Depression: What to do Before Resorting to Prozac

Many people who do not suffer from depression do not really understand the gravity of the illness. They think that people can just “snap out of it,” or that it can be treated with some ice cream and a sympathetic ear. Unfortunately though, it’s not that easy. Depression can be due to a chemical or hormonal imbalance in the body and is even thought to be hereditary in most cases. Depression plagues almost 20 million adults in the United States alone and, believe it or not, most of them do not seek any treatment. They either lack the motivation to get better or they simply do not think there is anything out there that could help. However, the truth is that depression is a serious mental illness and should not be left untreated because it could only get worse.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms of depression may include difficulty concentrating, decreased energy, feeling sad/guilty/worthless/hopeless, insomnia, irritability, loss of interest, loss of appetite, indecisiveness and having thoughts of suicide. If you have 3 or more of these symptoms for a period of 2 or more weeks, you may be suffering from depression. The first step to recovery is recognizing the symptoms because only then can you seek the appropriate treatment.

If you are against resorting to prescription medications, there are natural remedies out there that you can try first. There are mood-enhancing supplements such as 5-HTP, SAMe, L-theanine and St. John’s Wort that increase the “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brain known as serotonin and dopamine. However, do not take more than one of these supplements at a time and try to consult with a physician to find out which one is best for you. B-vitamins, especially B6, help normalize nerve and brain function and fight fatigue so that you feel more focused, energetic and motivated to carry out your daily tasks. Fish oil is also essential for normal brain function and is a potent mood stabilizer that has been clinically proven to have a negative correlation with depression.

Aside from taking supplements, there are also other natural treatments that could help. Make sure your hormone levels (i.e. thyroid, cortisol, estrogen) are within normal range because any imbalance may cause anxiety and depression. Exercise at least half an hour a day because it helps lower stress hormone levels and also releases natural endorphins within our body, making us feel happy and relaxed. Eat a well balanced diet high in fiber and low in saturated oil/fat and refined sugar to keep your mind and body in top shape. Do not abuse alcohol/drugs because they can act as depressants and can cause your mood to change overtime. Get about 6-8 hours of sleep a night to make sure you are well rested so that you feel energetic and less irritable throughout the day. Last but not least, try to get some sunshine each day if possible because it has been shown that serotonin levels increase when you’re exposed to bright light.

Depression is a serious matter and should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, 1 in 10 people who suffer from depression commit suicide. If you suspect a friend or family member is suffering from depression, talk to them and let them know there are effective treatments out there and that they can get better. Mental illnesses are not as easily identified as chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, but that doesn’t mean that they should not be taken as seriously. I hope these tips help and thanks for reading! This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.


Music is Medicinal

The power of music is quickly pioneering a new approach to therapy. Recently, music has been proven through numerous studies to benefit the body both mentally and physically. Songs that make us happy, energetic, or even reminiscent of good times can bring on a multitude of medicinal effects unmatched by any other form of treatment that exists today. I guess you could say Lady Gaga is the new Prozac.

Music therapy has been practiced as a way to treat many neurological conditions including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and even depression. It has been shown that music can help with improving impaired movement in people with Parkinson’s by giving them rhythm and coordination. For people with speech problems, since the area of the brain that processes music overlaps with speech networks, music therapy can help improve the flow of words and enhance vocabulary. Anxiety and blood pressure are reduced when listening to music because music stimulates the hypothalamus, which is the part of our brain that controls heart rate and blood flow. Alzheimer’s is improved by music since certain songs can help trigger old memories. It has also been shown that endorphins are released by the brain when listening to upbeat music, which can help treat depression. Most importantly, studies have proven a 50% spike in pituitary growth hormone levels, which is a hormone that promotes healing, in people that listen to music.

Listening to music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. That fact alone was enough to instigate studies to determine how music could be incorporated into the health field as a form of therapy. I recently watched a video about a man who was physically alive, but mentally and emotionally dead. He had been living in a retirement home for years and had not been showing any signs of interest or engagement in any activity until he was given an iPod filled with songs his daughter knew that he loved. He instantly perked up and felt alive again as soon as he put his headphones on. Please watch this clip to see for yourselves what I mean: Now go put on your favorite song and dance like nobody’s watching! Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

The Dangers of Stress

Unless you are an orthodox monk living atop Mount Athos, chances are that you will be stressed at one point or another in your lifetime. Stress is an inevitable part of our daily lives and can take on many forms, such as forgetting where you left your keys, being stuck in traffic, or even getting your order mixed up at the coffee shop. Contrary to what most people think, stress affects your body both physically and mentally. Stress makes your body feel as though it is under attack, causing it to wear out over time. Finding ways to cope with or resolve your stress is more important than you may think and should not be overlooked.

Acute, or short term stress, is different than chronic, or long term stress. If you are stressed out here and there and do not let it affect you for long, you are not in as much danger as those who feel stressed more often than not on a daily basis. Chronic stress can compromise your immune system, which is what controls your body’s defense mechanisms. When you undergo long periods of stress, your immune system becomes weak and your body becomes more susceptible to illness. The bacteria and viruses you are exposed to everyday have a better chance of infecting your body because your defense mechanisms are not as strong as they normally would be when you are calm and relaxed. Have you ever noticed that you tend to get sick when you are studying for a big exam or preparing for a major presentation at work? That is not just a coincidence. Constantly being nervous, not sleeping enough and over-exerting yourself are all forms of stress that increase your chances of getting sick. Over time, stress will not only suppress your immune system, but may even compromise your body’s circulatory system, blood sugar regulation and even cell growth. All this may lead to more serious health problems down the line such as hypertension, diabetes and possibly even cancer.

Learning to control your anger and anxiety when encountering a stressful situation is crucial. Take deep breaths to increase oxygenation and blood flow in your body. Try to think realistically about the situation instead of jumping to over-exaggerated conclusions before they even happen. Think about if what you’re getting mad or anxious about is really worth damaging your health over. Take 10 seconds to calm yourself before reacting to the situation. Find an enjoyable activity to release your anger and frustration through, such as exercise, so you do not repress it and let it build up within you. Last but not least, try to smile or laugh because it sends a signal to your brain to release endorphins, which have a calming effect on the body. Hope these tips help! This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.