Naturopathic Approaches to Anxiety and Depression

Teenager with depression sitting alone in dark room

Dr. Peter Bongiorno on Treating Anxiety & Depression Naturally

Dr. Bongiorno covers:

Lab Testing for Anxiety and Depression

  • Testing for adrenal and digestive function, hormones, mold exposure, and more.
  • Testing for genetic predispositions – how genes affect mood.

Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety

  • The importance of sleep, stress, food, exercise, and detoxification.
  • Why sleep and digestion have to be the first steps to any plan to help depression and anxiety.
  • Meditation to balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
  • The Mediterranean Diet is the most well-studied diet to lower inflammation, which contributes to depression.
  • The importance of digestive health and how the gut and brain communicate.
  • Exercise works wonders for anxiety and depression.
  • Hydrotherapy – cold water’s role in creating endorphins.
  • The importance of being in naturephytoncides as a hidden part of nature, producing calm and lowering stress hormones.
  • Detoxification as a therapy.

Supplements for Depression and Anxiety

  • Essential fatty acids, probiotics, and multivitamin as a beginning treatment.
  • Fish oil, vitamin B12, creatine, and vitamin D to help medications work better.
  • Curcumin (turmeric) – increases levels of glutathione.
  • Saffron – good for sexual side effects that can accompany antidepressants.
  • Chromium, rhodiola, berberine, curcumin combination supplement.
  • Important to work on diet and sleep at the same time.
  • Sam-E, 5-htp – both very well studied and effective for depression.
  • Lithium orotate – low dose compared to pharmaceuticals. Societies with low levels of lithium have lower levels of depression.

Herbs for Depression and Anxiety

  • Using valerian for sleep.
  • Passionflower – reduces anxiety without causing sedation. Useful for anxiety before anesthesia with the help of a physician.
  • Hyperiucm (St. John’s Wort) – as effective as SSRIs, but safer in recent studies. Be careful when using with medications, can cause side effects.
  • Thyme in extra virgin olive oil can give low doses of lithium that helps with mood.

Tapering Anxiety and Depression Medications

  • L-Phenylanine, Tyrosine, and 5-Htp can all be used successfully, in conjunction with a doctor, to taper off medications.

Tips to Reduce Feelings of Anxiety & Depression, Naturally

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and mood. Getting eight hours of sleep a night can be difficult, but implementing a regular bedtime routine can help you to sleep better. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Also, develop a nightly ritual to unwind before bed and signal to your brain that it is time to sleep. This can be something very simple, like sipping a mug of herbal tea and reading a chapter of a novel or doing deep stretches for 15 minutes.

Eat Whole, Nutritious Foods

The food you eat can have a big impact on how you feel, both physically and emotionally. Eating a diet of healthy, whole foods can help to boost mood and reduce stress. 1 Some foods also help increase serotonin levels in the body, which may be beneficial to those dealing with anxiety and depression. Serotonin-boosting foods include poultry, salmon, eggs, spinach, and others that contain the amino acid tryptophan. 2

Move Your Body

When you are feeling down, taking the time to move your body can help you feel better. Physical activity produces endorphins, which can alleviate stress and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. 3 It can be difficult to motivate yourself to be active when you are feeling depressed or anxious. Start small with something that feels manageable, like a 15-minute yoga session or a walk around the block, and slowly work your way up from there.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2017 and has been updated in November 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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