I'm sure you've heard of serotonin before. Most people know that it's the chemical that both helps you sleep, and boosts your mood. But, if you're like most people I talk to, what you probably don't realize is that your body uses the stuff for quite a few other things, and the interruption of the serotonin-process is one of the potentially harmful side effects of antidepressants.

In fact, most of the serotonin your body makes it uses for regulating things other than sleep and mood. The chemical plays an important part in the digestion of your food. It helps to form blood clots... and stop the bleeding... when you're injured. And it even gets in on the acts of reproduction and development.

Antidepressants take advantage of the mood-regulating effects of serotonin. They increase the amount of serotonin in your brain by blocking your body's ability to use it for other things. And... well... that's the problem with these drugs.

Sure, if you keep your brain flooded with serotonin, in theory, it should lift your mood. (Whether that actually works is another story... one I've written to you about before.) But it doesn't take much of a leap to realize that this could become a problem for all those other processes your body needs serotonin for.

And that's exactly what a team of researchers found in a study of the side effects of antidepressants published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

From sexual side effects to stroke

Evolutionary biologist Paul Andrews led a team who looked at a number of other studies on the side effects of antidepressants. After a whole lot of data crunching they came to the simple conclusion that these drugs are more likely to do harm than good.

You see, your risk for serotonin-regulated processes going wrong takes a leap forward when you're on an antidepressant. It's not uncommon, for example, to have problems with sexual stimulation while on these drugs. In other words, it's sort of like putting the pot on the stove, but it never comes to a boil. And if you're a guy these drugs can wreak havoc with your sperm development, too.

Your risk for having tummy troubles including diarrhea, indigestion, and bloating go up. And, most troubling of all, if you're older, your risk for bleeding and stroke jump up, also.

Oh, and did I mention that elderly antidepressant users are more likely to die than those not on the drugs? This was true even after the researchers considered other important factors. Talk about a side effect!

For some of us it's been clear for a long time that the risk of taking antidepressants far outweighs any minor benefits that you may get from them. So I'm glad to see some mainstream scientists finally starting to take notice of how dangerous they are.

But, I must admit I did have a good chuckle when I read this quote from Dr. Andrews in ScienceDaily: "The thing that's been missing in the debates about antidepressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects. Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue."

Uh, the thing is Dr. Andrews, lots of us have been looking.

Not only that, we've been shouting from the rooftops... or at least our desktops... about the clear red flags we've been seeing. I think those of you in the mainstream just haven't been listening. (Perhaps a subscription to the Guide to Good Health is in order?)

In fact, just last year I wrote about the dangers and possible side effects of antidepressants for seniors in particular. I explained that if you're older and on a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) you're at an increased risk for stroke, falls, fractures, hyponatremia, and death.

Beat depression naturally

My advice? Talk to your doctor about getting off these drugs as soon as possible. Some studies show they aren't any more effective than a sugar pill anyway. Instead, try some natural and highly effective alternatives.

For example, B vitamins have been linked to depression, so make sure you're on a good B-complex supplement to cover all your "B" bases. Vitamin D is also a proven mood lifter, and regular exercise, like some gentle tai chi, has been shown in studies to beat depression. Also, an extract from the red clover plant has been found to be incredibly effective at driving away the blues for post-menopausal women.

My mother used to have a saying that she would use when she thought someone was being a little bit dense. She'd look at them with a twinkle in her eyes and say, "Well, it's just as plain as the nose on your face."

Well mainstream, I have to say that these latest "findings" were one big huge honking nose and I'm sure glad you've finally spotted it. Now let's work on getting more people off of these dangerous drugs, shall we?