Antidepressants are a controversial class of prescription medicine used to treat or prevent clinical depression. An estimated 30 million Americans are currently taking antidepressants. The use of these drugs has skyrocketed over the last 15 years, likely due to increased marketing and social acceptance of depression and psychoactive pharmaceuticals.
Antidepressant use comes with severe side effects for about 40% of the people taking them. These may include sexual side effects (e.g., erectile dysfunction) , weight gain, headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, nausea, skin rashes, diarrhea, sleep disturbance, daytime sleepiness, nightmares, or sleepwalking. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to rely on pharmaceuticals to feel like yourself again. In terms of efficacy, aerobic exercise is comparable to both talk therapy and drug therapy for depression. Surprisingly, antidepressants may actually be less effective for addressing mild depression than many people believe.
Antidepressants alter your brain chemistry. They increase the levels of some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline, and affect mood and emotions. While antidepressants can treat the symptoms of depression, they do not fully address the root cause of mental health issues. That’s why they’re usually used in conjunction with other therapies or treatments. Your state of mind depends on the proper function and sequencing of millions of chemical reactions. We’re not at the point where you can just take a pill and just be happy—brain chemistry is a complicated, nuanced tangle of reactions.
Often chalked up as just a “chemical imbalance in the brain”, clinical depression is a multifaceted disorder. Many factors influence the development, treatment, and severity. Genetics, season, environment, circadian rhythms, trauma, stress, and dozens of other factors can all contribute to clinical depression.
In fact, some medications and medical conditions have been connected to mood disorders like depression. The list of associated medical conditions is long: thyroid hormone imbalances, heart disease, neurological conditions, stroke, nutritional deficiencies, endocrine disorders, lupus, hepatitis, HIV, cancer, and even erectile dysfunction. Two of the most infamous offenders are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. An overactive thyroid may trigger manic episodes, while an underactive thyroid may cause depressive symptoms and fatigue. Regardless of the source, each of the possible causes can lead to some failure in the body’s normal physiological processes, which may lead to depression.
Curiously, recent research confirms the connection between the gut and your brain chemistry. It turns out that some of the friendly microorganisms that live in the colon — the microbiota — produce and deliver substances, like serotonin, which directly affect mood. It turns out what’s happening in the gut is directly tied to many aspects of behavioral health.
So, what does this have to do with antidepressants?
As said, antidepressants are designed to alter brain chemistry, but the brain follows very specific patterns and pathways, and pharmaceuticals can have unintended and unexpected results on brain function. Failure to carry out normal brain mechanisms indicates a breakdown somewhere in the normal regulatory processes.
Since the brain and gut work closely together, altering brain chemistry cannot help but affect gut health. In fact, 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut. Because antidepressant drugs (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels, these medications can cause significant chemical changes in the gastrointestinal tract. The effect is so strong that antidepressants are often prescribed over very short durations to treat gastric conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, though this practice usually fails to be effective.
The way to promote sustainable wellness doesn’t have to disturb the body’s natural physiological processes. Your body has a unique ability to take care of itself, you just have to give it the right tools. We believe that the best way to accomplish this is through proper nutrition and regular cleansing.
The human gut is a living, self-contained, sustainable ecosystem. Your microbiota is made up of living, functioning microorganisms that work together to create this ecosystem. As long as the body is nourished and the microbiota is properly fed, it will be best positioned to function like it should.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging, seems to have significant positive effects on mood. According to a 2012 meta-analysis of depression and exercise studies, as little as three 30-45 minute sessions per week can be sufficient to reduce depression. And just 90 minutes per week could be enough to dramatically reduce the risk of depression relapse.
In the long run, you should do your best to address the underlying causes of mental illness and activate your body’s self-healing mechanisms to promote your wellbeing. At Global Healing Center, we recommend an integrated approach to health that encompasses lifestyle, nutritional support, exercise, environment, and cleansing to support complete wellness. Often, nutritional supplements can help encourage healthy brain function. For this reason, I’ve formulated NeuroFuzion®, a brain and mood supplement designed to support normal brain function, happiness, focus, and mental clarity.
What wellness approaches have you taken to improve your mood? Leave a comment and share your experiences with us.