There are plenty of things going on in the world today to be stressed, anxious, or depressed about. When you combine that chronic feeling to the daily life of those who are experiencing excessive toxins, nutritional deficiencies, emotional trauma, and detachment from nature, you get a multitude of mental disorders that seem impossible to treat without medications.
I’m here to tell you that many natural remedies exist for anxiety and depression, and using a combination of the following eleven solutions will give you a great opportunity to overcome them.
As we age with a deficiency in EPA and DHA, we are highly susceptible to depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and suicidal tendencies. This is due to the critical role of EPA and DHA, as without these omega-3 fats, the neural tissue cannot respond effectively to serotonin and other neurotransmitters.
Fortunately, studies have shown that DHA deficient individuals can reverse some of the structural abnormalities in the brain with an anti-inflammatory, omega-3 rich diet. The addition of EPA and DHA into the diet has been shown to create very quick changes in the neuronal cell membranes.
Unfortunately, American culture takes in the majority of its fat in the form of processed vegetable oils and grain-fed meat products. These sources are very scarce in quality omega-3 fats and therefore, many are deficient in the necessary EPA and DHA for optimal brain development.
Healthy fats to consider include walnuts, chia, hemp, flax, avocados, coconut oil, salmon, krill oil, and grass fed beef.
Magnesium, also known as the “miracle mineral” is a vitally important nutrient in the treatment of anxiety and depression. With up to 80% of people estimated to be suffering from magnesium deficiency, this is a serious threat to mental stability.
A study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine showed that there is a “significant association between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in younger adults.” Additionally, a review published in Pharmacological Reports in 2013 concluded that “magnesium preparations seem to be a valuable addition to the pharmacological armamentarium for management of depression.”
There are several ways to get magnesium, from capsules and liquid supplements to topical and bath applications. You can also get it in food through leafy green vegetables and many nuts and seeds.
B-vitamins work together to perform various functions, including providing fuel for the proper function of our nervous system and brain. A mild deficiency can affect your mood, and a severe one can lead to more serious conditions such as depression, dementia, paranoia, and delusion.
According to a study conducted in 2009, more than 25% of all women diagnosed with severe depression were deficient in B-complex vitamins.
Foods rich in b-vitamins include dark leafy greens, bee pollen, fish, yogurt, whole grains, and eggs.
There has been plenty of empirical evidence that a lack of sun (a key source of vitamin D) can cause one to become irritable, anxious, and depressed. But has there been any scientific evidence to back those experiences?
Turns out, there’s plenty.
In one study, seniors with the lowest levels of vitamin D were found to be 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels. Recent research was discussed in Times Online:
“The Amsterdam research, which tracked over 1,200 people aged 65 to 95, showed that blood vitamin D levels were 14 percent lower in individuals with major and minor depression compared with non-depressed participants.
A study in the United States indicated that vitamin D deficiency occurred more often in certain people, including African-Americans, city dwellers, and the obese.
People with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/mL had an 85 percent increased risk of depression compared to those with vitamin D levels greater than 30 ng/mL.”
Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and in 2007, researchers noted that vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression and fibromyalgia.
A double-blind randomized trial published in 2008 also concluded that:
“It appears to be a relation between serum levels of 25(OH)D and symptoms of depression. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D seems to ameliorate these symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship.”
Combatting depression without addressing vitamin D levels, will likely prove to be fruitless. Don’t skip over this one.
Iodine is a relatively misunderstood nutrient, but a very important one. It affects our energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). Since one of the areas iodine is concentrated in includes the brain, it stands to reason that an iodine deficiency could easily lead to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Iodine is present in seaweed (kelp), oysters, eggs, cranberries, yogurt, fish, turkey breast, and more.
If you suffer from anxiety, it would be wise to look into nourishing your gut flora (your second “brain”), and the best way to do this is to regularly consume traditionally fermented foods, which are naturally rich in beneficial bacteria. Pasteurized versions will NOT have the same benefits, as the pasteurization process destroys many, if not all, of the naturally occurring probiotics. So you will need to seek out traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods like fermented vegetables, or make them yourself.
In addition to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, exercise boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of anxiety and stress. Many avid exercisers also feel a sense of euphoria after a workout, sometimes known as the “runner’s high.” It can be quite addictive, in a good way, once you experience just how good it feels to get your heart rate up and your body moving.
If you struggle with anxiety, you really can’t go wrong with starting a comprehensive exercise program – virtually any physical activity is likely to have positive effects, especially if it’s challenging enough. That said, Duke University researchers recently published a review of more than 100 studies that found yoga appears to be particularly beneficial for mental health.
Aromatherapy (essential oils)
Another natural alternative for treating anxiety is aromatherapy. A systematic review of 16 randomized controlled trials examining the anxiolytic (anxiety-inhibiting) effects of aromatherapy among people with anxiety symptoms showed that most of the studies indicated positive effects to quell anxiety (and no adverse events were reported).
Some specific outcomes included:
- People exposed to bergamot essential oil aromatherapy prior to surgery had a greater reduction in pre-operative anxiety than those in control groups.
- Sweet orange oil has been found to have anxiety-inhibiting effects in humans, supporting its common use as a tranquilizer by aromatherapists.
- Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduced anxiety and improved mood in patients waiting for dental treatment.
- Compared to the controls, women who were exposed to orange odor in a dental office had a lower level of anxiety, a more positive mood, and a higher level of calmness. Researchers concluded, “exposure to ambient odor of orange has a relaxant effect.”
If you’re interested in trying out this natural form of anxiety relief, any of the following essential oils would be a good starting point:
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Rose (Rosa damascena)
- Orange (Citrus sinensis)
- Bergamot (Citrus aurantium)
- Lemon (Citrus limon)
- Sandalwood (Santalum album)
- Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
- Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
- Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.)
Try cold diffusing these oils, or placing them in a warm bath. Always read directions on proper use for each oil.
All toxins could be considered mind altering, but there are a few that do more damage than others. Some of the heavier hitters include fluoride, heavy metals, artificial sweeteners, MSG, and refined sugar.
Fluoride: The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) reported a study that found fluoride was linked to lower IQ, even at ranges added to U.S. water supplies. One study sponsored by UNICEF found that IQ was reduced at just 0.88 mg/l of fluoride, a level that is added to U.S. drinking water systems and considered within the optimal range. FAN also stated that 34 studies now link fluoride to lower IQ levels in humans, while other studies link it to learning and memory impairment, fetal brain damage, and altered neurobehavioral function.
Mercury: The heavy metal mercury is lipophilic, meaning it concentrates in fatty tissues, and since it has been shown to be able to cross the blood brain barrier, mercury often become lodged in the brain. This toxin can then create various chronic mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.
To help get rid of mercury, consider chlorella and cilantro.
Artificial Sweeteners: Whether it is aspartame (or AminoSweet), sucralose (Splenda), or saccharin (Equal, Sweet ‘N Low), artificial sweeteners so popular due to their zero calorie marketing, have been poisoning brains for decades. Aspartame is a combination of chemicals, namely aspartic acid (an amino acid with excitatory effects on brain cells), methanol, and phenylalanine, and when broken down produces a compound that is a powerful brain-tumor-causing chemical.
Aspartame consumption causes a variety of symptoms including anxiety attacks, slurred speech, depression, and migraines. It and other artificial sweeteners can be found in sodas, yogurt, chewing gum, cooking sauces, tabletop sweeteners, flavored water, cereal, and sugar free products. Avoid them at all costs.
Monsodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is a form of concentrated salt added to foods to enhance flavor. It tricks the taste buds and the brain into thinking food tastes delicious, but as an excitotoxin, it triggers the brain to produce excess quantities of the feel-good drug, dopamine. Unfortunately, the good feelings don’t last, but the side effects do. Excitotoxins have been linked to brain damage and other neurological diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, MS, lupus, and more. Avoid it at all costs (and its various aliases, such as yeast extract).
Refined sugar: Refined sugar consumption suppresses brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, a very important growth hormone for the brain. This factor triggers new connections between neurons in the brain that are vital for memory function. Studies have shown low BDNF levels in patients with depression and schizophrenia, and the consumption of sugar could exacerbate those conditions by further contributing to those low levels. Avoid it at all costs.
Western science has been verifying the numerous physical and psychological benefits that the regular practice of meditation can provide for more than 40 years. Traditional meditation practices are ideally taught by an accomplished spiritual teacher, but once learned, meditation easily lends itself to independent practice.
Meditation can be practiced at any time, simply by focusing your attention on your breathing and observing what is occurring around you in the present moment without judgment or regard for the past or future.
There have been many specific benefits attributed to meditation, but most of them center on relaxation, concentration, and alleviating depression and stress.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
EFT is one of a body of alternative therapies within a growing area of specialty called “Energy Psychology,” which focuses on how your body’s unique energy can dramatically affect your emotional health, your success in the world, and your level of personal joy and well-being.
One of the primary principles of EFT is that all emotional disturbances are caused by a disruption in the body’s energy system. It follows that smoothing out or “fixing” that disruption should “heal” emotional troubles. This makes EFT an excellent ancillary therapy for issues such as depression, anger, jealousy, phobias, paranoia, addictions, performance anxiety, low self-esteem, and a host of other mental and emotional ailments.
EFT allows people to change both brain chemistry and energy patterns surrounding psychological problems, which in turn “disarms” emotional and mental triggers and can rapidly and effectively help treat emotional, mental, and sometimes even physical issues. Positive results are often rapid, painless, and long lasting.
In an attempt to fill the void of addressing emotional illness without drugs, Dr. Bach began to investigate the healing potential of wild flowers native to the English countryside. After 6 years of extensive research and testing, he was able to identify 38 flowers of nonpoisonous plants, trees, and shrubs that when prepared according to a specific homeopathic process he developed, had a profound effect on the underlying psychological and emotional states that influence physical illness. These special preparations became known as Bach Flower Remedies.
Proven effective by licensed health professionals for nearly 80 years, flower essences are a noninvasive therapy sold over the counter. They are taken internally by mouth or rubbed topically on pulse points. Because they are nontoxic and non-addictive, they have no side effects and can be used without professional guidance.
As with any approach for a lingering health issue, a comprehensive and holistic approach always works best. If you are ready to create a body and mind you LOVE, look into the THRIVE online holistic health program.
Sources for this article include: