Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Happiness 1-2-3! A Safe and Highly Effective Treatment for Depression

Happiness 1-2-3! A Safe and Highly Effective Treatment for Depression
by Jacob Teitelbaum M.D.

By looking at American society today, one would think that there is a massive epidemic of Prozac deficiency. Millions of Americans are complaining of being unhappy and depressed — yet most doctors simply throw a pill at the problem! I prefer to go after the underlying causes, while using natural therapies to support the biochemistry of happiness. When you do this, most depression can be effectively treated — without the loss of libido, weight gain, fatigue, or increased risk of suicide seen with prescription antidepressants.

I'm tired of being depressed and want to be happy! How should I begin?

Let's look at both the physical and psycho-spiritual components — which is a good approach for any illness.

From a psychological perspective, depression usually represents repressed anger which has been turned inward. This is why choosing to allow yourself to be angry or even to sometimes go into a rage can be healthy when you’re depressed — even if the people around you don't like it. You can tell when the anger is healthy because it will feel good. Remember though, that you are choosing to be angry, and what you are angry about is nobody else's fault (so don't beat up others with your anger). When you don't allow guilt to get in the way, notice how your depression decreases and you feel better after a good fit of anger!

My book "Three Steps to Happiness — Healing through Joy" will take you through the three steps that psycho-spiritually will help you to get past depression and leave you feeling great.

These are:
1. Feel all of your feelings without the need to understand or justify them. When they no longer feel good, let go of them. The book will teach you how to do this.

2. Make life a "no-fault" system. This means No Blame, No-Fault, No Guilt, No Judgment, and No Expectations on yourself or anyone else. This means you'll be changing habits of thinking. For example, if you find yourself judging somebody, simply drop the judgment in mid-thought when you notice it. And no judging your self for judging others!

3. Learn to keep your attention on what feels good. We sometimes are given the misconception that keeping attention on problems is more realistic. That is nonsense! Life is like a massive buffet with thousands of options. You can choose to keep your attention on those things that feel good. You'll notice that if a problem truly requires your attention at any given time, it will feel good to focus on it. Otherwise, you're living your life as if you have 200 TV channels to choose from, and you only choose to watch the ones you don't like!

From a physical perspective, depression often reflects faulty biochemistry. Begin by asking yourself this simple question — "do I have many interests?". If the answer is yes, you're probably not depressed but rather have other physical problems causing how you feel. Common causes would include poor sleep, infections, thyroid and other hormonal deficiencies (despite normal blood tests!) and nutritional deficiencies. For more information on treating these areas, see or my book "From Fatigued to Fantastic!".
This is especially important to do if you have a combination of exhaustion, poor sleep, and in many cases widespread achiness. If this is so, you may well have chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia for which effective treatment is now available and not depression. If you do not have many interests, you probably are depressed and the treatments below will be very helpful for you. Fortunately, depression is also very treatable.

What can I do to feel better while I'm going after these underlying problems?

Happiness has its own biochemistry which can be powerfully balanced and enhanced naturally. Overall nutritional support is essential, and I would recommend a good multivitamin powder (my favorite is the Energy Revitalization System). Also begin a walking program. Research has shown that walking briskly each day is as effective as Prozac for depression. Use herbal support if needed to get eight hours of sleep a night as well.

It is also critical that your body has what it needs to make the three key "happiness" neurotransmitters that your body needs. These are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. B vitamins and magnesium are critical for energy production, as well as for producing the hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to your feeling good! The good news is that everything you need to do this can be found in the "Happiness 1-2-3!" supplement. Unlike most natural antidepressants that contain one or two things that help you feel better, this product combines 12 different treatments in optimal levels — to help get you feeling great again! Many of these are each individually as effective as antidepressant medications in head on studies. Let's review these, beginning with the basics.

1. B12 and folate/folic acid seem to be especially important, and I believe that the term RDA may as well stand for Ridiculous Dietary Allowances! You want at least 600 — 1800 mcg of vitamin B12 and 400-1200 micrograms of folic acid a day to be sure that optimal levels are getting into the brain where they are needed. Approximately a third of patients with depression have been found to be deficient in folic acid, and this by itself can cause depression as can B12 deficiency. In addition, these two nutrients together contribute strongly to the production of both serotonin (the "happiness molecule") and a powerful depression fighting nutrient called SAMe. In fact, studies of high-dose folic acid have shown this nutrient by itself to be as effective as antidepressant medications — but much safer and without side effects!

2. The B vitamins riboflavin and niacin are critical for energy production. In fact, these vitamins are key components of the "energy molecules" (like "energy dollars" — wouldn't it be nice to have your own printing press!) NADH and FADH. Depression is a common symptom of niacin and riboflavin deficiency.

3. Vitamin B-6 levels are generally quite low in depressed patients, and this is especially problematic in women taking birth control pills or estrogen — both of which can deplete vitamin B-6 levels. Vitamin B6 is critical in the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Sadly, it is likely that millions of people on Prozac are simply suffering from depression caused by vitamin B-6 deficiency.

