In this webinar I discuss holistic options for anxiety and depression.
Well, welcome everyone. This is Dr. Nik Hedberg, and tonight we’re going to be talking about holistic options for depression and anxiety, a huge topic in the United States today. Millions and millions of Americans on antidepressants and medications for anxiety. And tonight we’re going to talk about some alternative options, some supplementation, some herbal medicine, and some other things to think about if you do suffer from depression and anxiety.
And if you have a question at the end, you can just type it into the question area in the chat window, and I’ll get to those at the end of the presentation. When I’m done this anxiety and depression webinar we’ll open it up for questions, so to speak, and if anyone has any questions or needs to clarify anything, we’ll cover that in detail.
Causes of Anxiety and Depression
So, first, let’s just talk about some of the main causes of depression that we see and anxiety, the first one being chronic inflammation. And this really goes back to really the inflammation disrupting the neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin and dopamine, norepinephrine. And the inflammation can be from anything. It can be from food sensitivities, chronic infections, toxic metals, stress.
Many, many things can create inflammation. Genetics, of course. Different amino acid deficiencies like tryptophan, which is the precursor to serotonin, and L-tyrosine, which is the precursor to dopamine. And a lot of the medications out there are targeting those neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine because they do work. There are other ways, though, to manipulate those neurotransmitters as well.
And then, of course, whenever you’re talking about depression and anxiety, we have to talk about the thyroid, and hypothyroidism can lead to anxiety or depression, and the same thing with hyperthyroidism.
Not exercising enough definitely a contributor, especially to depression. Environmental toxins. Adrenal imbalances, so imbalances of cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline. Gut inflammation. In the book, “The Second Brain” the doctor talks about the intricate connections between the brain and the gut, and if there is inflammation in the gut or dysfunction in the gut, then many times there’s also dysfunction in the brain.
Different nutrient deficiencies—we’ll talk about a few tonight. Gastrointestinal dysfunction—we did a webinar I think a few months ago on how to heal leaky gut syndrome. And if you do have leaky gut or suspect that you do, you’ll probably want to check that webinar out. Food sensitivities—the big ones are really gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. Those are what we call kind of the big five. Those can certainly trigger anxiety, stress.
And then, of course, toxic relationships. If there is someone in your life, a friend or a spouse, family, what have you, that can definitely create depression and anxiety.
Supplements and Herbal Medicines for Anxiety and Depression
So the first one I want to mention is fish oil, and fish oil has a tremendous amount of research behind it not only for depression and enhancing mood but for a variety of things. Fish oil is, of course, mainly omega-3 fatty acids. And most Americans are eating too many omega-6s and omega-9s, so that creates inflammation when you have a deficit of omega-3s, too many 6s and too many 9s, and that can definitely begin to affect the mood.
Now it’s really important that when you supplement with fish oil, you take the naturally occurring triglyceride form. Most of the commercial products out there are the synthetic ethyl ester form, and the ethyl ester form is not as well absorbed, and it’s not as well utilized by the body as the triglyceride form. So that’s a really important point when you’re supplementing with fish oil.
The other thing with the over-the-counter commercial fish oil products is that they can be contaminated sometimes with mercury or other toxins because the supplement industry, especially over the counter, is just not really well regulated, and so there are a lot of products out there that either don’t have what it says on the label or they’re contaminated. So be aware of that.
And the studies are quite variable on the dosage, but about 1 gram a day of fish oil on average is a good place to start. Some of the studies are all the way down in 250 mg a day all the way up to 2 grams a day, but about a gram on average is good. So you don’t want to go overboard. You can actually overdose on omega-3s, and we do see that. Too much of anything is bad, and you may cause imbalances in omega-6 and omega-9.
So fish oil is kind of the first big gun, so to speak, mainly for depression, but it does work quite well to enhance mood.
The second supplement I want to talk about tonight is kava, and kava is mainly used for anxiety. It’s used in Pacific Ocean cultures for relaxation and what they call mild euphoria. Kava is going to act like GABA. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)—that’s a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the nervous system. So people who are GABA deficient tend to be very tense—a lot of muscle tension, a lot of nervous tension. They have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. And kava—it works just like GABA, so it calms everything down. It has sedative-like properties. Very, very popular for anxiety.
