While families decorate houses with lights, stores inundate shoppers with cheesy Christmas music, and bell ringers blare at every commercial entrance you approach. While this perks up some people, it brings bad memories and depression to others. Many are lonely through the holidays, and when reflecting on bad circumstances and memories, the depression grows.
Holidays can indeed be the worst tie of the year, while for the others it is the happiest time of the year. Sadly, depression can linger throughout the entire year, a ‘gift’ that keeps on giving.

One in ten teenagers and adults in America takes an antidepressant. The largest group are women in their 40s and 50s, where the figures reach a staggering one in four, according to the Harvard Medical Journal.
Depression can be a response to stressful events, abusive relationships, but can also be a symptom of a physiological origin, such as biochemical abnormalities, autoimmune disease or hormonal imbalances in addition to certain illness, especially those which are considered ‘chronic.’ Those who suffer long-term or chronic depression need to be assessed by a professional healthcare provider so that treatment can begin. Many people want to consider integrative and complimentary treatments to existing treatments.
Before starting any treatment, it is important to know the reason for the depression. Oftentimes, it can be treated by treating the root cause if the depression is secondary.

Lab testing through your physician can show if physiological problems such as hormone imbalances or illness is causing your depression. But again, the ‘root’ of those problems are what need to be addressed. If your depression is not caused by an actual illness that needs medical intervention, integrative measures can assist, as long as it is done in conjunction with addressing underlying imbalances whether nutritional or other. In any event, a healthy lifestyle can help your body be more in balance so any medical treatment has a better chance to work – work faster or work more effectively, and with possible less side effects.

Nutrition is a very important part of managing depression; your general health –or lack of- is mandated by the nutritional status of your body. Not only is proper nutrition, which includes receiving and processing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and the ability for the body to absorb or convert them, important in keeping your body in a state where it operates and heals well, but certain nutritional issues can be a cause of depression, too. Food allergies, consuming over-processed and refined foods, and eating foods laden with hormones can all have psychological side effects. Depending on the severity, nutraceuticals, or supplements may be needed to both correct the problem, and to maintain health afterwards. Amino acid and other nutrient deficiencies can cause biochemical imbalances which can manifest as a variety of psychological problems, among other things. Many of these imbalances can be treated with a proper diet and supplementation of vitamins, herbs and amino acids. Nutrition should be evaluated and corrected in not only depression, but any other illness. A holistic nutritionist can help you evaluate your diet, health history, lifestyle and other challenges to develop an appropriate wellness plan.

Primary depression can oftentimes be helped with good quality multivitamins, emphasis on supplementing individual vitamins, digestive enzymes, methylated B-vitamins, vitamin D3, iron, essential fatty acids (or omegas which are plant based), amino acid complex products, Ginkgo Biloba, St. John’s Wort, and royal jelly.

Secondary depression can oftentimes be treated with 5-HTP, gamma-aminobutyric acid, DL-phenylalanine, S-adenosylmethionine, L-tyrosine, Passionflower, Lemon Balm, Aswagandha, Curcumin.
General support can be offered with Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, rhodiola, phosphatidylserine, magnesium, CoQ10 and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide.

As a sidenote, ‘some; vitamins, minerals and other nutrients should not be supplemented unless your levels are low. This is where a physician or a trained practitioner can help you evaluate this.

Many of these products have been researched and their effectiveness documented. In addition, many of these products help with other conditions that can cause depression as a side effect. For example, Curcumin has been shown in a recent study to help generate new and properly functioning brain cells, which also in turn, manufacture mood-elevating neurotransmitters. Curcumin has been shown as effective as Fluoxetine (Prozac) without the side effects, and can often neutralize violent aggression and suicidal ideations. As a bonus, it doesn’t lose its effectiveness over time. 5-HTP, formulated from an extract of seeds of an African shrub, and produce serotonin with no negative side effects. A recent study in Indian confirms that when comparing 5-HTP and Prozac, that 5-HTP definitely has antidepressant effects in depression patients.

Other holistic measures can be implemented to help the person with depression, as part of the integrative plan.

Exercise can be as important as nutrition in addressing depression. Exercise triggers a rise in mood at least equal to those generated by prescription antidepressants. You can start very slow – just some activity. As your mood rises and serotonin, neurotransmitters and other chemicals start normalizing through your plan, you will be able to do more exercise. Go as slow as you need, but exercise.

Self-realization and Mindfulness offer relief for depression. Mindfulness is an important step to Self-realization and consists of a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the surrounding environment. It involves acceptance – not judging our thoughts as negative or positive, no matter the situation. Tune into the present moment instead of focusing on past events, or possible future challenges. Practicing Mindfulness can be achieved through meditation, emotional freedom techniques, visualization/guided imagery, self-affirmation, breathing exercise and biofeedback.

Bodywork also shows relief in depression. Some of these bodywork techniques include yoga, acupressure, acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, tai chi and other Eastern and Western techniques.

If your depression seems to occur only during the holidays when you recall past holiday trauma, find a new way to think of, and deal with the holidays. Try to determine ‘when’ the depression begins. Is it Thanksgiving? Is it Hannukah? Kwanzaa? Christmas? Whatever the holiday and whatever the reason, begin a week or so before the holiday to reassess the way you celebrate. If it seems to be only when you celebrate around family, come up with a deifferent way to celebrate while honoring your family. Write individual holiday letters, and dine at a community dinner or help serve homeless persons at a shelter dinner, for example. Throw your own party and invite only close friends. Instead of giving and receiving gifts, give donations, food, or clean an elderly neighbor’s home. Ask your friends and family to give such gifts in your honor instead of gifts to you. If the same activity over and over brings the same results, come up with new traditions, or change them up each year.

Depression, as in any mental illness, can affect the entire person. Treatment must include evaluation by both allopathic physicians and alternative practitioners, hopefully working in an integrative way. The cause must be found, and the root addressed. Through integrative methods involving alternative treatment which has been developed after evaluating the person, the client with depression can find peace by treating mind, body and soul.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP.

Mrs. Baker is a musician and recording artist, a mother of one, and resides in Muskogee, Oklahoma with her husband and their kitties.