Treatment for depression typically means medication and psychotherapy. But a number of alternative therapies may also help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your state of mind and help you manage your depression. Alternative therapy refers to practices used that are outside the realm of conventional western medicine, such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, massage therapy, and reiki. Studies show more than one-third of depression sufferers use alternative therapies to manage their symptoms. Commonly cited reasons include preferring a more natural way of coping with depression, the high costs and side effects associated with medication, and personal belief system. One of the most popular alternative therapies for depression is acupuncture, an ancient chinese healing method that seeks to balance life force, called chi, which flows through the body along meridians related to each of the bodys organs. Acupuncture helps restores chi through insertion and manipulation of needles along the affected meridian, stimulating the bodys ability to overcome imbalances. Acupuncture is associated with improved sleep, an increase in endorphins, and an increase in the release of the brain chemical, serotonin, important for mood regulation. Tai chi, also dating back to ancient china, is an exercise system of smooth, slow movements to achieve harmony and balance of body and mind. Researchers report tai chi practitioners experience an enhanced sense of wellbeing, as well as reduced depression, tension and fatigue. The japanese technique, reiki, which means universal energy, seeks to overcome blockages or energy imbalances in the body. Reiki practitioners use their hands to improve the bodys energy flow and life force. Reiki is believed to reduce stress and tension, improve sleep and increase energy. Meditation techniques may help depression sufferers relax mentally and physically, often resulting in a renewed perspective. Meditation is also believed to trigger endorphin release and lead to positive feelings of wellbeing that may linger long beyond the actual meditation period. Recent research suggests massage therapy relieves depression and anxiety by impacting the bodys biochemistry. Studies of depression sufferers measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol before and after massage, with post-massage cortisol levels showing up to a 53% reduction. Yoga is also believed to help alleviate depression symptoms. Hatha yoga, or physical yoga, combines poses, controlled breathing, chanting, and meditation. Yoga helps promote circulation and concentration, while energizing the mind and body. These alternative therapies may be effective as an alternative to, or in combination with, traditional treatments. There also are several nutritional components and supplements that have been used to manage depression symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables, are believed to be essential to health mental functioning. Both st. Johns wort and sam-e are used to treat depression in europe and may be effective in treating mild to moderate depression. However, st. Johns wort may produce adverse interactions with some medications, so make sure to talk to your doctor to avoid any interaction. And neither is approved by the fda. Remember to discuss alternative therapies with your doctor before beginning to use them, so that you can get the most out your depression treatment.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012