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  • Dear Pharmacist,

    I’ve been fighting low- to mid-level depression for years and at the same time trying to avoid becoming dependent on anti-depressant medication. I’ve tried St. John’s wort, and it didn’t help me. Can you recommend another alternative treatment?

    --D.C. Gainesville, Florida

    Answer: Actually, yes. The herb rhodiola (Rodiolia rosea) has been safely used for centuries in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia to help people deal with stress and bounce back from debilitating illness. Many herbs have come under the scrutiny of modern science, but researchers are definitely able to validate rhodiola’s traditional uses… and then some. Rhodiola can relieve stress, lift depression and improve attitude. NFL fans, take solace, rhodiola could help you deal with the lock-out!

    Rhodiola is a plant that thrives in Siberia and withstands the harshest growing conditions on the planet, so it has to be tough. Remarkably, it can help you withstand ‘harsh’ conditions too, meaning stress! Natives in Siberia and other countries along the Arctic Circle have traditionally reached for rhodiola whenever faced with dauntingly stressful challenges, both physical or mental.

    In a 2007 study published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, researchers gave rhodiola extract to a group people with clinical depression -the kind that requires medical care and constant follow-up. Of the 89 study participants, only the groups which received rhodiola supplements (two different dosages) experienced “a significant anti-depressive effect” over a period of six weeks as compared to the group who were given dud pills. Physical symptoms related to depression improved, such as insomnia, emotional stability and feelings of self-esteem.

    It’s just amazing that not one single study participant reported any negative side effects from taking the herb. Did you hear that? ZERO side effects! Mind you, all prescribed anti-depressants currently available come with a whole gamut of potentially devastating side effects, everything from sexual dysfunction to brain fog.

    Rhodiola enhances levels of key brain chemicals such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. There is research to support it’s benefit on the heart, specifically certain cardiac arrhythmias. You can ask your cardiologist if he/she minds you trying this supplement.

    Rhodiola appears to enhance performance of cosmonauts and athletes. And in a Moscow study, scientists gave rhodiola to military cadets who face mentally and physically demanding work, 24/7. The cadets receiving rhodiola performed better on a variety of tasks and experienced much less mental and physical fatigue than those who took the placebo. And get this, I found another study about students taking rhodiola before their exams! It’s a smart pill. The students all had slightly higher scores. Hmm... sounds to me like this could be a good herb to take right before a college-entry exam or a big job interview! Keep in mind, it may take a few weeks for optimal effects.

    Did You Know?

    Pomegranate juice helps your heart by keeping “nitric oxide” around longer, that’s a good thing.

  • Depression is becoming increasingly common, but often goes away with natural therapies. Although how we feel has a lot to do with psychological issues, it can also be dramatically affected by our biochemistry. The same applies to bipolar, obsessive-compulsive and other disorders that are classified as being psychological. Although doing one’s “psycho-spiritual” work is important in treating any illness, you will be amazed at how much better you can feel when you optimize your biochemistry — naturally! This article will teach you how.

    By looking at American society today, one would think 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!

    There are 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.
    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 changing your 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 yourself 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. 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 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. Let’s start with the basics:

    • Overall nutritional support is essential, and I would recommend a good multivitamin powder (my favorite is the Energy Revitalization System).
    • Begin a walking program. Research has shown that walking briskly each day is as effective as Prozac for depression.
    • Get more sunshine (maybe while you are walking). Inadequate sunlight is a common cause of depression (called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD), which should be considered if your depression is worse in the winter.
    • Use herbal support if needed to get eight hours of sleep a night as well.

    These simple steps are very healthy in general, and will usually help improve how you feel considerably.

    Take fish oil. Fish oil has been shown in numerous studies to be very helpful in depression and many other psychological problems. Most of your brain is actually made of DHA (docohexaenoic acid), one of the two key components of fish oil. In fact, taking fish oil during pregnancy markedly decreases the risk of post partum depression. Fish is called “brain food” for a good reason. If you have depression or other psychological problems, try eating 3+ servings of salmon, tuna or herring each week, and/or take fish oil. Be sure the oil is toxin and mercury free, and not rancid. I recommend Eskimo 3 or Nordic Naturals brands. Take one teaspoon or three (1000 mg) capsules 3 times day for six weeks and then you can lower it to once a day.

    Optimize thyroid function. Natural Armour thyroid (or compounded T3), thyroid hormone (by prescription) has been shown to be very helpful in treating depression in two separate studies — even when thyroid blood tests were normal! Taking the thyroid hormone helped even when Prozac failed. Interestingly, only the forms of thyroid mentioned above (i.e. which contain T3 thyroid hormone) helped. The T4 thyroid hormone found in Synthroid (and most thyroid prescriptions used by non-holistic physicians) was NOT effective.

    Be sure to treat other hormonal disorders as well. Suboptimal testosterone and estrogen levels can frequently cause depression and are easily treated by holistic physicians. Excellent ones can be found at, where I have trained the physicians, or at These hormonal deficiencies often need treatment even if the tests are low normal.

    Happiness 1-2-3! A natural way to enhance your mood! It is also critical that your body has what it takes 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 many neurotransmitter enhancers 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 what’s in “Happiness 1-2-3!” beginning with the basics:

    B12 and folate/folic acid seem to be especially important, and I believe 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 optimal levels are getting into the brain where they are needed.

    Approximately one 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.

    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.

    Vitamin B6 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 B6 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 B6 deficiency.

    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.

    Prescription antidepressantslike 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 five Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and dopamine and norepinephrine are made from tyrosine. Numerous double-blind (i.e. “gold standard”) studies have shown 5-HTP 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.

    I would note one caution though. If taken with serotonin-raising antidepressants and medications, 5-HTP and St. John’s Wort can raise serotonin too high. This would reflect as a high pulse and sometimes anxiety.

    If you have a rapid pulse for no reason, ask your holistic practitioner to lower the dose of serotonin and epinephrine-raising medications (even if not on the herbal) and stop the herbal and see if it resolves. This side effect is much more commonly caused by combining medications than by theherbals — another good reason that your holistic practitioner opts for these natural therapies.

    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.

    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 antidepressant. Magnolia has the ability to alleviate depression and stress without sedating you. Dozens of animal studies have shown it is a non- addictive, non-sedating antidepressant — even at low doses.

    The good news is you can now effectively eliminate depression without the side effects of antidepressants — naturally! The “Happiness 1-2-3” product, which contains everything discussed above, is available from Health Freedom Nutrition or Begin with three capsules three times a day (unless you are also on antidepressants, in which case I usually only give two to three capsules twice a day in my practice). Although some effect is seen within two to three weeks, the effects continue to powerfully increase over six 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 or you can go through withdrawal). With “Happiness 1-2-3” and a natural treatment approach, it’s time to say goodbye to Prozac and depression.

    Important points: To help eliminate depression naturally:

    1. Optimize nutrition with the “Energy Revitalization System” vitamin powder and B Complex (1/2 – 1 scoop a day as feels best).
    2. Go for a 45 or more minute walk (outside so you also get sunshine) daily.
    3. Optimize thyroid (using T3 thyroid hormone) and estrogen and testosterone levels using bio-identical hormones.
    4. Fish oil (Eskimo 3 or Nordic Naturals) three caps or one teaspoon 3x day for six weeks then once a day, or eat salmon or tuna 3+ times per week. Fish oil is very helpful for depression.
    5. Take Happiness 1-2-3! Use only two caps two to three times a day if on antidepressant medications. Otherwise, three caps 3x day for six weeks. Then you can lower the dose when the depression lifts.
    6. Check a DEXA scan for osteoporosis, as osteoporosis is more common in depression. Osteoporosis is fairly easy to treat naturally though.
    7. Give these treatments six weeks to begin working.

  • Depression now affects one in ten adults in the U.S. and is projected to be the second leading cause of disability in the world by the year 2020. Depression is also one of the leading causes of workplace healthcare expense, costing employers and employees billions of dollars in medical costs, absenteeism, and presenteeism. Attempts to find a medication to treat depression have been going on for over 50 years with surprisingly poor results. Some evidence indicates that response rates to the top medications are often as low as 17 percent and about 63 percent of patients experience side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, sexual dysfunction and thoughts of suicide.

    In 2013 there was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing curcumin to Prozac and curcumin was just as effective, but without the potentially harmful side effects. Over time most prescription medications lose their effectiveness while producing ever-increasing negative side effects. Curcumin, on the other hand, has increasingly beneficial side effects including improved attentiveness, better sleep, emotions and learning. It accomplishes this through the increase of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine as well as the reduction of inflammation in the brain.

    It should be noted that the curcumin used in the above mentioned study was a special form of curcumin called BCM-95. The form is seven times more bioavailable than any other form of curcumin.

    There are some even more significant positive side effects or benefits to taking curcumin beyond its ability to improve brain function. Curcumin also suppresses the growth of inflammatory cells in our joints, thus helping to prevent and even reverse many cases of osteoarthritis. By preventing the breakdown of joint-lining cartilage curcumin has even been shown to provide significant relief for people with rheumatoid arthritis, a genetic and more difficult to treat disease.

