Causes of Depression: Depression is thought to be caused by a
deficiency of a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain called
Serotonin. The abundant presence of Serotonin in the brain promotes
feelings of well being, calm, personal security, relaxation, confidence
and concentration. Serotonin Deficiency, on the other hand, has been
associated with depression, anxiety, alcoholism, insomnia, violence,
aggression, suicide and compulsive gambling. Serotonin is one of many
chemicals in the brain which allow the brain cells to talk to each
other, and without this chemical communication between brain cells or
neurons, we would be unable to have creative thought.
Side effects of Anti-Depressant Drugs: The SSRI type anti-depressant
drugs work by helping increase Serotonin in the brain. The SSRI drugs
can be very effective in the short term for depression and anxiety.
However, they come at the cost of unpleasant side effects such as
nausea, constipation, sexual dysfunction with loss of sexual desire,
inhibition of orgasm, and impotence.
Another problem is that SSRI-type drugs are associated with violent or
suicidal behavior. Peter R. Breggin, M.D., author of the book, Talking
Back to Prozac, says that SSRI type drugs should not be prescribed to
children under age of 18, because of suicidal behavior, suicide
attempts or related behavior like self-harm, hostility, and
aggression. A similar warning was issued in an August 2005 report from
Europe's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. News media
reports also suggest this problem. For example, the April 29,1999
issue of the Washington Post states that the young leader in the
Columbine High School shooting tragedy was taking an SSRI-type
You might ask the simple question: wouldn't it be more logical to
relieve depression by increasing the amount of Serotonin in the brain
with a natural substance which has none of the side effects of the
SSRI-type antidepressant drugs? The answer to this question is, Yes,
this can be done very easily by oral ingestion of a naturally occurring
essential amino acid called Tryptophan which is the immediate precursor
to Serotonin in the brain's manufacture of Serotonin. Tryptophan is
found in many foods, is safe and can be purchased at the health food
store in the form of 5HTP (5-hydroxy-tryptophan) capsules.
There are numerous medical research studies showing that 5HTP is safer
and more effective than the SSRI-type antidepressant drugs. Dr.
Poeldinger compared the antidepressant effects of 5-HTP to a
prescription Prozac-like drug, and he published his findings in 1991 in
the Journal of Psychopathology. The 5-HTP patient group showed better
treatment response than the Prozac-type drug group, yet had
significantly fewer and less severe side effects.
Dosage and Safety of 5HTP:
There is a vast body of published scientific literature on 5-HTP
showing its safety.
The main side effect of 5-HTP is gastrointestinal (GI) upset gas,
nausea, diarrhea, and cramping. The recommended 5HTP dosage is to start
at a relatively low dose of 25 to 50 mg and increase gradually up to a
maximum of 200 - 300 mg daily. The B vitamins are co-factors for the
use of Tryptophan, so it is a good idea to supplement with B vitamins
when taking 5-HTP.
There is one note of caution: Do not combine 5HTP with anti-depressant
drugs unless you have medical supervision. Similarly, those wishing to
reduce or eliminate their anti-depressant drugs with 5-HTP, should do
so only with medical supervision.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum):
There is a large body of medical literature showing the benefits of
this herb in the treatment of depression. A recent study by
Dr.Szegedi published in the March 5, 2005 issue the British Medical
Journal, compared St Johns Wort to a SSRI antidepressant drug.. One
group of 122 patients received 900 mg of St. Johns Wort three times per
day for 6 weeks and the other group received the SSRI drug. At the end
of the trial, Dr.Szegedi concluded that St. Johns Wort extract
(hypericum extract) had fewer side effets and was just as effective as
the SSRI drug in the treatment of moderate to severe depression with
fewer side effects.
Dosage, Side effects and Safety of St Johns Wort:
We don't really know how St Johns Wort works, but it seems clear that
it works very well. When you buy St. Johns Wort supplements, you
should look for a label that says it contains at least 0.3 percent of
Hypericin and Pseudohypericin. The usual dosage is 300 mg to 1800 mg
per day of the 0.3 per cent extract. Side effects are mainly minor
gastrointestinal complaints and mild allergic reactions like itching.
Because of possibility of drug interaction, St John's Wort should not
be used in combination with any other drugs or SSRI anti-depressants
unless under medical supervision. The American Society of
Anesthesiologists issued a warning in 1999 against taking St. Johns
Wort just before surgery because of a dangerous interaction with
When I was a medical student many years ago, Lithium Carbonate was a
popular prescription anti-depressant medication. Lithium is a
naturally occurring mineral found in the water supply. The observation
has been made that in the Texas counties with the highest lithium
content in the water supply, you will find the lowest rates for
homicide, suicide and violent crimes.
Lithium carbonate works really well as an anti-depressant. The problem
with Lithium Carbonate is that the dosage needed is very high, and it
requires blood monitoring to avoid toxicity. Lithium Orotate, on the
other hand, is more bio-available, and safer than the Lithium
Carbonate. The reason for this is that Lithium Orotate can be used at
very low doses and is still effective.
Dr. Jonathon Wright, who incidentally takes Lithium Orotate himself,
recommends 10 to 20 milligrams of Lithium Orotate daily as a preventive
measure. Dr. Wright thinks that lithium may be useful in treating
Alzheimer's disease, senile dementia, and possibly Parkinson's disease.
Lithium protects brain cells from a whole variety of toxic molecules,
including patent medications. It can also promote brain cell
regeneration and increase brain cell mass. In essence, the research
suggests that lithium is a brain anti-aging nutrient. Dr. Wright
feels that unlike the 5HTP and St John's Wort which should not be
combined with SSRI drugs, Lithium can and should be used along with any
patent medicine being used for depression, anxiety, or any other
"mood-altering" reason, since it will protect brain cells against their
unwanted toxic effects.
No adverse side effects have been reported from Lithium Orotate in
recommended dosages and it is approved for sale as a nutritional
supplement without a prescription.
In conclusion: There are safe natural supplements that can chase away
the "blues". However,as usual, it is recommended that you work
closely with a knowledgable health care professional. To find one in
your area, call the American Academy for the Advancement of Medicine
(ACAM) 1-888-439-6891, http://www.acam.org/. drdach jeff dach
5HTP, Lithium Orotate, and St Johns Wort, can all be obtained without a
prescription from your local health food store
Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Won't Tell You About Today's Most
Controversial Drug, by Peter R. Breggin, MD © 1994, St. Martin's
Jeffrey Dach, M.D. is board certified in Interventional Radiology and
by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine. His medical practice
includes Anti-Aging Solutions with Bio-identical Hormones for men and
women. The office is located at 4700 Sheridan Suite T, Hollywood.
Office telephone: 954-983-1443. Call for information on next free
seminar. Web site: www.drdach.com.