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Addressing Stress and Depression

Stress & Depression Stress & Depression

Natural practitioners are taking a personalized approach when it comes to dealing with their patients’ stress and depression.

Everyone has dealt with stress at some point. But according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), seven out of 10 adults in the U.S. say they experience stress or anxiety daily, while one-third have experienced persistent stress or excessive anxiety, or that they have had a panic attack. And seven out of 10 of those adults said that they have trouble sleeping.

Additional research from the American Institute of Stress (AIS) and the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that in 2014, 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, 73 percent say that they regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress, while 48 percent of those surveyed claim that their stress has increased over the past five years. The poll also listed the top seven causes of stress in the U.S. At the top of the list was job pressure, followed by money, health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload and sleep deprivation.

Further, Adam Killpartrick, DC, chief science officer for Vermont-based DaVinci Laboratories noted that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of depression in non-institutionalized people over the age of 12 was 8 percent in any two-week period from 2007-2010. “Statistics about stress are less tenable, as there exist a vast number of causes and symptoms of stress, and it does not have a direct diagnosis,” he explained.

Cheryl Myers, chief of scientific affairs and education for Wisconsin-based EuroPharma Inc., makers of the Terry Naturally and EuroMedica brands, said that while the national stress average does appear to be decreasing over the past seven years, down from 6.2 percent in 2007 to 4.9 percent in 2014 (on a 10-point scale), it is reported that women and young people are experiencing a higher level of stress. “The gap is widening between genders, where women tend to report higher average stress levels than men (5.2 vs. 4.5 in 2014 and 6.3 vs. 6.0 in 2007, respectively),” she said. “Almost one-third of surveyed women reported increases in stress levels in the past year compared to 25 percent of men.”

“Of those ages 18 to 33—the Millennial generation—39 percent say their stress has increased in the past year; 52 percent say stress has kept them awake at night in the past month,” added Kristy L. Anderson, NMD, medical director for Oregon-based Hervert USA. “And more than any other age group, they report being told by a health care provider that they have either depression or an anxiety disorder.”

Because everyone is different, there is no way to pinpoint just one thing that may cause stress and depression, including possible combinations of several biological, psychological and lifestyle factors, according to Dr. Adrian Lopresti, clinical psychologist and researcher at Murdoch University in Australia. “From a biological perspective, genetics can play a part. Disturbances in brain chemicals (known as neurotransmitters) are also believed to be important,” he explained. “Interestingly, from a biological perspective, recent research has also confirmed that stress and depressive problems are also associated with increased inflammation and oxidative stress (excessive damage from free radicals). Lifestyle causes are also very important in mental health. A poor diet, inadequate sleep, lack of exercise and high stress can all trigger or exacerbate anxiety and depressive symptoms. From a psychological perspective, our coping skills, beliefs about ourselves and our environment, and unrealistic expectations are all important in stress and depression.”

Dr. Anderson added that while there can be a number of factors that cause stress, our reliance on technology may be exacerbating the problem. “As our lives get more complicated with technology and rapid-paced stressors, our stress level seems to be increasing,” she said. “When stress turns into chronic stress, then depression can start to set in as our neurotransmitters are depleted, our sleep is interrupted and our nutrient status diminishes. Yes, for some stress levels have risen, but we are more likely to recognize it and start to take measures to reduce our stress and depression. We are now, compared to five to 10 years ago, more likely to seek out ways to reduce stress as we feel stress levels rising.”

Personalized Approach

While many traditional health care practitioners often prescribe medication such as antidepressants immediately, Dr. Lopresti noted that those medications often cause side effects that are undesirable. “The most common treatments for stress and depressive problems included pharmacological medications (e.g., antidepressants) and psychological therapies (e.g, cognitive-behavior therapy),” he said. “While these can be effective for many people, they are far from perfect. Antidepressant medication is also associated with many side effects including weight gain, digestive problems, sexual dysfunction and headaches.”

For some, antidepressants are the best treatment protocol, but exploring other options can be beneficial for a number of patients. Dr. Killpartrick pointed out that sometimes a combination of the two is beneficial for the patient. “As we continue to accurately identify both the symptoms and the causes, we’re able to create products and strategies to support the patient’s needs. And in terms of drug therapy, it doesn’t need to be an either or situation,” he said. “Strategically combining drug and nutritional therapies when appropriate can be exactly what the patient needs in order to be able to function in everyday life.”