    And finally, curcumin may very well be one of the leading natural methods for the prevention and the treatment of cancer. Scientific evidence has shown the ability of curcumin to help in the following types of cancer: breast; uterine; cervical; prostate; brain; lung; throat; bladder; pancreas and gastrointestinal. Curcumin actually has been shown to intervene and disrupt cancer at virtually every stage of its development. It achieves this primarily through the suppression of inflammation, which is one of the major contributors to most forms of cancer. By preventing the proliferation, migration and thus the very survival of cancer, curcumin helps the body's natural defense mechanisms, as well as the conventional and the natural treatments that have been proven to kill cancer cells. This natural compound derived from the spice turmeric deserves serious consideration for the treatment of depression as well as the other chronic diseases mentioned here.

  • Depression is an increasingly common issue in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control in 2010 estimated that 11.1 percent of the American population suffers from significant depression — a whopping 35 million individuals — and this figure seems to be steadily rising. Prescribed mood modifiers are everywhere, starting as early as elementary school and continuing on into old age. How successful are these pharmacologic approaches? Not very. Optimistic estimates maintain that such interventions are reasonably successful in only one half of those treated. Less optimistic observers note that in those currently taking an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant drugs such as Prozac, despite a host of side effects, most do not attain relief. Nearly two-thirds of elderly patients treated for depression fail to achieve symptomatic remission and functional recovery with first-line pharmacotherapy; they obtain better results with, for instance, tai chi.1 For major depressive disorder, a condition for which one would think that pharmacological treatments would win out over nonpharmacological therapy, it turns out that nonpharmacological therapy not only is just as effective, but also involves far fewer adverse events.2,3

    The causes of depression and mood disorders remain an area of controversy. Human beings are prepared to react to vastly varied environmental factors. Not surprisingly, many biological and psychological factors cut in more than one direction. Metabolic factors (inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress) are not necessarily one-direction in terms of causation, for example, with regard to emotional and physical stress and the resulting stress hormones (glucocorticoids). Sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen), likewise, both influence and are influenced by emotional and physical factors.

    Is Inflammation the Central Issue?
    The concept of inflammation in the last few years has been stretched to cover more and more forms of illness and dysfunction. One reason is that inflammation is actually a set of responses that occur naturally all the time, yet each of which can itself escape proper regulation. You get a sense of this from the article on inflammation available online from Wikipedia: “Inflammation is a protective response that involves immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.” Inflammation thus involves both destruction and repair.

    A number of researchers are looking into the issue of neuroinflammation outside of the traditional medical areas of concern, such as stroke. For instance, psychological stress has been demonstrated to increase neuroinflammation in animal models.4 Similarly, there is evidence to support the position that links chronic depression to chronic brain inflammation and acute depression to stress-triggered neuronal microdamage.5 Another line of argument is that the “metabolic syndrome and its individual components induce a proinflammatory state that damages blood vessels. This condition of chronic inflammation may damage the vasculature of the brain or be directly neurotoxic.”6

    Countering Depression without Drugs
    Inflammation and the metabolic syndrome are closely linked in physiology and biochemistry. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that studies on obesity, diet and exercise habits often turn up implications for preventing and treating depression. For example, a large study of 15,093 people published in 2015 indicated that depression could be linked with nutrient deficits. The best results were found with two essentially Mediterranean-style diets. These diets overlapped in terms of foods such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and moderate alcohol intake. Another finding was that there apparently is a threshold effect, meaning that a certain level of protective foods needed to be in the diet, but that benefits in terms of reduced risk of depression plateaued after this threshold was passed.7

    It is difficult to find many nutrients that can be given as dietary supplements that cross the blood-brain barrier. Many of the nutrients that are of use are from berries. Pterostilbene, but not resveratrol, is a potent neuromodulator in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.8 “Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, grape and plum juices or extracts have been successfully tested in cognitively impaired rodents. Published trials of the benefits of grape and blueberry juice in the treatment of small numbers of cognitively impaired persons have recently appeared.”9 Another potentially useful item in this regard is the Chinese herb known as blue dogbane, Apocynum venetum. This interesting item, virtually unknown outside of Asia, exerts proven anti-depressant effects, in part, via brain monoamine levels and the dopaminergic system. The latter, again, is influenced by pterostilbene, but not resveratrol.10 Of importance regarding the impact of Apocynum venetum on inflammation is its high content of the potent antioxidant / anti-inflammatory, isoquercitrin.11

    A complementary option to the foregoing nutrients is to reduce the impact of stress. Phosphatidylserine (PS) supports the brain’s physiological processing of stress and promotes neuronal communication by its effect on cell membrane fluidity. It is a natural phospholipid that is an essential component of cell membranes. PS promotes brain function by increasing neuronal membrane fluidity (cell-to-cell communication), resulting in improved cognition. Also, PS protects against stress by mitigating the actions of cortisol (catabolic stress hormone.) Human research routinely demonstrates these benefits and suggests the usefulness of a combination with DHA, e.g., “The results demonstrate that consumption of 100 mg/day of PS-DHA might be associated with improving or maintaining cognitive status in elderly subjects with memory complaints.”12

    Finally, there is the issue of the relation between Alzheimer’s and sugar consumption. In old age, there tends to be an increasingly significant association between forms of cognitive impairment and depression. Some believe there’s a connection between sugar intake and Alzheimer’s disease. There are a number of theories as to why this might be. One argument is that increased consumption of simple carbohydrates leads to blood brain barrier degradation and subsequently to damage to the hippocampus.13 A related argument is that increased consumption of simple carbohydrates leads to elevations of specific advanced glycation end products (AGEs), especially the neurotoxic methyl-glyoxal derivatives (MG). High levels of AGEs also are correlated with reduced insulin sensitivity in older human adults. These factors promote chronic oxidant stress and inflammation in the brain.14


    1. Lavretsky H, Alstein LL, Olmstead RE, Ercoli LM, Riparetti-Brown M, Cyr NS, Irwin MR. Complementary use of tai chi chih augments escitalopram treatment of geriatric depression: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Oct;19(10):839–50.
    2. Gartlehner G, Gaynes BN, Amick HR, Asher G, Morgan LC, Coker- Schwimmer E, Forneris C, Boland E, Lux LJ, Gaylord S, Bann C, Pierl CB, Lohr KN. Nonpharmacological Versus Pharmacological Treatments for Adult Patients With Major Depressive Disorder [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2015 Dec.
    3. Gartlehner G, Gaynes BN, Amick HR, Asher GN, Morgan LC, Coker- Schwimmer E, Forneris C, Boland E, Lux LJ, Gaylord S, Bann C, Pierl CB, Lohr KN. Comparative Benefits and Harms of Antidepressants, Psychological, Complementary, and Exercise Treatments for Major Depression: An Evidence Report for a Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Feb 9. [Epub ahead of print]
    4. Barnum CJ, Pace TW, Hu F, Neigh GN, Tansey MG. Psychological stress in adolescent and adult mice increases neuroinflammation and attenuates the response to LPS challenge. J Neuroinflammation. 2012 Jan 16;9:9.
    5. Wager-Smith K, Markou A. Depression: a repair response to stress-induced neuronal microdamage that can grade into a chronic neuroinflammatory condition? Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Jan;35(3):742–64.
    6. Cherniack EP. A berry thought-provoking idea: the potential role of plant polyphenols in the treatment of age-related cognitive disorders. Br J Nutr. 2012 Sep;108(5):794–800.
    7. Sánchez-Villegas A, Henríquez-Sánchez P, Ruiz-Canela M, Lahortiga F, Molero P, Toledo E, Martínez-González MA. A longitudinal analysis of diet quality scores and the risk of incident depression in the SUN Project. BMC Med. 2015 Sep 17;13:197.
    8. Chang J, Rimando A, Pallas M, Camins A, Porquet D, Reeves J, Shukitt- Hale B, Smith MA, Joseph JA, Casadesus G. Low-dose pterostilbene, but not resveratrol, is a potent neuromodulator in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Sep;33(9):2062–71.
    9. Cherniack EP. A berry thought-provoking idea: the potential role of plant polyphenols in the treatment of age-related cognitive disorders. Br J Nutr. 2012 Sep;108(5):794–800.
    10. Zheng M, Fan Y, Shi D, Liu C. Antidepressant-like effect of flavonoids extracted from Apocynum venetum leaves on brain monoamine levels and dopaminergic system. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 May 2;147(1):108–13.
    11. Butterweck V, Nishibe S, Sasaki T, Uchida M. Antidepressant effects of apocynum venetum leaves in a forced swimming test. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001 Jul;24(7):848–51.
    12. Vakhapova V, Cohen T, Richter Y, Herzog Y, Kam Y, Korczyn AD. Phosphatidylserine containing omega-3 Fatty acids may improve memory abilities in nondemented elderly individuals with memory complaints: results from an open-label extension study. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014;38(1–2):39–45.
    13. Hsu TM, Kanoski SE. Blood-brain barrier disruption: mechanistic links between Western diet consumption and dementia. Front Aging Neurosci. 2014 May 9;6:88.
    14. Cai W, Uribarri J, Zhu L, Chen X, Swamy S, Zhao Z, Grosjean F, Simonaro C, Kuchel GA, Schnaider-Beeri M, Woodward M, Striker GE, Vlassara H. Oral glycotoxins are a modifiable cause of dementia and the metabolic syndrome in mice and humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Apr 1;111(13):4940–5.
  • Whenever a woman is considering some form of contraception, her doctor will immediately offer her a smorgasbord of options. Of course, the Birth Control Pill made with a combination of estrogen and progestins will usually be the first recommendation. But, she could also choose an implant called Nexplanon®, a tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick that is surgically implanted under the skin of the upper arm, releasing progestin for up to four years. Or, perhaps, she would prefer the NuvaRing®, a small, flexible ring containing estrogen and progestin inserted into the vagina and removed after three weeks and a new ring inserted one week later.

