Even here in health-crazed San Francisco, many people suffer from anxiety and depression or other problems with their mood. If you watch TV for even an hour, you’ll quickly find the solution—antidepressants! And if antidepressants don’t work, don’t stop taking them, just add an antipsychotic, like Seroquel or Abilify. Or add more antidepressants!
Now maybe you believe that antidepressants are a good idea. Maybe you believe they are safe and effective. In fact, problems from heart disease to increased risk of death from suicide have been associated with antidepressants, so much so that for the latter, the FDA has mandated a black box warning on all SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the most common form of antidepressant. Now you may be thinking, “A black box warning doesn’t sound all that serious.”
Actually, it is the most serious action the FDA will take apart from completely removing a drug from market. The FDA almost never does this. Even a drug like Vioxx that was clearly killing people was actually removed by the manufacturer. What did the FDA do? It required a black box warning.
What this warning means is that this medication is clearly dangerous, but it may show some sort of therapeutic value—or that it cannot be proven that it shows absolutely no therapeutic value and the government would lose its shirt trying to defend such “libelous” claims. It’s supposed to be your doctor’s job to very carefully monitor the risk-benefit analysis in your particular case. The problem is, they often don’t know of another solution, so they believe the only two options are prescribing the medication or forcing you to remain in a state that is making you miserable and ineffective. They also tend to lack an understanding of the seriousness of the side-effects. To understand how the data on these drugs get skewed watch this amazing TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_battling_bad_science.html
In order to understand the alternative, we must understand what mood disorders really are. First of all, mood disorders are not mental illness. Mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or true bipolar, are completely different from mood disorders and may require medication for management. Mood disorders are merely an imbalance of the current brain chemistry. To be more specific, they are a deficit in one or more of the following neurotransmitters (brain chemicals): Serotonin, Norepinephrine, GABA, Endorphin or Glucose (technically not a neurotransmitter but it has a huge impact on brain function).
These deficiencies are rooted in nutritional deficiencies that sometimes take many years to compound into an issue with the mood. “But,” you say, “I eat really well. I avoid meat and saturated fat. I shop at Trader Joe’s.”
So many of us have reduced meat and fat to get healthy, others have cut calories to lose weight. Sometimes we just settle for food out of box or can, because we’re busy or we don’t know how to cook. These strategies all have proponents telling us we should do this, or it’s okay to do that, but the soaring trend of anxiety and depression tell a different story. They tell a story of chronic undernourishment, in particular of protein deficiency.
Neurotransmitters are made by the body out of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Without protein, we have no amino acids. Without amino acids, we have no neurotransmitters. Without the right levels of neurotransmitters, we have what Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, calls “false moods.” These are moods that do not represent the real you or your true personality. These moods can make you irritable, down, stressed, angry, even suicidal. They can cause you turn to sweets, alcohol, drugs or behaviors that give you a temporary boost. They manifest in different ways for different people, but the main thing to remember is that they are not “you,” and they can be fixed.
So if the problem is nutritional, then the solution is also nutritional. What’s the secret? Primarily it is protein. Adequate protein is absolutely essential for proper brain function. However, if you already have a problem with your mood (or with eating behavior, alcohol or drugs) the deficiency is probably too great to correct just by correcting the food you put into your mouth. Your brain will need a big dose of these amino acids all at once, and the best way to accomplish this is through supplementation.
Isolated amino acids are given in supplement form (usually capsules or sublingual tablets) in order to boost brain production of your neurotransmitters. Taking amino acids is the ONLY way to accomplish this. SSRI’s don’t do it; they merely keep the chemicals already in your brain from being reabsorbed; this is one reason they don’t work for many people. For a somewhat slow and cheesy but informative video on this look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_XFfdkJXnM&feature=related
With 1 in 10 Americans taking antidepressants, this information could be revolutionary. In my clinic, we’ve treated numerous patients who either want to get off antidepressants or want to avoid getting on them in the first place. The results with the amino acid therapy are almost unbelievable. Before studying with Julia Ross, I had no idea that there was an effective alternative for treating anxiety and depression. I struggled with only getting marginal results with many of my own patients. Since learning this amazing treatment, I can’t believe that it’s been kept such a secret, and I want to bring hope to all of those people out there who are looking for some alternative to their current treatment approach. There is hope, and you can get better!
The most amazing thing about amino acid therapy, and the main reason I chose to become certified as a specialist in it, is that it is a corrective therapy. This means that a course of treatment can correct the deficiency so that you no longer need to take the supplement. As you may have guessed, correcting the diet will be necessary for permanent results. But can you imagine, after years of depression, becoming depression and supplement-free in a matter of months? I’ve seen it, and it is amazing.
The other advantage amino acid therapy has over drugs is that it has no side-effects. Or to be more correct, if you have a side-effect the therapy is immediately altered to eliminate it. In holistic medicine, a side-effect is seen as a signal that your body does not agree with the treatment. A medicine that is designed to fix your system, should not create such a response from your body. The only thing you should feel is better.
This is a very short summary of a very complicated issue, so if you’d like to read more I’ve included several resources below. My clinic, Wood Tiger Acupuncture, in San Francisco is always happy to consult on this topic. We also are gladly accepting new patients for this therapy, and we offer a free consultation to determine if the therapy is appropriate for you before beginning. You can try to self-treat using Julia Ross’ books, but I have seen very limited results with that approach. I think it’s just too difficult to trouble-shoot your own brain chemistry, especially if you haven’t had intensive training on the subject.
Acknowledgements: Julia Ross has been the pioneer in this field. She has spent many years refining her treatment approach, and I have been so lucky to study directly with her on this topic.
FDA black box warning:
Celexa and heart disease:
Antidepressants don’t work: excellent video—as seen on Dr. Oz
For information on how doctors are influenced by drug companies:
There are so many more resources. Several books could be written on this topic without scratching the surface, but the best ones currently out there are: