Conditions > Depression & Anxiety (Dysthymia)

Natural Relief for Depression and Anxiety (Dysthymia)

Many people struggle with depression at some point in their lives.
 

The natural remedies you will read about in this article are recommended for drug-free treatment of mild depression and anxiety, also known as dysthymia.
 

If you or someone you know is depressed and anxious, and also has thoughts about hurting themselves or others, please seek medical attention. Suicidal thoughts are a medical emergency, and you or your loved one do not have to deal with this condition alone.


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Am I depressed?

Depression is, unfortunately, a commonly heard term today. But depression is a complex condition with different degrees of severity.
 

If you have recurring thoughts of self-harm, realize you do not have to deal with these by yourself. Have a conversation with your doctor as soon as possible. Please don't be afraid to visit the emergency room.
 

In this article, you will learn about a mild, or low-grade form of depression. The clinical term for this mild but chronic depression is dysthymia.

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What is dysthymia?

Dysthymia is defined as a chronic mood disorder. If you suffer from dysthymia, you experience a mild version of depression symptoms over a period of at least 2 years. These symptoms include:
 

  • Feelings of hopelessness
     
  • Lack of interest in favorite activities
     
  • Difficulty concentrating
     
  • Lack of motivation
     
  • Lack of socializing
     
  • Daytime sleepiness
     
  • Feelings of irritability
     
  • Feelings of guilt and self loathing

     

A telltale sign of dysthymia is the duration of symptoms, which last over an extended period of time. Many dysthymia sufferers accept this depressed state as their normal state of being. They don’t realize there are ways to improve and relieve the symptoms of depression.

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I feel depressed and anxious

Feelings of depression often go hand-in-hand with feelings of anxiety. When this happens, feelings of hopelessness are made worse by anxiety about the future.
 

Yet, new evidence suggests depression and anxiety may not be separate conditions but symptoms of the same disorder.

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Why do I feel depressed?

Depression can be caused by a number of factors. Although each case is unique, shaped by your unique biology, life experiences, and present circumstances, there are common factors that are associated with depression and anxiety. These factors include:
 

  • Family history of depression
     
  • Learned coping behaviors
     
  • Stressful events
     
  • Hormone imbalances
     
  • Medical conditions
     
  • Lack of vitamin and nutrients
     
  • Reactions to medications

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How can I stop feeling depressed?

For mild cases of depression and anxiety, lifestyle changes, vitamin supplementation, and herbal remedies can help improve your response to stressful events.
 

Consider the following natural remedies if you are exploring natural treatment for mild depression, anxiety, and dysthymia:
 

  1. Diet changes
     
  2. Vitamin supplementation
     
  3. Essential fatty acids supplementation
     
  4. Herbal remedies

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Diet for depression

Diet can play an important role in managing depression and anxiety. If you find yourself with dysthymia, or chronic, mild depression, including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can help.
 

Although there is no single diet to aid with treating dysthymia, consider incorporating the following foods into your diet:
 

  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chicken
  • Collard greens
  • Healthy oils
  • Lean beef
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potato
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
     

Limiting consumption of red meat may also be helpful in dealing with depression and anxiety. If you are worried about protein intake, realize foods like beans, nuts and nut butters, and occasional consumption of poultry or fish can offer complete protein sources.

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Vitamin deficiency and depression

A poor diet can also lead to deficiency of certain vitamins. Studies have specifically linked vitamin B deficiency to an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression. If you are suffering from dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of depression, consider having yourself tested for vitamin B deficiency.
 

Why is vitamin B important? Inside the brain are chemicals that help control and regulate your mood. The way these chemicals are made requires certain vitamins. Due to a poor diet, you may be deficient in vitamin B. This creates a less-than-optimal environment inside of your brain. Supplementing these with optimized doses of vitamins can lead to an improvement of anxiety and depression.
 

 

Vitamin B-1 and B-2

Thiamine (B-1) and riboflavin (B-2) are used by your brain and nervous system to metabolize glucose into energy. A deficiency of thiamine or riboflavin can cause chronic fatigue. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, beans, and certain types of meats can provide you with sufficient intake of vitamins B-1 and B-2.

 

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-6, also referred to as pyridoxine, helps your brain function properly. Your body uses vitamin B-6 to produce hormones that regulate your mood and help your body cope with stress. Deficiency of vitamin B-6 can result in feelings of depression and anxiety. Eating fortified breakfast cereals, starchy vegetables, and certain meats can help you ensure sufficient intake of vitamin B-6.

 

Folate (Vitamin B-9)

Folate deficiency has been linked to an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression, along with other mental disorders. Folate or folic acid is required to make neurotransmitters in the brain, and a deficiency in folic acid can have negative effects on your mood, and can lead to depression. Eating dark, leafy greens, beans, and vegetables can help ensure you have sufficient intake of folate.

 

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 helps your brain function normally by forming the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are used to regulate your mood and stress response. If you are deficient in vitamin B-12, you may find yourself irritable, depressed, and anxious. Foods containing vitamin B-12 include certain meats, such as poultry, pork, and seafood, as well as dairy and eggs.
 

Although supplementing these vitamins through the foods you eat may not cure your depression, it can be a key part of a holistic, natural approach to depression relief.


Essential fatty acids and depression

Those suffering from dysthymia or mild depression can also benefit from ensuring sufficient balance of essential fatty acids in your diet.
 

Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are important fats that come from both plant and animal sources. There are four essential fatty acids you must include in your diet: EPA, DHA, ALA, and GLA. Since the body is unable to produce these fatty acids, these four essential fatty acids must be delivered through food and supplements.
 

Omega-3-6-9 oil and fish oil supplements are commonly recommended for people who are deficient in EFAs. Another way to ensure you are consuming enough essential fatty acids is by eating certain fish, such as salmon and trout, nuts, and flax seed. And if you eat flax seed, I suggest you buy the whole seed and freshly grind it at home. This will ensure the oils don’t oxidize.

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Natural supplements for depression

There are many herbal and botanical remedies that can help treat mild depression and anxiety. Before taking any herbal supplements, I suggest you speak with your primary care physician. Some herbal supplements can interact with prescription medications, such as birth control pills and blood thinners.
 

I also caution you before buying herbal supplements over-the-counter. You should confirm the manufacturer is using the correct parts of the herb or plant, and is processing each supplement properly. Otherwise you risk an ineffective but expensive supplement.
 

 

St. John’s wort

St. John’s wort is an herbal supplement that can be used to treat dysthymia, or mild forms of depression. It works by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.
 

Many anti-depressants work the same way by also increasing serotonin in the brain. St. John’s wort has been shown to be equally effective at treating mild depression and with fewer side effects.

 

Inositol

Inositol is a naturally occurring molecule that can improve how your brain absorbs important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
 

Inositol has been used as a natural alternative to anti-depressant medication. Because it is a naturally occurring compound in the body, it poses less risk of side effects than prescription medication. Small studies have shown it to be effective at treating depression and anxiety.

Foods that contain inositol include certain fruits, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Inositol supplements are also available.


Before self-treating your depression

Before starting any of the treatments or supplements mentioned above, I recommend you see your physician.
 

Have a conversation about what kinds of supplements you’d like to include in your diet, and what dietary and lifestyle changes you are considering. Your physician will only improve your chances at naturally treating your depression and anxiety.
 

Of course, depression and anxiety can be a serious and life-threatening condition. If you or someone you know has thoughts about hurting themselves or others, that is a medical emergency. Please get yourself or that person to an emergency room.

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