    The choices keep coming. There is always the Depo shot (AKA Depo-Provera), an injection of progestin that prevents ovulation for up to three months. For women who prefer something other than the Pill or inserted devices, there is the Xulane® Patch (which replaced the Ortho Evra birth control patch now only available in Europe and Canada). The transdermal patch sticks to the body and releases synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones directly through the skin. It works mainly by preventing the release of an egg (ovulation) during your menstrual cycle. A new patch is used each week for three weeks and a week with no patch (during your period).

    A Little Secret About All Hormonal Contraceptives
    The two main ingredients in hormonal contraceptives are either a combination of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone) or progestin-only contraceptives. There are well-noted "minor" side-effects experienced by many women that include breast tenderness, weight gain, skin and acne issues, hair loss, increased facial hair growth, nausea, nutrient depletion, mood swings, vaginitis, varicose veins and decreased libido.

    Major mood changes including depression, anxiety, irritation, and angry outbursts are commonly experienced. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that women using hormonal contraception faced a 23 percent greater incidence of developing depression and greater use of antidepressants than women who did not use the drugs. Among teens using these contraceptives, that rate nearly doubled.

    However, there are even more serious problems. The hormonal combinations increase the risk of blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, migraines, high blood pressure, gall bladder disease, benign liver tumors, decreased bone density, infertility and yeast overgrowth. They alter the vaginal environment making it more hospitable to sexually transmitted diseases. Birth control pills adversely affect the beneficial microbiome in the intestines, which means a women is more susceptible to yeast overgrowth, has lower immunity and more frequent infections.

    Using hormonal contraceptives is playing Russian roulette with your health. These hormone combinations increase the levels of clotting factors and are responsible for a three-to four-fold increase in the incidence of blood clots. The FDA warns that the patch version poses an even greater risk because the level of estrogen absorbed from the patch is 60 percent more than the amount delivered by the pills. A blood clot can occur in a leg (deep vein thrombosis) or in the lung (pulmonary embolism) and can lead to death.

    The most alarming, yet least known, problem is the fact that estrogen and progestin can cause cancer. Both the World Health Organization's cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Toxicology Program have listed estrogens and progestins as known human carcinogens. What this means is that taking any of the hormonal contraceptive choices will increase the risk of developing breast, cervical, uterine, ovarian, or liver cancers. And, the younger the age of a woman when she begins using them, the greater her lifetime risk.

    Modern women are caught in a terrible dilemma. While they want to control their fertility, they don't want to have to gamble with their health.

    Smart Women's Choice Vaginal Gel—A Revolution In Totally Effective, Totally Safe Contraceptives.

    There is really good news for women! Thanks to the passion and dedication of one woman to save women's lives, there is now an alternative to the dangerous hormonal contraceptives: Smart Women's Choice. SWC is a vaginal gel that contains no hormones and no spermicides; it is proven 100 percent effective, completely safe and causes no harmful side effects whatsoever.

    Smart Women's choice Natural Contraceptive and birth control cream

    Françoise Farron, PhD, an outstanding biochemist, earned her degree from New Your University Medical School and went on to work at Harvard Medical School, studying control mechanisms of cell growth, as part of a larger program designed to understand the phenomenon of uncontrolled growth in cancer cells.

    Francoise knew of the contraceptive formula since her own reproductive years; she used it and it worked for her. But she was not going to abandon her fascinating and successful studies at Harvard to go into the birth control business—until tragedy struck. Her friend's daughter suddenly died from a blood clot while using the NuvaRing®. At that juncture, Francoise felt a personal obligation to bring her discovery of a safe contraceptive to market, to make it available to all women who wanted to avail themselves of its unique advantages.

    Smart Women's Choice, is a novel approach to effective protection from unwanted pregnancies and works in an entirely different way from hormone-based birth control methods.

    In order for fertilization to occur, the sperm must travel from the vagina, were it is deposited during intercourse, up the fallopian tubes to merge with an egg that has been released by the ovaries. But Smart Women's Choice completely immobilizes the sperm in the vagina, within seconds; therefore the sperm cannot make the journey from the vagina into the fallopian tubes and thus, never encounters the egg; so fertilization cannot and does not take place.

    No fertilization = No pregnancy

    Since SWC does not alter or affect a woman's hormonal system, there are no harmful side-effects. Smart Women's Choice is a simple solution to prevent fertilization; it's amazing that no one has thought of it before. It is unique and effective; a patent has been filed and is pending.

    Where's the proof? Dr. Martin Bastuba, Medical Director at Male Fertility Specialists and head of one of the foremost fertility clinics in Southern California, performed a motility test on sperm samples to study the effectiveness of Smart Women's Choice on the motility of spermatozoa.

    The results presented in the accompanying table show unequivocally that SWC vaginal gel immobilizes sperm completely at all dilutions. If spermatozoa are totally immobilized in the vagina and, thus, unable to travel up the fallopian tubes fertilization cannot and does not occur.

    Conclusion: The results presented in the table above show unequivocally that SWC does agglutinate sperm to varying degrees, and immobilizes sperm completely at all dilutions. If sperm is immobilized and thus cannot travel up the fallopian tubes fertilization cannot occur.

    Women around the world who have decided to use Smart Women's Choice are delighted with its effectiveness in preventing unwanted pregnancies and a total absence of ill side effects.

    Smart Women's Choice has been selling for over three years with a terrific track record. More than 1,500 women have been using SWC with no pregnancies reported so far.

    Pharmacist, nutritionist and author, Ross Pelton, RPh, CCN recommends Smart Women's Choice. "I have been a long-time supporter of women's health issues. One of my concerns is the side effects caused by birth control pills. Consequently, I authored 'The Pill Problem,' which teaches women how to prevent the side effects from birth control pills. A safe form of contraception for women would be of tremendous worldwide health benefit to women (and their spouses if women are avoiding the side effects of BC pills & IUDs). I am happy to report that a safe form of contraception for women has been developed. It is named Smart Women's Choice. It works by causing the entire ejaculate to coagulate. Thus, the sperm are prevented from traveling up the fallopian tubes where fertilization takes place. The coagulate exits the vagina at the end of the intercourse and then rinse with water. It is easy and pleasant to use."

    How To Use Smart Women's Choice
    Using it is as simple as one, two, three!

    Step 1: Squeeze approximately one inch of Smart Women's Choice birth control gel onto your middle finger.

    Step 2: Insert into the vagina immediately before having sex. It helps lubricate for comfort, too. If you have sex repeatedly in short succession, you have to reapply SWC every time.

    Step 3: After completion, just rinse with water to restore the vagina to its normal acidity.

    Women Deserve a Safe, Non-Hormonal Alternative!
    Ever since the Pill was first released in 1960, it has been fraught with serious side effects. Some of them have even been fatal. Women were forced to make the difficult decision, Use the Pill or some other hormone-based contraception and take your chances with the many uncomfortable side-effects and potentially dangerous consequences or risk an unwanted pregnancy. It has taken almost 60 years to find a truly safe natural contraceptive. Dr. Francoise Farron, a fiercely determined woman, has been passionate about her mission to save the lives of women worldwide. After years of research, she has succeeded in bringing her vision of a truly safe and effective, non-hormonal contraceptive solution, called Smart Women's Choice, into the world. As usual, it takes a woman! To learn more go to

  • The essential GLA (gamma linolenic acid) is not just your ordinary Smart Fat. Distinctively different than thyroid-targeting coconut oil, GLA is a multitasking essential fatty acid that activates brown fat to effortlessly burn calories from heat. Our bodies need to get GLA from foods because we cannot manufacture this essential fatty acid without an outside source. GLA has proven benefits to ignite a slow metabolism and is a healer for PMS, bloating, depression, diabetic neuropathy, morning stiffness, and skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

    As far back as the 1980s, many studies focused on GLA as a natural aid to weight reduction. They were published in prestigious medical journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine. These reports documented GLA's definite promise in the battle of the bulge.

    Prostaglandin Power
    GLA regulates metabolic functions all the way down to the cellular level, helping the cardiovascular, immune, and reproductive and central nervous systems through its prostaglandin pathways.

    Prostaglandins are short-lived hormone-like substances that regulate metabolic processes throughout the body. They were discovered over 60 years ago in the prostate gland, hence the name "prostaglandins." Today, prostaglandins are included in a larger group of hormones known as eicosanoids. So profound is the ability of the essential fats to transform themselves into these substances that the 1982 Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to scientists in prostaglandin research.

