How America’s Depression Treatment Went So Wrong

10 minutes. 8 yes or no questions.

That’s all it took for sleep deprived, 23-year-old me to have her insomnia diagnosis replaced by a Major Depressive Disorder diagnosis. I can’t say whether or not the “methodology” that led to that conclusion originated with big pharma, medical research or my physicians own volition, but I walked out of the office that day, Prozac®  prescription in hand, deeply confused.

Luckily, my instincts screamed against filling that prescription. I ripped it up in the car out front of the physician’s office. I’m so blessed that I did because a simple google search for Prozac’s common side effects makes it clear that I would have been worse off. They include:

  • headache, dizziness, vision changes;
  • pain, weakness, yawning, tired feeling;
  • sleep problems (insomnia), strange dreams;
  • upset stomach, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea;
  • and many more.

About 25 years ago when this happened to me, researching the side effects of a medication on Google was not even an option. So, why didn’t I take it? I let my inner truth guide me instead of conventional medicine. I followed my heart. And I’m so glad I did.

Painting Gray Black and White

In rare instances like smallpox, American physicians have flipped a switch and put an end to disease. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule. Throughout my 20-year medical career I’ve learned first-hand that there is SO much more gray area than there is black and white on the spectrum of medical treatment and diagnosis. Depression falls squarely into the gray.

According to the CDC, depression affects more than 26% of the U.S. adult population. By 2020, it’s estimated to be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease. There is no quick fix for this complex psychiatric disease stemming from various biological, genetic and psychological factors.

The symptoms – including low moods, changes in appetite, fatigue, and loss of interest in daily activities can be debilitating. So, what are most MDs quick to offer as the solution? Antidepressants.

Nearly 17% of American women report having taken an antidepressant in the last month. Even more startling, over a quarter of those taking them have done so for 10 or more years. Antidepressants are often framed as a solution as reliable as the smallpox vaccine, yet their results aren’t impressive for many people and come with a host of side effects.

Is It Possible to Boost Your Mood Naturally? Modern Science Says Yes.

Many of us have become so reliant on our doctor’s recommendations that we quickly disregard natural remedies passed down over thousands of years and supported by modern science. The little known fact is, depression isn’t always as simple as correcting serotonin levels. Here are my two favorite mood-boosting strategies, supported by today’s science:

1. Reduce Inflammation with an Ancient Wonder Herb

Turmeric is a spice and a part of the ginger family that has been used for thousands of years. It’s rich in a powerful natural phenol called curcumin. This wonder herb has been shown to be effective in treating low moods, either alone or in combination with an antidepressant. Curcumin contains powerful ‘phytochemicals’ that reverse inflammation, and chronic inflammation has been shown to contribute to the development of a wide variety of disorders, depression being one that may be closely linked.

2014 randomized control study compared three groups of 20 participants each. The three groups were given curcumin alone, Prozac® + 1g of oil based curcumin, or Prozac alone for a six-week period. They then had their low moods measured on a common scale. Surprisingly, the group on curcumin alone did just as well as those on Prozac alone. While there was not a major statistical significance among any of the three groups, the group on the combination scored best. The researchers found no safety concerns with the daily curcumin usage and concluded “This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD [major depressive disorder] without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”

 While a one-pill cure is not to be expected, the properties of curcumin as a powerful anti-inflammatory can have positive effects on depression. Work Turmeric into your diet in supplement form or by cooking with it as a spice.

2. Rebuild the Gut with Intolerance Testing

Hippocrates famously said, “All Disease Begins in The Gut.” Yet, western medicine has been very clear about the cause of depression. It’s a result of a deficiency in neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin and norepinephrine. But, there’s science behind the belief that the gut has an incredible influence on mood.

A group at McMaster University studied two groups of experimental mice, each bred for certain behavioral characteristics. One group was shy and timid, the other group was noticeably more social and bold. When researchers wiped out all the gut bacteria of both strains of mice with antibiotics, then fed each group the gut bacteria of the opposite mouse strain, the two groups literally swapped personalities. The bold mice became timid and the timid mice became bold!

Our gut is integral to the production and storage of the neurotransmitters we know depression is linked to. In fact, approximately 90% of serotonin in the body is produced by cells in the gut and approximately 95% of the total serotonin content of the human body is present in the gut.

Work with your medical provider to identify food intolerances such as gluten and dairy as causes of leaky gut. I recommend blood testing, but urine testing is also an acceptable way of identifying these intolerances. Once you’re aware of them, you can work to rebuild the gut with a reduction in inflammatory food intake and a probiotic regimen.

When In Doubt, Connect with Yourself

Depression is strongly linked to disconnection from your true purpose. Many of the patients I work with get overwhelmed by the idea of connecting with themselves, but it doesn’t have to be stress inducing. Start with a simple deep abdominal breath or a daily reverse nostril breathe regimen. Learn how to practice my favorite one here.

It’s also essential to understand your unique nature. From the foods you eat to your sleep schedule, what’s best for you is unique to your specific Ayurvedic mind-body type. Take my Dosha Quiz to identify your unique nature and get lifestyle and diet recommendations.

In short, antidepressants can be a powerful solution for some, but I’m a strong advocate of exercising caution and considering natural alternatives first.


Lopresti, A. L., Maes, M., Maker, G. L., Hood, S. D., & Drummond, P. D. (2014). Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 167, 368-375.

Sanmukhani, J., Satodia, V., Trivedi, J., Patel, T., Tiwari, D., Panchal, B., Tripathi, C. B. (2013). Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother. Res., 28(4), 579-585.

Allison, D. J., & Ditor, D. S. (2014). The common inflammatory etiology of depression and cognitive impairment: a therapeutic target. Journal of Neuroinflammation.

Iyer LM, Burroughs AM, Anand S, Souza RFD, Aravind L. Polyvalent Proteins, a Pervasive Theme in the Intergenomic Biological Conflicts of Bacteriophages and Conjugative Elements. Journal of Bacteriology. 2017;199(15). doi:10.1128/jb.00245-17.

Namkung J, Kim H, Park S. Peripheral Serotonin: a New Player in Systemic Energy Homeostasis. Molecules and Cells. December 2015. doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f.

Iyer LM, Burroughs AM, Anand S, Souza RFD, Aravind L. Polyvalent Proteins, a Pervasive Theme in the Intergenomic Biological Conflicts of Bacteriophages and Conjugative Elements. Journal of Bacteriology. 2017;199(15). doi:10.1128/jb.00245-17.

The views and advice expressed by Dr. Trupti Gokani, ZIRA MIND & BODY, LLC, and Shanti, LLC are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service and is for educational purposes only. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider. We suggest that you continue to work with qualified medical professional as you engage in our material, products and services. No information offered here should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition.

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