Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Category: Anxiety and Depression Page 1 of 2

3 Quick Ways to Reduce Anxiety During the Coronavirus

This pandemic is seriously messing with our heads.

Fear and uncertainty. The constant doomsday data. The sense of loss. Our daily routine out of whack. Every day blends into the next.

Faces covered in masks makes the world feel like we’re facing the end-of-times. Although our rational mind knows that this too shall pass, nothing feels rational right now.

This morning I saw a woman in her 60’s walking her dog across the street from my house. She had a mask on and was at least 20 feet away.

As she walked by she kept her head down. I was just about to say hello but I could tell by how fast and focused she walked that she didn’t want to interact. It was almost as if she thought that if she caught my eye this might encourage me to ignore social distancing and mosey on over for a chat.

But this hasn’t been most of my experience. If anything neighbors and strangers are even friendlier (from a distance). Yet it struck me that this woman was probably so genuinely terrified that I might get too close that she panicked and averted her eyes.

It’s all very unsettling. Basic politeness replaced by fear.

So until this nightmare is over what little things can we do to feel better?

First, limit how much time you spend listening to the news. And make sure what news you do follow is accurate. Steer clear of obsessing over rumors.

And — make it a habit to do these as often as possible:

Get grounded

Heh? All this means is to walk barefoot outside in the grass (or sand or dirt) for a few minutes a day.

I know this probably sounds very woo-hoo. But besides the pure joy of being outdoors there’s science behind the health benefits of walking barefoot, otherwise known as “grounding” or “earthing.”

Here’s why: When you walk barefoot on porous surfaces (dirt, sand) you connect to the Earth’s vast supply of electrons. This in turn creates physical changes in the body. Grounding has been shown to improve sleep, pain and stress.

Emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth. Modern lifestyle separates humans from such contact. The research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to physiological dysfunction and unwellness.

Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012). Earthing: health implications of reconnecting the human body to the Earth’s surface electrons. Journal of environmental and public health.

So take a few minutes every day to shuffle barefoot through your grass. Don’t worry if you look ridiculous. Your neighbors just might want to join you (from their own yard).

(For more on the benefits of grounding/earthing.)

Get a little sunshine

You know how you feel blissed when you lay in the sun? Well it’s not just the soothing radiant warmth. Sunshine actually boosts mood. I’m not suggesting you bask for hours. But if possible, get a few rays on your arms and legs every day.

It turns out low levels of the brain chemical serotonin (involved in mood, focus and sleep) have been associated with low sun exposure. The right balance of sun exposure (5 to 15 minutes) has been found to boost mood.

The light-induced effects of serotonin are triggered by sunlight that goes in through the eye. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin. So, you’re more likely to experience this type of depression in the winter time, when the days are shorter.

Nall, Rachel, RN, BSN, CCRN. “What are the benefits of sunlight?” May 25, 2018. www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight

Laugh (often)

If I don’t laugh I’ll cry. And laughter is the best medicine.

Cliches aside now’s not the time to binge on shows about murder, zombie takeovers, virus invasions or the end of times. Unless of course these apocalyptic shows help you escape from coronavirus anxiety.

From Mayo Clinic’s “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke.” The benefits of laughter:

Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.

Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.

Funniest shows on Netflix right now

Larry David, master curmudgeon, tells everyone to stay home

Image credit: Antonino Visalli

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postpartum depression

The split mind of postpartum depression

Originally published on Motherwell 

In a quiet, distant voice I tell my husband Mark that I want to die. Not exactly dead, I clarify, but not this. I tell him not to worry. I tell him love, guilt, duty will always matter more. I promise. But he has to understand, he has to reconcile what I’m saying with the fact that I love him, that I love our life together and our beautiful daughter. “Mark, do you know what I’m saying?”

