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Life is Good

Life is Good

If you’ve ever suffered from depression, or if you know someone who has, then you’re well aware that genuine depression is not “the blues,” and it’s not “feeling down.” Depression isn’t sadness – it’s hopelessness. It isn’t anxiety – it’s paralyzing fear.

True depression is a mental illness. In many cases it’s caused by faulty brain chemistry, and that’s what antidepressant drugs are designed to address. For those who can’t function under the pall of severe depression, the right drug at the right dosage can be a lifesaver.

But if you’re in the antidepressant drug BUSINESS, depression is anything you want it to be. The blues, feeling down, out of sorts, bothered, inconvenienced – no level of “depression” is so trivial that the average Joe couldn’t use a sampler pack of Prozac or Zoloft to get started.

The result: Most of those Joes waste their money and their health on antidepressant drugs when behavior modifications and inexpensive dietary supplements are a much safer option.

The downside of “good” news

Antidepressant drugs were the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. in 2005, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey released last month. About 118 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written that year.

A CNN report on the CDC survey included this astonishing note: “Many psychiatrists see this statistic as good news – a sign that finally Americans feel comfortable asking for help with psychiatric problems.”

And I suppose if the number were 218 million that would be GREAT news!

Fortunately, CNN also gave us a more measured response from a New York internist who said, “It’s hard to believe that number of people are depressed, or that antidepressants are the answer.”

And Dr. Ronald Dworkin – author of “Artificial Unhappiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class” – nailed it with this comment: “Too many people take drugs when they really need to be making changes in their lives.”

Life change helpers

Have you ever known someone who was depressed because they were stuck in a dead end job? That’s a pretty common complaint. The obvious solution is to follow Dr. Dworkin’s advice about life change and find a better job. Other key changes will work just as well: start exercising daily, stop eating junk food, improve sleep habits, or take the necessary steps to reduce stress.

Then, once change is underway, certain supplements might help the cause considerably.

In new research from the UK, a team from the University of York and Hull York Medical School reviewed 11 studies that examined folate levels in more than 15,000 total subjects. Results showed a clear association between low folate and depression. In a previous study, the same researchers produced evidence that people with chronic depression may be genetically inclined to metabolize folate less efficiently than people who are not depressed.

As I’ve noted in previous e-Alerts, there are several nutrients that are known to help keep depression in check. For instance, high levels of B vitamins (which include folate), magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids have all been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression.

For instance, in a 2003 study from the Netherlands, researchers examined blood samples from more than 260 elderly, depressed subjects and found what they called a “direct effect of fatty acid composition on mood.” Subjects with depressive disorders had a significantly higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids compared to more than 400 randomly selected subjects.

Omega-3 fatty acids are most abundant in fish (especially oily fish such as tuna and salmon) and flaxseed. Good dietary sources of folate include spinach, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, beans, and chickpeas.

Talk to your doctor before beginning any new dietary supplement regimen.