4. Magnesium deficiency is the single most important nutritional deficiency in the United States. Where the average Chinese diet contains ~ 650 mg of magnesium a day, because of food processing the average American diet only contains around 250 mg. This contributes to pain, fatigue, and increased risk of heart attacks, depression, and numerous other problems as magnesium is critical in over 300 different reactions in our body. In fact, numerous studies have shown that in areas with higher magnesium levels in the water, heart attack deaths decreased markedly.

5. Prescription antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, and Wellbutrin work by raising levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and Norepinephrine. Unfortunately, because these medications work by poisoning critical pathways in your body, they are rife with side effects. A much safer and more effective way to raise these neurotransmitter levels is to give your body the building blocks it needs to make them. Serotonin is made from 5 Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP), and dopamine and Norepinephrine are made from tyrosine. Numerous double-blind (i.e. "gold standard") studies have shown 5HTP to be as effective as prescription antidepressants but much better tolerated. Another placebo-controlled study has shown tyrosine to also be as effective as antidepressants without side effects. In addition, if 5 HTP is given without tyrosine, it often stops working after a few months. Giving tyrosine along with the 5 HTP results in long-lasting improvement.

6. Most of you have heard of St. John's wort, and 25 double-blind studies with a total of over 1500 patients have shown it to be as effective as prescription antidepressants — without the side effects. In addition to being effective in eliminating depression, it also helped sleep, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

7. Magnolia bark has a long history of use in traditional Chinese formulas that relieve anxiety and depression without leaving you feeling like you've been drugged. Magnolia Extract is rich in two phytochemicals, honokiol which exerts an anti-anxiety effect and magnolol which acts as an anti-depressant. Like many of the other components in the "Happiness 1-2-3" product, Magnolia has the ability to alleviate depression and stress without sedating you. Dozens of animal studies have shown that it is a non-addictive, non-sedating antidepressant — even at low doses.

The good news is that you can now often effectively eliminate depression safely and without the side effects of antidepressants — with the natural blend found in "Happiness 1-2-3!" Because this product is very effective at raising serotonin (and therefore treating depression), if you are taking prescription anti-depressants as well, only take this product if OK'd by your Holistic physician and stop it if you have a persistently elevated pulse rate (a sign of too much serotonin). In my practice, I will use these herbs in full dose along with low dose anti-depressants and lower the dose of the antidepressants 2-3 weeks after beginning the herbs if the person is on a high dose of anti-depressants.

If the person is not yet on anti-depressants or only on low doses, I have them begin with three capsules three times a day (again, unless you are on high-dose antidepressants, in which case I usually give 2-3 capsules twice a day in my practice). Although some effect is seen within 2-3 weeks, the effects continue to powerfully increase over 6 weeks with continued use. Once your depression is under control, the dose can then be lowered, and you can ask your physician about tapering off of your antidepressants (which should not be stopped suddenly, else you may have withdrawal).
With "Happiness 1-2-3!", it's time to say goodbye to Prozac and depression!

Jacob Teitelbaum MD is an expert in Comprehensive Medicine and Medical director of the Annapolis Center for Effective CFS/Fibromyalgia Therapies in Annapolis, Maryland (410-266-6958) and senior author of the landmark study "Effective Treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia — a Placebo-controlled Study". He is also the author of the best-selling book "From Fatigued to Fantastic!" , "Three Steps to Happiness! Healing through Joy", and the recently released "Pain Free 1-2-3- A Proven Program to Get YOU Pain Free!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hazardous Chemicals in Holiday Cosmetics Stink

The holidays are upon us and the scent of cosmetic gift baskets is in the air--especially at Bath & Body Works. The retailer's holiday Sugar & Spice, Glittery Gumdrop and Twisted Peppermint products contain a lot of "fragrance," a mystery ingredient often made from dozens--even hundreds--of individual chemicals that don't appear on ingredient labels and that may be more naughty than nice for your health.

The Skin Deep cosmetic safety database lists fragrance as a cosmetic ingredient to avoid whenever possible. Because of a giant loophole in federal law, companies are not required to list on product labels any of the chemicals in a fragrance mixture. Fragrances can contain neurotoxins, allergens and phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to reproductive problems, testicular cancer and early puberty in girls--which is, in turn, a risk factor for breast cancer.

Fragrance, as your nose knows, is a major ingredient in these Bath & Body Works holiday wares. But it's not the only ingredient we're checking twice: Sodium Laureth Sulfate, a main ingredient in the Sugar & Spice 3-in-1 Body Wash, is often contaminated with a hidden carcinogen called 1,4-Dioxane; and the Glittery Gumdrop lotion contains at least two parabens, chemicals that act like estrogen in the body and have been found in breast cancer tumors.

If young girls are on your holiday shopping list, steer clear of Bath & Body Works' American Girl line, marketed to tweens. The American Girl Truly Me Glistening Shower and Bath Wash warns on its back label: "Excessive use or prolonged exposure may cause irritation to skin and urinary tract." No surprise, then, that this bath wash and American Girl Shimmer roll-on fragrance contain skin irritants, organ sensitizers and suspected carcinogens. Exposure to these chemicals at critical windows of development, like pre-puberty, can be especially harmful.