Dr. Lopresti agreed, noting that it is important that practitioners look at natural treatments to be used as an adjunct to these therapies. “Our best chance of achieving optimal success in treating depressive and anxiety symptoms is going to occur by combining natural, psychological and possibly pharmaceutical treatments,” he said. “We need to also be careful about falling into the trap of believing that just giving someone a supplement will ‘cure’ their problems. It needs to be multifaceted.”

The two key factors in the treatment protocol are the importance of finding the underlying cause of the imbalance and personalizing each patient’s treatment. According to Dr. Killpartrick, identifying the root cause should be the priority, and is unfortunately often overlooked. For instance, rather than simply recommending St. John’s wort in order to impact serotonin levels, why not dig a little deeper and uncover the root cause? “Because St. John’s wort is not an essential nutrient, the body cannot be deficient in it. Therefore, there has to be another cause for the neuro/endocrine imbalance. Whether it is a nutrient deficiency, inflammatory issue or endocrine imbalance, the underlying issue needs to be identified and addressed,” he said.

Dr. Lopresti explained that ideally, every treatment should be personalized. “This means that the best treatment is one that targets an individual’s unique causes that might be impacting his or her anxiety or depressive symptoms. For example, if someone is eating a poor diet, not exercising and sleeping poorly, then treatment should target these factors.” He continued, noting that in terms of a generalized approach, the most important natural treatments for anxiety and depression include the following:

• Eating a balanced, nutritious diet, e.g., a Mediterranean diet
• Optimizing healthy sleep patterns
• Moderate exercise
• Learning/practicing relaxation skills
• Psychological therapies targeting unhelpful beliefs and coping skills, e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
• Natural supplements

Hervert’s Dr. Anderson agreed, adding that aromatherapy and water therapy may be beneficial. She also stressed the importance of proper nutrition and exercise, such as yoga. “Without the proper nutrients in the body, you cannot make neurotransmitters. Without the proper balance of neurotransmitters in the body, you are likely to over-react to situations and cause undue stress to the body and this can even cause inflammation and cytokines to raise and cause even more damage to blood vessels, tissues and organs long term.” She added that yoga’s movement therapy could help increase blood flow, neurotransmitter state and psyche.

Supplementation

Dietary supplementation is often beneficial in conjunction with eating a balanced diet, exercising and the generalized protocol layed out by Dr. Lopresti. Further, research has shown that certain ingredients may be beneficial for those dealing with stress and anxiety including omega-3 fatty acids, St. John’s wort, curcumin and ashwagandha, among others.

Magnesium

Natural Vitality Calm Cream

Natural Vitality Calm Cream

According to Ken Whitman, president of Texas-based Natural Vitality, low magnesium levels in the body can cause or exacerbate stress. Further, magnesium can be excreted or depleted by alcohol consumption, caffeine, physical exertion and sweating, stress and the use of some prescription drugs (such as proton pump inhibitors). “Magnesium is nature’s anti-stress mineral. It relaxes and is the opposite (and balancing) side of the coin of calcium. While calcium excites nerves, magnesium relaxes them,” he said. “If a person is magnesium deficit (and most people don’t get their minimum daily requirement of magnesium), the nervous system and cells will not completely relax and the result is an experience of stress or contraction in various forms.”

Natural Vitality Anti-Stress Drink

Natural Vitality Anti-Stress Drink

Natural Vitality offers Natural Calm and Natural Calm Plus Calcium. Natural Calm supports natural stress reduction, as well as heart and bone health, better sleep and natural energy production. Natural Vitality uses only organic flavors and organic stevia and is vegan, gluten free, and certified non-GMO (genetically modified organism). The company recently introduced a professional product, Natural Calm Cream for topical application and has received an enthusiastic response from practitioners relating their patients’ positive feedback.

Omega-3s & Curcumin

Chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of health issues, including brain health, and according to EuroPharma’s Myers, controlling chronic inflammation should be a part of any health care routine. “We are just beginning to discover and understand the complicated relationship between inflammation and brain health and well being,” she said. “Chronic inflammation is a key factor in almost every health condition seen in practices today, including stress and depression. If we can reduce inflammation, we can reduce the likelihood of patients’ suffering from debilitating diseases of the body and mind.”

Both omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin have been utilized to help reduce inflammation in the body. Myers noted that while it is well known that omega-3s have cardiovascular benefits and anti-inflammatory properties, few know about the anxiolytic features omega-3 fatty acids may possess. “Most Americans consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. Incorporating more omega-3s may help address the underlying brain inflammation and properly balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio,” she said. EuroPharma offers Vectomega, which is an extract of salmon, naturally bound to phospholipids for superior absorption and stability.

DaVinci EPA 825

DaVinci EPA 825

DaVinci Laboratories’ EPA 825 Super Critical Extracted Fish Oil is the company’s superior quality, omega-3 formula that provides a high yield of EPA. The omega-3 fish oil in this product is from wild-caught anchovies and sardines. The oil undergoes a critical CO2 extraction process without the use of hexane, ethanol or any other solvent for purity, bioavailability, concentration and stability. A chemical compound found in turmeric, curcumin has powerful antioxidant factor and anti-inflammatory effects. EuroPharma’s CuraMed is standardized to 500 mg curcuminoids per capsule, which is what was used in three studies on major depressive disorder (MDD), explained Myers.

DMG & Bacopa

According to Dr. Killpartrick, DMG is an adaptogen that supports physical and mental energy levels by reducing lactic acid build-up during periods of stress. It also supports mental alertness and brain function, he said. “Perhaps most importantly, it functions as an indirect methyl donor, providing useful building units for the biosynthesis of vitamins, hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies and nucleic acids.” DaVinci Laboratories’ flagship product DMG supports mood well. The company also offers a chewable product called Serenity Now for supporting stress management specifically at times of increased stress.*

Bacopa monniera has been used in the ayurvedic system of medicine for centuries. Dr. Killpartrick noted that traditionally, it was used as a brain tonic to enhance memory development, learning and concentration. “The constituents responsible for Bacopa’s cognitive effects are bacosides A and B,” he said. “Bacosides aid in repair of neurons by enhancing kinase activity, neuronal synthesis, and restoration of synaptic activity and nerve impulse transmission. They also have antioxidant activity.”

Relora from DaVinci Laboratories is an advanced natural and patented combination of magnolia, phellodendron and Bacopa monniera extracts to help support normal levels of the cortisol and DHEA hormones produced by the body to promote the management of stress. It works by binding to stress receptors in the nervous system to promote relaxation and feelings of well being while ignoring the receptors associated with sedation.*

Hevert Stress Relief

Hevert Stress Relief

Homeopathy

Dr. Anderson noted that homeopathic medications are her first resource when addressing stress because they are easy to take, are effective immediately and give a focused calm to most patients. “Homeopathy is about regulating the body, allowing the body to oscillate around a homeostatic set point, sometimes referred to as equilibrium, and this allows the body to be free and agile to flex when stress is present and not to be rigid.”

She explained that some key ingredients in the homeopathic products she uses include:

• Ignatia amara: For nervous disorders, emotional discord or upset
• Cimicifuga racemosa: For nervous conditions of excitement and depressive emotional upset
• Platinum metallicum: For hyper excitability, emotional discord
• Zincum valerianicum: For nervous insomnia
• Coffea: For insomnia
• Valeriana officinalis: For insomnia with restlessness; nervous disorders

Hervert USA’s Stress Relief provides temporary relief of minor symptoms of tension and stress without causing dizziness or drowsiness. According to the company, Stress Relief may be used for effective relief of symptoms such as restlessness, mild mood changes, temporary anxiety and occasional sleeplessness.

Support System

When it comes to addressing a patient’s stress, anxiety or depression, it is important that they feel as though they can count on their health care practitioners to help them get through it all. “Overall, practitioners can be available to listen and support their patients. Our patients need someone to listen to them and then support their health goals from the inside out. This means to look at nutrient levels in the body, look at the lifestyle and diet of the patient and meet them where they are at,” concluded Dr. Anderson. “You cannot expect someone to make a radical 180 degree change in their lifestyle overnight. This is the extreme exception, not the rule. Therefore meet your patients where they are at, educate them on how to slowly make lasting lifestyle changes over time and then you will teach them how to fish and not simply feed them for a day.”

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

For More Information:
DaVinci Laboratories, (800) 325-1776, www.davincilabs.com
EuroPharma, Inc., (920) 406-6500, www.europharmausa.com
Hervert USA, www.hervert.com
Natural Vitality, (800) 446-7462, www.naturalvitality.com