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Are There Natural Alternative to Zoloft?

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Studies show antidepressants are only effective about 55 percent of the time and come with many side effects. If you don't want to suffer side effects, natural alternatives to zoloft and other antidepressants could be the way to go. Find out more about natural treatments for depression below.

The National Institute for Mental Health states that about 254 million prescriptions for antidepressants are prescribed each year, costing around $10 billion dollars. The Center for Disease Control reports that about 18 percent of adults and 11 percent of teens claim to feel depressed. Because so many Americans are depressed or have anxiety, the use of antidepressants like Zoloft are common.

Zoloft is one of the most common forms of antidepressant and works by blocking certain neurotransmitters from becoming absorbed into the brain’s nerve cells. This is designed to improve the communication between nerve cells and strengthens circuits that regulate mood.

In theory, this prevents feelings of depression and anxiety. But, is Zoloft actually effective? And are the side effects worth it?

How Effective is Zoloft?

Although Zoloft works in theory, researchers have yet to determine exactly how to prevent feelings of depression through the use of medication. This means that all current antidepressants are based around educated guesswork about how depression works. Antidepressants do seem to help prevent depression in about 55 percent of cases, but for the other 45 percent, Zoloft and other antidepressants are not effective.

Zoloft is a Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. This form of antidepressant works to boost serotonin levels in the brain chemically.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association” in January 2010 found that in most cases, antidepressants were no more effective at treating depression as placebo pills for individuals who were moderately or mildly depressed.

For study participants who were severely depressed or chronically depressed, however, Zoloft and other antidepressants were more effective than placebo. A review of the study published by Time Magazine found that about 1/3 of individuals who are treated for depression are cured by the first medication. Most patients require several treatments before they are fully cured.

Many patients can be cured through therapy alone, the Time investigation found. 14 percent of patients taking Zoloft and other antidepressants have a severe reaction to the medication.

Common Side Effects of Zoloft

Zoloft is an effective antidepressant for many individuals with moderate to severe depression, but it also includes a long list of potentially dangerous side effects. The most common side effects include decreased sexual ability and desire, nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, hot flushes, insomnia, nervousness, tremors, and agitation. Most patients experience the common side effects while getting used to the medication.

About five percent of patients will experience one or more severe side effects. Children on Zoloft are more likely to experience side effects. In clinical trials, about nine percent of participants between the age of 6 and 17 discontinued taking the medication due to side effects.

Less common, but still possible side effects include:

  • Breast tenderness and enlargement
  • Confusion Hyperactivity
  • Sweating
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Thirst
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Blindness
  • Blurred vision
  • Decreased urine output
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dry skin or hair
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • Hallucinations
  • Hair loss
  • Weakness
  • Abnormal blood pressure
  • Inflamed joints
  • Hostility
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of balance or bladder control
  • Back pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained blisters, bruising, or bleeding
  • Weight gain
  • Vomiting blood
  • Fever
  • Increased depression

The most worrisome side effect for Zoloft and many other antidepressants is that in the short term, use of Zoloft can actually increase a patient’s risk for suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or may cause depression to worsen. The risk is highest for patients between the ages of 18 and 24. In clinical trials, children were at highest risk for side effects, usually insomnia or agitation. Two percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 attempted suicide during one clinical trial.

Other studies have found that antidepressants may cause an increase in cholesterol levels in the body. High blood pressure is also common among Zoloft patients.

Natural Treatments for Depression

For individuals with mild to moderate depression and no risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts, natural treatments for depression can be just as, and possibly more, effective than Zoloft and other antidepressants.

According to research, most depression occurs when there is either too little serotonin in the body or a problem with the brain absorbing serotonin properly. By boosting serotonin levels naturally, you can eliminate mild to moderate depression.

However, if you feel depressed, consult with a doctor before starting any treatment plan. If your depression is severe, or you have suicidal thoughts, you should get support and help as soon as possible. Most doctors use a method of depression identification known as the SIGECAPS method, which scores feelings and mood in the areas of sleep, interest, guilt, energy, concentration, appetite, psychomotor, and suicide.

Consult with a doctor if you have any of the following signs of severe depression:

Symptoms of Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicide attempts
  • Constant insomnia
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Constant fatigue
  • Feelings of extreme guilt
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Inability to make decisions 

Depression can hit suddenly. Common triggers include: the death of a loved one, lost of employment, and chronic illness. The feelings must remain for over a week before they are qualified as “official” depression. If there are no thoughts of suicide, then it may be possible to treat depression completely naturally without the use of Zoloft and other antidepressants.

can take the following steps to not only reverse mild to moderate depression, but also to prevent it from coming back.


The 2010 study found that many patients with depression saw full recovery through therapy alone. Therapy is a powerful tool in fighting depression. Just having someone to talk to and help you work through your feelings can go a long way toward preventing and reversing depression. Knowing there is something to live for and a reason to feel happy can significantly reduce depression in patients of all ages. If you have feelings of depression, don’t hesitate to talk to a qualified professional about your feelings. Therapy is one of the most effective treatments for depression from mild to severe.


Exercise is one of the easiest ways to raise serotonin levels. If you feel unhappy for any reason, exercise can go a long way toward giving you that exercise “high” that boosts mood and fights depression. Exercise not only raises serotonin levels, but it also increases dopamine and endorphin levels, all chemicals necessary to feel happy. Try exercising at least 3-4 times a week for about 30 minutes at a time to see beneficial effects. It make take about two months of regular exercise to see full results.

Natural Supplements for Depression

A few supplements have been linked to a reduction in depression symptoms. In some cases, natural supplements were shown to be just as effective as Zoloft and other antidepressants. The following supplements have the most scientific evidence as effective antidepressants:

Supplements that Fight Depression

Folic Acid: Folic acid is a brain booster that is commonly low in American adults. One study found that when women took folic acid supplements in combination with Prozac, 95 percent of the women showed significant improvement in depression levels.

L-Phenylalanine: This amino acid helps create serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. An old study from 1979 found that when patients supplemented with L-Phenylalanine, they had better results than when taking tricyclic antidepressants.

St. John's Wort: St. John’s wort is a treatment for depression common in Europe. The treatment is often prescribed by doctors for patients with depression. In studies comparing St. John’s wort with other antidepressants, numerous studies have found that the herb is just as effective, if not more so, than common antidepressants like Zoloft.


Junk food does not provide the right nutrients for the brain. Eating a diet filled with junk food is likely to make any depressive symptoms worse. When possible, avoid added sugars and processed foods to allow your body to take in as many beneficial nutrients as possible. Fill your diet with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats (like olive oil and coconut oil), and pasture-raised proteins. Avoid sugar and junk food.


Sunlight is an instant mood booster. Sunlight is a common treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which strikes many adults in the winter. Sunlight boosts vitamin D levels in the body, which improves the immune system and fights depression at the same time. A study conducted by the The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2011 found that individuals with low levels of vitamin D were 11 times more likely to be depressed. For maximum benefit, try exercising outdoors.

When is Zoloft a Wise Choice?

Studies have found that antidepressants like Zoloft are most effective in patients with severe depression. If suicide is a risk, Zoloft can be an effective treatment that can prevent feelings of suicide and save lives. Before trying any treatment for depression, have your symptoms evaluated by a qualified health professional. Even if you decide to go the natural route and treat depression without drugs, a doctor can help you find a qualified therapist who can talk you through your feelings and help prevent your depression from worsening. Therapy combined with natural treatments for depression is one of the most effective treatments available today.

Natural Alternatives to Zoloft

Antidepressants like Zoloft are necessary when treating severe depression, but for the millions of Americans suffering from mild to moderate depression, the side effects of Zoloft combined with the low success rate indicates that a natural treatment for depression may be healthier and better. If you have mild or moderate depression with no feelings of suicide, ask a doctor if natural treatments for depression could be the best treatment option for you.





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