But kava . . . over the years, there have been some really bad batches of kava that have resulted in liver damage and liver failure in some individuals, so do not take kava unless it’s prescribed by your doctor from a reputable source. It’s just not worth damaging your liver buying kava that is contaminated and of low quality.
So that’s kava, also known as Piper methysticum, also known as kava-kava, and that can be taken as a tincture, as a drink, a tea, and even in capsules.
The next one is magnesium, and the studies have shown that, for example, in mice when they become deficient in magnesium, they start to exhibit anxiety and anxiety-like behavior. So magnesium is huge for anxiety. And there are also studies on magnesium and depression, so it is important for both depression and anxiety. A very high percentage of the U.S. population is actually deficient in magnesium. Some estimates are upwards of about 90%.
So magnesium’s going to be depleted by a lot of stress, poor diet, too many carbohydrates. And one of the easiest ways to see if you need it or may need it is testing your pH. And if you go on my YouTube channel, I have a whole video on how to test your pH, how to alkalize the body, and things like that. And if you’re acidic, that can indicate that you need magnesium.
So just a general guideline for magnesium supplementation is about 200 to 600 mg a day. Magnesium glycinate is the preferred form of magnesium. Magnesium is involved in 350 enzymatic reactions in the body, so it’s very important. It has a calming effect on the nervous system. It also relaxes smooth muscle, so it’s a great calming agent for almost everything in the body. And usually people notice improvement pretty quickly in their anxiety when they start adding enough magnesium.
The next product I want to talk about is inositol. And inositol—structurally it’s similar to blood glucose. But the interesting thing about inositol, even though it’s similar in structure, is that it actually works extremely well for insulin resistance. It also works well for what’s called PCOS or polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. And inositol—those are going to be its main uses—insulin resistance, PCOS. And then it’s used very, very commonly for anxiety and depression.
And inositol—it works by enhancing communication between cells. And you have to do a high dose, though, if you’re going to be using it for anxiety or depression, upwards of about 14 to 18 grams a day. We use a powder so it’s easy to dose that high. And preferably we have the patient take it on an empty stomach a couple times a day so that it really gets into the system. But inositol is highly effective, and similar to magnesium, you’ll notice improvements relatively quickly with inositol.
Theanine, also known as L-theanine—it’s an amino acid, and it’s mainly found in tea, mainly green tea. And this is one of the most popular products out there for anxiety. And we also use it in some cases when there’s a GABA deficiency and the patient is experiencing insomnia. But theanine promotes relaxation without sedation, and that’s the key point because a lot of products and, you know, even medications for anxiety—they also have like a sedative effect so the patient can’t even really function well while they’re taking the product or the medication.
Theanine is cool because it promotes relaxation, but it doesn’t have any of those side effects where the patient sort of feels like they’re in a daze or they have a very cloudy brain and so it’s very hard for them to complete tasks or concentrate. But theanine—it actually improves attention while reducing stress . . . reduces the perception of stress.
Theanine has been known to take the edge off, and it works relatively quickly, about 20 to 30 minutes after you take it. Most of the products out there are going to have about 200 mg per capsule, and so we just tell people to take it as needed. So some people end up taking just, you know, one a day. Some people take up to three a day, or they just take it as needed. Really not many side effects with L-theanine. I’ve used it myself to take the edge off, so to speak, and it works very, very well, but an excellent, excellent compound for anxiety.
Ashwagandha—this is one of my favorite adrenal adaptogens, also known as Indian ginseng. These adrenal adaptogens have all kinds of excellent properties for the body. And you’ll see on my YouTube channel, I’ve done a number of webinars on herbal medicines for fatigue, and we talk about the adrenal adaptogens.
So ashwagandha—it’s going to enhance the conversion of the inactive form of thyroid hormone to the active form. So that’s going to help . . . very helpful with anxiety and depression. It helps the body deal with stress, and that’s kind of the definition of an adaptogen. It increases strength and stamina. It improves memory. It works as an aphrodisiac for some people. Some people take it before bed to help sleep. It is an antioxidant that enhances immune system function.
