Kicking the Anti-Depressant Habit

Anonymous Santa Monica, California

I took anti-depressant drugs for many years to combat depression. While these drugs are magic bullets for some people, they never worked well for me. In addition to loss of libido, I experienced "unexplained" nausea for several years. My Search for a Different Solution Last summer, I noticed a new book, The Brain Chemistry Diet, on the shelves of my local bookstore. I found the writing to be friendly, informative and refreshingly free of clinical jargon. Hopeful of kicking the drug habit, I looked up the author on the Internet and gave him a call. He assured me that I could get off the drugs with proper nutrition and "willpower." Although he suggested doctors in my area (Los Angeles), I decided to go to the source. I made an appointment to see him in Berkeley. After taking a brief history, he ordered blood tests that were aimed at uncovering nutritional imbalances. The results revealed that serotonin was "undetectable," meaning there was virtually none present in my blood and brain. (This finding could explain why SSRI¹s did not work so well for me. It¹s like building a dam across a river that has no water in it.) Tests revealed other deficiencies. Copper and zinc were both low, and slightly out of balance. (Both of these minerals are essential to healthy mood.) Perhaps the other most critical result was very high levels of candida antibodies. I had struggled with candidiasis for five years, yet had not found medical people who knew how to diagnose it and treat it. Some medical doctors, believe it or not, still deny the existence of candida. One doctor had written a book on candida which was on display in his lobby, yet he did not consider testing me. Another holistic doctor treated me for a year and half at a cost of $3000, after which time she announced, "I don¹t know what¹s going on." Treatment plan Dr. Lesser¹s treatment plan was comprehensive yet simple for me to follow. For low serotonin, I take l-trypotophan in the 5 H T P form, 300 mg at bedtime and 100 ­ 200 mg during the day. To enhance serotonin production, I take niacin three times a day, 1000 mg each dose, (The characteristic flush was no longer noticed after my body adjusted.) I also added customized regimen of minerals and B Vitamins, with extra B1, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid. I also take anti-oxidants Vitamin A, C and E in prescribed forms and dosages. (I learned that certain forms of these vitamins are more effective than others.) I exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and limit caffeine intake. Gut reaction For candidiasis, I took Diflucan for two weeks. I learned that Diflucan alone may not be enough to eliminate candidiasis, because the yeast is so resistant and quick to repopulate. My ultimate recovery requires adhering to a strict low carbohydrate diet that completely avoids dairy, white bread, white rice, sugar, honey ­ and just about anything else that was fun to eat. I learned to eat for health -- not for pleasure. To restore bacterial balance my gut, I began taking probiotics. These bacteria repopulate the digestive tract and serve as a line of defense against infection. Following the suggestion of the excellent book The Body Ecology Diet, I drink apple cider vinegar to "fertilize" the new bacteria and neutralize acidity--a favorable climate for yeast. The correct diagnosis and treatment of candidiasis was essential to my recovery. Chronic infection had diminished my body¹s ability to assimilate foods, vitamins and minerals. Only when candida was resolved could my body begin to take in what it needs to re-establish immunity and adequately nourish the brain so that depression can lift. Discontinuing anti-depressants can be tricky It was necessary to make very slight reductions in the anti-depressant dosage and maintain each lower level for at least a week. Even with such a careful weaning, I experienced flu-like symptoms each time I reduced the milligram strength of the SSRI. Down to 10 milligrams of the anti-depressant, I felt I could go completely off without complications. Surprise. The depression returned with great force, accompanied by an infection that evolved into bronchitis. I had been over-confident and needed to retrace my steps and stay at the low dose a little longer. The final stage of weaning may actually be the most difficult, as the drug disappears completely from the brain. Selective information from doctors and drug companies "Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor" is a phrase that flows rather smoothly off the tongue of psychiatrists, however the only thing really selective about these drugs is what the drug companies choose to tell the doctors, and what the doctors therefore tell the patient. Apparently, these drugs disperse into every cell of the body and every part of the brain, which helps explain the diversity of side effects they can cause. Certainly, it would be nice if the drugs actually targeted certain brain regions to the exclusion of the rest of the body, but evidence suggests otherwise. Drug free at last Three months after beginning treatment, my depression has lifted and my energy is noticeably improved. Having listened to traditional psychiatrists and family doctors, I thought I would need to take SSRI¹s for life and learn to live with the side-effects. Once I understood what was missing in my brain and body, it made perfect sense to replace drugs with proper brain nutrition. Orthomolecular medicine is not new. Pioneers began treating serious mental disorders several decades ago. But the quick fixes of pills and prescriptions pushed nutritional medicine into the background and it has had to fight for well deserved attention. Over the next few years, the orthomolecular approach should grow in popularity as patients reject conventional psychiatry and realize the truth about brain nutrition. A final note: Please don¹t try any of this at home. Find a qualified professional who is nutritionally oriented. And don¹t substitute generic psychiatrists. They tend to have delusions regarding nutritional medicine.