Depression is the most frequently searched-for topic at DoctorYourself.com. And no wonder. Those of us that have experienced the depths of clinical depression know just how awful it really is. When you are in the bag, it is hard to think out of the bag. But there is a way out.
Rather than give a synthetic drug to block or mimic the body's chemical nerve messengers (neurotransmitters), it is possible nutritionally to encourage the body to make its own natural ones.
If we are what we eat, then our nerves also depend on what they are fed. Here is tremendous potential for the alleviation of depression and related disorders.
MAKE YOUR OWN
L-phenylalanine (from protein foods) -> L-tyrosine (made in the liver) -> dopa -> dopamine -> norepinephrine -> epinephrine
This process looks complex but actually is readily accomplished, particularly if the body has plenty of vitamin C. Since one's dietary supply of the first ingredient, L-phenylalanine, is usually adequate, it is more likely to be a shortage of vitamin C that limits production of norepinephrine. Physicians giving large doses of vitamin C have had striking success in reversing depression. It is a remarkably safe and inexpensive approach to try.
MAKE YOUR OWN
Your body will make its own acetylcholine from choline. Choline is available in the diet as phosphatidyl choline, found in lecithin.
Lecithin is found in egg yolks and most soy products. Three tablespoons daily of soya lecithin granules provide about five grams (5,000 milligrams) of phosphatidyl choline. Long-term use of this amount is favorably mentioned in The Lancet, February 9, 1980. Lecithin supplementation has no known harmful effects whatsoever. In fact, your brain by dry weight is almost one-third lecithin! How far can we go with this idea of simply feeding the brain what it is made up of? In Geriatrics, July 1979, lecithin is considered as a therapy to combat memory loss. Studies at MIT show increases in both choline and acetylcholine in the brains of animals after just one lecithin meal! Supplemental choline has even shown promise in treating Alzheimer's Disease. (Today's Living, February, 1982)
Lecithin is good for you. How good? Each tablespoon (7.5 grams) of lecithin granules contains about 1700 mg of phosphatidyl choline, 1000 mg of phosphatidyl inositol, and about 2,200 mg of essential fatty acids as linoleic acid. It also contains the valuable fish-oil-like, omega-3 linolenic acid. It is the rule, not the exception, for one or more of these valuable substances to be undersupplied by our daily diet.
Lecithin tastes crummy. How crummy? Well, the lecithin that is available in capsules is the most popular. These are sold at health food stores and are admittedly convenient, but are also expensive. In order to get even one tablespoon of lecithin, you would have to take eight to twelve capsules! Since a normal supplemental dose is three or more tablespoons daily, that's a lot of capsules to swallow. Much less costly is liquid lecithin. A taste for liquid lecithin has to be acquired, shall we say. It is easier to take if you first coat the spoon with milk or molasses. After taking liquid lecithin, it is wise to have a "chaser" of any dairy product or, again, molasses. Beef and sheep brains are also an excellent source of lecithin, but don't expect me to recommend them.
Probably the best way to get a lot of lecithin easily is to take lecithin GRANULES. Stir the granules quickly into juice or milk. They won't dissolve, but rather will drift about as you drink. Lecithin granules can also be used as a topping on any cold food. Ice cream comes to mind. Also, they are not bad if stirred into yogurt. If you put lecithin granules on hot food, they will melt and you will then have liquid lecithin.
If that "brains" comment a while back is still bothering you, please bear in mind that all supplemental forms of lecithin are made from soy beans. An alternate non-soy source is egg yolk. Generally, maximum benefit is obtained when you eat the yolk lightly cooked (such as in a soft-boiled egg).
By the way, the correct pronunciation of LECITHIN is "LESS-A-THIN. This is easy to remember because you are probably less-a-thin than you used-to-a-be.
MAKE YOUR OWN
Plenty of carbohydrates in your meals helps tryptophan get to where it does the most good: your brain. In order to cross the blood-brain barrier and get in, carbs are required. So cheese and crackers provides a better effect than the cheese standing alone. Cover your ears, animal friends, for I am also about to condone eating the occasional dead bird. Poultry, especially the dark meat, is a rich (yet very cheap) source of tryptophan. Add potatoes or stuffing, and you have the reason everybody is sprawled out and snoring up a storm after a typical Thanksgiving food orgy. But to be able to look your parakeet in the eye after the fourth Thursday in November, you can stay vegetarian and still get tanked up on tryptophan.
Consider that five servings of beans, a few portions of cheese or peanut butter, or several handfuls of cashews provide 1,000–2,000 mg of tryptophan, which will work as well as prescription antidepressants—but don't tell the drug companies. Some skeptics think that the pharmaceutical people already know, and that is why the FDA is less than enthusiastic about tryptophan supplements. Here are two quotes in evidence:
"Pay careful attention to what is happening with dietary supplements in the legislative arena. . . . If these efforts are successful, there could be created a class of products to compete with approved drugs. The establishment of a separate regulatory category for supplements could undercut exclusivity rights enjoyed by the holders of approved drug applications."
(FDA Deputy Commissioner for Policy David Adams, at the Drug Information Association Annual Meeting, July 12, 1993)
"The task force considered many issues in its deliberations including to ensure that the existence of dietary supplements on the market does not act as a disincentive for drug development."
(FDA Dietary Task Force Report, released June 15, 1993)
Tryptophan is one of the ten essential amino acids you need to stay alive. It is by law added to liquid feedings for the elderly and all infant formulas. This says a great deal about its safety, as well as its importance.
And, tryptophan is really quite easy to get from the good foods listed below.
So go, eat, and be happy!
Foods High in the Amino Acid L-Tryptophan
(In milligrams per 100-gram (3.5 ounce) portion, about the size of a deck of playing cards. That is not a large serving, and in a single meal you might easily double or triple the figures listed here.)
Nuts and Seeds
Tahini (ground sesame seeds) 575
Sunflower seeds 340
Other nuts generally provide at least 130 mg per small serving; usually more.
Other cheeses tend to be lower in tryptophan, but are still very good sources.
(Note how vegetarian sources are as good as, and often much better than, flesh sources.)
Brewer's Yeast 700
(Source: USDA, Amino Acid Content of Foods)
Meats are generally regarded as a good source of tryptophan, organ meats supposedly being the highest. However, most meats are in the range of 160–260 mg/100 g, with organ meats ranging between 220 and 330. These figures certainly do not compel meat eating. They compel split pea, cheese, and cashew eating!
VITAMIN B-6 AS AN ANTIDEPRESSANT
Ample amounts of B-complex vitamins, especially B-6 (pyridoxine) must be present for for your body's normal, depression-fighting chemical reactions to occur. B-6 deficiency is very common in Americans, and that "deficiency" is measured against an already ridiculously low US RDA of only two milligrams. The amount of B-6 needed for clinical effectiveness in, say, rabbits is the human dose equivalent of 75 mg daily. That is over 35 times more than the RDA!
Really enormous doses of B-6 taken alone have produced temporary neurological side effects. It usually takes between 2,000 and 5,000 mg daily for symptoms of numbness or tingling in the extremities. Some side effects have been reported as low as 500 mg daily, but these are very rare indeed. Therapeutic doses between 100 and 500 milligrams daily are commonly prescribed by physicians for PMS relief. A daily total of a few hundred milligrams of individual B-6, especially if taken in addition to the entire B-complex to ensure balance, is very safe indeed.
Copyright 2007 and previous years Andrew W. Saul.
Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )
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