When I first started working at the Wiseman Family Practice clinic, I was shocked to hear from the doctors and nurse practitioners that about 70% of the patients were on prescribed antidepressants. One out of 10 Americans are on antidepressants. According to CDC statistics, antidepressant drug use rose nearly 400% since 1988. Antidepressants are the most frequently used medication by people aged 18-44. Antidepressants are the 3rd most prescribed meds and they usually cost more than most other medications.

Americans heavily lean on antidepressants, but not just when they are clearly depressed. They are often given these scripts when they don’t feel so hot, but they don’t often have a psychiatric diagnosis either.

Most of these prescriptions are not written by psychiatric providers, but providers in the general medicine arena. Ramin Mojtabai MD, PhD, MPH, reports in his research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Mental Health, “Between 1996 and 2007, the number of visits where individuals were prescribed antidepressants with no psychiatric diagnoses increased from 59.5 percent to 72.7 percent, and the share of providers who prescribed antidepressants without a concurrent psychiatric diagnosis increased from 30 percent of all non-psychiatrist physicians in 1996 to 55.4 percent in 2007.” (Health Affairs 2011)

There is a lot in peer review literature about shadow sides of these meds, like bone erosion with some of them. No medicine is free of side effects. Most medicines rinse some critical nutrients out of your body; depending on your diet and absorption, this can put some of you at risk of walking around with vital nutrient deficiencies. Well, a number of antidepressants rinse calcium out of bone. Some women are on antidepressants on one hand, and bone builders on the other.

I had Dr. Richard Wiseman, a family practice doctor who has been seeing patients for over 40 years, on my radio show one week. Dr. Wiseman said, “You know, there would be a lot less problems if folks learned how to grab for natural alternatives first, before meds, with the blessing of their doctors, of course.”

What are some considerations to try before medications for being in a stressful, dysphoric phase of your life? Of course, use these once you check out potential interactions with other meds or foods you may be on, and check in with a doctor-in-the-know (though there are not too many of those, sadly to say).

Natural alternatives to the blues: exercise, relaxation, breathing exercises, toning,
Assess your diet and get out excessive alcohol, caffeine and sugar, and get in more colorful veggies and green drinks. Add a handful of parsley to your green drink, as it is a food high in the new vitamin PQQ that boosts healthier brain function and moods.

Herbs and nutrients alternatives to consider (only one at a time, not all at once): St. John’s Wort (most people can take this and benefit greatly, though up to 5% develop headaches or sensitivity to sun with resultant transient eye pain; and also check interactions with other medications you may be on), kava kava, opening up capsules of GABA and inositiol and letting it dissolve under your tongue, every 15 minutes for the first hour and then several times a day; sometimes adding magnesium (especially in the glycinate form) can help. Adding dried nettles to your green drink can also help lube your “feel-good” neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters and hormones: You may want to get your neurotransmitters, which affect your brain biochemistry, checked to see what you uniquely need. You may need to get your thyroid and other hormones checked as well, as they affect brain function, size, and mood. Also, there is the use of hormone replacement as antidepressant replacement, and the finger is pointing at a newly recognized player,
oxytocin. It used to be thought this was mainly a pregnancy/lactation hormone, but not so.

Bring a friend on board. Telling your woes to a friend, who can witness your suffering and then be there as support, strengthens healthy brain function. It turns out that the brains of all vertebrates come wired for cooperation, and togetherness helps brain signals and neurotransmitters work better. (Science 2011)