    Prostaglandins can only be made from two essential Smart Fats, GLA, an omega-6, and EPA, an omega-3 fat. These two are the direct prostaglandin building blocks. Together they form an unbeatable combination and ideally should be consumed in a one-to-one ratio since so many overweight individuals are GLA deficient based upon essential fatty acid testing.

    All That And Fat Burning, Too!
    Our Smart Fat produced prostaglandins have far reaching implications. They control inflammation, blood clotting, blood pressure, tumor growth, brain function and allergies. They soothe skin, promote healing and regulate water loss. Their natural anti-inflammatory properties reduce pain, swelling and redness. They are burned off much more quickly than other fats and their biochemical structure easily permeates cell walls, making them flexible and less rigid and stiff, thereby inhibiting overeating because of more rapid satiety. Other GLA attributes include stellar skin protection to moisturize internally and diminish symptoms of eczema and psoriasis; reduction of excess inflammation and alleviation of morning stiffness; support of healthy cholesterol and relief of PMS, perimenopause, and menopausal symptoms; and alleviation of hangover and substance abuse symptoms.

    The series one prostaglandins created from GLA are believed to regulate many aspects of metabolism. GLA-induced prostaglandins regulate brown fat by acting as a catalyst to either turn it on to trigger calorie burning or turn it off to trigger calorie conservation. Prostaglandins are also connected to a metabolic process referred to as ATPase. ATPase is also known as the sodium pump, a biochemical process necessary to keep the right amount of potassium inside cell walls and too much sodium out. GLA-rich substances like black currant seed oil, by means of prostaglandin activity, control the sodium pump, which in turn revs up metabolism.

    When GLA is in the diet, it operates as a remarkable fat-burning agent when it triggers brown fat calorie burning and the sodium pump. Brown fat is also known as brown adipose tissue or BAT. It gets its color from the many fat-burning mitochondria it contains. It only comprises 10 percent or less of total body fat, yet it can burn one-fourth of the calories burned by all other fat tissues combined. In a similar way, GLA can stimulate the sodium pump to use up to nearly 50 percent of the body's total calories.

    In 2009 a flurry of new studies about fighting fat came out that were heralded as the "newest obesity theory," claiming that brown fat was a potent regulator of metabolism and weight. The research said that brown fat was deficient in overweight people and was primarily activated by cold.

    I remember shaking my head about this new obesity theory because I had written about brown fat back in 1988 in connection with GLA. Since the new research, the scientists completely overlooked the role of GLA, which stimulates brown fat activity, through its prostaglandin pathways.

    And while omega-6s as a whole have gotten a bad rap, their reputation is not quite justified. The issue is that GLA's raw materials, the linoleic-acid containing safflower, sunflower, soy and corn oil, are possible, but not always probable, precursors. Possible—because under ideal conditions they should easily be converted into the powerful prostaglandins that have all the healing and metabolic benefits.

    The problem is these typically refined and processed oils are further blocked from converting into the biologically potent prostaglandin, which make them biologically worthless to the human body. A number of dietary and lifestyle conditions like a lack of enzymatic cofactors such as niacin, B6, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc as well as the presence of transfats, excessive saturated fats, or alcohol in the diet, impairs the delta-6-desaturase enzyme charged with the transformation process. (The same metabolic suspects, by the way, are in play, which can impair the transformation of the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid into EPA.)

    Since food sources cannot always convert into GLA on their own, you are much better off taking GLA in supplemental form from borage, evening primrose or black currant seed oil with two exceptions: hemp seed oil (not marijuana but from the same plant) and spirulina, a blue green microalgae. Hemp seed oil contains "pre-formed" GLA with a perfect blend of omega-3s.

    If you prefer to take a supplement, my recommendation is the GLA from black currant seed oil. Because of all the pre-formed GLA sources, it is the best balanced with omega-3s as part of its makeup. Perhaps most interesting of all is the hypothesis that GLA, like other fatty acids, has the potential to elevate levels of serotonin, the "feel good" brain chemical which contributes to the feeling of fullness. By elevating serotonin, you will feel calmer and satiated sooner. So not only does GLA have the ability to increase the body's metabolism and burn fat, but it may also work as an appetite suppressant as well.

    Smart Tips: GLA

    Want to know how to get more GLA in your life for a metabolic kick?

    1. Nibble on hemp "hearts" (seeds) and drizzle hemp seed oil. Hemp is a great tasting source of balanced omega-6 and omega-3, and also contains vitamin E. Nutty and full of flavor; the hemp seeds are great snacks and make a smoothie nice and creamy. The oil is perfect over veggies and salads. Besides spirulina, which can be taken as a supplement or sprinkled in powder form in a smoothie or green drink, hemp seeds and oil are the only direct preformed food sources of thermogenic GLA.

    2. Take supplements of ready-made GLA. Found in black currant seed oil, borage or evening primrose oil for stronger GLA power, I recommend 360 to 900 mg daily.

    CLA – The Tummy Fat Blaster

    CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) has profound fat loss and healing benefits. CLA helps reduce body fat while retaining lean muscle mass, a ready-made innate calorie burner. It is also considered a necessary fatty acid for both cell growth and as a building block for cell membranes.

    To date, there are over 500 published studies on this previously unrecognized nutrient. The first human clinical trial using CLA was conducted in 1997 in Norway. It was a 90-day double-blind clinical study that showed a stunning 20 percent decrease in body fat, with an average loss of seven pounds of fat in the group taking CLA. These results were achieved without a single change in dietary habits, establishing CLA supplementation for the first time as a simple, effortless weight loss tool.

    In addition to the ability to reduce body fat, CLA has also been shown to increase lean muscle mass. In this same study, although participants lost body fat, they experienced very little change in overall body weight due to the increase in lean muscle mass. The end result was a stronger, healthier body.

    CLA is also a powerful tool for anyone who finds themselves with weight gain over the holidays. In 2006 researchers studied 40 healthy but overweight subjects over a period of six months. Over the holiday season, the placebo group displayed a greater rate of weight gain; while the CLA group showed significantly reduced body fat of around 2.2 kg over the six month period.

    Cellulite be gone! Did you know that biopsies of cellulite demonstrate that unlike fat in most other areas, the fat within cellulite is actually inflamed? This type of inflammation speeds up the breakdown of collagen and contributes to that puckered-up, orange peel look we all dread. Studies also show that CLA increases strong and healthy collagen and prevents fat cells from accumulating even more fat and swelling up. And, both ultrasound and visual examination has proven that CLA can markedly reduce the appearance of cellulite.

    CLA occurs naturally in grass-fed dairy foods—especially cream, butter and full-fat cheese. It is also found in beef and lamb. Before the 1970s, Americans got plenty of CLA by eating these Smart Fat-filled foods. Today we are getting next to no CLA because livestock is rarely grass-fed anymore, which decreases CLA levels by about 80 percent.

    To compound this deficiency, over the past 70 years many misguided Americans on low- or no-fat diets have stopped eating these dietary sources of CLA. While adding grass-fed dairy and meats back into your diet is highly recommended for a variety of health reasons, there are other ways to get more potentized CLA into your body. Science has been able to create CLA from the linoleic acid found in sunflower and safflower oils. Today CLA is available as a convenient dietary supplement.

    Smart Tips: CLA
    Want to increase your CLA to rev up metabolic rate?

    1. Eat CLA-rich grass-fed beef and pastured butter and cream. Also be on the lookout for grass-fed, non-denatured whey.
    2. Consider CLA supplements from conjugated safflower or sunflower oil. I recommend 3,000 mg daily. But, just be careful. With many of my clients, you lose weight so quickly you will go down a pants size or two in no time!

    GLA vs. CLA: What's the difference you ask?
    GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) are both important fatty acids that will help burn fat to promote weight loss, and help control appetite to prevent weight gain.

    They can be taken individually or as a duo to help break down fat.

    • GLA raises your metabolism by stimulating brown fat (adipose tissue) in the body to burn calories for energy.
    • CLA especially targets visceral fat (found deep within the abdominal area) and is helpful for burning belly fat while increasing lean muscle mass.
  • Menopause is the term used to describe the progressive cessation of menstruation in a woman over time. Menopause typically occurs after a woman’s child-bearing years, between the ages of 45 and 50. Some women, however, experience it as early as 35 and as late as 60 years old. The process of menopause can last for two to six years, during which time a woman’s hormone levels change due to the reduction in the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries as they cease to produce eggs. Physiologically, menopause marks the end of a woman’s childbearing capacity and is a part of her natural aging process.

  • Dear Readers,

    Welcome to the June 2017 issue of TotalHealth Online.

    We begin with "Stocking Your Kitchen For Success," by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS. In this first of a series of previews from her book, The NEW Fat Flush Plan—a full update of the New York Times Best Seller—she shares her preferences for cookware, knives and other handy items for a successful kitchen experience.

    Dallas Clouatre's, PhD, article, "Herbs For Rest And Relaxation," lays out a convincing case for changes to our addiction to coffee. He explores a list of herbs, which will help to cut down and eventually kick the coffee habit. And your body will thank you for it.

