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Depression Health Center

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Finding Joy: A Mind-Body-Spirit Guide

A Western psychiatrist draws on Eastern traditions to guide us out of depression.

Blending Western and Eastern Medicine continued...

Buddhism and Ayurvedic medicine "have been used for centuries, and people may find them useful," says Gordon. "There's really no research data on those approaches, but it's obviously something that [Emmons] has found useful in his clinical practice. My sense is that these traditional approaches can help people."

Charles L. Raison, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, is "agnostic about traditional systems like Ayurvedic medicine," he tells WebMD. "But they point the way to something we've really gotten wrong in the West -- that just because our bodies work like machines, we shouldn't be treated as machines."

Step 1: Your Brain's Health

From Western medicine, we have gained great insights into brain chemistry -- the balance of chemicals in the brain that determine, to a great extent, our mood, energy level, even our outlook on life, Emmons writes. An imbalance of these brain chemicals -- serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine -- results in depression.

A "brain-healthy" program involves specific nutrients that will help boost specific brain chemicals, depending on the type of depression you have - anxious depression, agitated depression, or sluggish depression, he explains.

"Many patients who try to eat well, exercise frequently, and live a healthy life remain ignorant of the specific diet and lifestyle choices that might cure their insomnia, lift their mood, soothe their anxiety, and generally ease their depression," he writes.

Emmons' term for Rachel's condition is "anxious depression," which he says indicates that her serotonin levels are low. He identifies two other types of depression: "agitated depression" (high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, with low serotonin levels) and "sluggish depression" (norepinephrine and dopamine levels are low).

To increase her serotonin levels, Rachel needs a diet high in complex carbohydrates -- root vegetables (like sweet potatoes), whole grains, beans, legumes -- plus a little protein with every meal, he says. She should eat several small meals during the day or three meals plus a couple of snacks. She should also eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon.

Emmons advised her to take these supplements: B-6, B-12, folate, omega-3, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium. A multimineral supplement with calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc, and manganese is also important (although most good multivitamins contain these minerals), he says.

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