The 1,500+ Bath & Body Works stores nationwide will be bustling this season with holiday shoppers buying fragrant lotion or soaps. Please tell Bath & Body Works that you don't want to give or receive toxic body products this holiday season »

Click here to buy chemically free products

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Take a Nap

Take a Nap
Sara C. Mednick, PhD

University of California at San Diego f you feel drowsy in the middle of the afternoon, you don't need a cup of coffee -- you need a nap. Even if you regularly get eight hours of sleep at night, studies show that a little well-timed shut-eye during the day increases alertness and reduces stress. It can improve physical stamina -- Lance Armstrong is a napper -- and enhance creativity. Thomas Edison replenished his batteries with a nap. Napping can make you happier. It increases levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps elevate your mood.

Naps can even make you look younger by giving skin cells and other tissues more opportunity to rejuvenate themselves. And oh, yes, napping can improve your sex life. Sexual desire usually wanes when you're tired -- a nap revitalizes you. A recent study of more than 23,000 Greek men and women suggests that naps also may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Napping properly won't interfere with nighttime sleep. Here's how...

A nap can be anything from a five-minute snooze -- the shortest period for which there is scientific evidence of benefits -- to 90 minutes, the time it takes to go through a five-stage sleep cycle. At night when we're asleep, we complete several sets of the cycle. A good nap should last about 20 minutes -- that's long enough to invigorate you but unlikely to take you into deep sleep, from which you are likely to wake up groggy. (If you wake up from a nap feeling sluggish, splash cold water on your face or do a few stretches. Or perhaps this is the time for that reviving cup of java.)

Beginners should try to establish a specific nap time so that their bodies get used to being allowed to shut down during the day. The best time for most people is between 1 pm and 3 pm. We are biologically programmed to rest when the sun is at its highest. Also, our biological rhythms -- which wake us in the morning and help us get to sleep at night -- waver at this time. Our body temperature decreases, as does our activity level and our ability to think clearly. If you can't always find time to sleep during the day -- a situation many of us face -- try a 20-minute nap when you first get home in the evening so that you'll have more energy to start dinner, help the kids with their homework or carry out other family obligations. Be sure to wake from your nap more than three hours before you plan to go to bed at night so your nap won't disturb your nighttime sleep. Those who can't find time to nap on weekdays can luxuriate in 90-minute naps on Saturday or Sunday, or both. But don't count on weekend sleep to make up for all the sleep you missed out on during the week.

If you are retired or work from home, head to your bedroom to nap. If you work a nine-to-five job and have your own office, nap there if your workplace culture permits it. Some workers nap in their cars during lunchtime. Many bus drivers nap between runs on the bench seats at the backs of their buses.

Wherever you decide to nap, make sure you are safe and unlikely to be disturbed. Turn off the ping for incoming E-mail messages and silence your phone's ringer. Make yourself comfortable. Lying down is best. A bed, couch or even the floor on top of a yoga or Pilates mat will do. If you must nap sitting in a chair, use a travel pillow that supports your neck. If you are sitting at a desk, try resting your head on it.

Turn off the light if possible. If not, wear a sleep mask. Darkness is important because it stimulates the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that helps us get to sleep. Use earplugs if you are sleeping in a noisy area or if you are easily disturbed by sound. While sleeping, your body is less efficient in regulating its temperature. Covering yourself with a light blanket will help. If you have an appointment, set a timer so that you can be sure you won't miss it.

Don't lose heart if at first you have trouble drifting off during the day. It may take a few weeks for you to get into the habit. Although our biological clocks prime us to take naps, our go-go-go society has conditioned us against giving in to the urge.

Begin by committing to only five or 10 minutes a day, even if you don't feel sleepy. Just lie down at the same time of the day, breathe deeply and close your eyes.

Stay away from nap blockers...
Smoking. If you smoke, don't take a puff within one hour of trying to get to sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, as are products that help with nicotine withdrawal.

Over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including antidepressants, interfere with the natural sleep rhythm. That interference is likely to either make it more difficult for you to take a nap or make that nap less refreshing. If you have to take a prescription drug, try taking it after your nap if your doctor says it's ok.

Coffee. Avoid drinking coffee within the four to six hours before your nap time and bedtime. And beware of other sources of caffeine, such as tea, chocolate, energy drinks and most sodas.
Alcohol. Though this may help some people fall asleep, it turns into a stimulant while you are sleeping. You wake up before your body is fully rested.

Foods high in saturated fat can cause indigestion that can interfere with napping.

Enjoy a tryptophan snack. It's best to have a light snack about 30 minutes before your nap. Turkey, cheese and nuts contain tryptophan, an amino acid that makes sleep easier. Other dairy products also can be sleep aids. Their calcium helps create melatonin.

Seafood, whole grains, beans, eggs, certain soy products (such as tofu, soy milk and soy nuts) and lean meats also help lull you to sleep.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed Sara C. Mednick, PhD, a faculty member in the department of psychiatry at the medical school at University of California at San Diego. She has conducted napping studies at Harvard University, as well as with the United States Navy, the Veterans Administration Medical Center and private businesses. She is coauthor, with Mark Ehrman, of Take a Nap! Change Your Life (Workman).