It seems as if too many nightstands are becoming slightly too crowded these days. If you haven’t noticed already, right next to the family photo, alarm clock, and water bottle, there is this little orange bottle with a white cap and pale blue label standing tall with the words “Take Me.” I mean, it does have your name and address on it, so it belongs there, right? Not necessarily. According to Harvard Health Publications, “The federal government’s health statisticians figure that about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant.” That means that there has been 400% increase in antidepressant prescriptions since the best seller Listening to Prozac was published in 1993. There has been much debate on whether or this epidemic is helping or hurting us. Were depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues underdiagnosed in the past? Are more people becoming depressed? Is marketing done by pharmaceutical companies responsible for this increase?
Let us begin with understanding that antidepressants have been a blessing for a proportion of the population. Once someone has exhausted all other means to treat what has been diagnosed as a mental illness, a prescription may or may not be warranted. However, judging those taking antidepressants, and/or those who believe they have a mental illness, is a job for no one other than the individual and their health care provider(s). However, there has been a major shift in how mental illness has been treated since Prozac hit the market in 1987. It has become a widely accepted theory that mental illness is a result of chemical imbalances in the brain that can only be fixed with psychoactive drugs. Instead of trying “talk therapy” first, and prescribing antidepressants second, many psychiatrists suggest psychotherapy, if at all, after prescribing drugs. It is now considered “normal” by many health care professionals, the media, and the public to go straight to the prescription tablet without attempting any sort of alternative treatment at all. Prescription drugs have become the dominant solution to the exponential increase of diagnosed mental illness. Unfortunately, for some of those who have taken this brisk path to alleged happiness, the results are unsettling.
Yes, some people feel more animated and clearheaded after taking antidepressants, however, others don’t feel the positive effects that they were promised. In fact, they don’t feel anything at all. Take this testimony, for example, that was published in Oprah Magazine in March of 2006:
“I feel emotionally castrated because not only do I not have negative feelings, I barely feel anything at all. I’m an artist who can no longer draw or paint or create. Instead, I sit around and do absolutely nothing.”
— B.J. Cade, 53
Many others have reported memory impairment, dullness, numbness, and other cognitive side effects that have ultimately lead to them feeling “zombie-like.” Other personal testimonies have revealed that when they suggested to their doctor that they were experiencing delayed recall and “brain-zaps” (what feels like a pinched nerve combined with pulsating migraines in your brain after forgetting to take ONE pill), not only were they told that antidepressants do not have these cognitive side effects, but their dose was increased! Technically, the doctor is telling you what they were told, which isn’t much. If, according to government standards, “there’s insufficient data to prove that the drugs cause the symptom,” pharmaceutical companies are not obliged to “report or disclose cognitive side effects.” However, when the FDA requires approval for antidepressants, the studies only last a mere 6-8 weeks long. This time frame simply isn’t always long enough to prove a cause and effect relationship between these drugs and certain cognitive side effects. It wasn’t until the relationship between suicide and antidepressants began to surface that the FDA announced a public health advisory warning that “adults on these drugs should be watched closely for suicidal thinking or behavior.”
It is scary enough that many of us think that taking anti-depressants is our only option after we are told what pharmaceutical companies are obliged to tell us, while also ignoring other “inconclusive” side-effects. For example, it has been released that taking antidepressants for bi-polar disorder may make the disorder worse, and even trigger manic episodes. In addition, bone loss, fractures, and falls all become increased risks for individuals over 65 taking SSRIs. While these side effects differ for each individual, we should address the main issue at hand: many of us aren’t exploring alternative treatments. In addition to “talk therapy” with a mental health provider, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc. here are a few other suggestions to try on your own:
Set Goals for Yourself
Having a daily routine may be comforting, but a humdrum lifestyle does not leave any room for improvement. Start with something you know you can accomplish so you don’t discourage yourself, and work your way up. Change for the better can leave you with a sensation of fulfillment, energy, and purpose. Sometimes we need that extra push to get our lives back on track, especially if we do the pushing.
Change Your Diet
They say “you are what you eat,” so if you are eating junk and other food that isn’t giving you the mental and physical strength you need, you will start to feel the effects. Eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to improve cognitive heath. Replacing your late night ice-cream with an avocado could bring you one step closer to boosting your mental state.
Try will taking a short walk outside every day, (setting goals!), and work up to a holistic exercise program such as yoga. Spending time with nature may increase the health of your mind, body, and soul. “Regular physical activity seems to encourage the brain to rewire itself in positive ways,” according to Ian Cook, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA. You release endorphins when you exercise, which are those natural “feel-good” chemicals in your body.
Regardless of the reason that more people have reserved an extra spot on their nightstand for antidepressants, there a few things that the warning label may not be telling us. If you are searching for advice and alternative treatment to help with depression, consult a doctor such as Dr. Bordenave at Miami Integrative Medicine to assist you. You can do this!
Griffin, R. M. “10 Natural Depression Treatments.” Depression Health Center. WebMD, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/natural-treatments>.
Ramin, Cathryn J. “Valley of the Dulls.” Are Antidepressant Drugs Helpful or Harmful? Oprah.com, Mar. 2006. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. <http://www.oprah.com/health/Are-Antidepressant-Drugs-Helpful-or-Harmful>.
Smith, Melinda, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Damon Ramsey, MD. “What You Need to Know About Medications for Depression.” Antidepressants (Depression Medication). HelpGuide.org, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/medications_depression.htm>.
Wehrwein, Peter. “Astounding Increase in Antidepressant Use by Americans.” Harvard Health Blog RSS. Harvard Health Publications, 20 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2013. <http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624>.
