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8 Ways to Fight Depression Without Medication

Depression is a serious condition, but many prescription treatments for depression have dangerous side effects. These 8 alternative methods offer insight into healing depression without dangerous side effects.
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Depression affects around 10 percent of American adults, according to the Center for Disease Control. Around 4 percent of adults meet the criteria for major depression. Since depression is such a common occurrence, the odds of every adult facing depressive symptoms at some point in life are high. Job changes, changes in health, changes in relationships, medications, pregnancy, and simple aging can all lead to depression.

According to the CDC, women, middle-aged persons, minorities, individuals without work, and divorced individuals are more likely to be depressed. However, depression can strike anyone at any time. Because of the high prevalence for depression, there are many treatment methods available, both natural and medication-based.

Common depression medications alter the brain through hormone changes and chemical changes that physically alter the way that the brain filters information and signals. Altering the natural signaling of the brain often comes with side effects, which commonly include weight gain, a low libido, nausea, anxiety, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, drowsiness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide. Getting off of antidepressants can also be a challenge, and the risk of dangerous side effects is high.

If you are facing minor depression, it may not be necessary for you to take medical antidepressants. There are several other ways to fight depression naturally, that you can discuss with your doctor. Before making any treatment changes, discuss the issue with your doctor. He or she can assess your level of depression and make recommendations based on your current mental state.

If you have mild symptoms of depression, or simply suffer from frequent low moods, natural treatments could be enough to boost you out of the depression you currently feel.

Take a look at these 8 ways to fight depression without medication so you can heal from depression without the scary side effects of many of the common medications used to treat depression:

Look for a Cause

Can you think your way out of depression? According to Psychology Today, it may be a possibility. In some cases, identifying the exact cause or trigger for the depression can help pull you away from your depression.

Common depressing situations include a bad job, bad relationship, spiritual disconnectedness, sexual health issues, creative blocks, failing health, and financial stress. If you can identify the root of depression, then you may be able to address the problem at the source. Work towards improving your health, for example, or make changes in a bad job or relationship. Changing these aspects of your life can help you eliminate the source of depression without the need for antidepressant medication.


Numerous studies have shown how exercise can improve your mood and raise the level of endorphins and serotonin in your brain. Both of these chemicals are necessary for maintaining a healthy outlook on life and preventing depression.

According to Harvard Health, exercise has been proven to be as effective, and sometimes more so, than commonly prescribed medications for depression. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999 looked at men and women with depression who used either exercise, antidepressants, or both for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, all three groups improved in mood. In all three groups, 70 percent of participants no longer classified for major depression. This indicates that exercise can be just as effective at depression medication in boosting mood.

Raise Serotonin Levels

Studies have shown that a lack of serotonin in the brain leads to depression. Many antidepressants actually inhibit the reuptake of serotonin receptors in the brain, which artificially increases the level of serotonin in the brain. However, you can raise serotonin levels naturally with a few different methods:

Raise Serotonin Naturally

Eat serotonin-rich foods: Omega 3 fatty acids, coconut oil, and protein are high in serotonin. These foods can help you maintain the right balance of serotonin in the brain without taking medication.


Avoid caffeine: Caffeine naturally lowers serotonin levels in the brain. Avoiding it could help you maintain the proper serotonin balance.

Eat L-Tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps the brain produce enough serotonin. Foods with l-tyrosine include eggs, nuts, beans, wheat, meat, dairy products, and oats. Supplementing with additional l-tyrosine may also help fight depression.

Go outside: According to numerous studies, sunlight has been shown to naturally raise serotonin levels in the brain, which helps fight depression. Vitamin D is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system.

Take Mood-Boosting Supplements

Several supplements have been shown through research to benefit depression and improve overall mood. Some of the best supplements for depression include:


L-phenylalanine is an amino acid that is necessary to produce neurotransmitters, which influence emotional and mental states. A study from 1979 showed that supplementing with l-phenylalanine was equally as beneficial as tricyclic antidepressants, and in some cases, had even better results.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea helps the body absorb tryptophan, 5-HTP, and serotonin- which are necessary to improve mood. A 2007 study conducted by Armenian State Medical University found that supplementing with rhodiola rosea for 6 weeks was able to reduce depression in patients with mild to moderate depressive symptoms.