Before breakfast I sing our daughter to sleep, rhyming her name with nonsensical Seuss-y words. I smile. The real kind, reflexive, above the sadness… Read full essay

 

Resources for help and healing: 

 

The Postpartum Stress Center

Postpartum Support International 

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The anti-anxiety chemical phenibut. Benefits and dangers.

smiling good-bad

Excerpted from Corpina’s article, “Phenibut’s INSANE Benefits and Brutally Awful Side Effects” 

Phenibut is commonly used as a nootropic, an anti-anxiety medication, and sleep aid. Everyone’s always asking me how much they should take.

Here’s my answer…

 

Everyone’s phenibut experience is unique, but in general, men should take about 2 – 2.5 grams and women 1 – 1.2 grams of Phenibut in a day.

Yet even if you take the proper dose, the phenibut hangover can rear its ugly head the following day.

Positive Effects: The Benefits of Using Phenibut

First time users often pose the question, “what does phenibut feel like?”

Before I dive in, it should be noted that I only take pure phenibut crystals, which I buy here.

Sensations on Phenibut – How Does it Feel?

The effects of phenibut simultaneously combine mild-to-moderate sedation with mild-to-moderate stimulation, allowing one to feel physically relaxed and mentally focused at the same time.

This increases sociability, lowering stress and inhibition levels, without impairing judgment.

While some people have compared the primary effects of phenibut to that of a light dose of GHB or MDMA, it’s really just an effective anti-anxiety, antidepressant medication, with few side-effects and remarkable health benefits.

Phenibut gives some users the sensation of mild euphoria, tantamount to a mild “high”. As such, it can be abused if not used correct. Yet, the euphoric phenibut high is not intense, and taking more of it doesn’t intensify the high.

After consuming a dose of phenibut–usually between 250 milligrams and 1000 milligrams—how long it takes to feel the effects varies considerably from person to person.

Personally, I’ve found that phenibut works most consistently when taken on an empty stomach, and I feel it’s effects in around 15 or 20 minutes.

However, it takes longer for most people to feel the effects.

People generally report that the effects start to kick in around 1 or 2 hours after oral ingestion, and then the primary effects usually last for around 4 or 5 hours, although pleasant lingering effects can last for another 24 hours.

Read full article

 

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What I wish I’d had: maternal mental health screening

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When I was pregnant nineteen years ago I wish my doctor had warned me I might be at risk for postpartum depression.

Her words wouldn’t have freaked me out, they would have helped me cope when the darkness did indeed hit.

I wish during my 6 week check-up (when I was at my private worst) my Ob-Gyn had handed me a mental health screening and even if I lied on every question, she still explained how the “baby blues” are different than depression.

In January for the first time the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening pregnant and postpartum women for maternal mental illness.

Hopefully now more health care practitioners will talk to women so those who suffer know they’re not bad people or rotten mothers or God knows, alone.

The fact is worldwide 10% of pregnant women and 13% of postpartum women have a mental disorder and the numbers are even higher in developing countries.

While maternal mental illness is often lumped into the catchall “postpartum depression” it’s more complicated than a single kitchen sink diagnosis.

Read full article on Psych Central

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3 ways to amp up happiness

happiness

Credit: pixabay.com

The happiness movement is in full gear with piles of positive psychology research and even a happy magazine (“Like” Live Happy magazine on Facebook for daily tips to amp up your smile).

Most of us already sense how we can get happy but now research backs what our gut’s been telling us.

Live Happy tips:

  • Vitamin D. Before the skin cancer worry we used to let the sunshine in to reap the benefits, including a natural mood boost. Everyone is happier with sunshine streaming into a nearby window but to get a full dose of D, you need a direct hit. So, if your skin type and schedule can take it, grab some sun for 15-20 minutes a day. Otherwise, supplement (I take 5.000mg a day of D3 (cholecalciferol), not D2 (ergocalciferol).
  • Exercise. Exercise boosts the protein BDNF (brain-developed neurotropic factor) which helps neurotransmitters function more effectively. Exercise is so helpful to battle depression it’s often included in treatment programs. The last thing you want to do however, is beat yourself up because you’re not exercising enough. Find an activity you enjoy that moves your body as often as possible. Walk, hike, take the stairs, park farther away, dance, bike, do yoga. Work up to 3-5x a week, 30 minutes or more.
  • Gratitude. Happiness researchers mention the benefits of feeling grateful all the time. So, how can we make gratitude convert into higher happiness? Notice the good in our everyday, even our yesterday, moments.Create a positivity (rather than negativity) bias. Say you had a really bad day yesterday, think back to what went right (more than you imagine) and what’s going right, right NOW. Practice active gratitude and in time you’ll re-wire your brain to notice more of the positive than the negative. Neurons that fire together, wire together.
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Robin Williams: Our brilliant masked man.