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Every year there seems to be a new superfood that gains so much popularity that only those handcuffed to a fast food restaurant without a smart phone wouldn’t know about it. It’s on the news, the internet, your friends are talking about it, and every health magazine has a spread dedicated to this “it” food. It’s the food that your friends brag about by posting countless Facebook pictures of their hip, new, healthy concoctions – making you want to put down your cheeseburger and GMO infested soft drink. In 2013, it appears as if Chia seeds are generating quite the stir for health enthusiasts everywhere. How does such a food make headlines and impress upon leaders in holistic health? Well, the Chia seed doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to natural benefits across the board.
Chia is extremely rich in Omega-3. In fact, they are one of the “richest plant-based sources,” even above flax seeds and salmon! Within the Chia seeds’ lipid profile, it has an overall omega-3 composition of 60%, which is high in alpha-linolenic acid, ACA. Benefits of omega-3 include reducing high cholesterol and inflammation, while refining cognitive performance. Its anti-inflammatory properties, associated with Chia’s high essential fatty acid content, help improve heart health, lowers the risk for arthritis along with joint pain, and also aids in the prevention of some forms of cancer. Enhancing hair, skin, and nail health is also associated with incorporating omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
“Two tablespoons of Chia seeds contain 18 percent of the DRI for calcium, 35 percent for phosphorus, 24 percent for magnesium and about 50 percent for manganese,” according to healthyeating.sfgate.com. The nutritional makeup of Chia does wonders to your health – maintaining a healthy body weight and issues with hypertension are just a few of the benefits. Calcium and manganese help improve bone health, and phosphorous is essential for tissue growth and repair, as well, as protein syntheses.
3. It’s Gluten and GMO Free – Vegan and Kosher Friendly!
Gluten allergy or on a gluten free diet? No problem, because you will not find gluten in Chia. It is also valuable for vegans, vegetarians, and safe for those who eat Kosher. If you have any of these dietary restrictions, you are in luck. This superfood allows you to gain many of the health and nutrition benefits that could have been lacking in your diet – with no hidden GMOs anywhere to be found.
Chia seeds are loaded with protein, which helps curb cravings and build lean muscle mass. This is definitely an advantage to any vegans or vegetarians out there scrambling to get more protein in their diet!
5. Mental Energy
The high essential fatty acid content found in Chia seeds is excellent for improved cognitive performance, concentration, mood, and overall mental health. It is a great study tool for all of you students out there!
Put down the Red Bull, because Chia was derived from the Mayan word for “strength,” and referred to as the “running food” by ancient Aztecs, for a reason. The Chia seed’s hydrophilic properties and complex carbohydrates (soluble fiber) create a physical barrier between digestive enzymes and carbohydrates in your digestive system. This barrier is a result of a gel that is formed when the soluble fiber in the seed attracts water and expands. This efficient process allows a delay in carbohydrate to sugar conversion, thus resulting in increased metabolic rates and endurance. This process also stabilizes blood sugar, which is essential for diabetic individuals.
7. Weight Loss
The gel forming phenomena that takes place during digestion, along with the Chia seeds’ high protein content, makes you feel fuller faster and for an extended period of time. Satiety is one of the major keys to weight loss, due to its power to decrease calorie intake. The insoluble fiber in Chia seeds helps clear and detoxify the colon by clearing out the “extras”, thus by promoting digestive regularity.
8. Hydration and Electrolyte Balance
In addition, the gel created by Chia ensures maximum hydration and electrolyte retention. Toss the Gatorade because “the seeds absorb and retain 10-12 times their weight in water.”
9. Inexpensive and Organic
This is not a combination you hear very often, but for those on the right path of eating organically, Chia seeds can cost as low as $9 for an entire pound – this amount typically lasts for about 3 weeks. If you want to buy in bulk, Chia lasts 4-5 years, unless it is in its gel form, which gives it a safe 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Chia seeds are also naturally organic. There is no need to treat them with pesticides because insects don’t have much interest in the product.
10. It’s Delicious!
It took a few years after the Chia Pet hit the shelves, and thousands of years after it was a staple food for the Mayans and Aztecs, for the Chia seed to hit the shelves as a well-known health food. The typical American diet lacks, well, standards, to say the least – especially when it comes to incorporating nutrients the natural way. After understanding how Chia seeds can greatly improve your health and wellness, you may never want to change your diet again. The reputation of the Chia seed may withstand the bounds of a yearly fad.
Brown, Genevieve Shaw. “Chia Seeds the ‘It’ Food of 2013.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/eating-chia-seeds/story?id=18296119>.
“Chia Seeds – The Pinnacle Superfood.” Healthy-Eating-Guidelines.net. Healthy-Eating-Guidelines.net, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://www.healthy-eating-guidelines.net/chia-seeds.html>.
Coles, Terri. “Chia Seed Benefits: 10 Reasons To Add Chia To Your Diet.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 03 June 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html>.
Duncan, Lindsey, ND, CN. “Chia: Ancient Super-Seed Secret.” The Dr. Oz Show. HARPO, Inc., 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lindsey-duncan-nd-cn/chia-ancient-super-secret>.
“Five Health Benefits of Chia.” FitDay. Internet Brands, Inc., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/exercises/five-health-benefits-of-chia.html>.
Hathwell, Jen. “Top 10 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds.” SFGate: Healthy Eating. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/top-10-health-benefits-chia-seeds-6962.html>.
Katie. “10 Uses for Chia Seeds.” Wellness Mama. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://wellnessmama.com/4981/10-uses-for-chia-seeds/>.
Mike. “Chia Seed Benefits.” Nutrition Talk. Thrive Foods, 27 July 2009. Web. 10 Sept. 2013. <http://blog.thrivefoods.net/2009/07/chia-seeds-top-10-benefits.html>.
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Check out these statistics on being vegetarian! The numbers may surprise you.
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