But if you are sensitive to nightshades like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, paprika, things like that, you won’t do well with ashwagandha because it is in the nightshade family. About 500 to 2000 mg a day. If we’re using 500-mg capsules, we usually use two capsules twice a day.
The second adrenal adaptogen that works well for anxiety and depression is Rhodiola rosea, also known as the golden root. Many similar properties with ashwagandha. It does enhance your body’s ability to burn sugar. It increases serotonin levels in the brain, so in some cases of depression, the patient has become depleted in the amino acid tryptophan. And the amino acid tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, so tryptophan becomes depleted, and then so does serotonin. And we know that serotonin is an important neurotransmitter for your mood. And when serotonin levels drop, some people do experience depression. So Rhodiola helps increase those levels.
Like ashwagandha, it enhances energy and stamina, and it’s going to balance norepinephrine, so if there’s too much adrenaline, that can create anxiety, but Rhodiola helps to balance either too much adrenaline or too little. It also improves dopamine levels. We talked about tyrosine, the amino acid that is the precursor to dopamine. And dopamine is important for mood. It’s a feel good neurotransmitter. It’s the rewarding feeling that you get when you accomplish things or when you’re recognized for your achievements. That good feeling is the dopamine rush. So Rhodiola helps with that.
It reduces anxiety and improves depression, enhances memory and brain. Also an antioxidant like ashwagandha and also stimulates healing. You need about 200 mg two to three times a day for Rhodiola.
Panax ginseng is what’s known as true ginseng, and this is also an adaptogen, and it’s going to have a lot of the same properties as ashwagandha and Rhodiola. You’ll see many of them kind of overlap. It does improve mood and just sense of overall wellbeing, and it may improve testosterone in men. We know that when men’s testosterone levels drop, they can get depressed or anxious, so it could help in that regard. It also works for erectile dysfunction. About 200 to 400 mg a day of Panax ginseng can be effective.
And another one of my favorite adrenal adaptogens—Eleutherococcus senticosus, also previously known as Siberian ginseng. And it is an antidepressant because it inhibits monoamine oxidase. This is an enzyme in the brain, and it slows down the degradation of monoamine oxidase, and that’s going to have effects on neurotransmitter levels like serotonin, so that’s its antidepressant properties.
Again, you’ll notice a lot of similarities with the other adrenal adaptogens with energy, stamina, blood sugar, brain function, immune system. And the Russian protocol is not really required for anxiety or depression. In fact, that might even be too much. That’s really only reserved for chronic fatigue. But it can be taken safely and effectively in a capsule, about 500 to 1500 mg a day.
Probably the most popular herbal medicine out there for depression is going to be St. John’s wort, also known as Hypericum perforatum. And this was a Cochrane systematic review—it was published in 2008—where they looked at all their research on St. John’s wort versus medication, and they found that St. John’s wort was found to be just as effective as antidepressant medication for mild to moderate depression. As I mentioned, the most popular natural agent out there for depression. St. John’s wort is also antiviral, specifically for the herpes viruses. It can also promote relaxation, so it may help with sleep.
You definitely don’t want to combine St. John’s wort or really any of these with antidepressant medication or medication for anxiety because they can interact with the medications. That should always be discussed with your doctor. St. John’s wort—approximately 900 mg a day. You’ll see a standardized extract on the label. It should be 0.3% hypericin, which is a potent compound found in St. John’s wort. Excellent, excellent herb for depression.
Maca is becoming more and more popular. It’s also known as Peruvian ginseng. Maca has traditionally been used to increase sex drive. But it did find in 2008 in the Journal of Menopause that it was effective for anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women. In 2006, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine—they found that maca was beneficial for depression in everyone who took it.
Maca has other properties like—you’ll see some of these are similar to the adrenal adaptogens—improving memory, stamina, energy. It works well for menopausal symptoms, PMS, and as I mentioned before, very popular for increasing sex drive. About 1500 to 3000 mg a day is a safe and effective dose for maca.
Recapping the Anxiety and Depression Webinar
So we’ve covered quite a number of compounds tonight that can help with anxiety and depression. But the first thing you want to do is identify the underlying cause of the depression or anxiety. So we talked about some of those in the beginning like food sensitivities, your thyroid, your adrenal glands. Is it a stressful work environment? Is it someone in your life that’s triggering the depression and anxiety? All of these things need to be looked at because everything I talked about tonight, they are going to help, but they’re not a long-term solution.
