If you're over 65 and prone to depression, here's a bit of good news: You may be able to control your symptoms without resorting to drugs. In fact, a new study links a highly-versatile vitamin to a decreased risk of depression among seniors.
And I'm all for finding a nutritional solution to the occasional bout of depression. That's because taking a prescription drug -- even a low-dose antidepressant -- always comes with a truck-load of baggage.
In fact, did you know that if you're over 65 and take an antidepressant that you're more than 50 percent more likely to suffer a serious fall compared to other older adults?
(Actually, that statistic holds true if you're over 65 and take ANY antidepressant known as an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The researchers for this study didn't explain why seniors suffered more falls, but I assume it's because drowsiness and dizziness are both common side effect of most SSRIs.)
Thankfully, there are natural solutions to depression -- that won't increase your risk of falling.
The new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 3,500 Chicago residents for seven years. At the outset of the study, participants filled out surveys to determine nutritional intake through diet and supplements. The participants also filled out a standardized test used to evaluate depression.
The researchers found a clear connection between vitamin B and depression. In fact, participants with the most B6 and B12 intake had the fewest episodes of depression. And to be more specific, the researchers found that for every 10 milligram increase of B6 and for every 10 microgram increase of B12, the risk of depression dropped by two percent.
How does this affect your daily routine?
Clearly, good nutrition can play a role in keeping the occasion bout of depression at bay. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
Take a good B-complex vitamin everyday. Clearly, the seniors in the study got some added protection against depression by getting plenty of Bs. And it's important to remember that any good B-complex will include all eight of the different B vitamins. Plus, look for a brand that contains at least 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6.
On top of the B-complex, you may want to add in some additional B6. Your body needs B6 to kick the "feel good" neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) into high gear. I'd start by adding 100 mg per day of B6.
You can go as high as 400 mg per day with B6. Some people start to worry about pyridoxine neuropathy with anything higher than 400 mg. However, based on my experience, this is extremely rare. Further more, B6 always works better with magnesium. So make sure you get 400-500 mg of that per day as well.
Now onto vitamin B12...
You probably already know that B12 is the "energy vitamin" and every cell in your body uses it. Like B6, it also appears to play a role in your body's synthesis of neurotransmitters.
The current recommended intake of B12 is just 2.4 mcg (micrograms). But I'd go for much, much more, especially if you are looking to support your mental health. Go for at least 80 mcg per day of B12. I know that probably sounds high (when compared to the recommended amount), but remember, all the B vitamins are water- soluble. This means that your body can't stockpile it. Anything you can't use, your body flushes out, so you don't have to worry about overdosing on this vitamin. I personally take 500 to 1,000 mcg daily.
More nutritional ways to boost your mood
Another thing to remember with depression is that sometimes (even with natural solutions) you don't hit the target on the first try. So here are a few more options to try:
Omega-3 fatty acids play a huge role in regulating your mood and sense of well- being. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition, women who have the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduce their depression by nearly 30 percent!
In addition, the evidence supporting St. John's Wort is hard to ignore. There's plenty of hard data showing that it does give you a significant boost. I'd go for 300 mg of a 0.3% standardized extract three times a day. Just be patient. It can take two to four weeks to feel an improvement. Just avoid amino acid supplements and extended sun exposure while taking St. John's Wort, as these may lessen the therapeutic effect.
If St. John's Wort doesn't cut it, you could also try the amino acid SAMe (s- adenosylmethionine) at 400 to 1200 mg/per day. It's more expensive than St. John's Wort, but highly effective and has been used a lot in Europe to naturally correct depression. Some nutritionists believe it's best suited to treat depression expressed as low energy and low motivation unrelated to anxiety.
Tryptophan and DLPA (dl-phenylalanine) are two more amino acids that can be effective in improving depression if taken between meals (but not along with the other efforts).
In closing, it's important to remember that depression is a whole-body disorder. And for some people, good nutrition alone isn't enough to keep the dark clouds away. But for others with mild to moderate depression, nutritional support can help. And it's certainly much safer than taking a prescription drug that increases your risk of falling and brings so many more serious side effects with it.
In either case, I encourage you to seek the care of a trusted physician who will work with you to develop a safe and effective wellness plan.