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Understanding Depression

Depression is a mood disorder in which people experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, and loss of interest for long periods of time. It is a fairly common condition in the United States.

As many as 1 in 13 Americans from the age 12 and older report symptoms of depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.

Depression can lead to many symptoms, some of which are:

loss of interest in normal activities feeling sad, unhappy, or empty changes in appetite feeling worthless or guilty anxiety or restlessness difficulty sleeping, insomnia, or sleeping too much irrational reactions or angry outbursts difficulty concentrating or making decisions thoughts of suicide or death unexplained pain.

Doctors don’t yet entirely understand what causes depression. Several factors may contribute, including:

Physical brain differences: People with depression may have physical changes in their brains.

Chemical imbalances: Your brain’s functions are carefully controlled by a delicate balance of chemicals and neurotransmitters. If these chemicals change, you may develop symptoms of depression.

Hormone changes: Changes in hormones may cause symptoms of depression. Hormones may change because of thyroid problems, menopause, or another condition.

Life changes: The loss of a loved one, the end of a job or a relationship, financial stress, or trauma may trigger depression.

Genes: If a close relative has been diagnosed with depression, you may have a genetic predisposition to developing depression as well.

Possibilities for natural relief

Traditional depression treatment uses a combination of prescription medicines and counseling or therapy. Antidepressant medicines can help resolve underlying physical problems, such as a chemical imbalance.

Counseling can help you address issues and situations that might be contributing to depression, such as life changes.

Though traditional treatments can be effective, you may also be interested in alternative options. Natural remedies for depression are the focus of ongoing research.

Researchers have studied numerous herbs, supplements, and vitamins to determine if they can benefit people with depression. The results are mixed. Some alternative treatments hold a lot of promise.

However, not every alternative treatment passes the rigorous tests of clinical trials. For that reason, many medical professionals may hesitate in their recommendation or support for these treatments.

In this guide, learn about the most widely studied alternative treatments for depression. Find out which ones show the best results, how they work, and how they’re produced.

Omega-3 fatty acids

The heart health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are widely reported. These essential fats may be good for relieving symptoms of depression, too.

Omega-3s are also called essential fatty acids because the body needs them for normal functions.

These fats are important for neurological development and growth. However, the human body can’t make omega-3s on its own.

Omega-3s are found in supplements and foods, including fish, some nut oils, and some plants. While some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help relieve the signs and symptoms of depression, the overall evidence is unclear.

A 2003 study in European Neuropsychopharmacology found that people who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements had reduced depression symptoms. This study also suggests omega-3 may be beneficial for people taking traditional antidepressants.

A 2009 reviewTrusted Source of three other major studies on omega-3 in depression found that the supplements yielded better results in both children and adults compared with a placebo.

However, a later studyTrusted Source found that the promise of omega-3 as a treatment for depression is largely unfounded. This analysis concluded that many of the studies were too small or improperly researched.

Taking fish oil supplements for depression

Omega-3 supplements are made from two sources: fish or plants. The omega-3 fatty acids from fish are called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The omega-3 fatty acids derived from plant sources are called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

It’s important you have a balance of both types in your diet. For supplement use, the oils are manufactured to make capsules. Some ALA omega-3 sources are sold as oils.

EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are most often recommended for people with depression. One gram of omega-3s derived from fish may be effective at reducing depression symptoms.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)Trusted Source, most people can take up to 3 grams of omega-3 fish oil supplements each day without side effects or complications.

For depression, the Mayo Clinic reports that a 1,000 milligram capsule with EPA has proven effective in depression treatment. These are taken once a day. If you can’t swallow one large pill at once, your doctor might recommend a smaller dosage taken twice a day instead.

Despite the potential benefits, you should talk with your doctor before beginning these supplements. Aside from the possibility of a lack of efficacy, fish oil supplements can interact negatively with other medications.

They can interact with birth control pills and some high blood pressure medicines. They can also increase the risk of bleeding. People on blood thinners should avoid taking it without supervision.

As a 2009 study from The Journal of Clinical PsychiatryTrusted Source states that omega-3s are helpful when used to bolster other treatment. But the study also noted there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend omega-3s as a sole treatment for depression.

If you want to add omega-3s to your treatment routine, discuss it with your doctor. Overall, this complementary treatment seems to be most promising in people with mild or moderate depression.

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Controlling Anger Before it Controls You

Try Mental Restructuring. Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "oh, it's awful, it's terrible, everything's ruined," tell yourself, "it's frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow."

Other Tips:

Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight when you discuss things at night—perhaps you're tired, or distracted, or maybe it's just habit—try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks don't turn into arguments.

Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes you furious every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don't make yourself look at what infuriates you. Don't say, "well, my child should clean up the room so I won't have to be angry!" That's not the point. The point is to keep yourself calm.

Finding alternatives: If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a project—learn or map out a different route, one that's less congested or more scenic. Or find another alternative, such as a bus or commuter train.