A Duke University study showed that exercise was just as effective as medication for depression. As I mentioned before, do not take any of these if you’re also taking antidepressant medication or medication for anxiety. Always talk to your doctor about trying any of these remedies.
Definitely get your thyroid checked, one of the most overlooked causes of depression. A simple thing you can do at home is to check your basal body temperature, and that’s checking your temperature first thing in the morning for about 5 days. You can do it longer than that. And ideal basal body temperature is about 97.8 degrees. If you come in under that consistently, then that may indicate that the thyroid is low even though your blood work looks normal. So the thyroid should definitely be evaluated in people with anxiety and depression.
Resources and Questions
And then also on this link in my patient resources area, I have some good handouts on how to check your pH and how to begin magnesium supplementation. So I have some guides there that you can download as well.
So if you have any questions, you can go ahead and type them into the question box, and I’ll be happy to answer any of those that you may have, and so we’ll give that a few seconds to cue up. If you need clarification on any of the supplements that we talked about tonight, I’d be happy to answer that. Okay. Again, if you have a question, just type it into the question box, and we’ll let those cue up. Okay. We’ll give it a few more seconds here.
If there are no questions tonight, it must mean I did a pretty good job on the presentation. This video is being recorded, and this will be posted on YouTube and on my website in the blog, so you can always go back and watch this if you need to.
Okay, great. We have a question here. “What are your thoughts on cell phone usage and microwaves?” That’s a really good question. One of my favorite magazines is called Skeptic Magazine. You can find it at, you know, Barnes and Noble, and they’ve covered this quite a bit in their articles. And according to Skeptic Magazine, which tends to take an extremely, you know, hard science-based look at claims, but they do actually get into alternative medicine quite a bit, which is what I like. But according to Skeptic Magazine, it’s not something that we need to worry about. Of course, that is, you know, one source, one opinion. But I will say that they’re right about a lot of the information that’s out there on the Internet is just really bogus information.
I know there are a few good studies out of Sweden on cell phones, but I don’t know if we really know for sure, because we haven’t had cell phones around long enough to really know the long-term effects. So, good question. I wish I had a, you know, 100% concrete answer on that. But to be on the safe side, I do always try and use my speakerphone on my cell phone, I do not own a microwave, so we do try to limit that. But that’s really the best answer I have at this point.
So if you have a question, just go ahead and type it into the chat box. I’ll be happy to answer that. We’ll see if we have any more cue up. And again, this is being recorded . . . if you need to go back and watch it another time or share it with anyone who may benefit.
Okay. Well, I guess that’s all the questions we had for tonight, so thanks everyone for joining us. I hope some of these . . . Okay, we have one last question here coming in. “Are there hormonal links to anxiety, depression in postmenopausal women?” Yes, definitely. And I will be doing a webinar on hormones and menopausal women. Definitely a connection there.
As a woman goes through menopause, her progesterone and her estrogen levels begin to drop. And when progesterone gets very low . . . because progesterone does have a calming effect on the brain and the nervous system, sometimes when progesterone gets really low, a woman can experience anxiety.
Estrogen also begins to drop when going through menopause, and estrogen is really important. It interacts with serotonin. So when estrogen levels drop, serotonin levels may suffer a little bit as well. So, yes, direct connections there with progesterone and estrogen deficiencies.
The other thing is that menopause can really stress out the adrenals because they’re trying to help a little bit, so to speak, because some of the DHEA that is produced by the adrenals is converted into sex hormones. And if a woman’s already under stress, if her adrenals are already out of balance, this can contribute even more to the symptoms of anxiety and depression, insomnia, hot flashes, weight gain, vaginal dryness—all the troublesome symptoms of menopause. So, yes, definitely a connection there.
Okay, if there are any more questions, just go ahead and type into the box. All right. Well, I guess that’s it for tonight. Thank you again for joining me. We do a number of these webinars on a monthly basis. And, again, this will be up on YouTube later in the week and on my blog at drhedberg.com. So I hope everyone has a good night, and thank you for joining me in the anxiety and depression webinar. Take care.