Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by
Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by
Please remember — DO NOT ABRUPTLY STOP TAKING LEXAPRO OR ANY OTHER SSRI MEDICATION.
Alternatives can help transition in a gradual and gentle way to reduce medication over time. Diet is a cornerstone of both physical and mental wellness. The importance of a diet that provides the micro-nutrients for the billions of functions inside a healthy body and functioning central nervous system cannot be overstated. Creating successful Lexapro® alternatives in a treatment plan may be exponentially enhanced by utilizing more than one therapy. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy in combination with upgrading the diet could be even more effective.
Eliminating things that contribute to depression is also a good place to start, such as getting ample sleep every night, eating a healthy and balanced diet, being physically active, and avoiding drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, processed foods, and other sources of toxins. Even certain foods and food allergies can contribute to depression and other unwanted symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to depression.
Other Lexapro substitutes include holistic and alternative medicine. There are some powerful natural remedies for depression that may provide workable alternatives to pharmaceutical prescription medications as preventative measures. For transitioning from medication, the use of herbal remedies must be well-monitored by medical professionals who are familiar with drug discontinuation and understand the mechanics involved during gentle and relapse-free recovery. Start with the basics. Upgrade the diet. Improve sleep. Eliminate negative food choices and any recreational use of drugs and alcohol. Test for nutritional deficiencies and correct them. Get your body moving. Have fun with hobbies and learn some new skills or hone some you may have abandoned. Do volunteer work — it’s highly therapeutic! Stop watching the news. Detox (prune) your social contacts and improve the relationships that you treasure. There is so much potential joy in life and so many ways for you to re-discover your love and passion. The following are evidence-based items that can be discussed with your physician or caregiver that may help speed up your journey back to vibrant wellness and energy. More information is given on each point below this short summary.
CBT and other forms of counseling can be as effective as medication, with results that are longer-lasting, without adverse effects, and less subject to relapse.13
Over a lifetime of exposure to chemicals in food, water, and air, the body can become a toxic wasteland. This can be remedied, and cleansing the body has been shown as highly therapeutic in relieving symptoms that are commonly associated with exposure to toxins. Alternative to Meds Center offers clients a number of methods for deep and thorough neurotoxin removal.42
A healthy microbiome is absolutely essential for mental and physical wellness.41
St John’s Wort and Kava have been found better than placebo and equally good as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and insomnia, without cardiac or other reactions associated with pharmaceuticals.
Valerian is another herbal remedy that has shown significant efficacy for depression as well as lessened insomnia and anxiety symptoms.30
These plant extracts may help prevent depression and avoid beginning psychiatric medication, but herb-drug interactions are under-studied, and taking herbals simultaneously with pharmaceutical drugs is not generally recommended.
Other herbal products such as Passiflora, Piper methysticum, and Ginkgo biloba, have shown efficacy for depression, anxiety, and insomnia, but trials are limited — though promising. Some herbal remedies in moderation may be useful to gradually transition away from medication, but caution is advised since serotonin upregulation and other synergistic effects may occur if overused, and the process of coming off a drug should always be carefully monitored within a framework of competent medical oversight to avoid such interactions.16,43,44,47
Omega-3 fatty acids can be added to the diet through foods rich in this nutrient (salmon, mackerel, walnuts, flax seeds, eggs from flax-fed chickens) and supplements that are easily obtained at health food stores. Studies showed that a daily dose of 1.5-2g of EPA contained in Omega-3 supplements proved highly efficient at raising depressed mood.16,48,54
Amino acids are naturally produced and food-sourced elements that are important for mental health, and important in the natural production and distribution of mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Choose fruits and vegetables, raw and organic where possible, including squash, spinach, peas, beans, root vegetables, bananas, oranges, apples, leafy greens, and meat and other animal-sourced foods for a rich and vibrant diet full of raw materials for a healthy and robust neurotransmitter system.15,54
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) available in supplement form, is a substance produced naturally in the body from the amino acid methionine that can help with depression. Food sources of methionine include meat, meat products, milk, and milk products.16,50-52
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a precursor to serotonin and as such, may help with depressive symptoms that are related to low serotonin. Can be obtained in supplement form or from foods like turkey, chicken, pumpkin, turnips, leafy greens, etc. 29,31,40,46,49
*Studies such as those from Kofler et al. have shown evidence that amino acids play an important role in both treating and preventing depression.
