Modern-day multitasking, whether it involves raising a family, climbing the career ladder, or taking care of aging parents, can feel like overload. When life goes from garden-variety busy to overwhelming, the chronic stress can wear down your body and contribute to more serious conditions such as anxiety and depression. To help prevent -- or treat -- stress and depression, consider these remedies in conjunction with your health-care provider.
The family of eight B vitamins, known as the "stress vitamins," are often the first depleted when we're under pressure. Low levels of vitamin B12, for example, have been linked to depression. "We have reason to think folate levels may also be low in depressed patients," says Dr. Eve Wood, a psychiatrist and clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona's Program in Integrative Medicine. What's more, too little folate may make antidepressants kick in more slowly.
One B-complex vitamin per day.
In addition to its role in reducing joint pain and slowing joint degeneration, SAM-e works as effectively as some antidepressants in treating depression, according to several U.S. studies. Two other trials are under way, one using SAM-e to treat major depression and another to find out if adding SAM-e to an existing antidepressant medication will help boost its effectiveness. "The caveat is that SAM-e can trigger mania in people who have diagnosed or undiagnosed bipolar illness," says Wood. "Also, as with any antidepressant, there are a lot of people who won't necessarily respond to the first drug they try." Buy SAM-e packaged in dark glass bottles or wrapped foil packages, also known as blister packs.
200 to 1,600 mg per day. Start with a low dosage and increase slowly under a doctor's supervision.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A 2006 research review by the American Psychiatric Association on the use of omega-3s for the prevention and treatment of mood disorders, including depression and ADHD, found their use particularly important when used in conjunction with psychiatric medications. "Even if it turns out there's not a significant benefit for depression, there's plenty of evidence that these make a big difference in cardiovascular disease," says Wood. "And we know there's a strong connection between heart disease and clinical depression."
1,000 mg per day.
St. John's Wort
Widely used for the treatment of mild depression, the herb St. John's wort also showed promise in preventing relapse from more severe cases of depression, according to some German research. Always use St. John's wort under your doctor's supervision, and never in combination with other antidepressant medications. And keep in mind that "the extract can also interfere with other medications, such as birth-control pills, and with chemotherapy treatment," says Wood.
900 to 1,500 mg per day.
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