Questions about switching from a chemical to a natural anti-depressant?

I have been on Fluoxetine for about a year and a half and it has worked fine to an extent. However recently for religious reasons I have attempted to go to a completely natural diet without manufactured foods. While this is going fine I can’t still help but to feel that taking a 30 mg of chemicals everyday is in any way natural. Switching off of medications completely is not an option, as even if I lower the dosage the results are immediate and severe.

So what I wish to do is switch to a natural anti-depressant. I have done some research, but I don’t seem to have gotten much out of it because it seems hard to find any statistics on them. Are natural anti-depressants taken seriously in the medical community? (i.e. is my psychiatrist going to laugh at the idea?) Is their a rough transition to natural anti-depressants? Will they be as effective as the more common anti-depressants?
Thank you all for the responses (except the troll), no matter whether you were for it or against it. I really wish I could choose more than one best answer. I’ll do some research and choose a best answer later today. Also I think another important point that I left out originally was that I am a vegan, so preferably something without fish oils is better. =P

11 comments

  • YA Junkie

    I struggle with the same or similar "natural versus chemical" issue that you do. I have treatment-resistant major depression. For many years, I tried every natural, alternative medicine therapy you could think of—–everything from acupuncture to Chinese, Western, and Ayuvedic herbs, to dozens of nutritional approaches (macrobiotics, raw foods, as well as diets including meat). There was also biofeedback, hypnotherapy, millions of forms of psychotherapy, etc. You get the picture, I tried every natural approach to major depression—-at least all the approaches I coud afford. "Going natural" can be very expenisve due to lack of insurance coverage and greedy practitioners.

    The problem with all of the above is that nothing worked. My depression is partly genetic based from my mother’s side of the family, plus I had child abuse to deal with. The next issue is that I then began trying what turned into a huge array of psychiatric drugs. There were some ups and downs, but any improvement I felt has been minimal. Now I am back to square one.

    Undoubtedly, pharmaceutical drugs have more side effects than natural approaches. Also, no one knows for sure the long term effects of what you are doing to your body with these meds. Still, I am not the holistic health purist I used to be. I feel now that whatever works the best for you, use it. Maybe in a year or so, you can move on to something else.

    St. John’s wort has shown some benefit for mild depression. 5-HTP is another candidate but it has not been researched so thoroughly. As a psychiatrist was prescribing psych meds to me, he also recommended omega-3 oils for me, but nothing helped. (Neither did St. John’s wort or 5-HTP.)

    The only "therapy" I have found successful is EXERCISE. Of course, you must do it almost everyday. Still, it is without question MY MOST POTENT ANTIDEPRESSANT.

    Recently, a friend with depression recommended a 400-plus page book to me. http://www.amazon.com/What-Your-Doctor-About-Depression/dp/0446694940 It seems to be the most comprehensive book on natural approaches to depression using nutrition and supplements.

    Again, I suggest you use what works the best. Depression is often due to chemical imbalances in the brain, just like other diseases are due to chemical imbalances in other organs. You can always alter your approach later on. How if you want to try a natural approach, give the book I recommended a fair trial. I wish you well.

    And don’t forget to exercise. If possible join a gym. There were days I had to drag myself to the gym. However, once I was surrounded by exercise machines and people working out, I found the motivation to exercise and often felt a vast improvement in energy and mood.

  • MikeA

    i changed to St. John’s Wort and it worked for me for a year or so. Since most herbal remedies are not tested by the FDA or whoever, most professionals would not recommend it. i’ve had a few doctors agree that it works. it does of course have side effects like any other medicine. research it and decide for yourself

  • St Jonhs Wart OR 5-HTP are both "natural" Antidepressants,and they can "alter" Serotonin (the brain chemical) in the same way an RX can alter it.

    And yes,they have both worked for many people…but keep in mind,what works for one,does not always work for another,so you just have to try and see:-)
    I prefer (try) 5-HTP first,then SJW…but everybody is different.

    Just make sure you do NOT use both,pick one or the other to try first,see if it helps,if not then discontinue and try the other.

    Just make sure you let the Doc know your plan ok:-)

    Best of Luck to you 🙂

  • Daisy Says Its Hug A Ginger Day

    L tyrosine has worked wonders for me. I’ll tell ya more tomorrow, gotta go to bed.

    Edit-Hi John, I take 1000 mg of L-tyrosine morning and night. It is a precursor to dopamine epinephrine and all those brain chemicals that seem to be out of whack. I’ve had postpartum depression and also bipolar and ADD run in my family so I have a decent idea what you’re talking about.

