omega-3s into the diet, and have many problems. Most fish oils are extracted from small, cold water fish, including: sardines, anchovies, herring, and others with high-proportions of EPA and DHA. So far, so good, right? But then the fish undergo a lot of processing. The extraction process, for example, brings the raw material close to boiling and coagulates the naturally-occurring proteins in the fish. This creates its own problems as it requires large quantities of solvents (hexane and methanol to name two of them) to release the oil from the fish, and the need to reprocess the toxic waste that this method generates. But this heat method also changes the position of the fatty acids as well. Rather than being where nature intended them (and where they are better absorbed) on the sn-2 position on the carrier chain, the damaging heat-and-solvent method displaces the fatty acids to the sn-1 and sn-3 positions. This might not sound like much, but if you think about it, small changes are a big deal. Imagine changing the shape of your house key – even slightly. How well do you think it’ll work? The structural change of omega-3 position makes it harder for the body to absorb them. The key just doesn’t work as well. Additionally, omega 3s do not move on their own, they must be picked up and carried or they go nowhere. In fish oil, omega 3s are picked up and carried by triglycerides, which are poor and inefficient carriers. So, very large doses of fish oil are required just to get good results – usually several grams. Many people do not want to take that much fish oil, and they may experience gastric discomfort, bad aftertaste, and “fish burps” because of oil rancidity. There is a way to reap the benefits of omega-3s from fish without concerns about processing, using a gentle, cold water and enzyme process called “vectorization” to extract naturally occurring marine phospholipids with the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. In this process, the omega 3s are NOT carried by triglycerides, they are carried by these phospholipids. Because the omega-3 fatty acids are retained on their natural sn-2 position, they are bioidentical to the omega-3 fatty acids in the human brain. This perfect match allows the body to absorb and use the fatty acids much more efficiently. In this case, the key fits the lock. In fact, omega-3s from these marine phospholipids are up to 50 times better absorbed than fish oil.
Being Your Best
In addition to being a major mood disorder, people with depression often have changes in appetite. Some lose their appetite entirely, but others greatly increase their intake of the very worst foods for comfort. Depression can make obesity worse, and obesity can make depression worse. You have to wonder how much the rate of abdominal obesity (now seen in half the American population!) and rates of depression are related. Also, you might think of depression as a private problem. People who are depressed may wonder, “What difference does it make? I’m not hurting anyone by being depressed,” but that’s not true. Consider how much your presence affects your family, your co-workers, and your friends. When you are withdrawn and suffering, it touches those around you, too. Depression is serious and can be complicated to treat. Always, I’d recommend cognitive therapy, spiritual direction, prayer, or other forms of changing outlook and behavior in addition to the right supplementation, diet, and exercise. But the important thing is that you canfight back. And a highly absorbable curcumin extract and omega-3 phospholipid extract from fish should be at the top of your list for a powerful health arsenal.
|Terry recommends products with these ingredients. Look for them at your local health food store.|
|Omega-3 Phospholipid Peptide Complex Containing Phospholipids, Omega-3 [DHA (docosahexaenoic) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic)] and hydrolyzed peptides extracted from Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), in a balanced ratio as found naturally in salmon; not chemically altered or artificially spiked with DHA/EPA||292 mg|