A recent CDC release reports that antidepressant drug use has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. Is depression some kind of epidemic? They also found that a sizable percentage of patients treated with these types of drugs did not actually have a diagnosis of depression. Quite often they were given the drug prescription for off-label use for symptoms of fatigue, job stress, insomnia and other conditions. Presumably the decision to use an antidepressant meant that the condition was not due to a treatable disease, so prescribing drugs to stimulate or suppress neurotransmitters in the brain would ideally provide patients with more relief of symptoms than adverse reactions.
Physicians who are thoroughly trained via board certification and specialized fellowship training in anti-aging and integrated medicine approach the symptoms of depression entirely differently. We take note and advocate learning better coping methods with job, financial, marital, parental and other stressors. We also review dietary factors and look for metabolic imbalances that can affect the major neurotransmitters associated with depression, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Among the many tools we use for reducing and eliminating depression symptoms, besides optimizing diet, detoxifying the intestines and liver, and using specific amino acids and herbs to help regulate imbalanced neurotransmitters, are bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Correctable hormonal causes of depression symptoms include inadequate adrenal regulation (often referred to as “adrenal fatigue”), progesterone deficiency in women, testosterone deficiency in both sexes, and estradiol deficiency. Depression may be associated with suboptimal thyroid status (often a failure to convert the less active thyroid hormone, T4, to the far more active thyroid hormone,T3).
The message of this blog is that all of these hormone deficiencies and metabolic imbalances can be improved with sensible treatment. If any one or a group of these conditions are improved, depression symptoms can abate, often completely and long term. Every month, in anti-aging and integrated medicine practices, patients are successful tapering off drugs they may be on for depression symptoms as their underlying deficiencies and imbalances are progressively corrected.
Results of these treatments can be seen in days to weeks.
Similar approaches are successful for treating fatigue, loss of stamina, insomnia and hundreds of other common complaints. The treatment plans are usually supported by clinical or experimental research augmented by the practitioner’s personal experience (there is no substitute for intuition).
So if an physician advises drug therapy for depression symptoms, think carefully, as there is no better advocate for your welfare than yourself. If the condition is severe and treatment is urgently needed, sometime antidepressants can be essential temporarily. Psychiatrists are best equipped to prescribe drugs in these situations. But if you are like most patients with less serious depression symptoms, you owe it to yourself to seek out medical care that addresses underlying reasons for your mood problems. Anti-aging and integrated medicine physicians have a vast toolbox to manage depression and other mood disorders. Our goal is to provide symptom relief, like drugs, but heal the body and brain at the same time, unlike drugs.
Stephen A. Center, MD
BodyLogicMD of San Diego
Board certified and fellowship trained in Aging and Regenerative Medicine