    Christine Horner, MD, in "Female And Over 40? Two Health Mistakes To Avoid—For Radiant Health, Ageless Beauty," discusses Relizen, a product introduced in the U.S. several years ago. To date, over one million women worldwide have used this supplement with great satisfaction; and it is currently the number one non-hormonal menopausal product used in France.

    Elson Haas, MD, continues from last month's topic sugar, with "Sugar Health And The Glycemic Index." Haas discusses the history and politics of sugar. You can't get away from it, however, you can create an awareness of its influence. And make a difference in your loved ones lives. He Includes his basic glycemic index to start you off.

    Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG), in "The Importance Of Minerals: For Bone & More," covers the key nutrients, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, potassium and others. For all those concerned (men and women) with bone density don't miss Bruno's article.

    Gloria Gilbère, CDP, DAHom, PhD, presents "Roasted One-Dish Meals," a recipe you can adapt with your favorite veggies for this one-dish meal which is based on no nightshades!

    In "A Natural Treatment for Depression-Curcumin," Charles Bens, PhD, discusses a recent study showing Curcumin as effective as Prozac and without the side effects.

    Are you ready to be able to get 8–9 hours of solid sleep a night? Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, can help you with "Get Great Sleep—Naturally!" He tells us for a fact it is possible to get eight hours of solid sleep a night. And this article shows us new treatments for optimizing sleep—naturally.

    Sherrill Sellman, ND, in "A Safe Personal Lubricant to Protect, Heal and Restore vaginal Health," calls attention to a product she recommends for women—who through aging, menopause or other reasons may be seeking relief for dryness and discomfort.

    Shawn Messonnier, DVM includes our pets with "Ginseng Use For Pets."

    Best in health,

    TWIP The Wellness Imperative People

    Click here to read the full June issue.

    Click here to read the full June issue.

  • Dear Readers,

    Welcome to the November 2019 issue of TotalHealth Magazine

    Our cover story this month is, Let’s Rethink Mental Health To Brain Health, by Daniel G. Amen, MD. Erasing the stigma on what we now call mental health issues is a critical component of insuring people are willing to seek treatment. As depression and suicide continues to rise in teenagers it is important how we approach this issue. Dr. Amen discusses how to reimagine the term mental health, as optimizing our brain health to overcome or manage symptoms.

    In, The First Iron-Free Solution For Iron Deficiency, Dr. Sherrill Sellman introduces us to a safer product for those with iron deficiency. IronCatch is an all-natural supplement that does not cause the often-severe side-effects experienced by many who must supplement with iron. If you suffer from leaky gut, IBS, Celiac or ulcers you will want to read about this product.

    Professor Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, Rh(Ahg), informs us of the immune enhancing benefits in two key dietary supplements, in his article on, Echinacea And Shiitake For Immune Health. With cold and flu season approaching, it’s time to remind ourselves how Echinacea can help us shorten the duration of viruses. And, if you aren’t familiar with the benefits of the Shiitake mushroom, Professor Bruno’s informative article will enlighten you on its numerous immune boosting functions.

    Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, continues her series on smart fats with her, Master Formula For Fat Burning. She’ll help you banish all those fake fats that inhibit your metabolism and promote inflammation. Using her lists of Smart Fats you can create a healthy eating plan.

    Natural Solutions to Common Child Health Concerns is Sherry Torkos, BSc Phm, RPh’s, article to help you know when to call your doctor if your child is ill. She offers indicators for children with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory problems and rashes. You’ll want to keep this article available for reference when illnesses strike.

    Part Two in a Series on the Health Benefits of Coconut Flour is presented by our expert, Gloria Gilbère, CDP, DAHom, PhD. In part two she discusses the healthy nutrients found in coconut flour. You’ll want to consider adding this flour to your kitchen when you learn it reduces high blood pressure, is high in digestible fiber, and high in protein.

    If you want help for thinning hair, read Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum’s article. Until now all we could do is optimize nutritional and thyroid function, and watch our iron levels. Dr. Teitelbaum introduces us to a product that tackles the main cause of hair loss, a condition called Telogen Effluvium. Read on for his recommendations.

    Did you remember to take your Gingko? How many times have we all heard that? But, did you know Ginkgo can also be helpful for your pets? Read natural vet, Shawn Messonnier’s article on the conditions that Ginkgo can benefit in your pet.

    Thank you to our authors, readers, and advertisers. You make TotalHealth Magazine online possible.

    Best in health,

    TWIP—The Wellness Imperative People

    Click here to read the full November 2019 issue.

    Click here to read the full November 2019 issue.

  • Depression is characterized by low mood, loss of pleasure, or changes in sleep or energy, that are not associated with recent grief or another underlying medical condition. At any time, it affects an estimated 9 percent of the U.S. population, and is projected to have the second greatest contribution to lifetime disability (behind cardiovascular disease) by the end of the decade.1,2 Part of the multimodal approach to management of chronic clinical depression can involve the biochemical balance of brain chemicals to alleviate symptoms; most first-line pharmaceutical treatments function by increasing the activity of one or more neurotransmitters (brain chemicals responsible for many of the aspects of cognitive function), particularly serotonin. In the central nervous system (CNS), serotonin has been implicated in regulation of sleep, depression, anxiety, aggression, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. 3

    Depression has also been linked to poor nutritional status.4 This is not surprising, as the precursor to serotonin (tryptophan) is itself nutritionally essential, and its conversion into serotonin requires sufficiency of several B-vitamins and minerals. Additionally, deficiencies in other essential dietary constituents (omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B12) adversely affect mood by mechanisms that are not fully understood. Here, we discuss the role of several of the nutrients involved in mood regulation, and survey clinical data, which suggest a potential role for supplemental nutrients in mitigating the symptoms of depression.

    Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan
    Tryptophan is an essential amino acid (one which humans cannot synthesize, and must therefore be obtained directly from the diet). It is the precursor to the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin (the hormone involved in the sleep-wake cycle), as well as niacin (B3), the vitamin critical to a myriad of metabolic reactions ranging from energy production to hormone synthesis. Tryptophan is also used in the construction of many of the hundreds of structural proteins and enzymes required for life. The World Health Organization recommends a dietary tryptophan intake of 4 mg /kg/day for adults (about 270 mg for a 150 lb. adult); the average Western diet contains about 0.5 g of tryptophan daily.5 Despite the relative abundance of tryptophan in the diet, typically only 2–3 percent is used for serotonin production in the central nervous system.6

    To synthesize serotonin, tryptophan must first be converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). The formation of 5-HTP is the rate-limiting step in serotonin production (the most time-consuming part of the conversion process and the step most likely to be disrupted by nutritional and physiological factors including stress, insulin resistance, vitamin B6 or C deficiency, or insufficient magnesium.)7 5-HTP is available as a dietary supplement; it is produced commercially by extraction from the seeds of the African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia and has been used clinically for over 30 years. 5-HTP is well absorbed from an oral dose (with about 70 percent ending up in the bloodstream) and is not affected by other amino acids in the diet, so it can be taken with meals.8 Additionally, unlike tryptophan, supplemental 5-HTP cannot be used to make niacin, or incorporated into proteins, so the entire dose is restricted to serotonin production.

    Although over one hundred trials have examined the efficacy of supplemental tryptophan or 5-HTP for treating depressive disorders in adults, only a few have been scientifically rigorous (randomized, blinded, and placebo controlled).9,10 These controlled trials have been generally positive: over half of volunteers taking 5-HTP (ranging from 50 mg–3 grams/day) or tryptophan (3 g/day) saw moderate to marked improvement in symptoms of depression, and this antidepressant effect was superior to that of placebo.11

    Increases in brain levels of serotonin also signal satiety, while decreases signal the desire to eat.12 Multiple studies have shown that dieting can reduce circulating tryptophan levels by 14–23 percent; this can lead to increased hunger, depressed mood, and difficulty in maintaining weight loss.13 Both supplemental tryptophan and 5-HTP have been successful in increasing the feeling of fullness in obese volunteers when taken before a meal, leading to deceased calorie intake and a possible reduction in carbohydrate cravings.14,15

    S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
    SAMe is central to several important synthetic reactions, including those that produce some amino acids, DNA bases, and natural antioxidants. Although the exact mechanism for SAMe’s antidepressant activity is unclear,16 it is thought to involve its role in the production of neurotransmitters. 17 SAMe is also important for the synthesis of phospholipids (the components of the lipid membranes that surround cells. Proper phospholipid metabolism, particularly in neurons (nerve cells), may positively affect brain function and mood.18

    A number of studies suggest a role for SAMe in improving depression symptoms. Three meta-analyses of SAMe supplementation (critical reviews of several clinical trials on a particular treatment, which try to determine whether claims of positive benefits are generally supported by high-quality data) have shown it more effective than placebo in the treatment of major depressive disorders.19,20,21 Effective dosages in these studies ranged from 200 to 1600 mg per day, and most were short-term studies (six weeks or less; the long term efficacy of SAMe has not been as thoroughly studied). SAMe has also been compared with the older tricyclic antidepressants in several studies, and has shown an equivalent degree of efficacy (studies comparing it with newer antidepressants are lacking). When combined with conventional antidepressant treatments (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SAMe could improve the rate or speed in which depressed individuals responded to these drugs.22

    It is important to note that in many of the trials of SAMe in depressed patients, the nutrient was given by intravenous or intramuscular injection; the lower oral bioavailability of SAMe should be considered when interpreting the results of these clinical trials. 23

    B-vitamins. Several B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B3, B6 B12 and folate, are directly or indirectly involved in the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Vitamin B3 (niacin/ nicotinic acid) has roles throughout human metabolism, most notably in the production of chemical energy, and the metabolic reactions that both break down and create fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Because of its ubiquitous role in metabolism, sufficient levels of niacin are paramount. While usually thought of as a nutrient that must be obtained through the diet, niacin can be synthesized in the body from dietary tryptophan. Under conditions of niacin deficiency, available tryptophan may be diverted from serotonin synthesis to make vitamin B3, because the body prioritizes niacin manufacture over serotonin.24

    The three dietary forms of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine/pyriydoxal/ pyridoxamine) are converted in the liver to pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P), the main circulating form of the vitamin. P5P is the coenzyme for several important reactions in amino acid metabolism, including their synthesis, breakdown into energy, and their conversion into other neurotransmitters and hormones. In particular, vitamin B6 is required for the enzymatic conversion of 5-HTP to serotonin. Age can increase the likelihood of B6 deficiency.

