Major depression affects 15 percent of Americans at one point during their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its effects can be so intense that things like eating, sleeping, or just getting out of bed become almost impossible. Symptoms of depression include

  • A sullen mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt and anxiety
  • Loss of interest in things that used to be pleasurable
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Inability to concentrate
  • A lack of energy or feeling run-down  

Depression can be triggered by a sad or traumatic event, but can linger on and become chronic and debilitating. Additionally, major depression can be genetic, and likelihood of you suffering with depression is higher if family history is present. While the actual cause of depression is not clear, psychiatrists treat depression solely as an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, making treatment efforts primarily pharmaceutical. Dr. Andrew Weil, a famous physician focusing on natural medicine states “While it seems likely that some cases of depression may result from deficiencies or excess neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, it makes equal sense to suggest that mood disorders actually result in disordered brain biochemistry.”

Many simple lifestyle changes can have a slow, but powerful effect in easing depression:

  • Exercise – The fastest, most effective step you can take to handle depression. Exercise increases endorphins, (feel good chemicals), enhances oxygenation, increases energy and increases self confidence. Try 30 minutes at least 5 days per week
  • Avoid certain medications – anti-histamines, recreational drugs, alcohol, sedatives, and other prescription drugs have depression as a side effect
  • Find social support – Join a support group, volunteer, get involved in something you enjoy
    Try yoga or meditation – The teaches you to exert some control over physical and mental functions
  • Get your B vitamins – Adequate B vitamin consumption helps maintain steady mood

Acupuncture has been shown to be particularly effective in treatment of various types of depression.

Chinese medicine theory recognizes many different patterns of depression and treats depression based on the organs that are out of balance. Treatments are customized to correct your specific pattern, rather than a ‘one size fits all' treatment. In 1998, researchers at the University of Arizona used acupuncture to treat a sample of women with depression. After a total of 12 sessions, 70% of the women experienced at least a 50% reduction of symptoms. This research marked the first U.S. randomized, controlled, double-blind study of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating depression. The NIH funded study concludes, “ Acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in a good way.”  

Stanford researchers found that pregnant women receiving acupuncture treatments who were given acupuncture treatments had significantly fewer depressive symptoms. Another group found that menopausal women on tamoxifen had a significant reduction of anxiety and depressive symptoms.   A University of South Carolina study suggests that acupuncture be considered for treating depressed patients infected with HIV. Three Chinese studies reported that electro-acupuncture produced the same effects as certain anti-depressant drugs and had no side effects. 

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