Many people with depression look for alternative ways to ease their symptoms. The good news is there is much that can be done besides taking medication.
Known to raise levels of serotonin in the brain, 5-HTP supplements are gaining increasing attention from the medical community for their potential as an alternative treatment for a number of conditions.
A Cochrane Review concluded that “in settings where depression is mild and the use of traditional antidepressants is unacceptable to the patient, 5-HTP may be considered as a treatment alternative”.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is about changing how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behavioural). It is used as an effective treatment for depression as it teaches sufferers how to have a different view of themselves and the world, as well as having different ways of behaving as a result.
In the UK it is an accepted treatment for depression and other psychological conditions. This follows a review by the Department of Health in 2001.
St John’s Wort
The evidence suggests St John’s Wort is useful in the treatment of mild depression, but less so if the depression is severe. It was first used in Ancient Greece and is widely prescribed in Europe for the treatment of depression. It is also used to help sleeping disorders and anxiety.
Although it’s not totally clear how St John’s Wort helps, it is thought that, much like 5-HTP, it affects the “happy hormones” in the brain, most likely dopamine and serotonin, and reduces adrenal activity, which is increased in those with depression.
A study by the University of Boston used images of the brain to analyse what was happening when people practised yoga. It showed increased levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immediately after a one-hour yoga session. Low brain levels of GABA are associated with anxiety and depression.
It is thought the postures, controlled breathing and meditation can help people with anxiety or depression. The study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.