Depression- Naturopathic Medicine’s Approach

I suffer from severe depression- Can Naturopathic Medicine help me?

How is it possible that someone that has been suffering for years and, taken a myriad of prescription medicines, would respond to something as simple as natural medicines?

The main differentiation between treating depression with holistic medicine versus prescription drugs is actually not in the medicines themselves, but in the approach to diagnosis.  At any given time we may see ten different patients labeled as suffering from Depression and yet our treatment approach will radically differ from one to the next.

During the last decade, the media and health food industry have presented a number of natural substances as great “holistic remedies” for depression.   Some examples are St John’s Wort, SAM-E and B Vitamins.  While the motivation is sincere, they missed the point of what true healing (cure) entails.

The role of a good naturopathic physician is that of a ‘Medical Sherlock Holmes’:  to investigate hidden clues for the imbalances in the individual’s body chemistry.  Just like the famous detective, we find subtle clues that guide us to a proper diagnosis and the “right treatment”, which is always highly individualized for each patient.

Hence, we search for clues in areas such as:

If you or someone you care about suffers from depression- where do you start looking?

  1. If the depression is mild and doesn’t affect daily function- the first place to concentrate is in your food intake, digestion and elimination.
  2. High levels of sugar intake can dramatically affect emotional response.Absence of beneficial fats (good fish and flax  seed oils) can affect neural and hormonal function.
  3. Improper mineral balances can aggravate depressive moods by slowing metabolism.  At the least Add the Mineral Magnesium (200-400 milligrams) to your regime.

If digestion is improper, then many nutrients that are essential to proper brain function may not be absorbed sufficiently.

If, on the other side, elimination is improper, toxins can be incorporated into the blood stream, liver function can be taxed and the foundation for emotional wellbeing is shaken.

Of course, psychological trauma is always taken into account.  However, even in the presence of severe psychological dysfunction, a balanced chemistry will make the difference between suffering and being able to handle the trauma and move beyond it.

Severe depression- requires more than a “do-it-yourself” approach.  Find a practitioner that is knowledgeable on the areas specified above and in whom you can feel a sense of trust (essential!) and be prepared for a great journey.  As a physician, some of the greatest moments have been from seeing people that have suffered for years from severe depression, come back to life.  Why choose to just exist, go through life with a black and white view, when it can be so full of vibrant color?


  • Dr. Ruth Bar-Shalom graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, one of four accredited postgraduate Naturopathic Medical schools, in 1987. Dr. Bar-Shalom has been an Associate Professor of Rheumatology and Geriatrics for The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She has presented workshops at Bastyr University and her alma mater. She served as president of the Alaska Association of Naturopathic Physicians from 1992-1994. Dr. Bar-Shalom has over 23 years of practical and clinical experience in naturopathic medicine. She founded the Holistic Medical Center in Santa Cruz in 2003. For more information, call (831)475-6666 or visit

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