Join Date: Jul 2009
I got mad twitches with Wellbutrin so got taken off it pretty quickly since it can cause seizures. I tolerated Cipralex (Lexapro) for a few months, but then the effects started wearing off (which happens for a reason with antidepressants!) so I went off it...which resulted in getting electric shocks. Effexor was definitely the worst though, I gained 20 pounds and it took me two months to get off of it, and I STILL went through crazy withdrawal. I had electric shocks every 5-10 seconds for about a week, and it slowly decreased. Even a month after I'd taken my last tiny dose I had shocks. It was so brutal.
Anyways, natural therapy for depression involving amino acids has worked well for me, and I've recommended it to a few other people and they've had excellent results. Julia Ross, a nutritional psychologist, has a lot of great info on it as she has treated thousands of people at her mood clinic in When you use pharmaceuticals for depression, they make you reliant on them...the mechanism of an antidepressant like Prozac (an SSRI), Effexor (an SNRI), or Wellbutrin (an NDRI) is to prevent certain "happy" brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) from being reuptaken into the neurons. Between all your neurons, after the dendrite and before the axon, there is a space called the synaptic cleft. As the electrical impulse in your brain runs from the dendrite to the axon, the first neuron releases neurotransmitters. When you have happy neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine floating around in the synaptic cleft, you feel better. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, and Norepinephrine Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (various classes of antidepressants) prevent the neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed by the neuron that released them. Unfortunately you are more likely to become reliant on antidepressants since they don't promote actual "healing" of the depression by increasing the happy neurotransmitters. Amino acids and related natural substances are building blocks for neurotrasmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, and thus increase your levels of these substances. Eventually, most people can stop taking their supplements, since they actually help heal the problem.
Based on your symptoms, you can determine what neurotransmitters you are deficient in. You can then supplement accordingly. Serotonin deficiency is the most common form of depression, although most people are lacking in catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenalin) as well. SSRIs, which affect serotonin, are the most commonly prescribed ones and tend to be the first line of treatment for depression. They include Zoloft, Paxil, Cipralex/Lexapro, Prozac, and Celexa, among others. If you have taken any of these and benefited from them, you likely are lacking in serotonin. Serotonin acts as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone, meaning it acts both in the brain and in places far from where it is synthesized...pretty much throughout the body; thus a lack of serotonin can result in a lot of physical symptoms as well. Common emotional symptoms of serotonin deficiency include general gloominess, feeling pessimistic/negative, irritability, anxiety, feeling self-critical, difficulty falling/staying asleep, PMS, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Common physical/other symptoms are cravings for sweet/starchy snacks and fibromyalgia or TMJ.
Like I mentioned, a lot of depressed people are lacking in catecholamines. The main symptoms of catecholamine deficiency are lethargic depression, inability to focus, apathy, low motivation, and cravings for "uppers" like caffeine or drug-type stimulants.
Another type of depression results from lack of endorphins. This type seems to be a bit less common. Symptoms tend to include increased sensitivity, a tendency to cry easily or get overly upset, avoidance of difficult emotional issues, and cravings for comfort/numbing type foods/activities like chocolate, alcohol, and marijuana.
Another treatable condition that tends to come with depression is anxiety and general "stress symptoms", like a tendency to feel overwhelmed and having difficulty relaxing.
All of these negative mood states are generally treatable if not curable by supplementing with amino acids or other natural supplements that stimulate production of your brain's own positive neurotransmitters. Serotonin deficiency can be corrected with a number of natural supplements, but the best one to try first is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-HTP is easy to get in a health food store and tends to work well for most people. Caution: if you are on another medication that increases serotonin, like an antidepressant or a natural antidepressant, do not use high doses of this. Like any medication that increases serotonin, when combined with another it can result in serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal. Do not take doses higher than 200 mg per day. However, it's appropriate to consult with your doctor about slowly tapering off your antidepressant medication and taking 5-HTP instead. 5-HTP is also used to treat headaches, insomnia, fibromyalgia, and obesity. I've read studies where doses in the realm of 500 mg 3x a day were used, so using the lower doses is quite appropriate. Get enteric coated 5-HTP as the regular form can cause stomach upset in some people. I suggest you get 50 mg capsules (it's often sold as 100 mg ones) so that you can fine-tune your dose. Also, since 5-HTP can cause drowsiness, the 50 mg capsules allow you to get a serotonin boost during the day without drowsiness. I take 50 mg of 5-HTP once or twice during the day, then 200-300 mg at night.
