Depression Diet and other Alternatives to Antidepressants

Drug advertisements and conventional doctors tell the public that depression is caused by an imbalance of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin. This idea makes it seem that drugs that flood the brain with serotonin are the answer to depression, but there is no scientific evidence that drug therapy really works. In studies in which scientists lowered serotonin levels to induce depression, the experiment failed. Other studies found that dramatically increasing serotonin levels in the brain failed to relieve depression. So why do doctors persist in prescribing medications with side effects ranging from mood swings to suicidal or homicidal behaviors when those drugs may not even work?

There are treatment options that can relieve depression without swallowing pills. Many of the symptoms of depression can be directly linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the standard American diet, which is largely comprised of empty carbs, caffeine and sugar. Depression, mood swings and fatigue often have a common cause: poor nutrition. Avoiding depression or recovering from a depressive episode is often as easy as changing your diet and boosting your consumption of key foods that deliver brain-boosting nutrients and help regulate brain chemistry.

The Five Foods for Beating Depression

Fish oils: Contain omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that depressed people often lack a fatty acid known as EPA. Participants in a 2002 study featured in the Archives of General Psychiatry took just a gram of fish oil each day and noticed a 50-percent decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disorders, unexplained feelings of sadness, suicidal thoughts, and decreased sex drive. Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. Get omega-3s through walnuts, flaxseed and oily fish like salmon or tuna.

Another top food for delivering imega-3 fatty acids is chia, and we currently recommend two sources for chia seeds:

Good Cause Wellness

Brown Rice: Contains vitamins B1 and B3, and folic acid. Brown rice is also a low-glycemic food, which means it releases glucose into the bloodstream gradually, preventing sugar lows and mood swings. Brown rice also provides many of the trace minerals we need to function properly, as well as being a high-fiber food that can keep the digestive system healthy and lower cholesterol. Instant varieties of rice do not offer these benefits. Any time you see “instant” on a food label, avoid it.

Brewer’s Yeast: Contains vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Brewer’s yeast should be avoided if you do not tolerate yeast well, but if you do, mix a thimbleful into any smoothie for your daily dose. This superfood packs a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals in a small package, including 16 amino acids and 14 minerals. Amino acids are vital for the nervous system, which makes brewer’s yeast a no-brainer for treating depression.

Whole-grain oats: Contain folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamins B6 and B1. Oats help lower cholesterol, are soothing to the digestive tract and help avoid the blood sugar crash-and-burn that can lead to crabbiness and mood swings. Other whole grains such as kamut, spelt and quinoa are also excellent choices for delivering brain-boosting nutrients and avoiding the pitfalls of refined grains such as white flour.

Cabbage: Contains vitamin C and folic acid. Cabbage protects against stress, infection and heart disease, as well as many types of cancers, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. There are numerous ways to get cabbage into your diet; toss it in a salad instead of lettuce, use cabbage in place of lettuce wraps, stir fry it in your favorite Asian dish, make some classic cabbage soup or juice it. To avoid gas after eating cabbage, add a few fennel, caraway or cumin seeds before cooking. Cabbage is also a good source of blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber, and the raw juice of cabbage is a known cure for stomach ulcers.

Also worth mentioning: Foods like raw cacao, dark molasses and brazil nuts (high in selenium) are also excellent for boosting brain function and eliminating depression. Get raw cacao and brazil nuts at Nature’s First Law. Another source for cacao is Navitas Naturals.

Things to Avoid

If you feel you are depressed or at risk for depression, you also need to avoid certain foods and substances. Some commonly prescribed drugs — such as antibiotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, pain killers, ulcer drugs, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, birth control pills, high blood pressure drugs, heart medications and psychotropic drugs — contribute to depression. If you are taking any of these, don’t quit them without talking to your doctor; but be aware that they may be contributing to your condition by depleting your body of depression-fighting vitamins and minerals.

You should also avoid caffeine, smoking and foods high in fat and sugar. Keeping your blood sugar stable and getting B vitamins is important for stabilizing your mood. Cacao can be good for mood because it releases endorphins in the brain, but watch out for milk chocolate and candy varieties high in sugar.

Other Non-Food Things to do

  • Get plenty of sunshine. Natural sunlight is a proven cure for depression.
  • Engage in regular exercise at least three times per week. Exercise lifts and mood and alters brain chemistry in a positive way.
  • Experience laughter. It’s good medicine.
  • Take a quality superfood supplement to get even more natural medicine from the world of plants.


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5 Responses to “Depression Diet and other Alternatives to Antidepressants”

  1. Tom Says:

    This is good… I’ve recently been researching and testing these sorts of ideas, with great success.

    Personally I don’t have the discipline or inclination to adhere to a particularly restrictive diet, but I’m happy to load up on amino acids, oils, vitamins and other nutrients.