    Both folic acid and vitamin B12 (cobalamin), along with SAMe, are important cofactors for several reactions that figure heavily in central nervous system metabolism, including neurotransmitter synthesis, and the maintenance of fluid cell membrane that preserves the activities of neurons. Deficiency of cobalamin or folate has been linked to depression in some studies (although results have not always been consistent)25 and experimental and clinical studies have shown that folic acid deficiency can cause irregularities in neurotransmitter synthesis.26 Although folate may not work as an antidepressant therapy on its own, patients with sufficient folate levels tend to have shorter and less frequent depressive episodes, and better responses to conventional anti-depressant treatments.

    1. World Health Organization. Mental and Neurological Disorders: “Depression”. Fact Sheet Geneva: WHO; 2006.
    2. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Depression among Adults — United states, 2006 and 2008 Morbidity and Mortality weekly Report October 1, 2010 Erratum. Available at: http:/
    3. Birdsall, T. C. 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor. Altern Med Rev. 1998;3(4):271–80
    4. Sarris, J., Schoendorfer, N., and Kavanagh, D. J. Major depressive disorder and nutritional medicine: a review of monotherapies and adjuvant treatments. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(3):125 –31.
    5. Parker, G., and Brotchie, H. Mood effects of the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine: “Food for Thought” III. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2011;124(6):417–26.
    6. Ibid.
    7. Sarris, J., Schoendorfer, op.cit.
    8. Magnussen IE, Nielsen-Kudsk F. Bioavailability and related pharmacokinetics in man of orally administered L-5-hydroxytryptophan in a steady state. Acta Pharmacol Toxicol 1980;46:257– 62.
    9. Parker, G., op.cit.
    10. Shaw KA, Turner J, Del Mar C. Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan for depression (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2009.
    11. Birdsall, op.cit.
    12. Lam, D. D., Garfield, A. S., Marston, O. J., Shaw, J., and Heisler, L. K. Brain serotonin system in the coordination of food intake and body weight. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 2010;97(1):84–91.
    13. Wolfe, B. E., Metzger, E. D., and Stollar, C. The effects of dieting on plasma tryptophan concentration and food intake in healthy women. Physiol Behav. 1997;61(4):537– 41.
    14. Cavaliere, H., and Medeiros-Neto, G. The anorectic effect of increasing doses of L-tryptophan in obese patients. Eat Weight Disord. 1997.
    15. Cangiano, C., Ceci, F., Cascino, A., et al. Eating behavior and adherence to dietary prescriptions in obese adult subjects treated with 5-hydroxytryptophan. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56(5):863 –7.
    16. Bottiglieri, T. S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe): from the bench to the bedside--molecular basis of a pleiotrophic molecule. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(5):1151S–7S.
    17. Deligiannidis, K. M., and Freeman, M. P. Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of depressive disorders in women. Psychiatr. Clin. North Am. 2010;33(2):441–63.
    18. Bottiglieri, T. op.cit.
    19. Hardy M, Coulter I, Morton SC, et al. S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) for depression, osteoarthritis and liver disease. Rockville (MD): Agency for Health-care Research and Quality; 2002.
    20. Mischoulon D, Fava M. Role of S-adenosyl-L-methionine in the treatment of depression: a review of the evidence. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76(5):1158S–61S.
    21. Williams, A.-L., Girard, C., Jui, D., Sabina, A., and Katz, D. L. S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) as treatment for depression: a systematic review. Clin Invest Med. 2005;28(3):132–9.
    22. Sarris, J., Schoendorfer, N., and Kavanagh, D. J. Major depressive disorder and nutritional medicine: a review of monotherapies and adjuvant treatments. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(3):125–31.
    23. Ibid.
    24. Ibid.
    25. Frankenburg, F. R. The role of one-carbon metabolism in schizophrenia and depression. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2007;15(4):146 – 60.
    26. Lazarou, C., and Kapsou, M. The role of folic acid in prevention and treatment of depression: an overview of existing evidence and implications for practice. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010;16 (3):161– 6.
  • Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.


    We know that the brain can be greatly influenced by what we eat, and researchers are beginning to figure out why. The very makeup of brain cells depends on the presence of specific nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are an integral part of the cell membranes. Neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that regulate our thoughts, actions, and moods, are made from amino acids, using vitamin and mineral co-factors. Lack of some of these nutrients can then lead to various emotional and mental disorders.

    Diets high in refined foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can also interfere with normal brain chemistry, leading to depression, as can nutritional deficiencies. People with depression are commonly found to have low levels of zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, and amino acids. Indeed, the last few years have seen increasing numbers of studies finding that specific nutrients can successfully treat depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia, and even bipolar (manic-depressive) illness. A groundbreaking study from Harvard found that omega-3 fatty acids, used both in conjunction with medication, and alone, worked so powerfully on bipolar illness that the study was interrupted so all the subjects could take them.1

    Psychiatry, for the most part, still focuses on symptom reduction with medication, rather than looking at the biochemical underpinnings of depression for a more organic solution. Seeing the shortcomings of standard psychiatry early on, I developed my own approach, which is to start by evaluating the patient in a number of ways— emotionally, physically, and biochemically. Then I supply specific natural prescriptions, which include dietary supplements and foods, often in tandem with exercise, natural hormones, and mind-body techniques. Here is a fairly typical case:

    At 45, Angela felt like she was falling apart. Sitting across from me in my office, she recounted a familiar story: “I’m totally exhausted, depressed, and cranky. Just moving through my day is a challenge. I’m not sleeping well, and I have headaches and no sex drive at all. I’m not as sharp as I was, and my memory is foggy, too. I’m a mess!”

    A clinical social worker by profession, Angela recognized that some of her symptoms pointed to depression. As any psychiatrist would, I asked Angela how she was feeling emotionally, but my questioning took a broader view. Angela soon found herself detailing what she ate, how and when her energy and moods shifted throughout the day, and how well she slept. This was in addition to the questionnaire that I have all new patients fill out in advance. I ordered a battery of blood, urine, and saliva tests, including screenings for anemia, low blood sugar, and thyroid dysfunction, all factors that can contribute to depression. I also checked her levels of various hormones, as well as minerals, including toxic ones like mercury, lead, and cadmium.

    After analyzing the results, I prescribed a regimen of supplements, including chromium to maintain blood sugar levels, magnesium to relax her nerves and muscles as well as regulate her heart rate, and B vitamins for neurotransmitter (mood) support. For hormonal balance, I prescribed herbs to raise her low progesterone and testosterone levels, and adaptogenic, or stress-fighting, herbs to help restore adrenal function. Well-researched herbs such as rhodiola and Eleutherococcus senticosis, and reishi mushroom extract support the adrenal glands without overstimulating. Later, I added bio-identical progesterone—not synthetic progestin, which can have serious side effects, such as water retention, depression, migraines, and blood clots.

    Within a week or two of following this program, she was feeling much better, since nutrients don’t generally have the time delay that medications do. By six weeks, her mood swings and anxiety were basically gone. Two years later, she remains depression free and is still taking supplements to control her moods and maintain her energy. We adjust them every six months or so, with the core being two daily packets that provide the following: specific amino acids for brain neurotransmitter support (phenylalanine, tyrosine, glutamine, 5-HTP, L-theanine), a multivitamin, fish oil, antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E; N-acetyl cysteine; alpha lipoic acid, or ALA), liver support nutrients (ALA, milk thistle), and nutrients for blood sugar balance (glutamine, chromium, ALA). She also takes specific nutrients for memory—ginkgo biloba, acetyl-L-carnitine, phosphatidyl choline, and phosphatidyl serine—as well as adaptogenic herbs for her adrenals, and bio-identical hormones. I’m happy to say that she continues to do well, consults with me periodically, and expects to stay on some of the supplements indefinitely. We all have our unique biochemistry with specific requirements, even if we are eating a healthy diet.

