August 13, 2017: My theories on this subject have changed. Until I can get my act together to update this content, please see this post.
The text below was last updated February 6, 2012.
My depression lasted from junior high until I was about 31. I realized by ninth grade that it was not event- or environment-based. At around 30, after 18 months on antidepressants, I realized they were a disaster for me and I looked elsewhere for solutions. A few months later, and after two years of unemployment due to my mental state, I found success with a gluten-free diet. At first I thought that all my problems had been solved, and it truly was the end of my despair, but if I had to go back to my mood in those early “I’m cured!” days, it would terrify me. But at the time, it was so much better than my norm that it was a miracle.
It took about two more years of tinkering with my diet and supplements before I realized I was normal. And with no help from any doctor, thank you very much, although they occasionally were of use on other issues. Just a lot of internet searching and a few alternative health books.
Following the logic that since celiac disease (for which a gluten-free diet is the solution) results in malabsorption and thus nutritional deficiencies, that my health problems were caused by nutritional deficiencies, I went in that direction, and with a few exceptions stayed on that road.
Here’s a list of the supplements/treatments/practices that definitely had an effect on my depression, which is about one-tenth of what I actually tried. Mind you, I never took ALL of these at the same time, and only take a few of them now, on occasion.
- Quit gluten.
- Quit dairy. Resumed when corrected zinc deficiency.
- Calcium/magnesium: 1000/500 per day at first? Maybe more.
- Zinc: 50 mg/day for about a year, then cut back. This had the most noticeable effect of all the supplements. After a few months on it, I could eat dairy again without it lowering my mood. (The casein in dairy binds with zinc.)
- Iron: Varying amounts.
- B-complex: Started with B-50 3x/day.
- Plus more of the following B vitamins, which B-complex doesn’t have enough of, as they are too expensive for the manufacturer. Compare the various RDA percentages on the B-complex label to get an idea of the different amounts.
— Biotin: 1-2,000 mcg
— Folic acid: 400-800 mcg. See note below about newer, better form.
— B12: 1-2,000 mcg. ” “
- Vitamin D3: 2,000 IU/day. Helped mood a bit, but mostly sleep. I should’ve tried a lot more but at the time the “experts” said that amount was pushing it.
- Omega-3 EFAs. I took a lot of these for several years.
- Treated for hypothyroidism. Zinc helped this, as did low-goitrogen diet, Armour thyroid for 18 months, and acupuncture, which I tried after I got tired of being slave to a prescription. After about 15 treatments in nine weeks with an M.D./D.O.M., I was able to stop the Rx.
- Light therapy in winter for 30 minutes in morning. For me it prevents plummeting mood, insane carb cravings, zombie brain, and near-total insomnia.
Still affecting my mood:
- Winter (seasonal affective disorder / SAD): I am assuming that lots of vitamin D3 will eventually fix this, but I developed a reaction to vitamin D3 supplements and can’t get my levels high enough. Ideal results for the 25(OH)D test are supposedly 50-80 nmol/L, but I can’t get above 20 nmol/L. Also, I have noticed that the light therapy doesn’t work if I do it after 8 a.m., whereas for the first several years it worked as long as I did it by 9 a.m.
- Vicodin. (Demerol, however, is lovely.)
- If I take a whole lot of something that competes with zinc and/or B vitamins — for example, my recent experiments with huge doses of Ca/Mg for energy — I’ll have to take those supplements to keep my mood from falling.
- Not getting enough calories. I’ll feel it two days later.
I did not know until this year about the limitations of folic acid and B12 cobalamin/cyanocobalamin supplements (as opposed to methylfolate and methylcobalamin). I wonder if using those better supplements would have sped up my progress.
I’ve never taken a whole lot of things at once, as it makes it difficult to figure out what the heck is doing what, I find it overwhelming and annoying, and I just can’t digest all that much.
I still experiment a great deal with supplements, but not for the depression end of things. Knock on wood.