Robin_Williams

I couldn’t figure out why I woke up this morning still thinking about Robin Williams. My husband offhandedly asked me yesterday why he thinks he did it, and maybe he asked me because no one can grasp why this beautiful brilliant man who made us snort laugh took himself from his family and fans.

Or maybe he asked me because he knows when I battled post-partum depression 16 years ago that to explain the abyss as Anne Lamott calls it, is nothing short of impossible.

Your brain is hijacked by forces outside your highest self, that one thing bound to rescue you when you’re alone and yet surrounded by everyone. Your rational thoughts are cruelly re-arranged by random neurochemical screw-ups until what you know  to be true becomes a big confusing lie.

Worse, part of you still senses that good stuff exists, hope, family, laughing, all those energizing, life and hope sustaining feelings get buried under numbness and sludge until the you that is you suffocates.

So while everyone and every beautiful mundane moment tells you “Hello Sunshine, it’s all good,” you don’t believe it because you don’t have the operating instructions to believe it. It’s like describing the feel of bright yellow to someone who only feels in black.

By the outstretched arms of my needing child and desperate trying of my husband, by the angels and God forces and my own stubborn belief that I better claw back up for them AND for my own inherited joy, I climbed out of that hellish abyss and I now encourage women (and men) to do the same.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression and yet men are more likely to take their lives.  Is depression still “female,” and for men merely a momentary mental wobble to “suck it up” or “buckle down” or “just pray the sad away?”

Strength comes when we manage to poke a pinhole through our impenetrable fear until the light inches in, and by our bravery to ask for help.

And yet, I’m positive Mr. Williams was brave, long fighting demons and addictions; he asked and got help and asked and got help until one day he sat alone for one moment too long and forgot his sunshine and the sunshine he gave millions.

They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary ~ John Keating played by Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.

Youtube: What will your verse be?

 

Image source: Wikipedia

 

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Mom and depression: motherhood sadness that doesn’t go away

TheGhostintheHouseCover

 

If mom ain’t happy no one is happy.”  The quippish slogan is often said in jest, yet depression among mothers is no laughing matter.

Writes the Mayoclinic.com, “About 1 in 8 women develop depression at some point in life. Women are nearly twice as likely as are men to struggle with depression at some point. Depression can occur at any age, but it is most common in women between the ages of 25 and 44.“    Read more….

 

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cure anxiety, cure depression, kavinace, holistic healing, natural cures for mood disorders

Letter to the anxious, the panicked, the depressed: Healing starts here.

cure anxiety, cure depression, kavinace, holistic healing, natural cures for mood disorders

(Picture courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

It astounds me how many people today are desperate for help to manage their long-time anxiety and depression.

 

Many people have been caught, some for decades, in a medication loop with their doctors. Numerous physicians with the best intentions, simply practice what they know — conventional symptom-based medicine, rather than applying a functional, holistic and integrative approach to treating their patients.

We are complex beings, mind and body. You can NOT separate the two for how they affect each other.  It is I believe, impossible.

Because most doctors based on their schooling, focus on conventional treatments rather than integrative approaches, patients suffer needlessly  for years. Their health, job and relationships spiral down, and in the most severe cases of mood disorders — suicide sometimes becomes the final solution.

A firm belief you deserve to feel good is the best springboard toward finding answers, towards solving any problem.