Catecholamine defiency depression (often improved with drugs like Effexor, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Ritalin, Dexedrine, and caffeine) can be corrected by supplementing with an amino acid called l-tyrosine. Also, a note on caffeine...caffeine stimulates your brain to release more catecholamines, but think of it like a loan-shark for energy. You aren't getting making more energy, you are using up your future energy and making yourself more tired. ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Dexedrine can have similar effects. Most people find l-tyrosine works better anyway. Since tyrosine is stimulating, like with caffeine it's best to avoid it after 4 pm or so. I take 1000-2000 mg in the morning and in the afternoon. It's appropriate to start with just 250 mg or 500 mg, and slowly work your way up. Take a small dose and see if you feel any more awake in half an hour or forty-five minutes. If not, take another capsule, and repeat up to 1000 mg. Like most stimulants, l-tyrosine can increase your blood pressure, so it's best to only take low doses and monitor your BP if you have hypertension. Also, since it's stimulating, you should avoid it if you have Graves disease (hyperthyroidism).
Low endorphin type depression is generally improved with taking phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is one of the few amino acids that can be used in its d- form. D-phenylalanine is good for depression and pain, whereas l-phenylalanine has more of an affect on catecholamines and can be stimulating. Generally you can find it in a health food store as DLPA, meaning it has a combination of both forms. This tends to be the best unless you find it too stimulating. In that case, get DPA. Since it affects endorphin production, it can be an effective pain killer. It has been studied and proved to help with chronic pain, and the majority of the participants in a study on it were able to stop taking their strong prescription pain killers. Doses of 250-500 mg, once or twice per day tend to be best. You can take a bit more, but be careful to not take a lot, even if you find that it helps you, since too much phenylalanine will over excite your neurons and kill them. You should be able to benefit from low doses, though. Phenylketonurics should avoid taking phenylalanine.
Anxiety and stress-related symptoms can be improved by taking gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Drugs for anxiety and pain like benzodiazepines (Valium, Serax) and GABA analogues (Lyrica, Neurontin) work by affecting GABA. It's much safer and non-addictive to just take GABA. I have a friend who recently had panic attacks every night and when she started taking GABA they went away. I find that it helps my social anxiety. You can take it day or night, in doses between 500-1000 mg. It can lower blood pressure, so if you have low blood pressure be careful and stick to the lower doses until you see what you can tolerate.
Some other supplements worth mentioning are omega-3 and b-vitamins. It is important to take high doses of these if you have depression or anxiety. Omega-3s are especially important if you have any sort of inflammatory or autoimmune condition like arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or lupus. Vitamin D is also important. If you live in the Northern hemisphere, and/or if you wear sunscreen, take at least 2000 IU per day. I live on Vancouver Island, which is around the same longitude as Seattle, and I take 4000 - 5000 IU per day.
I hope that was coherent, let me know if you have any questions!
Type 2b/2c, med/coarse, low porosity, medium density
Co-wash: Suave Naturals Tangerine, Live Clean Moisturizing, CJ Daily Fix, GTTT, Tigi MM
Conditioner: Tigi MM, Jessicurl WDT, CJ Curl Rehab, CJ Daily Smoothing, CJ H&B Deep Fix
Deep Treatment: same as rinse out
Leave-in: KCKT or my rinseout
Styling Aids: Alberto/V05 Gel, HETT/HESMU, KCCC
Last edited by Tomorrow Never Knows; 09-07-2009 at 10:10 PM.