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    Understanding Depression -- Diagnosis and Treatment

    Other Treatments for Depression continued...

    Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

    VNS is used to treat select cases of severe or recurrent, chronic depression that does not respond to at least two antidepressant trials. This surgical treatment involves the use of a pulse generator implanted under the collar bone that sends out pulses of electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve in an attempt to affect the brain's mood centers. It typically takes at least several months for VNS to begin to show a benefit for treating depression.

    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.

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