Woman desperate for help off the anti-anxiety medication rollercoaster

Recently a woman from Canada named Lisa emailed me. She explained that she’s been on a roller-coaster of anxiety-depression medication for years.  She had great success managing her anxiety with cognitive therapy but due to life stresses, Lisa had setbacks.  Over time she gained 150 pounds and was at the end of her rope. Today, back on track, she’s 26 pounds away from her goal weight, weaning off two medications and in search of a natural approach to help her replace the GABA meds long relied on.  She told me one of her doctors had her stop her benzodiazepine meds cold turkey, a dangerous protocol that sent her brain into a serious tailspin.

After reading a few of my GABA articles, Lisa asked me in an email, for my advice. I told her I wasn’t a doctor; I don’t claim to have the answers to managing mood disorders or that my answers are vetted for 100% accuracy, but I do extensively research what I write from peer-reviewed sources (Pub-med etc).

And more, I offer what I’ve learned through my own experience. Ultimately however, people have to do their own homework.

My advice to anyone trying to recover from anxiety, panic, depression and insomnia

Dear Lisa,

Wow. It sounds like you’ve been through it.

Of course I’m not a doctor but I have spent a fair amount of time, over 10 years, researching natural mood and hormone balancing, largely because I suffered with fibromyalgia (no longer) and monthly mood swings (PMS, PMDD) the result of a long-time benign pituitary disorder and other factors.

More recently I came out of a very serious bout of unexplained insomnia that led to panic, mild depression and overall misery. The bottom line for what steers my work is I believe we are supposed to feel good. Anything less is unacceptable.

I try so hard to find answers, to steer my own well-being rather than “accept” from doctors quasi-solutions — as so many of us have come to expect, particularly as we age.

Brain “hiccups” or imbalances are the result of the interplay of one or several hereditary, chemical, environmental (food allergies etc.), and psychological factors (stress, bad childhood, trauma), and I might add recovery is also contingent upon — attitude.

We breed what we believe.

The combination of all these factors can have a complex and cascading effect on your health. Yet, any imbalance can be cured or at least managed with more effective and safer treatment protocols than long-term meds —  or “learning to live with it.”

The traditional approach of trying various medications is often a band-aid until the underlying causative factors are uncovered and addressed:

  • Neuroendocrine (hormones – neurotransmitters, the Hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA axis) feedback system)
  • Psychological stressors (work, relationships, childhood trauma, crisis)
  • Environmental (food sensitivities, chemical, pollen etc.) U subscribe to a holistic approach for healing and in some cases to integrative healing (low dose traditional meds in conjunction with natural therapies).

As an aside, the mind-gut connection is regularly ignored as a potential contributor to mood  disorders. Food sensitivities, chronic gut inflammation, can wreak havoc on the brain. A good probiotic is useful (Jarrow etc.) as well as digestive enzymes — but food sensitivity or allergen avoidance is ideal.

When I was suffering from insomnia it threw me into a panic, the result of my brain getting out of whack from severe sleep deprivation, high cortisol and an adrenal imbalance. After weeks of doing extensive (and desperate!) research I found a website called Integrative Psychiatry, a company located in Sarasota, Florida.

IP offers tests for various functions involved in mood, sleep and cognitive/attention issues.  Many companies offer self-testing that includes a print out to explain your results, but IP also offers a one hour consult over the phone with a Physician’s Assistant who explains implications and suggested treatments.

Admittedly, their solutions are tied to purchasing their products but I trust the company’s recommendations I received – it worked.

IP’s testing and supplements are expensive, unfortunately, but if you contact IP they’ll help you pinpoint which test(s) can address your specific issues, and you can shop the supplements online in search of better value.

Lisa, shame on the doctor who told you to cold turkey benzo’s, that advice wasn’t only ignorant — it was irresponsible. The nurse at IP suggested I take a low dose of Klonapin to sleep and while I only took it for for two weeks she told me to wean off it gradually.

Kavinace supplement for anxiety, panic, sleep and to wean off benzodiazepene drugs

Among other things, she suggested I try Kavinace which contains a derivative of GABA found to be more effective than straight GABA supplements or L-theanine.  It also contains Taurine. It’s non-addictive and non-habit-forming, although I suspect all supplements have at least some potential to habituate.  I can’t say if that’s the case for Kavinace.