St. John's Wort

A 1996 review of over 23 clinical trials looked at the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort on depression. The review found that in mild to moderately severe depression, St. John’s Wort supplements were just as effective as commonly used antidepressants, with much fewer side effects. S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) 200mg on an empty stomach twice/day. Increase your dose every two weeks to a maximum dose of 600mg twice daily. This can be a very effective antidepressant, but it can also be expensive. Side effects at higher doses include GI upset, nausea, agitation, and insomnia.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba supplements have been suggested in several studies as a helpful treatment for depression. A 1996 study published in Alternative Medicine Review showed the possibility of this supplement. In the study, 40 patients who had not responded to traditional antidepressants were given ginkgo biloba extract or a placebo. After 4 weeks, 50 percent of patients taking ginkgo biloba showed fewer depressive symptoms. After 8 weeks, patients supplementing with ginkgo biloba had reduced depressive symptoms by as much as 68 percent.

Take Mood-Boosting Vitamins

Vitamins are essential for many parts of the body, including new cell production, fighting off infection, and keeping the mind sharp. But can vitamins also improve mood and reduce depression? Some vitamins are actually vital for producing the chemicals and hormones necessary for keeping depression at bay. The following four vitamins are particularly helpful in fighting depression:

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is necessary for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin. In studies of depressed individuals, many show signs of vitamin B6 deficiency.

Folic Acid

Folic acid (also called folate and vitamin B9), is essential for keeping depression away. Researchers have found that many depressed individuals are low in folic acid. In a 1990 study conducted by King's College Hospital and Institute of Psychiatry, 41 percent of depressed individuals in the study were low in folate. When the study participants supplemented with folic acid for 6 months in combination with traditional treatments, the rate of recovery was much faster and higher.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for stabilizing mood, although researchers are not sure how. Several studies have indicated that vitamin D levels are generally low in depressed individuals. In several other studies, when depressed patients supplemented with vitamin D, their moods improved and depressive symptoms were lessened.

Vitamin C

Recent studies of vitamin C and depression have indicated that supplementing with vitamin C can help reduce depressive symptoms faster. A 2013 study conducted by Mansoura University in Egypt found that when patients took vitamin C supplements along with fluoxetine, their rate of recovery was faster and better with time than those who took the medication with a placebo.

Try Meditation

Meditation can help improve your mood without the assistance of anything else. According to research, meditation or guided imagery can be powerfully effective at raising a person’s mood and reducing feelings of depression. A 2011 study from the University of Exeter looked at the role of meditation in depression. Three-quarters of the patients in the study that received "mindfulness-based-cognitive therapy" (MBCT) were able to stop taking antidepressant medication after just four months of meditative therapy.

Balance Your Hormones

A hormone imbalance is well-documented as a source of intense mood swings. If thyroid, sex, or adrenal hormones are out of balance, your mood probably will be as well. That is why most teenagers are moody and often show signs of depression. Testing for an imbalance in these hormones can help you determine if hormones are the cause of your depression.

Hormones That Can Affect Mood
  • Thyroid gland- TSH, total T3, free T4, free T3, thyroid antibodies
  • Adrenal gland- cortisol, DHEA-S, pregnenolone
  • Sex hormones- estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone

Try Therapy

Therapy is a well-documented benefit for depression. In many studies, therapy has been shown to improve depressive symptoms. In a 1996 study of depressed teens, it was found that the emotional involvement of the patient and the therapeutic alliance of the therapists were the two biggest aids to resolving depression through therapy.

Fighting Depression Naturally

Depression is a serious condition that carries many risks and side effects that are potentially fatal. Depressive symptoms should never be ignored. If you believe you may be depressed, speak with a qualified health professional right away about what treatment options are best for you.

The above methods can help you fight depression naturally with fewer side effects than traditional antidepressants. In addition to fighting existing depression, the above steps can help depression from ever forming. Try adding these treatment methods to your routine to keep depression at bay and heal your body from the inside out.





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