Although this may be a joyful time of year for many people, some may suffer from depression and isolation during the holidays. This can be a very difficult time for those who have especially lost a loved one during the holidays.
This type of holiday depression can be situational, or may be a mood disorder that is exaggerated in times of stress and related to past emotional events.
Over the past 50 years, psychiatric drugs have become the major tools for treating mental illness. It is a multi-million dollar industry!
The fact is… 50% of depressed and bipolar patients experience no improvement with antidepressants. Of those who find relief, half go off their meds because of side effects that reduce their quality of life. Many drugs cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction, muscle spasms, agitation, depression or suicidal urges. Ugh!
More and more evidence is showing that depression and other mood disorders are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Although we can’t do much about altering someone’s genes, there are some holistic approaches that can help people feel better and provide a safer side effect profile to manage their moods.
For many years I have recommended amino acids for the management of mental health issues. Amino acids are derived from proteins. Proper amino acid supplementation can correct imbalances in the excitatory vs. inhibitory neurotransmitters (brain chemistry lingo) and help with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Some of these are:
Tryptophan or 5HTP- for depression, stress and for carbohydrate cravings.
Tyrosine or Phenylalanine- can lift depression, help with stress and memory, and curb appetite.
GABA- calms mood and helps with sleep (especially if you’re mindful at night)
Glutamine- helps make more GABA and promotes memory while healing leaky gut and reducing alcohol and sugar cravings.
Methionine- helps lower blood histamine (a brain neurotransmitter) which, when elevated can cause mania and anxiety.
There are many others that may help in balancing mood and sleep.
Don’t forget the basics to balance brain chemistry such as exposure to natural sunlight, avoidance of white flour and refined white sugars that can cause nutritional deficiencies, eating a healthy diet with lots of essential fatty acids (fish oils, flax) and plenty of exercise. Having a strong support system (family, friends, psychotherapy) is also important in helping people with mood disorders.
Check with your practitioner about taking amino acids or other supplements. It is worth considering other holistic options before moving onto more potent pharmaceutical choices when treating mood disorders.