    I’ve had great success overcoming long-term depression and inattentiveness with this daily supplement intake:

    Here is the list of ingredients in my current daily supplements bag:

    15 x Pure Form 21 capsules from JoMar Labs

    7 x WAC forumla capsules from JoMar Labs

    2 x Taurine capsules from JoMar Labs

    3 x Glutathione formula capsules from JoMar Labs

    2 x L-Tryptophan capsules from JoMar Labs

    2 x L-Carnitine capsules from JoMar Labs

    1 x Coconut Oil capsule from iHerb (NOW brand)

    2 x Fish Oil 1000 Concentrate from Blackmores

    2 x Ultra Omega 3/6/9 (borage/fish/flax oil) from iHerb (Nature’s Plus brand)

    1 x Evening Primrose Oil Deluxe from Blackmores

    1 x Cod Liver Oil Deluxe from Blackmores

    1-4 x Total Calcium + Magnesium from Blackmores (not all taken in baggie – spread throughout the day)

    1 x Sustained Release MultiVitamin from Blackmores

    1 x Executive Stress B formula from Blackmores (only because I have a big jar of these to use up… I will switch to something other than “executive stress” when these are finished)

    4 x Vitamin C from iHerb (Natural Factors brand)

    3 x Phosphatidyl Choline from iHerb (Bluebonnet brand)

    3 x Chlorella from iHerb (NOW brand)

    3 x Spirulina from iHerb (NOW brand)

    3 x Blue Green Algae from iHerb (NOW brand)

    1 x Milk Thistle from Blackmores

    1 x Grape Seed Extract from iHerb (LifeExtension brand)

    1 x Probiotic 8 from Micro Genics

    These are taken all at once, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with a large glass of water and perhaps some fruit/vegetable juice.

    I’ve been experimenting with probiotics a little by taking one or two more during the day to improve food digestion.

    I also often have a Digestion Plus from Ethical Nutrients after meals when I remember, to help particularly with protein digestion.

    This list is likely to change a little over the next week or two as I get a new delivery of supplements, some of which are different brands, and a couple of new ones to be added.

    However, it will still stay true to the general structure listed above, particularly with respect to amino acids and oils.

    It may seem like a long and crazy list, but it’s the single most beneficial thing I’ve done for my health in years, and I strongly recommend it to anyone battling with depression, anxiety, bipolar or ADHD.

    On your yeast suggestion, I’ve read convincing reports that mental illnesses is often caused or exacerbated by candida, and any foods that promote yeast growth should be avoided or countered with good probiotics.

    Also, the link between undiagnosed food allergies and depression should be considered.

    Melbourne, Australia

  2. Your Friend Says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you for your contribution, Tom. This is great!

    Yes. Many people are unwilling to change their diet because it is really a change in life style. But for those who are suffering serious side effects of medication, or want to avoid them, a change in diet is really best. As many meds prevent one from functioning normally or being able to hold a job.

    Yes. Yeast prevention is great. I have Candida myself and doing the allergy elimination diet really nipped this in the bud right from the start. No more depression. I even lost weight! 🙂 I had some depression due to a thyroid problem and then from a female hormone problem. Any time I slip off of my diet my depression creeps back. Getting back on relieves it almost immediately. The Elimination Diet can be found at

    Keep up your great work! You seem to be doing just fine. Are you on any psychiatric medication such as an antidepressant? Were you ever on any medication?

    I’ll be waiting for your reply.

    Have a great weekend!

    Your Friend

  3. Tom Says:

    I was on a low dose Zoloft for about 6 months about 2-3 years ago when my panic attacks became too frequent and severe. It fixed that problem, but made me frequently hypomanic, and when I came off if, over the subsequent 6 months I descended into full-blown depression. For 12 months I tried to control it just with dieting and lifestyle management, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.

    I was always suspicious of SSRIs, as it seemed like a crude, incomplete solution. I’m a scientifically-minded person, and my livelihood comes from working out good solutions to complex problems. SSRIs just never seemed like a good enough answer. I like the supplements/digestive therapy approach as it seems to attack the problem at its core and restores your levels of all neurotransmitters, rather than just messing with your serotonin. And the results have been astounding; I’m not only in a good mood, but a healthy, stable, productive mood, better than I’ve been in for years.

    Whilst I can see the potential for even greater improvement by following the elimination diet, I do have a little bit of an issue with the air of arrogance that sometimes surrounds this issue. Too often you hear people say, ah you don’t need all those supplements, or medication, or whatever else, all you have to do is follow such and such a diet or avoid all these foods, etc, not seeming to acknowledge that for many people, it is unrealistic to stick to such a plan, whether it be for discipline, financial, lifestyle, convenience, or other reasons. When trying to overcome these health problems one can feel great guilt and helplessness, feeling as though it’s “your fault” you’re unhealthy because you don’t have the discipline to keep to a restrictive diet, and you sometimes detect a sense of superiority from the practitioners who push these ideas, just as you do from some arrogant doctors and psychiatrists.

    That’s not to say I don’t fully accept that the right diet can be extremely beneficial in overcoming mental illness, and should be thoroughly recommended for those who can do it. I just don’t think good mental health should be accessible only to people who are able to exercise such restraint, and I’m a big advocate of finding ways that can help anyone, no matter what their circumstances.

    I hope you’ll stay tuned on my blog as I continue my journey.

    Melbourne, Australia

  4. Your Friend Says:

    Hello Tom!

    Thanks again for leaving a comment.

    I am so happy to hear that you are successful in your self-detox program and that you are sharing it with others for free. I suggest everyone visit your blog. Everyone has different needs. One could have allergies to foods, vitamin or supplement deficiencies, other conditions that have gone untreated. No matter what the problem, everyone can benefit from your program, as it is a detox program. If someone has taken any psychiatric medication or just has built up toxins, as we all do, they would be able to do a great cleanse. Your blog is just wonderful. Yes. I will stay tune to hear the rest of your journey as time permits. Please do check in and update us when you have time.

    Best regards,
    Your Friend

  5. Acai Juice Says:

    Nice bog you have here. I pretty much lurk the internet when I’m bored and read all I can about the organic lifestyle, but I really liked you view on things. I’ll bookmark the site and subscribe to the feed!

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