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How To Treat Depression Without Taking Antidepressants

Mar 15, 2008
We now have proof of what I've long suspected: Antidepressants don't work.

That's bad news for the millions of Americans who suffer from depression.

This condition can cause a depressed mood; loss of interest or pleasure in most activities, including sex; fatigue; sleep problems; feelings of hopelessness and helplessness; and difficulty thinking and making decisions.

Women have a 10 to 25 percent risk and men a 5 to 12 percent risk of developing severe major depression in their lifetime.

Depression has different causes. And each cause needs a different approach to treatment.

Yet many people believe that antidepressants drugs are the answer. Today, one in ten Americans takes an antidepressant.

Unfortunately, new research shows that they don't work and have significant side effects.

In fact, most patients taking antidepressants either don't respond or have only partial response.

And 86 percent of people who take these drugs have one or more side effects, including sexual dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, loss of mental abilities, nausea, and weight gain.

No wonder half the people who try antidepressants discontinue them after just 4 months.

Now let's talk more about this new research.

A report published in a recent issue of "The New England Journal of Medicine" looked at 74 studies involving 12 drugs and over 12,000 people. Some of these studies were published -- and some weren't.

You see, drug companies don't have to publish all the results of their studies. They only publish those they want to.

The report's researchers really had to dig to find these unpublished studies. When they did, they found that 37 of 38 trials with positive results were published, while only 14 of 36 negative studies were published.

And the negative published studies were twisted to imply the drugs worked when they didn't.

Now that really is depressing news -- and there's no easy fix.

However, Functional Medicine, on which my approach of UltraWellness is based, can help.

Functional Medicine doesn't rely on drugs to suppress symptoms, but uncovers the root causes of depression.

Let me tell you about a few of my patients.

A 23-year-old woman had been on various antidepressants throughout her childhood and adolescence. We discovered that she had food allergies, which cause inflammation. And recent studies suggest that inflammation may be related to depression.

The patient eliminated her food allergies and her depression disappeared. She was able to stop taking her medication -- and she lost 30 pounds to boot.

A 37-year-old had depression that didn't respond to drugs, plus fatigue and a 40-pound weight gain.

When we got the very high levels of mercury out of her body, she soon became happy, thin, and full of energy.

And a 49-year-old man had taken antidepressants for years but was still severely depressed.

We treated his severe deficiencies of vitamin B12, B6, and folate. Now he's free of depression.

As you can see, antidepressants are not the answer.

We need different solutions.

Try the following measures to help alleviate depression. They are based on Functional Medicine which is the foundation of my practice and the core of UltraWellness.

1. Try an anti-inflammatory elimination diet that gets rid of common food allergens.
2. Check for hypothyroidism.
3. Treat vitamin D deficiency with at least 2,000 to 5,000 U a day of vitamin D3.
4. Take omega-3 fats in the form of 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams (mg) a day of purified fish oil. Your brain is made of up this fat.
5. Take adequate B12 (1,000 micrograms, or mcg, a day), B6 (25 mg) and folic acid (800 mcg).
6. Get checked for mercury.
7. Exercise vigorously five times a week for 30 minutes. This increases levels of BDNF, a natural antidepressant in your brain.

These are just of few of the easiest and most effective things you can do to treat depression. But there are even more, which you can address by simply working through the 7 Keys to UltraWellness.


(1) Turner EH et al. 2007. Selective publication of antidepressant trials and its influence on apparent efficacy. New England Journal of Medicine. 358: 252-260.

(2) Eaton WW, Kalaydjian A, Scharfstein DO, Mezuk B, Ding Y. 2007. Prevalence and incidence of depressive disorder: the Baltimore ECA follow-up, 1981-2004. Acta Psychiatr Scand.116(3):182-188.
About the Author
Mark Hyman, MD is a pioneer in functional medicine, practicing physician and best-selling author. A sneak preview of his book "The UltraSimple Diet" is available. See The UltraWellness Blog for more on Depression
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