Here's a list of everything that led to the end of my 20-year depression that started in junior high. I've already posted this on my other blog about nutritional therapy.
But first a few notes about nutritional therapy. If you are not deficient in a vitamin or mineral, taking more of it in the form of supplements will not help. However, few people in American are NOT deficient. Unfortunately, except for ferritin and vitamin D and a few other tests, it is not possible to accurately test for deficiencies. Any doctor who tells you otherwise is just wrong. When there is a reliable test, the doctor often won't know about, or won't order it or even mention it because it's too expensive. (Most of them don't even know the proper thyroid tests or the ideal ranges for results.) You have to do a lot of research and a lot of experimenting.
Another thing: don't confuse maintenance doses with therapeutic doses. If you are in fact deficient, and you go around trying to address the symptoms of that deficiency with the US RDA of a vitamin or mineral -- the amount established by the government as necessary to keep an already-healthy person from becoming deficient -- you won't get anywhere. You're too far behind already.
At about age 30 I tried antidepressants for the first time. After 18 months I realized they were a disaster for me and I looked elsewhere for solutions. A few months later, and after two years of unemployment due to my mental state, I found success with a gluten-free diet. At first I thought that all my problems had been solved, and it truly was the end of my despair, but if I had to go back to my mood in those early "I'm cured!" days, it would terrify me. But at the time, it was so much better than my norm that it was a miracle.
It took about two more years of tinkering with my diet and supplements before I realized I was normal. And with no help from any doctor, thank you very much, although they occasionally were of use on other issues. Just a lot of internet searching and a few alternative health books.
Following the logic that since celiac disease (for which a gluten-free diet is the solution) results in malabsorption and thus nutritional deficiencies, that my health problems were caused by nutritional deficiencies, I went in that direction, and with a few exceptions stayed on that road.
Here's a list of the supplements/treatments/practices that definitely had an effect on my depression, which is about one-tenth of what I actually tried. Mind you, I never took ALL of these at the same time, and only take a few of them now, on occasion.
- Quit gluten.
- Quit dairy. Resumed when corrected zinc deficiency.
- Calcium/magnesium: 1000/500 per day at first? Maybe more.
- Zinc: 50 mg/day for about a year, then cut back. This had the most noticeable effect of all the supplements. After a few months on it, I could eat dairy again without it lowering my mood. (The casein in dairy binds with zinc.)
- Iron: Varying amounts.
- B-complex: Started with B-50 3x/day.
- Plus more of the following B vitamins, which B-complex doesn't have enough of, as they are too expensive for the manufacturer. Compare the various RDA percentages on the B-complex label to get an idea of the different amounts.
-- Biotin: 1-2,000 mcg
-- Folic acid: 400-800 mcg. Methylated versions are also available now.
-- B12: 1-2,000 mcg. Methylated versions are also available.
- Vitamin D3: 2,000 IU/day. Helped mood a bit, but mostly sleep. I should've tried a lot more but at the time the "experts" said that amount was pushing it.
- Omega-3 EFAs. I took a lot of these for several years.
- Treated for hypothyroidism. Zinc helped this, as did low-goitrogen diet, Armour thyroid for 18 months, and acupuncture, which I tried after I got tired of being slave to a prescription. After about 15 treatments in nine weeks with an M.D./D.O.M., I was able to stop the Rx.
- Light therapy in winter for 30 minutes in morning. For me it prevents plummeting mood, insane carb cravings, zombie brain, and near-total insomnia.
- Winter (seasonal affective disorder / SAD): I am assuming that lots of vitamin D3 will eventually fix this, but I developed a reaction to vitamin D3 supplements and can't get my levels high enough. (Still trying to figure that out.) Ideal results for the 25(OH)D test are supposedly 50-80 nmol/L, but I can't get above 20 nmol/L. Also, I have noticed that light therapy no longer works if I do it after 8 a.m., whereas for years it worked as long as I did it by 9 a.m.
- Vicodin. (Demerol, however, is lovely.)
- If I take a whole lot of something that competes with zinc and/or B vitamins -- for example, my recent experiments with huge doses of Ca/Mg for energy -- I'll have to take those supplements to keep my mood from falling.
- Not getting enough calories. I'll feel it two days later.
Illustration by M. Rhea.