What is depression?
Depression is defined as feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
These are the signs and symptoms of depression:
- Sadness, emotional, weeping, despair, hopelessness, helplessness
- Low energy, drive or motivation
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, excessive desire to sleep
- Thoughts of suicide, making suicide plans
- Loss of interest in activities that would normally be enjoyable to you
What Causes Depression?
The exact cause of depression is unknown. There are several factors that can contribute to symptoms of depression though. These include:
- Hypothyroidism. If your thyroid is low or underactive, you may feel depressed.
- Adrenal gland dysfunction or HPA axis dysfunction. The HPA axis regulates the function of your stress glands, your adrenals. They help you cope with stress and help you have energy, drive, and motivation to do things. Feelings of apathy, indifference, lack of energy, low libido, and low motivation can all indicate poorly working adrenals.
- Hormone imbalance. Your hormones have many effects on your body. They influence how your neurotransmitter receptors work to take up feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin. Low levels of any of the reproductive hormones create symptoms of anxiety and depression. Our naturopathic doctors run extensive hormone testing to determine where your imbalances lie and help you rebalance hormones.
- Neurotransmitter imbalance. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that help regulate how your brain works. They can help you feel happy, calm, relaxed or proud of your accomplishments. Alternatively, if they are not well balanced you can feel sad, depressed or anxious. Vitamins, minerals and amino acids are the building blocks to make neurotransmitters. These are adjusted through supplementation by our naturopathic doctors.
How can I heal my depression naturally?
We help you feel supported and cared for as you improve your diet, rebalance your body and make lifestyle changes to help yourself. The supplements listed below in the research are the type of supplements that our ND’s would use to help heal your depression.
Naturopaths provide counseling and support around healthy lifestyle changes such as exercise and quitting smoking.
Psychotherapy helps depression by providing an objective outlet to discuss issues that contribute to depression such as relationships, spouses, losses, family issues, and work stress. Our psychotherapist provides constructive techniques and tips to get through whatever challenges you may be facing.
Massage therapy relieves depression by helping reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being.
Reviewed by Dr. Pamela Frank, Dec. 31, 2019
Natural Medicine for Depression Research
Delle Chiaie R, Pancheri P, Scapicchio P. Efficacy and tolerability of oral and intramuscular
S-adenosyl-L-methionine 1,2-butanedisulfonate (SAMe) in the treatment of major depression: comparison with imipramine in2 multicenter studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 76(5):1172S-6S.
● Both oral and IM SAMe and imipramine did not significantly differ for any efficacy measure, however, significantly fewer adverse events were observed in the SAMe group – therefore SAMe is comparable in efficacy to imipramine but is significantly better tolerated.
Grosso G, Pajak A, Marventano S, Castellano S, Galvano F, Bucolo C, Drago F, Caraci F. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depressive disorders: a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. PLoS One. 2014; 9(5):e96905.
● Meta-analysis of 18 trials total demonstrated significant clinical benefit of omega-3 PUFA
treatment compared to placebo – mostly EPA – these results were found in both patients
diagnosed with MDD and in depressive patients without MDD diagnosis
Lam RW, Levitt AJ, Levitan RD, Michalak EE, Cheung AH, Morehouse R, Ramasubbu R, Yatham LN, Tam EM. Efficacy of bright light treatment, fluoxetine, and the combination in patients with nonseasonal major depressive disorder: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry . 2016; 73(1):56-63.
● This study found that 30 minutes per day of light therapy (as a monotherapy as well as
combined therapy with the antidepressant fluoxetine) increased remission rates in individuals with depression.
St. John’s Wort:
Linde K, Berner M, Kriston L. St John’s wort for major depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews . 2008; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000448.pub3.
● Hypericum extracts were found to be superior to placebo in patients with major depression and similarly effective compared to pharmaceutical standard antidepressants, but have fewer side effects than antidepressants.
Lopresti AL, Maes M, Maker GL, Hood SD, Drummond PD. Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord . 2014; 167: 368-75.
Modabbernia A, Sohrabi H, Nasehi AA, Raisi F, Saroukhani S, Jamshidi A, Tabrizi M, Ashrafi M, Akhondzadeh S. Effect of saffron on fluoxetine-induced sexual impairment in men: randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012; 223(4):381-8.21
● By week 4, saffron resulted in significant improvement in erectile function and intercourse satisfaction domains compared to placebo.
● There was no significant difference in orgasmic function, overall satisfaction, and sexual desire between the two groups.
