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A Better Way to Improve Mood?

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A Better Way to Improve Mood?

By Victoria L. Freeman, PhD., Experience Life

Feeling a little low? You’re not alone. The World Health Organization says 121 million people currently suffer from depression. That means almost 10 percent of women and nearly 6 percent of men in any given year will feel depression’s common effects sadness, a waning interest in daily activities and sagging energy.

“We’re facing a bad-mood epidemic,” says Julia Ross, MA, author of The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions Today (Penguin, 2004) and executive director of Recovery Systems in Mill Valley, Calif., a clinic that treats mood problems using counseling, nutritional therapy and biochemical rebalancing. “It’s clear that our moods are deteriorating at unprecedented rates.”

It’s also clear that antidepressant drugs have become the first line of defense. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jan. 9, 2002), antidepressant drug use for treating outpatient depression increased from 37 percent in 1987 to 75 percent in 1997.

Antidepressants work for many people, at least in the short term, and if you’ve exhausted all the natural solutions without success, then pharmaceuticals could be the right choice, according to Ross. “But before you go down that road, it’s important to understand that drugs like antidepressants carry the risk of significant side effects plus they don’t actually ‘fix’ the underlying problem.” she explains. “Antidepressants can only stimulate the mood-enhancing brain chemicals you already have, but most disorders stem from having inadequate levels of these chemicals to begin with. What you really need to do is rebuild the deficit.”

Ross and a growing number of other experts believe that nutrients called amino acids offer a way to build your levels of good-mood compounds. Aminos often also lift depression’s dark cloud even faster than drugs. Whereas the National Institute of Mental Health reports that the onset of action for antidepressants ranges from two to eight weeks, Ross says one week seems to be the upper time limit for relief with amino acids. In fact, she says that many people feel a lot better in just 24 hours.

Of course, neither amino acids nor antidepressants work for everyone, but a 1991 head-to-head comparison published in the medical journal Psychopathology found that the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) actually outperformed the antidepressant Luvox in ratings of improvement for depression (66 percent versus 62 percent) and anxiety (58 percent versus 48 percent) following six weeks of treatment. Adds Ross: “At our clinic we’ve seen a 98 percent success rate using the targeted amino acids to treat mood disorders, and there are virtually no side effects when they’re used properly.”

In contrast, negative side effects from prescription mood-altering drugs are serious enough to convince some people that the benefits just aren’t worth it. Not everyone who takes antidepressants experiences all (or even any) negative effects, but the list of possible well-known problems is daunting. That list includes nausea, headaches, extreme fatigue, dizziness, weight gain, insomnia and diminished libido. Research presented in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Dec. 2000) suggests that some types of antidepressants are even linked to suicidal thoughts and actions, and in 2004, the FDA recommended that antidepressant medications carry a warning label to that effect.

Next: Why do mood disorders occur?

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Read more: Conditions, Depression, Diet & Nutrition, General Health, Health, Mental Wellness, Natural Remedies, ,

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Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.


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9:12AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

Interesting, thank you.

9:11AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

Interesting, thank you.

3:54PM PDT on Jul 27, 2012


5:33AM PST on Dec 9, 2010


6:08AM PST on Dec 17, 2009

I have heard that starchy foods like rice for breckfast can create dopamine a natural chemical that fights depresssion. It has been proven that doing this and a half hour walk in the sunlight has similar effect as taking medication.
However depression is serious and debilitation and people should do what works for them

10:14AM PST on Dec 11, 2009

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have tried light therapy and every other non invasive treatment recommended any where, including this article. Unfortunately, nothing has replaced the benefits I get out of mood lifting drugs prescribed by my physician.

5:26PM PST on Dec 7, 2009

Very interesting read. I have visited the doctor multiple times trying to get help with health issues along these lines. After five years of dealing with very serious health issues in my young son, it has started affecting my own health. Doctors have been little help, and "avoiding stress" isn't much of an option. This gives me something else to consider.

2:45PM PST on Dec 6, 2009


12:39PM PST on Dec 5, 2009

interesting to read! thanx.

4:55AM PST on Dec 5, 2009

I have to watch my first mood of the morning because it is weather dependent. Not so good for me if the day is stormy. If I can ignore the weather while I enjoy doing my Care 2 daily clicks and some yoga and light, brief, bu centering meditation, I have more control of my mood for the rest of the day. If the weather conditions are really intrusive, I can be a the mercy of my moods throughout the day. That is no good.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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