(Product description of Kavinace)

Kudos to you for practicing yoga. Yoga’s been proven to increase GABA in the brain so it’s a great idea to incorporate this ancient practice into your mind-body balancing journey.

Holistic healing requires a gradual sleuthing process to pinpoint causes. Once you nail down the underlying causes (not the least of which is a belief that you CAN recover and that you DESERVE to feel good) recovery is INEVITABLE.

Lisa, I hope some of my suggestions help. Holistic healing can sometimes take longer than a shot-gun approach of rotating medications but holistic and integrative medicine offers an effective, safer, LONG term approach to healing and well-being.

I suggest you:

a) Test for underlying causes

b) Taper your benzos using 1-2 capsules of Kavinace as needed

c) Get an IP consultation to discuss your test results

d) Don’t underestimate the potential for a food sensitivity which increases inflammation in the body, elevates histamine in the brain (an excitatory neurotransmitter) and can contribute to or exacerbate an anxious state.

e) Continue with cognitive therapies and mind-body work (yoga).

f)  Perhaps find a belief system that resonates within you — mine is Law of Attraction. Whether it is God, nature, or some spiritual force, having a belief in a good and divine power can be quite comforting and empowering.

All the best. To feeling good.

Laura Owens

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High levels of homocysteine and depression – certain supplements may help

Researchers believe that depression, particularly in the elderly, may be related to elevated homocysteine levels. A deficiency in B vitamins may be the cause.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

While elevated homocysteine levels are linked to heart disease and stroke, it may also contribute to depression, particularly in older people.

Negative effects of homocysteine

Homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that naturally occurs in all humans. It is involved in cellular metabolism and the manufacture of proteins.

Homocysteine irritates the lining of the blood vessels causing them to become scarred, hardened, and narrowed. This inflammation makes the heart work harder which can lead to heart disease. High levels of homocysteine also cause increased blood clotting. Blood clots decrease or block the flow of blood through blood vessels, resulting in strokes and heart attacks.

Homocysteine levels naturally vary according to age, gender, diet, hereditary factors, and general health. Approximately 5-10% of the population have levels that are too high.

In the 2000s, studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine were associated with poorer mental functioning, which lead to ongoing investigations into the role of homocysteine in Alzheimer’s disease. Additional studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones in the elderly.

Depression and homocysteine

Our bodies naturally use vitamin B12 and folic acid to convert homocysteine into a compound called SAMe – a source of methyl-groups. Without sufficient B-vitamins, blood homocysteine levels rise. Elevated homocysteine levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric diseases, including stroke and dementia.

Researchers believe that high homocysteine levels contribute to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, both which can lead to depression. A study conducted in 2005 found that total homocysteine levels were higher in elderly patients with late-onset major depression (Chen CS et al 2005).

Cause of elevated homocysteine 

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, genetic factorsa deficiency in folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins, aging and smoking. Large amounts of coffee can elevate homocysteine as well as some medications.

Mayoclinic.com writes: 

High homocysteine levels in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia) has been suggested as being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, blood clotting abnormalities, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and ischemic stroke. Taking vitamin B12 supplements in combination with other B vitamins (mainly folic acid) has been shown to be effective for lowering homocysteine levels. It is not clear whether lowering homocysteine levels results in reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. More evidence is needed to fully explain the association of total homocysteine levels with vascular risk and the potential use of vitamin supplementation.

People using the following drugs should discuss increasing their intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 with their doctor:

  • Lipid-lowering drugs such as fenofibrate (Tricor) and bezafibrate (Bezalip);
  • Metformin (Glucophage), a drug to modify insulin resistance;
  • Anti-epileptic drugs such as phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), primidone (Mysoline) and carbamazepine (Tegretol);
  • Levadopa (Sinemet) for treatment of Parkinson’s disease;
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) for treatment of cancer, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • Androgen treatment; and
  • Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), a mild anesthetic.