    Also, I have been reading a book that I think everyone with persisten depression, ocd, add and all of that type of ailments should read. Its called "Too Loud Too Tight, Too Fast Too Bright" By Sharon Heller, she talks about how for some of us sensory overload throws us completely off balance physically, mentally and can cause depression, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia…I am way oversimplifying but if any of this rings a bell you can check it out. She does recommend nondrug therapy.

  • Ganoderma or Reishi healing

    In the early 1970’s the veil of secrecy begin to be lifted with various researchers beginning to study the medicinal properties of ganoderma. The research mainly by Chinese and Japanese and the analysis and clinical experiments done by hospitals, collages and pharmaceutical manufacturers, has clearly established the extensive efficacy in the healthy functioning of almost every part of the body.

    It truly is a natural wonder drug with many healing properties. It is a hemocatharsis, detoxificant, diuretic, liver protector, intestine regulator, cardio tonic, blood pressure adjuster, a cold tonic, antitussive and expectorant, a tranquilizer and anti tumor agent. It can help your bodies metabolism, prevent tissue degeneration, improve the bodys immune system and help one’s self eliminate viruses.

    There are many claims on the internet about the fabulous healing powers of Ganoderma but one really has to search and do a bit of fact finding before they take on the decision to try Ganoderma. While we have only brushed over some of the healing properties that Ganoderma can provide we have a testimonial page from exisiting users of Ganoderma and some of the postive experiences they have had.
    Pharmacological effects of whole Reishi extracts in vivo and in vitro (for references see Hobbs, 1995)

    * Analgesic
    * Anti-allergic activity
    * Bronchitis-preventative effect, inducing regeneration of bronchial epithelium
    * Anti-inflammatory
    * Antibacterial, against Staphylococci, Streptococci, and Bacillus pneumoniae (perhaps due to increased immune system activity)
    * Antioxidant, by eliminating hydroxyl free radicals
    * Antitumor activity
    * Antiviral effect, by inducing interferon production
    * Lowers blood pressure
    * Enhances bone marrow nucleated cell proliferation
    * Cardiotonic action, lowering serum cholesterol levels with no effect on triglycerides, enhancing myocardial metabolism of hypoxic animals, and improving coronary artery hemodynamics
    * Central depressant and peripheral anti-cholinergic actions on the autonomic nervous system reduce the effects of caffeine and relax muscles
    * Enhanced natural killer cell (NK) activity in vitro in mice
    * Expectorant and antitussive properties demonstrated in mice studies
    * General immunopotentiation
    * Anti-HIV activity in vitro and in vivo
    * Improved adrenocortical function
    * Increased production of Interleukin-1 by murine peritoneal macrophages in vitro
    * Increased production of Interleukin-2 by murine splenocytes in vitro

    http://www.NaturalEnergy.organogold.com/na/biz/

  • go here
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez

    and type in "ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid" or "ethyl eicosapentaenoate"
    and you’ll get the studies on what seems to be the best candidate for a "natural anti-depressant"
    (eicosapentaenoic acid should turn up some results as well)

    You’ll find it in fish oil – if you read the fine print on the bottle, you’ll see EPA
    (those things I listed are the isolated omega three fat, but I’m not going to explain all the different names, I have be going to bed…)

    That said….I have had a few hundred customers over the years switch from pharmocological antidepressants to fish oil….and nobody came back telling me how glad they were to have done so. In fact, some of them had terrible results (in other words, they were hit with major depressive episodes)

    So do your research, and make an informed decision by all means, feel free to print some of those up and discuss it with your physician. Those aren’t articles in Oprah Magazine, they are real medical journals, he should take them seriously – however, for your sake, keep in mind that study results often don’t pan out into real world results…..which is one of the reasons why interpreting these things can be so confusing

    Edit: if/when you search for those things, add the word depression to your searches or you’ll come up with all kinds of irrelevant things

    Edit 2: you can look for all the other things people list there too

  • Pharmacy Student

    You have to realize that "natural" products are not governed by anyone like prescriptions and over the counter pharmaceuticals are from the FDA. For this reason these products have no evidence of working at all. Of course the company who manufactures it will claim they do all sorts of things. When I look at some of these herbal supplements they have a list of 20 different things they can help. In all honesty if a product was that effective it would have been bought by a pharmaceutical company and they would have done the necessary studies to get the FDA to approve it. The labeling on these products can also be misleading. It may say for example that each tablet contains 200mg of active ingredient when it may be 100mg in all actuality. Also, even though these products are natural, they must be taken in such large doses to be therapeutically effective that they cause worse side effects than the "chemicals".

