Beliefnet
A Prescription for Healthy Living

Non-Drug Options for Dealing With Anxiety and Depression

Tired of taking your everyday pill hoping it will help you with your depression? Your medication is not helping you anxiety? Don’t want to take medication dreading the compelling side effects ?

When considering your mental health, it’s important to recognize your diet and lifestyle as foundational factors that must be optimized if you hope to fully address mental health concerns of any kind, including depression and anxiety. Your body and mind are closely interrelated, so while you may think of your brain as the primary organ in charge of your mental health, your gut may play an equally important, if not more important, role.

Unfortunately, The drugs available today to treat depression fail miserably in addressing mental health problems, and the side effects of antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs can be worse than the original complaint, running the gamut from lack of emotions to sexual side effects and irritability, and to sleep disturbances.

These powerful medications can even put you at risk for homicide and suicide! They may result in chronic, long-term, worsening depression. Why not avoid them unless absolutely necessary, and generally only as a “last resort”?

Healthy Diet, Lifestyle Are Crucial for Optimal Mental Health

As with most medical conditions, your diet is a crucial first place to start when looking for ways to improve your health and sense of well-being. Research tells us that the composition of your gut flora not only affects your physical health, but also has a significant impact on your brain function and mental state.

As such, your gut microbiome can be quickly impacted by dietary changes — for better or for worse. Research has also revealed a number of other safe and effective ways to address depression that do notinvolvehazardous drugs. So, if you suffer from an anxiety- or depression-related disorder, please consider addressing the following diet and lifestyle factors before you resort to drugs.

If you are already taking a prescription medication for mental health, you can make these changes along with taking the medication until you are able to successfully wean off the drugs — with the help and oversight of your doctor, of course.

1. Eat real food

Making a commitment to eat whole, organic, naturally-occurring food will mean you also choose to ingest less processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose), grains and genetically engineered (GE) foods.

High sugar and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can trigger hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, anger, anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Sugar also creates inflammation in your body.

Processed foods typically contain high amounts of sugar, damaging omega-6 fats and many chemical additives that can affect your brain function and mental state. Aspartame and MSG are two I would most definitely seek to avoid. Gluten sensitivity is a common, hidden cause of depression, so you may want to consider implementing a gluten-free diet.

Recent research also shows that glyphosate, used in large quantities on GE crops like corn, soy and sugar beets, limits your body’s ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds. As such, the damaging effects of those toxins are magnified, potentially resulting in brain disorders with both behavioral and psychological effects.

2.Increase your consumption of fermented food

Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues like depression or anxiety

, so optimizing your gut flora is vital. To promote healthy gut flora, increase your consumption of probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables, kefir, kimchee and natto. If none of these foods is available, consider taking a probiotic supplement daily.

3.Get adequate vitamin B12

Several vitamin B deficiencies are capable of producing symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders. As such, B vitamins can be a valuable adjunct in the treatment of anxiety, attention deficit disorder, depression and schizophrenia, among other mental illnesses. I recommend you pay attention to vitamins B1, B2, B6, B8 and B9, but most especially B12. One in 4 people are thought to be deficient in vitamin B12.

3.Optimize your vitamin D levels

Vitamin D is very important for your mood. Remember, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense to optimize your vitamin D levels through UV exposure.

4.Get sufficient animal-based omega-3 fats

Since your brain is 60 percent fat, DHA, an animal-based  Omega-3 fat, along with EPA, is crucial for proper brain function and mental health. Although anchovies, sardines and wild-caught Alaskan salmon are excellent sources, most people don’t get enough omega-3s from diet alone. If that’s you, make sure you take a high-quality omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil.

5.Evaluate your salt intake

Believe it or not, sodium deficiency creates symptoms similar to those of depression. Take a pass on processed salt (regular table salt), however, and choose all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients.

6.Get adequate daily exercise

Studies have highlighted a strong connection between aerobic activity and improved mood. There is also growing acceptance that the mind-body connection is very real, which means maintaining good physical health can significantly lower your risk of developing depression in the first place.

Exercising also boosts your levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, which help elevate your mood and counteract the effects of stress.

7.Get enough sleep

You can have the best diet and exercise program possible, but if you do not get enough high quality sleep, you put yourself at risk for depression and other illnesses. The two are so intricately linked that it is often difficult to tell if depression is causing your sleep problems or sleep problems are causing or contributing to depression and other mood disorders.

Regardless of the connection, most adults require seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep a night. Children and teenagers require even more.

8 Engage in relaxing diversions

Take a walk, listen to music, take a hot bath, love up your pet—any of these will calm jangled nerves and help you regain a sense of being grounded on the planet.

9.Meditate

Mindful meditation brings profound calm, especially welcome to those suffering with anxiety. Meditation is simply sitting or lying still and letting your mind empty. However, for most this is easier said than done. You may even find you feel too agitated to sit still. Do something active first and then try sitting.

 

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus