Thursday, September 19, 2013

Natural Depression Management without the Dangerous Antidepressant Wellbutrin

Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men during their lifetime and about 20% of women are usually formally diagnosed. Some of these mood changes and depressed feelings can be attributed to hormone changes but many women may be prescribed an antidepressant medication that can set them up for a lifetime of dependence and harmful side effects.

In addition, about 15% of mothers suffer from postpartum depression or the baby blues during the first month after they welcome baby home. For most women small changes in mood after baby can be normal and caused by shifts in hormones due to the fact we no longer have a little one's placenta leaking hormones in our bodies. Many women may turn to their doctor for advice on ways they can ditch the depression and jump back into being a "normal" parent. Depression can be very troublesome and leave mothers feeling frustrated that they may be neglecting their child and even worse that they may be a bad parent.

Well just to set your mind at ease, there is no "right way" to be a parent. I always tell my newly pregnant friends and family members that they'll get tons of advice on how to be a parent and the "right way" to do this or that but ultimately all the advice you get will never work for your child! Every child is different and every family dynamic as well so I usually say that learning how to be a parent is more of a crash course type of experience that you can't explain or really prepare for. Those little ones will flip your life upside down and then grind what's left into the carpet but you'll always have a laugh at a particular thing they did that day or a question that caught you by surprise (and in most cases off guard without any discernable form of an acceptable answer).

But anyways back to the point.... for those women and mothers that are dealing with depression, your doctor may recommend an antidepressant to help get your mood back on track. I highly caution you to do your research on the medication before you begin any regiment especially if you are breastfeeding as many of these medications can pass into breast milk. One popular medication recommended by doctors today is called Wellbutrin.

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that was first approved for use in the United States by the FDA in December 1985. Wellbutrin manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline promised that it would make patients "happy, horny and skinny" and even claimed it could help quit smoking. However due to the large number of seizures that were reported the drug was quickly taken off the market in 1986. It was reintroduced in 1989 and since then has been climbing the charts as the go to antidepressant that acts on increasing brain activity.  Nowadays, Wellbutrin is recommended for not just depression but also Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), abnormal moods, difficulty focusing, and off-label uses such as getting high, weight loss, bipolar depression, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), pathological gambling, and even sexual dysfunction.

In 2012, the United States Justice Department announced that GlaxoSmithKline was required to pay a $3 billion dollar fine after pleading guilty for misrepresenting and promoting unapproved uses of Wellbutrin for weight loss and sexual dysfunction, and paying kickbacks to doctors such as media physiologist and sex advice guru, Dr. Drew Pinsky of the "Loveline" show. There are also many other lawsuits pending against the manufacturer but with the monetary benefits from the sales of Wellbutrin, it doesn't look like any changes will be made soon.

In this respect, I feel it is my duty to inform pregnant women or those trying to conceive that Wellbutrin has an increased risk for serious birth defects such as heart defects, club feet, reduced testicals, and possibly even retard fetal growth. Even though the Mayo Clinic still recommends Wellbutrin for depression during pregnancy, regulatory agencies from many countries are warning of other side effects such as heart and lung malformations, preterm birth, and other physical defects. In those under 25, there is also an increased risk for suicide.

Some other side effects include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • rash or blisters
  • itching
  • hives
  • weight loss
  • drowsiness
  • excitement
  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • constipation
  • excessive sweating
  • confusion
  • hallucinations
  • irrational fears
  • fever
  • swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • hoarseness
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • chest pain
  • muscle or joint pain
  • rapid, pounding or irregular heartbeat
  • seizure
So what can you do to ditch the depression naturally?

1) Get your adrenal gland checked for dysfunction. Due to the chronic stress associated with the traditional American lifestyle, our adrenal gland steals resources that are needed for the correct production of stress adaptive hormones and this can exhibit symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, depression, decreased libido, and mood changes.

2) Make sure you're getting enough sleep. If you're not getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night (possibly more depending on your age) then your body is not able to recooperate from the demands of the day. This can lead to a lack of nutrients necessary to upkeep your energy production and support the hormones that dictate your mood.

3) Make sure you're getting enough Vitamin D. During the fall and winter months, we get much less time outside and much less sun exposure which can decrease the body's natural production of Vitamin D. In order to make Vitamin D, your body needs cholesterol to convert the inactive D3 form to the active form which helps with bone growth and repair, muscle function, digestion, and mood. If you're currently taking a cholesterol medication, I can guarantee that you're Vitamin D deficient because most cholesterol medications turn off your body's natural cholesterol production which is needed to make Vitamin D active and if you're taking a cheap Vitamin D supplement I can almost guarantee its Vitamin D3 which your body can't convert. A great way to make sure you're getting enough is to take about 800 IU of an active form of Vitamin D daily. Check out AlignLife's Active D.

4) Take a supplement designed to increase your body's natural production of Serotonin. Serotonin is the "happy hormone" your brain produces to keep your mood elevated, keep you focused, help you sleep, and even relieve anxiety. AlignLife's 5-HTP has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, insomnia, help relieve chronic migraines and ADHD symptoms. I have helped many of my patients reduce and discontinue their antidepressant medications with the use of this supplement.

Resources:
1. Hensley S "Glaxo To Plead Guilty to 3 Charges in Sweeping Health Settlement." NPR.org July 2012
2. Information about bupropion [Wellbutrin] National Institutes of Health
3. Stretch K "Antidepressants Get FDA's Black Box Warning" Dynamic Chiropractic Nov 2004
4. Peterson DM. "Crime Does Pay - Big: GlaxoSMithKline Fined $3 Billion; Stock Rises" Dynamic Chiropractic Sept 2012
5 Whalen J "Dr. Drew Was Paid BY Glaxo; Radio Host Extolled Virtures of Antidepressant After Attending Events for Firm" The Wall Street Journal July 2012
6. Steel S " Side Effects from Big Pharma: Wellbutrin-Dangerous for You and Your Baby"