    If you really would prefer to go off of the fluoxetine, then discuss this with your doctor. Of all the SSRIs fluoxetine causes the least amount of discontinuation side effects, but obviously it is still significant for you personally. A slow down titration schedule can be set up by you and your doctor to help ease these symptoms.

    I have noticed the recommendation of St. John’s Wart by many users. It is one of the few natural products that have had clinical trials for its therapeutic efficacy. There have been small trials done in European countries that have shown it to be effective, but more recent larger trials conducted in the US have proven this not to be the case. Also, if you are taking any other medication you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist. It interacts with tons of medications and many of these interactions can be very serious. I hope this helps, good luck!

  • Gary Y

    Perhaps it depends on how you define ‘natural’. To me everything is natural, otherwise it wouldn’t exist. Humans are natural – so could it not be said that all we do is natural? And we certainly are not supernatural.

    But in any case, the other problem I have with the question, is you say "I can’t still help but to feel that taking a 30 mg of chemicals everyday is in any way natural". Well, everything is chemical. The air you breath, the water you drink.

    Any alternative treatment to the Fluoxetine, is also going to be chemical. And remember, if it works – it is going to have similar effects. The difference is, the pharmaceutical is pure, refined and standardized. It is not subject to quality variation or contamination.

    There is not much in alt med that really helps with depression – St Johns Wort is probably the most used. From the National Center for Complemtary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM):

    "Scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of St. John’s wort for depression is inconsistent. An analysis of the results of 37 clinical trials concluded that St. John’s wort may have only minimal beneficial effects on major depression. However, the analysis also found that St. John’s wort may benefit people with minor depression; these benefits may be similar to those from standard antidepressants. Overall, St. John’s wort appeared to produce fewer side effects than some standard antidepressants."
    http://nccam.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm

    You can check side effects and risks here:
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-stjohnswort.html

    And the wiki page has good information on the chemical structure of St John’s Wort:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John's_wort#Chemical_composition

    ——
    Edit: ‘Big Man’, I now report answers that don’t answer the question and/or make personal attacks. The asker has asked a serious question, do you have anything worthwhile to contribute or are you just a troll?

  • William T

    It’s a very bad idea. A healthy diet is a good idea but it’s no replacement for medication. St. John’s Wort can occasionally help some people according to anecdotal evidence but there is no empirical evidence that it can help. There is however a great deal of evidence that it creates a number of potentially serious side effects, including the ability to stop birth control pills from working and interfere with general anesthesia during surgery.

  • SkepDoc 3.0

    Lots of good answers from both sides of the fence. I think Gary Y has given a very complete answer.
    I would re-iterate that everything is a "chemical". Chemicals that have physiological effects are called "drugs". If something like SJW works for depression (and there’s modest evidence that it can help) it does so by the chemicals it contains. The body does not recognize the difference between chemicals manufactured by a plant, and those manufactured in a factory.

    It is also important to be aware that drugs from plants that have effects, may also have side effects. People taking SJW have the same risk of serotonin syndrome and of serotonin withdrawal. These things should always be taken under a doctors care, not just your friendly local herbalist.

    The last thing to mention is that not all drugs work the same for all people. It sometimes takes trying several different anti-depressants, or blood pressure pills before we find the one that works in a patient. There are relatively few "natural" products available, and it may well be that none of them work for you. It is more important that you keep your severe depression under control, rather than be strictly dogmatic with your religious/philosophical belief system.

  • Natural

    While depression can have serious effects, there are many ways to overcome depression. Often times, psychiatrists and other professionals hastily prescribe pharmaceutical medication, which has been well documented to have serious side-effects. Research all options and understand the precautions before taking anti-depressants.

    Natural depression remedies have been shown to significantly reduce depression symptoms without unwanted side-effects. Common herbal depression remedy alternatives are Hypericum Perforatum (St. John’s Wort) "Nature’s Prozac", and Passiflora, one of nature’s best natural tranquilizers. Natural depression remedies can be extremely effective in overcoming depression and are free of side-effects.

    For a proven, safe, natural and effective anti-depressant to help fight depression naturally:

    MindSoothe – Herbal Depression Remedy for Adults and Teens
    A 100% safe, non-addictive, herbal depression remedy for adults and teens that encourages balanced mood and feelings of well-being.

    For more info and where to buy, please visit the below cited webpage:

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