Ask a Pharmacist: Natural ways to ease depression and reduce anxiety

Q: Last week, you gave a ‘Dumb Award’ to “anti-depressant drugs and the doctors who prescribe them for every woman who is tired or tearful.” I struggle with depression, and my medications don’t help. Can you elaborate?

D.D. Tacoma, Washington

A: You and millions of other people will get shuffled from one psychiatrist to another, and one drug to another, and you will remain on the ‘medication merry-go-round’ until you feed your brain what it’s hungry for. I have said that, “Research shows that depression may be caused by elevated stress hormones, low vitamin D levels, diabetes or insulin-resistance (diagnosed or not), low progesterone hormone, niacin or folate deficiency or exposure to plastics... doctors should be conducting lab tests to determine the cause for emotional instability before prescribing pills and dismissing you.” That left many readers curious about what they could be doing to improve their emotional health and ability to cope with stress.

Anti-depressants do help some people, but as a class, these medications are incapable of correcting underlying nutritional deficiencies or hormonal imbalances. Medications artificially – and temporarily – lift brain chemicals, and they have serious side effects. Never suddenly stop prescribed medications. With your physician’s approval, you can try one or two of the dietary supplements below, or you can buy a combination formula for enhanced effects. I have limited space here, so if this information is important to you, or someone you love is feeling particularly hopeless, read the expanded version of this article posted at my Web site. I have more recommendations, dosages and testing options that can build a brighter future. Now, here are a few choices to consider.

Vitamin C You need vitamin C to make two important “happy” brain chemicals, norepinephrine and serotonin.

5-MTHF This B vitamin is the biologically active form of folic acid, and 5-MTHF is worth hunting down. It helps make happy brain chemicals. Why not just take folic acid? Because many people have a genetic problem turning folic acid into 5-MTHF, and so they become deficient.

GABA A brain neurotransmitter that helps us relax. Deficiencies of GABA could lead to trouble coping, feeling anxious, stressed out or depressed.

Tyrosine and Iodine These substances help you make thyroid hormone, and low thyroid is a commonly overlooked cause of depression.

Eleuthero extract This adaptogenic herb helps the body cope with stress, while improving concentration and feelings of well-being.

Progeseterone Natural cream versions (sold OTC) may lift depression if it’s related to estrogen dominance (progesterone deficiency). Apply only if you have been tested and found to have a deficiency.

Vitamin D People with depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) are usually deficient in vitamin D.

5-HTP Your body converts this to serotonin, a happy brain chemical.

Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Always consult your physician. Have a question for Suzy Cohen? Visit

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