    For those accustomed to the notion that therapy means talking through problems and/or getting a prescription for antidepressants, this may seem an unusual approach. But as a board-certified psychiatrist and an expert in nutritional medicine, I long ago became convinced that no form of psychotherapy can be fully effective if the brain isn’t functioning properly. And to do that, the brain needs optimal nourishment, something that is increasingly hard to come by with the standard American diet (SAD, for short).

    Often, people suffering from depression—particularly tired, overweight women—are told they need antidepressant medication. In fact, what they may really need is a steady supply of real food and supplements—not a drug that causes side effects such as weight gain, low libido, nausea, anxiety, and more depression.

    There are dozens of books on the topic; along with increasing acceptance in recent years that nutritional intervention can treat many behavioral and mental conditions that we use to think were untreatable. Why so much interest? Experts say nutritional therapy is catching on, in part due to growing disillusionment with antidepressants. Physicians are realizing these are not as effective long-term as was once hoped, and they often have difficult side effects, leading many to simply quit taking them.

    Interestingly, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the majority of mild to moderately depressed people did just as well on a placebo as on antidepressants— without the negative side effects.2 I’d say, let’s invest in studying this amazing ability of the body to heal itself. Then, adding healthful foods and supplements can provide the substrate for building a healthy body and brain.

    If you are experiencing depression that is still unexplained after nutritional intervention, consult a medical professional, since it might be the result of a medical issue, from hypothyroidism to a heart problem or even cancer. I check all of this in my own patients, since many people on antidepressants, even in psychiatric hospitals, are suffering from medically caused and treatable depression.

    Specific Nutrients to Treat Depression
    To maintain adequate levels of natural antidepressant chemicals in the brain, I recommend eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. Drink lots of water, get adequate sleep, and exercise regularly. Research shows that exercise can work as well as medication for mild to moderate depression.3 Instead of negative side effects, all of these solutions offer side benefits!

    People often find the natural approach can ultimately be more effective and satisfying than medication. Even small changes—like cutting out processed foods or adding daily fish oil capsules—can make a big difference. And once started, the process can develop its own momentum. When people start eating better or taking a few supplements, they often feel better. Without much effort, they find themselves eliminating sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or whatever they were using for mood control. A balanced brain is a happy, non-craving one!

    For more information on natural approaches to brain and mood imbalances, as well as scientific references on the use of individual nutrients, see the following books:

    • Natural Highs by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford (Avery/Penguin Putnam, 2002)
    • 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health by Hyla Cass and Kathleen Barnes (McGraw-Hill, 2005)
    • The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman (Scribner, reprinted 2010)
    • Optimum Nutrition for the Mind by Patrick Holford (Basic Health Publications, 2004)


    1. Stoll AL, Severus WE, Freeman MP, et al. Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999; 56:407-12.
    2. Fournier JC, DeRubeis RJ, Hollon SD, et al. Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA. 2010; 303(1):47-53.
    3. Dunn AL, Trivedi MH, Kampert JB, et al. Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Jan; 28(1):1-8.
  • Did you ever wish that our bodies were like cars and whatever was wrong could be easily repaired? Wouldn't it be nice to pull into a garage, get hooked up to a computer, find out what's wrong, and have it fixed? We actually are getting closer to this reality, especially for those with a family history of depression.

    Research has repeatedly shown that depression occurs when the brain has an irregular brainwave pattern. Specifically, the frontal area of the brain is highly involved with our emotions. The left frontal area, in the forehead area above the left eye, is linked with positive feelings and wanting to be with others. The right frontal area, though, is the opposite and associated with depression and wanting to close ourselves off from other people. When the left frontal lobe of the brain has been affected, either by heredity or by injury (concussion), the brainwave activity is slowed. This under-activity on the left allows the right frontal lobe to become dominant and can lead to feelings of depression and wanting to be alone.

    We actually can brain map this activity with...take a deep breath...quantitative electroencephalograms, otherwise known as QEEGs.

    QEEG Brain Mapping
    Depression can be seen on QEEGs with Brain Mapping

    Above are parts of a brain map from two different people, one with depression and the other without symptoms of depression. Can you guess which brain map shows depression?

    Answer: The brain map on the right is from a person with a long history of depression. It is easy to see that the left frontal area of this person reveals a patch, which is colored orange and yellow. This orange/yellow color variation indicates that there is an excess of slow, alpha brainwave activity. This is the pattern that has been classically associated with a vulnerability to depression. The brain map on the left displays how a relatively normal map would look, without any excess or serious deficit of brain wave activity. So to repeat—when the left frontal brainwaves are weakened, the right side becomes dominant and often can result in feelings of depression.

    You may be thinking… “How can I wake up the left frontal lobe so positive emotions can return?”

    Let’s start by telling you more about brain maps.

    What is Brain Mapping?
    The brain uses electrical impulses, called brainwaves, to send and receive messages from all parts of the body. A brain map analyzes each specific brain wave called alpha, beta, theta, or delta and creates a visual presentation (as shown above) for each lobe of the brain. By knowing what a normal presentation looks like, we are able to compare and assess a patient’s degree of impairment.

    The brain map is an innovative new tool in accurately identifying the problem areas of the brain. It allows for a clearer assessment and provides a pathway for improving your health and emotional well-being.

    What other conditions can be brain mapped?
    It has been well documented that people who suffer neurological problems have abnormal brain waves in certain areas of the brain. For instance, case studies using QEEG “brain maps” have shown that people with Attention-Deficit-Disorder (ADD) have elevated delta brainwaves, while those who suffer from depression have elevated alpha brainwaves. Those with anxiety will have elevated Beta brainwaves, while those suffering from memory loss usually have decreased theta brainwaves. Brain mapping allows us to identify areas of the brain that need to be retrained with neurofeedback.

    Insomnia is another condition that has a high success rate with neurofeedback.

    Neurofeedback does not target any particular disorder. Its purpose is to change timing and activation patterns in the brain. This improves brain regulation, which can impact a variety of symptoms.

    Different symptoms will require triggering different areas of the brain. The software is designed to target specific areas of the brain according to a patient’s symptoms.

    What is Neurofeedback?
    Imagine a car mechanic resetting the timing on your engine. He or she knows that your car won’t run right unless the engine can run smoothly.

    Neurofeedback retrains your brain to have a normal flow of brainwave activity throughout each part or lobe of the brain. This process of retuning brainwave activity is called operant conditioning.

    Neurofeedback is a noninvasive process and is performed while the patient watches a movie or listens to music. Small electrodes are gently adhered to specific area of the head with washable paste.

    Sessions will usually last up to 30 minutes.

    The best part of neurofeedback is that results are often permanent, allowing a person to reduce or even eliminate medications altogether. Where medications only manage the symptoms, the goal of neurofeedback is to address the underlying cause and restore normal brainwave functions.

    A listing of conditions commonly treated with Neurofeedback includes:

    • ADD/ADHD
    • Addiction
    • Anxiety
    • Autism
    • Spectrum Thyroid Disorders
    • Chronic Pain
    • Depression
    • Lyme Disease
    • Peripheral Neuropathy
    • Head Injuries
    • Insomnia
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Migraine Headaches
    • Brain Fog
    • PTSD/Stress
    • Stroke
    • Sleep Disorders
    • Weight Loss

    To learn more about this non-drug approach to depression and other conditions, visit Lanzisera Center is located at 17 Davis Blvd in Tampa Florida (813) 253-2333. Calls from out-of-state are welcomed.

    Drs. Frank and Lisa Lanzisera are the authors of two books, “Wheat Gluten” and “What’s Wrong with My Thyroid?”

    DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is for Educational Purposes Only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, mitigate, prevent or cure any health conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated statements about these health topics or any suggested product compositions.

  • Almost everyone at one time or another has felt that down-in-the-dumps, doom and gloom feeling. It’s as if it appears out of nowhere, only it doesn’t! It turns out that our gotta go, 24/7 lifestyles are starting to get the better of us—at least where our moods are concerned.

    Low moods or depression could be caused by inadequate sleep. Whether it’s that exam you’ve been dreading, the horrible date you can’t seem to get out of your mind or the insurmountable workload ahead of you, lack of consistent quality sleep will take its toll on your physical and emotional health. And it doesn’t take all that much sleep loss to get the dark clouds to show either.1

    It Doesn’t Take Much
    Studies support the fact that even one or two nights of sleep disruption can cause significant changes to brain chemistry, which negatively affects our moods. If you’re someone who truly believes you only need four to six hours of sleep per night to get by because you happen to be one of those “go-getters,” think again, because all you may be getting is a case of the blues. In fact, one study from the University of Pennsylvania found that when subjects were allowed only 4.5 hours of sleep per night for a one-week period, they all described feelings of mental exhaustion, anger, sadness and excess stress during the day. All it took was a few days of a normal sleep cycle to get these subjects to smile again.2

    Unfortunately, less and less of us are getting enough quality sleep. It’s been estimated that we sleep 25 percent less than our ancestors did even though our body has remained relatively unchanged. While the average amount of shuteye of our great grandparents in 1900 was nine hours, most people currently check in at a paltry seven.

    The amount of severely sleep-deprived people seems to be exploding. Almost a third of all North Americans now sleep less than six hours per night. Pretty crazy stuff when you consider that the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, once admitted to only getting four to five hours of sleep each night.3 Alarmingly, the vast majority of our new sleep habits cropped up over the last 10 years or so. Our modern life is filled with text messages, energy shots, and brightly lit computer screens that keep us up well after our bodies are clamoring for a soft bed and comfy pillow.

