MEN’S HEALTH: Natural Antidepressants

mh-article-2.jpgDepression affects an enormous number of people nowadays, and the number keeps growing. Are there any natural health means to prevent depression? Does nutrition play a role?

If you are deficient in vitamin C, you get scurvy. If you have a lack of iron, you’ll become anemic. Not enough calcium results in osteoporosis. In most men’s health issues it’s easy to see a connection between nutrient intake and a physical disease, but depression isn’t a physical state that’s diagnosable with a blood test.

Depression is an emotional feeling of intense sadness that is completely out of proportion to your situation or stresses. Sometimes, there’s no precipitating stressful circumstance at all. ‘Feeling down’ becomes a disorder when it becomes so severe that it significantly interferes with one’s ability to function normally. Such depression is usually associated with fatigue, interruption of sleep and loss of interest in food or any pleasurable activities.

Nutrition is commonly overlooked as a key role in the biochemistry of depression. Certain brain chemicals — neurotransmitters control brain functions. One of them, serotonin, is principally responsible for maintaining a stable mood. Because these neurotransmitters are formed from nutrients, nutrition plays a key role in your mental health.

These nutrients are necessary for brain activity and to regulate your mood and sense of well-being. A relative lack of certain amino acids, the mineral magnesium, vitamin B6, or omega-3 fatty acids can all be responsible for depressed feelings. These nutrients can be supplemented before taking more drastic steps to treat depression.

Vitamins and Depression

Vitamin B6 is used in the chemical pathways to form serotonin. Folic acid deficiency is extremely common and can bring on depression, as can vitamin B12 (which is also associated with memory). S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) increases serotonin and has been shown to be a very effective antidepressant. A common amino acid, tryptophan makes 5-HTP which is easily converted to serotonin in the brain, making it an excellent nutrient for depression.

Omega-3 Fats and Depression

Fish oils and fatty fish are the best sources for omega-3 fats, which control the synthesis of the neurotransmitters that control moods. If your omega-3 levels are low or more omega-6 fats (from grains) are consumed than omega-3s, creating a relative imbalance, depression can result. There’s a direct correlation between omega-3s and the severity of depression — the lower the EPA and DHA, the worse the depression. Supplementing with EPA, DHA and other omega-3 fats can effectively alleviate depression in many cases. One clinical paper has reported dramatic improvement in all the symptoms of severe, long term depression, including suicidal ideation with supplementation of EPA.

Supplementing with SAM, 5-HTP, B6, folate, magnesium and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA positively affect brain function. They can all improve men’s health by effectively combating and preventing depression.

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