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Understanding Depression -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Exercise for Depression

Exercise should be a part of any therapy for depression. It improves blood flow to the brain, elevates mood, and relieves stress. Even if used alone, it can often bring favorable results. Studies show that jogging for 30 minutes three times a week can be as effective as psychotherapy in treating depression. Pick an exercise you like and do it daily, if possible. Any exercise is fine; the more energetic and aerobic, the better. The key is getting your heart rate into the right range for your age for 20-30 minutes three to four times a week.

Nutrition and Diet for Depression

Because symptoms of depression can be exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies, a healthy diet is important. Eat a well-balanced diet. Some people have noticed an improvement of depression symptoms when they eliminated wheat, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine from their diets. But this is not proven to treat depression. You can try eliminating those foods one at a time from your diet and note whether your depression improves. It may help to keep a symptom diary. Quitting smoking is also advised.

Alternative Medicine for Depression

As with any alternative or complementary medicine, check with your health care provider before starting it, especially if you are taking other medications or treatments.

Herbal Remedies for Depression

Several studies show that the herb St. John's Wort is as successful at improving symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression as prescription medications, often with fewer side effects. However, other reports show that the herb isn't any better than placebo (or sugar pill) in treating depression. Although it is considered safe, St. John's Wort can be potentially dangerous if taken with other antidepressants (especially SSRIs), including certain medications used for treating HIV, cyclosporine, a drug used in organ transplant patients, or anticoagulant drugs. It can also interfere with the efficacy of oral contraceptives and medications used for heart disease and seizures.

S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e), another herbal remedy, is also said to be useful for depression, although no conclusive medical studies have been done to date.

Although ginkgo biloba is typically used as an "alternative medicine" strategy that might help to improve memory and ease confusion, it has proven in some cases to work better than placebo for the symptoms of depression, and is approved by the German government's Commission E for this purpose.

Whatever herbal remedy you may decide to take to treat a medical condition, it is always best to consult your health care provider first. This is especially true if you are taking prescription medications for the same or other conditions.

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