Sam-e and other supplements may lower homocysteine 

Many nutrients and supplements influence the body’s use of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Similar to prescription drugs used to treat depression, these natural therapies increase the production of neurotransmitters or reduce their rate of breakdown. Unlike prescription drugs, however, natural therapies can also minimize the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation that contributes to depression.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

According to an article by Life Extension on natural treatments for depression, the following supplements may decrease homocysteine levels and improve or eliminate depressive symptoms:

  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (sublingual (under the tongue), transdermal (skin) or injection form only)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Trimethylglycine and zinc
  • SAMe (“Does SAMe increase or decrease homocysteine?”)
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Cysteine
  • Creatine & choline-producing nutrients (inhibits the release of homocysteine)

While high plasma homocysteine levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, it can also lead to depression, particularly in elderly patients who are often deficient in folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. People struggling with depression that has not responded to other therapies may want to have their homocysteine levels tested and begin supplementing with B vitamins.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)Sources:

Chen CS, Tsai JC et al, “Homocysteine levels, MTHFR C677T genotype, and MRI Hyperintensities in late-onset major depressive disorder,” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2005 Oct;13(10):869–75.

Folstein M, Liu T, Peter I, Buell J, Arsenault L, Scott T, Qiu WW, “The homocysteine hypothesis of depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2007.

“Depression,” Life Extension online, Accessed November 18th, 2009, http://www.lef.org/protocols/emotional_health/depression_01.htm.

Parkavi Chellappa; Radhakrishnan Ramaraj, “Depression, Homocysteine Concentration, and Cardiovascular Events,” Journal of American Medical Association. 2009;301(15):1541-b-1542.

Henning Tiemeier, H. Ruud van Tuijl, Albert Hofman, John Meijer, Amanda J. Kiliaan, and Monique M.B. Breteler, “Vitamin B12, Folate, and Homocysteine in Depression: The Rotterdam Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Dec 2002; 159: 2099 – 2101.

Simon Gilbody Tracy Lightfoot Trevor Sheldon J, “Is low folate a risk factor for depression? A meta-analysis and exploration of heterogeneity,” Epidemiology Community Health2007;61:631-637

“Cardiovascular disease/hyperhomocysteinemia.” Mayoclinic.com. Updated October 1. 2011. Accessed January 9th, 2012.

McCully, Kilmer S. The Homocysteine Revolution. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill 1999.American Heart Association. 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. (800)242-8721.

Homocysteine.net, May 10, 2004. [cited March 23, 2005]. http://www.homocysteine.net.

“Serum Folate, Vitamin B12, and homocysteine in Major Depressive Disorder, Part 2: Predictors of Relapse During the Continuation Phase of Pharmacotherapy,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 65, No. 8 (August 2004).

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Depression and Dopamine: Natural Ways to Increase Key Neurotransmitter

Natural ways to increase dopamine to improve depressionWhile the number of drugs to treat dopamine-dependent depression is growing, people interested in avoiding medication can try natural alternatives to increase dopamine. Dopamine is involved in arousal and motor function and is a precursor to adrenaline and a closely related molecule, noradrenaline. This key brain chemical is made from the amino acid tyrosine and can convert into norepinephrine and epinephrine.

This key brain chemical is produced in several areas of the brain, including the nucleus accumbens, the region that acts as the “reward center.” In addition, dopamine is a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus where its main function is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.

Dopamine is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. Nearly all drug abuse and forms of addiction, including heroine and other opiates, alcohol, cocaine and amphetamines involve dopamine neuronal systems. As a result, elevating dopamine levels can improve mood, alertness, libido, yet too much or an imbalance can lead to a tendency towards addictive behaviors.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

A dopamine imbalance is associated with schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia and mood disorders, including certain types of depression.

Depression and dopamine levels

To date, depression medications have largely been developed based on a deficiency or imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. Yet a 2005 review of the serotonin-depression studies revealed little scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that too little serotonin “causes” depression.

“This new study highlights the importance of the dopamine system, a less appreciated target in the current antidepression therapies,” says researcher Li-Huei Tsai, a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, for a news release on the dopamine animal study findings.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

While a growing number of antidepressants that mediate dopamine activity are becoming available, people interested in avoiding the dangers and side effects of medications can increase their dopamine with natural methods.

