Depression: some natural alternatives

Posted: May 21, 2016


It is such a complex issue, and we need to keep spreading awareness and information.

There are many branches of Mental Health, and they all have their individual aspects. These include: anxiety, addiction, depression, bi-polar, as well as Autism spectrum and others.

In this post we are specifically looking at depression.

Depression is a very complex condition. One with no quick fix, and no one size fits all approach. People are struggling under the weight of the world. Depression is on the rise, with an estimated 20,000 new people diagnosed with mental illness every year in Australia alone, and prescription anti-depressants are at an all time high. But the problem for a lot of people, is that the medication isn’t really working. Many people on anti-depressants are still depressed. Maybe less so, maybe some symptoms have decreased, but they are still depressed. And for another group of people, the medication actually makes them worse.

So what is the answer? The truth is, there is no right answer. Because neuro chemistry is so complex, sometimes there are many factors that need to be considered.

However, I believe that there are certain things that can help reduce the severity of depression and in some cases, cure it completely.

I am living proof that nutrition plays a vital role in treating depression (I’ll post a bit about my story soon)

I hope this post will give you some insight into depression and some possible treatments.


Disordered Neurobiologydisordered neurobiology

There are many factors that affect our brain chemistry, or neurobiology. These are the factors that attribute to Affective Disorders (depressive disorders that affect the mood – such as depression, bi-polar).

They can be split into 2 categories:
Primary – occurs within the central nervous system and directly affects out neural function and structure
Secondary – factors that indirectly affect the neurobiology


Did you know that around 90% of Serotonin is produced in the gut?! Therefore poor gut health can lead to low Serotonin levels.

Serotonin is responsible for: controlling appetite, regulation of pain and mood, regulation of arousal state and sensory perception. Deficiency may lead to: OCD, anxiety/social anxiety, aggression, general depression, insomnia, impulsive behaviour, low self-esteem.


Macronutrients and Micronutrients

We have 2 categories of nutrients: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients that we need in high doses (they make up the bulk of our dietary intake): protein, fat and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are the smaller fragments that are essential for our survival, but are needed in smaller doses: vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, cofactors, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavonoids.


Protein is needed for neurotransmitter production. Protein is broken down into amino acids, the amino acids along with their cofactors create the neurotransmitters. For example: tryptophan converts to 5-HTP which converts to serotonin.

Fats are essential for energy production, nerve development, stress response, to name a few.

Carbohydrates are converted to glucose – our energy supply. Without glucose we have no fuel. (Yes we can convert protein and fat to fuel if needed, but it requires a lot more ENERGY)


B Vitamins: essential for mitochondrial production, neurotransmitter production, vital cofactors for amino acids, energy production, nerve development, calms stress response system.

Magnesium (known as the mental mineral): anti-inflammatory, essential for mitochondrial production, neurotransmitter production, vital cofactor for amino acids, stress response system.

Iodine: essential for thyroid hormone production, and the thyroid hormone regulates energy production, antioxidant cofactor.

Selenium: essential for thyroid hormone production, and the thyroid hormone regulates energy production.

Zinc: anti-inflammatory, cofactor for neurotransmitter production and function, essential for thyroid hormone production, and the thyroid hormone regulates energy production.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, vital for nerve function and structure, improves serotonin and dopamine binding, calms SRS, supports energy production, form part of the mitochondrial membrane structure, transports thyroid hormone, essential for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin C: antioxidant, minimises effects of environmental toxins, vital for electrolyte balance, involved in hundreds of functions in the body.

Deficiencies in vitamin D, C and iron have also shown to cause depression.



There are many foods that can help improve your mental health.Untitled

These are some of my top foods to focus on if you have depression.

Salmon: rich in essential fatty acids, easily digestible protein – taurine, glycine, histadine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, B vitamins – B6 and B12, magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine, vitamin D.

Raw Cacao Powder: rich in zinc, magnesium, protein – tryptophan, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, flavonoids, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium.

Avocado: rich in essential fatty acids, glutamine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, taurine, carnitine, zinc, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, potassium, zinc.

Chia Seeds: rich in essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, easily digestible protein.

Bee Pollen: rich in essential fatty acids, easily digestible protein, iron, B vitamins, zinc, calcium, iron, potassium.

Cashews: rich in B vitamins, essential fatty acids, tryptophan, iron, magnesium, easily digestible protein, selenium, zinc.

Almonds: rich in B vitamins, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, easily digestible protein, potassium.

Spirulina: rich in B vitamins, essential fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin C, easily digestible protein, iron, magnesium, potassium.

Walnuts: rich in essential fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, potassium, melatonin, protein, zinc, iron.

Pumpkin Seeds: rich in B vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin C, easily digestible protein, calcium, iron, potassium.

Sunflower Seeds: rich in B vitamins, magnesium, iodine, iron, easily digestible protein, selenium, tryptophan, zinc, potassium.

Linseeds: rich in vitamin B6, iron, folate, magnesium, zinc, calcium, essential fatty acids, easily digestible protein, potassium, selenium.

Quinoa: rich in easily digestible protein – tryptophan, tyrosine, taurine, glycine, zinc, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, iron, selenium.

Sweet Potato: rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, protein.

Coconut: (in all forms – oil, syrup, shredded etc) rich in essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium.

Chlorella: rich in B vitamins, easily digestible protein, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, iron.

Oats: rich in B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium. Have a calming effect on the nervous system.

Variety of Green Leafy Vegetables (such as kale, spinach, chard, rocket): eating a variety of green leafy vegetables will give you the complete spectrum of nutrients.

Variety of Beans/Legumes (such as adzuki beans, lentils, black beans): eating a variety of beans and legumes will give you the complete spectrum of nutrients.



There are many herbs that can be used in the treatment of depression, however, as it is such a complex issue, getting the right balance of herbs is essential.

St Johns Wort: has been used for many years in the treatment of mild to moderate depression with great results. It can increase the production of Serotonin and has fewer side effects than anti-depressants. It does have a number of contraindications however, such as use with the contraceptive pill, blood thinners and anti-depressants.

Passion Flower and Kava Kava have also been used successfully to help treat depression. They both work on calming the nervous system.

Rhodiola: can increase the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinepherine (the 3 big hitters in your neurotransmitter family).

I use herbal medicine with nearly all of my patients with depression, as it is a gentle but effective treatment tool. Since these herbs can interact with some medications and there is a fine balance to getting the right blend of herbs, I advise you work with your Naturopath to find the right herbs.


Lifestyle Factors

There are many reasons people are struggling with depression. Finding ways to help reduce the feelings associated with depression can be a powerful tool to use during treatment.

I recommend things like: acupuncture, massage, meditation, yoga, exercise and sleep as a starting point.

Journaling, cognitive therapy and the new craze of adult colouring in can also be really helpful.

Work with your practitioner to find some tools that will help you. Try different things to find what you feel happy with


This is only a small snippet of information that can help in the treatment of depression. I will continue posting more information on this extremely important topic.



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