● Nine patients in the saffron group and one patient in the placebo group obtained normal erectile function at the end of the study.
St. John’s Wort:
Ng Q, Venkatanarayanan N, Ho C. Clinical use of Hypericum perforatum (St John’s wort) in depression: a meta-analysis. J Affect Disord . 2017; 1(210):211-221.
● This review of 27 clinical trials (3808 patients total) compared St John’s wort and SSRIs for treatment of mild to moderate depression, and found that St John’s wort was comparable to SSRIs in response and remission, and additionally had a significantly lower dropout rate compared to SSRIs. Results from HAM-D scores also support the clinical efficacy in amelioration of depressive symptoms by St John’s wort.
Rajizadeh A, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Yassini-Ardakani M, Dehghani A. Effect of magnesium
supplementation on depression status in depressed patients with magnesium deficiency: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition . 2017; 35:56-60.
● Magnesium supplementation in depressed patients suffering from magnesium deficiency leads to improvement in depression status and magnesium levels, compared to baseline and control group.
Schmidt PJ, Daly RC, Bloch M, Smith MJ, Danaceau MA, St Clair LS, Murphy JH, Hag N, Rubinow DR. Dehydroepiandrosterone monotherapy in midlife-onset major and minor depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry . 2005; 62(6):154-62.
● DHEA for six weeks was associated with significant improvement in the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale ratings compared to baseline and placebo – where a 50% reduction in the Hamilton score was observed in 23 participants after DHEA and 13 subjects after placebo
Talaei A, Hassanpour Moghadam M, Sajadi Tabassi SA, Mohajeri SA. Crocin, the main active saffron constituent, as an adjunctive treatment in major depressive disorder: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, pilot clinical trial. J Affect Disord . 2015; 174:51-6.
● 4 weeks; crocin group was given one SSRI drug (fluoxetine, 20 mg/day or sertraline 50 mg/day or citalopram 20 mg/day) plus crocin tablets (30 mg/day; 15 mg bid) and placebo group was administered one SSRI (same options as above) plus placebo.
● Crocin group showed significantly improved scores on BDI, BAI and GHQ compared to placebo group.
Dietary intakes of folate and vitamin B6 were found to be inversely associated with prevalence of depressive symptoms in both boys and girls. Source: Psychosom Med, 2010 Aug 17; A recent study found that a combined low folate and low vitamin B6 levels are associated with depression. Source: J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2012;3:170-8.
L-methylfolate supplementation was found to decrease symptoms severity and increase the effectiveness of SSRI drugs in depression patents who had partial or no response to SSRIs. Source: American Journal of Psychiatry, December 2012
A 2010 Canadian Community Health Survey found that deficiencies in nutrients such as folic acid, magnesium and omega-3s were linked to depression. Source: Solomon et al, Nutrition and Depression, June 2010.
A study conducted by Spanish researchers in Granada found that people who consumed a lot of fast food were 51% more likely to develop depression. Source: Carmen Chai and Allison Vuchnich, Global News, May 10, 2013.
A 2009 study conducted by Spanish researchers found that the risk of developing mental disorders was decreased by 30% by eating a Mediterranean diet. Source: Carmen Chai and Allison Vuchnich, Global News, May 10, 2013.
Processed foods, high in sugar and fats with minimal nutrients, may actually trigger depression or make its symptoms worse. Source: Carmen Chai and Allison Vuchnich, Global News, May 10, 2013.
A 2012 study found that fast foods like hamburgers, fries and pizza were directly connected to depression. Source: Carmen Chai and Allison Vuchnich, Global News, May 10, 2013.
Creatine & Major Depressive Disorder:
Major depressive disorder patients taking creatine for 2 weeks showed greater improvements in the Hamilton Depressive Rating Scale. Source: Am J Psychiatry. 2012 Sep 1; 169(9):937-45.
Selenium & Major Depressive Disorder:
Lower dietary intake of selenium was found to be associated with an increased risk of developing major depressive disorder. Source: Complement Ther Med 2012; 20(3): 119-123.
Light therapy & SAD:
Bright light therapy has been found to affect circadian rhythm and decrease fatigue in seasonal affective disorder patients. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.27, Issue 3, Feb 2013.
A significant correlation was found between fish oil consumption, change in erythrocyte DHA and the change in depression scores. Source: Lipids, 2013 Jun 4; [Epub ahead of print].
Higher vitamin B6 status was found to be associated with a decreased risk of depressive symptoms. Source: Eur J Clin Nutr, 2013 Jun 26;.
High vitamin B6 status may be associated with a decreased risk of depressive symptoms in adults. Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2013
A recent study determined that anemia and slight vitamin B6 deficiency are associated with depression. Source: J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2012;3:170-8.
Curcumin & Major Depressive Disorder:
Curcumin supplementation in addition to regular fluoxetine treatment in major depressive disorder lead to a higher rating on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, 17-item version. Source: Phytother Res. 2013 Jul 6.
Omega-3 fatty acid intake in women was found to be associated with reduced odds of elevated depressive symptoms by 49%. Source: J Nutr, 2013 Sept 4;.
Supplementation with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids was found to be effective in the amelioration of depressive symptoms and quality of life scores in the elderly. Source: J Am Coll Nutr, 2010; 29(1): 55-64.
Supplementation with 1050 mg/d EPA and 150 mg/d DHA was found to be more effective than placebo in reducing depressive symptoms in patients with major depression. Source: J Clin Psychiatry, 2010 June 15;.
Lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and higher circulating levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase, superoxide dismutase, interferon-gamma, and nitrotyrosine were found in depressed patients, compared to controls. Source: Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2013 Sept 21; .
Intake of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA were found to be associated with fewer depressive symptoms. Source: Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2012 April 1
Low omega-3 fatty acid levels were connected to depression in adolescents with eating disorders. Source: Acta Paediatr, 2011 July 6.
Higher intake of vitamins B12 and B6 were found to be associated with decreased likelihood of depressive symptoms in the elderly. Source: Am J Clin Nutr, 2010 June 2; .
Omega-3 fatty acid intake was found to be inversely related to elevated depressive symptoms in women in the United States. Source: J Nutr. 2013 Sep 4.
Very low, low and normal vitamin D levels were found to be associated with depression in patients aged 50 or above with a cardiovascular diagnosis. Source: Am Heart J, 2010; 159(6): 1037-43.
Vitamin D supplementation in adolescents with depression improved many of the depression symptoms, such as depressed feelings, irritability, tiredness, mood swings, and sleep. Source: Acta Paediatr, 2012 Feb 28.
In an analysis of vitamin D intake from foods and supplements and risk of depression, vitamin D was found to be associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms. Source: Am J Clin Nutr, 2011 Aug 24
Low vitamin D levels may be associated with depression, however is not alleviated with supplementation. Source: Br J Psychiatry, 2012 Jul 12.
Low serum levels of vitamin D have been linked to a higher risk of developing depression in midlife. Source: Clinical Nutrition – 23 January 2013.
Alpha Linolenic Acid:
Alpha-linolenic acid intake was found to be inversely related to depressive risk with a stronger association found in women between ages 50 and 77 with low linoleic acid intake. Source: Am J Clin Nutr, 2011 June; 93(6): 1337-43.
Zinc, in conjunction with anti-depressant drug treatment, was found to significantly reduce depressive symptoms. Source: J Affect Disord, 2011 July 26.
Acupuncture might be effective as a monotherapy for major depressive disorder and as a means to supplement the effects of antidepressant drugs. Source: Can J Psychiatry, 2012 Jul; 57(7):397-405.
Acupuncture was found to accelerate the response to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and prevent an increase of depression symptoms. Source: J Psychiatr Res, 2013 March 13.
Depressed, anxious patients chamomile was found to reduce overall depression rating scores. Source: Altern Ther Health Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;18(5):44-9.
Depressed and anxious people have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines in their blood as well as inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012
C-reactive Protein: Long-term use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor antidepressants and tricyclic antidepressants led to elevated levels of C-reactive protein. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012
Higher levels of inflammatory marker fibrinogen were found to be associated with psychological distress, antidepressant medication use in patients with depression. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012
Obesity, Lack of Sleep & Depression:
Conditions such as obesity and sleep loss, that cause a rise in the inflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNF-α, are linked to depression. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012
Inflammation & Depression:
Inflammatory cytokines might be to blame for inflammation’s role in depression. Source: Complementary Prescriptions Journal, Vol.26, Issue 12, Dec. 2012
Antioxidants & Anxiety and Depression:
High serum levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamins A, C, and E, were found to decrease anxiety and depression scores in patients. Source: Indian Journal of Psychiatry, July 2012
Fluoxetine plus vitamin C treatment for six months was found to significantly decrease symptoms of pediatric major depressive disorder. Source: Nutr J, 2013 March 9.