People with major depression disorder (MDD) may have difficulty sufficiently boosting their dopamine levels with only nutrition, exercise, and supplementation. They may however be able to improve symptoms, gradually lower their antidepressant dose to eventually come off medication altogether.

Increasing dopamine levels through nutrition

Dr. Eric Braverman, author of the book, “The Edge Effect,” offers specific nutritional and supplementation plans to increase the levels of key neurotransmitters in the brain depending on a person’s deficiency. “The goal of a dopamine diet is to ensure that the body has enough raw materials for a steady supply of tyrosine and phenylalanine, two amino acids that are precursors to dopamine. These amino acids are found in many protein-rich foods.” Many protein foods such as meats and dairy products have tyrosine that converts to dopamine including:

  • apples, bananas, and watermelon
  • beets
  • beans and legumes
  • black or green tea
  • cottage cheese, cheeses including ricotta
  • chicken, pork
  • cucumbers
  • dark chocolate
  • duck, wild game
  • egg
  • granola/oats
  • honey
  • milk
  • ricotta
  • soybeans
  • turkey
  • walnuts
  • wheat germ

Supplements to increase dopamine

There are a number of supplements that increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dr. Braverman recommends the following:

  • Phenylalnine: An essential amino acid found in the brain and blood plasma that can convert in the body to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine.
  • Tyrosine: Another amino acid and precursor to dopamine. Tyrosine is converted from phenylalnine
  • Methione: An essential amino acid protein that is provided to the body only through diet.L-Methionine is the precursor to SAMe, l-cysteine, taurine, and sulfate. SAM-e supplements can increase dopamine.
  • Rhodiola: a native plant of Russia. Rhodiola balances the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, or HPA, the body’s stress regulation center. Rhodiola balances the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
  • Pyridoxine: A form of vitamin B6 that has a beneficial effect on red blood cell production, cardiovascular health, the immune system and hormone balance. It is necessary for the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the body.
  • Mucuna pruriens: one of the popular Ayurvedic herbs, is also known as velvet bean or cowhage. This herb contains L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
  • Phosphatidylserine: A specialized lipid (fat) that occurs naturally in the body. It is a necessary component to regulate the function of all cells and is found in the highest concentration in the brain.
  • B Complex: Cofactors in the synthesis and proper function of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo extract, from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree is the most commonly used herbal medicine in Europe, can increase dopamine. Ginko enhances the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and promoting healthy transmission of nerve impulses.
  • NADH an activated form of the B vitamin niacin, the amino acid L-theanine, and Omega-3 fatty acids can also elevate dopamine levels.

Dopamine levels rise after exercise

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises reaps the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings. The dopamine response system is powerfully motivating.

While dopamine-dependent depression may respond well to medications, people interested in natural alternatives to antidepressants may want to consider exercise, dopamine-boosting foods and targeted supplementation.

(Click here for supplements to naturally increase dopamine and improve depression)

Photo credit: Vlado

Sources

Podea, Delia et al, “The Role of Dopamine in Depression,” The Romanian Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2008.

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

“The under-recognized role of dopamine in the treatment of major depressive disorder,” International Clinical Psychopharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, UK. stuart@samontgomery.co.uk, March 2008.

Carolyn Perrini, CLS, CNC,”L-Theanine: How a Unique Anxiety Reducer and Mood Enhancer Increases Alpha Waves and Alertness.”Accessed March 28, 2010.

Chalon, S.,”Omega-3 fatty acids and monoamine neurotransmission,”Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):259-69. Epub 2006 Sep 11.

Bove AA, Dewey JD, Tyce GM, “Increased conjugated dopamine in plasma after exercise training,”Journal of Laboratory Clinical Medicine, 1984 Jul;104(1):77-85.

Heiden, Eric,”How to get your own gold-medal high with dopamine,” Modbee.com,Tribune Media Services, Feb. 23, 2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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