    Following are some important facts about the relationship of sleep deprivation and depression that you must be well aware of:

    1. Adequate sleep enhances a person’s well-being.
    2. Anxiety from lack of sleep further causes agitation that could lead to chronic insomnia.
    3. Difficulty sleeping is the first sign of depression.
    4. Sleep restores chemical balances in the brain and body.

    How Sleep-Debt Hurts
    Scientists have always thought that the brain organizes and restores everything while we sleep (especially memories). This is why lack of sleep seems to disorganize our body functions and everything else in between.

    Although sleep-researchers have proposed various theories about why lack of sleep makes us so moody, it wasn’t until quite recently that scientists pinpointed the exact reason. It turns out that our emotional well-being is to a large part regulated by healthy sleep patterns. For instance, research presented by the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, showed that people who experience a lack of quality sleep on a regular basis (called accumulating sleep debt) experience interference with the functional regulation of the amygdala—an area of the brain responsible for the processing of our memories and emotional reactions. This interference causes an overreaction of the amygdala, pushing it towards negative emotional stimuli.4

    From Bad to Worse
    The National Institutes of Health recently found that a battery of “cutting edge” sleeping pills only boost sleep time anywhere from 11 to 19 minutes.5 When it comes to side effects, prescription sleep aids make you act like you’ve just come from another planet. Many regular users report driving without remembering, sex that they can’t recall, and conversations that never registered in their minds. In other words, amnesia. A paid mouthpiece for drug companies, Gary S. Richardson, MD told the New York Times in chilling fashion, “If you forget how long you lay in bed tossing and turning, in some ways that’s just as good as sleeping.” Sorry Dr. Richardson, but wiping our memories a la Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is not my idea of refreshing sleep.

    When evaluating natural sleep aids, you should look for a mechanism of action that is effective, yet safe. Any natural formula for sleep enhancement should work by:

    1. Boosting melatonin or tryptophan levels in the brain.
    2. Blocking the tryptophan-destroying enzyme IDO (indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase).
    3. Lowering high levels of circulating stress hormones.

    Don’t let unhealthy sleeping habits get the best of you and turn you into someone you’re not. Get to the bottom of your sleeping problems to keep your moods in check and instead of using side-effect riddled and habit-forming drugs, try introducing research-proven side-effect free nutrients like; melatonin, Ziziphus jujube, theanine, and 5-HTP, before bed in order to experience the Ultimate Sleep.

    Note: All of the nutrients (and more) mentioned above, can be found in the product Ultimate Sleep—available through:


    1. Regestein Q, “Sleep debt and depression in female college students.” Psychiatry Res. 2010 Mar 30;176(1):34–9. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2008.11.006. Epub 2010 Jan 15.
    2. Dinges, D. et al., Cumulative Sleepiness, Mood Disturbance and Psychomotor Vigilance Decrements During a Week of Sleep Restricted to 4–5 Hours Per Night. Sleep. 1997 Apr; 20 (4): 267–77.
    3. Sylvestre-Williams, R. “Three Reasons You Need More Sleep.” Forbes on-line). 2012, July 31.
    4. Motomura Y, Mishima K. [Sleep and emotion: the role of sleep in emotion regulation]. Brain Nerve. 2014 Jan;66(1):15–23.
    5. Saul S. Sleep Drugs Found Only Mildly Effective, but Wildly Popular. October 23rd 2007.
  • Dear Pharmacist,

    I am saddened by the suicide of Robin Williams. I've dealt with depression on and off for years, and I was wondering if you have any natural suggestions for me to ask my doctor about?

    —L.C., Gainesville, Florida

    Answer: When I hear a person say they've battled depression "on and off" for a long period of time, I ask the question why it is on and off? Something you are eating, doing, or taking is impacting you so much so, that your mood is affected. Hormone imbalances are frequently the problem, especially estrogen and testosterone. Thyroid hormone is my specialty, and if it drops too low, you get depressed. When it moves into a healthy range, you feel happy and content. When I say "normal range" I don't mean the normal reference range indicated on your lab test. My opinion is that the so-called normal range is based upon a sick and hypothyroid population. This may explain why you feel terrible but your levels are "normal." I don't go by labs, I go by clinical presentation.

    I adored Robin Williams, he was brilliant, and behind his smiling eyes and hysterical jokes, he battled depression for years. You may feel the same way as you read this today, and I am glad you're still holding on. Depression is one of those conditions that people judge. Here are some reasons for depression that you might explore with the help of your physician:

    Hypothyroidism and hypoadrenia—I've mentioned this one already, however, I want you to get a copy of my Thyroid Healthy book so you learn how to test properly. Testing and treatment is the key to your happiness. Also, do not take thyroid medicine until your adrenal glands are strong and healthy. You may need to be supported adaptogenic herbs, a healthy diet, relaxation and other stress reducers.

    The Pill—Synthetic hormones for birth control or menopause reduce your body's levels of B vitamins and minerals to the point where you cannot manufacture happy brain chemicals. A reduction in key neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin causes depression. It could be on and off as you describe.

    Statins and Binders—We know these drugs reduce CoQ10, but do you realize they crash your ability to activate vitamin D? Ever heard of seasonal affective disorder or SAD? That is often related to low D levels so you might need D if you take cholesterol reducers.

    Medications—Drugs mug life-sustaining nutrients. Ibuprofen steals folic acid, and diabetic drugs steal B12. Read my Drug Muggers book for more drug-induced nutrient depletions. If you take medications periodically, then you can't make neurotransmitters, then you deal with that "on and off" situation you describe.

    Infections—Last on my list but huge news. Certain infections that we carry in our body can affect the brain. You can have bipolar, depression, insomnia and/or anxiety because of Bartonella, Lyme, syphilis, HIV, fungal infections (and their mycotoxins), herpes and many others. Clearing the infection improves mood better than any prescribed antidepressant.

  • What makes one person depressed and another happy? Certain conditions are commonly associated with depression such as hypothyroidism, Crohn's disease or colitis, migraines, diabetes, chronic infections and cancer. Lifestyles such as drinking alcohol and smoking are correlated and the biggest secret of all is drug mugging! In my book Drug Muggers, I describe how drugs "mug" you of vital nutrients which you need to produce "happy" brain chemicals termed neurotransmitters. Today I'll teach you what popular drugs lead to depression just by the mere fact they mug you of vitamins. No amount of Zoloft replenishes the nutrient steal.

    There are three primary neurotransmitters in your brain, serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. Serotonin is involved in emotion and mood control. Did you know that 95 percent of your serotonin is in your gastrointestinal tract, not your brain? Noradrenaline also known as "norepinephrine" is involved in your 'fight or flight' response. Dopamine is part of your inborn reward system which allows you to feel passion and pleasure. These three neurotransmitters are made in the body every second and they depend on adequate levels of B vitamins which you can get from eating right and keeping your gut healthy:

    Thiamine or B1- The journal Neurology, showed a thiamine deficiency contributes to a decrease in serotonin which can lead to depression and anxiety, as well as weight gain. Drug muggers include antivirals, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement, raw oysters, antacids and antibiotics.

    Niacin or B3- Tryptophan is metabolized in your brain into 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) and goes on to form serotonin and dopamine. You need niacin for this biochemical reaction to occur. Acid blockers, antacids, cholestyramine and loop diuretics are drug muggers. Just so you know, serotonin is broken down at night to form melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

    Pantothenic acid- This B vitamin makes for healthy adrenal glands; it's often low in people with hypoglycemia. Speaking of blood sugar, use your computer to tune in to a free online event where I am giving a free one hour interview along with 40 other experts. Blood sugar abnormalities cause mood swings. You need this B vitamin to make noradrenaline as well as your memory molecule acetylcholine. Deficiencies in vitamin B-5 are tied to decreased alertness, fatigue, memory problems and depression. Acid blockers, cholestyramine and antibiotics are drug muggers.

    Pyridoxine or B6- Pyridoxine is found primarily in beans, legumes, meat, eggs, fish and bread but you can't eat enough to make adequate levels of serotonin and dopamine. By improving the production and function of serotonin and dopamine, you can reduce the severity of certain types of seizures, neuropathic pain and Parkinson's disease. Drug muggers are corticosteroids, oral contraceptives(estrogens), loop diuretics and antibiotics.

    Folate or B9- This is folate not "folic acid" by the way. Up to 70 of depressed people have a genetic 'personality' such that they have what's called an "MTHFR" polymorphism or what we call a SNP (pronounced "snip"). This situation compromises your body's ability to turn folate from your foods into L-methylfolate which you need to make neurotransmitters, especially your passion hormone dopamine. Drug muggers include metformin, fluoxetine, warfarin, oral contraceptives and high doses of niacin.

  • An ancient adage from Chinese medicine says, “A doctor would rather treat ten men than one woman.”Chinese medicine validates what women have always known, we are indeed intricate creatures! Our hormones are in part responsible for this complexity. Their ebb and flow influence all aspects of a woman’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.