Test for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, for example, vitamin D, B vitamins including B6, magnesium, and others that can be therapeutic for depression. Research studies by Lakhan et al showed that 125-300mg of magnesium with each meal and again at bedtime relieved major depressive symptoms within 7 days. Folic acid or folate (.8mg daily) and B12 (.4mg daily) showed excellent relief from depression where these were deficient in patients.32,33,35,45,54
Testing can reveal dysfunctional thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, hypothalamus, or other hormonal issues that might be addressed through diet, nutrition, or other holistic treatments.33
Food allergies can induce symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, and mood dysfunction. Lab testing can effectively determine if such factors are at play.34,39
Exercise even of a mild nature can have life-changing positive effects on mood, energy, sleep, and overall well-being. Sports, Tai Chi, Qigong, walking, swimming, and bicycling, are all excellent and dependable options to consider for improved mental and physical health.34,53
Forest bathing (walking in treed areas) and mindfulness — studies show a significant positive correlation with physiological and psychological well-being that is long-lasting and without harmful effects.37
Exposure to sunlight has been found to be somewhat dose-related. More sunlight can mean brighter cognitive function and mood. Get out and SHINE! 36
Revamping the diet to omit fast foods, cakes, sweets, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods. Instead, include fish, chicken, fresh fruits, and vegetables, which showed a 41% decrease in depression in research studies.9,38
Acupuncture, massage therapies, meditation, and yoga, are shown in studies to alleviate depressive symptoms and improve overall mood.4,17-21
Please continue reading about other alternatives to Lexapro that are discussed in more detail below, including information on specific types of psychotherapy and other therapies that have been shown truly helpful in the treatment of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and others.
There are many possible causes of depression. These may include impaired hormonal states, deficiency of vitamin D or other essential nutrients, substandard diet, neurochemistry dysfunction, lack of sleep, and failed life aspirations.7,8,9
Lexapro is classed as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and is prescribed to treat depression (major depression or clinical depression) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).10 Natural Lexapro alternatives are often sought after when drug adverse effects become too bothersome or if the medication is not adequately controlling the symptoms it is being used to treat.11 Among the alternatives to Lexapro are many therapies and alternative treatments. Other medications may be recommended as traditional Lexapro antidepressant alternatives whether antidepressants or antipsychotic medications but substitute drugs are very likely to cause any or all of the same problems as Lexapro.12
Natural (non-drug-based) Lexapro alternative treatments do not bring on the same adverse reactions, nor are they habit-forming. Effective relief can be found for many people without having to resort to drugs alone.9
Counseling, psychotherapy, talk therapy, life coaching, and other forms of therapy greatly help people with depression or GAD who are seeking natural Lexapro alternatives.13 Therapy can be all that it takes to alleviate depression for some people, especially acute treatment of mild to moderate depression. Various forms of psychotherapy including short-term therapy (10-20 weeks) allow patients to gain insight and resolve their depression through a verbal exchange. The therapist will often assign homework to work on between sessions. Behavioral therapists focus on helping patients to learn how they can obtain more satisfaction from their own actions and how they can unlearn behavioral patterns that are contributing to or resulting from their depression.
Several different types of therapy have proven to be effective in confronting and overcoming severe depressive and anxious symptoms as antidepressant alternatives. Out of all the different therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy,13 interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy14 have been found effective and helpful. Each type of these therapies focuses on addressing different expressions of depressive problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is aimed at helping the patient to develop skills and coping mechanisms, as well as become aware of and rid of destructive and negative thoughts and behavior patterns. Interpersonal therapy focuses on maintaining healthy relationships and establishing a system of support. Psychodynamic therapy looks at the real underlying cause(s) of anxiety or depression, such as traumatizing events, repressed emotions, or social problems.
Acupuncture is another alternative treatment that has been shown to be effective for depression.4 Medical acupuncture can help relieve pain, both physically17 and emotionally.18 Acupuncture treatment could be helpful to relieve stress, tension, and depression.
Massage therapy can be helpful to reduce stress, tension, and depression.19
Meditation and yoga are two healing therapies that can be practiced anywhere, anytime. These Lexapro alternatives can provide relief for depression and other symptoms.20,21
While the number of prescriptions written continues to rise, we also see a rise in the lack of results. Prescription drug overuse may actually worsen psychiatric symptoms.22 At Alternative to Meds Center, we believe that holistic and psychotherapeutic interventions are poised to resolve what is causing the symptoms. These effective alternatives to Lexapro can allow constant growth and progress toward natural mental health for life.
Individuals are often given Lexapro and other antidepressants prior to any investigation into why they are suffering from depression.6 The low-serotonin theory has limited diagnostic value and has never been substantiated, according to research published in the Journal of World Psychiatry.23 There are many other factors contributing to depression that could have been checked, and probably were not investigated. What about looking for environmental neurotoxins that destroy energy metabolism? 5 What about food allergies in which internal swelling and inflammation may cause a slow metabolism? 24 Were these tested? Thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, and other hormonal issues may also be well worth investigating.25 And so on. Even in the common instance of an individual not ever being low serotonin in the first place, the medication itself can cause downregulation to develop.26
SSRI meds block the reuptake of serotonin, and serotonin is supposed to be recycled, so it can be used again by the nerve cells. While suspended, these molecules become subject to degradation and ultimately will be lost as waste material. Clinical research has found that when serotonin molecules remain trapped in the synapse, the flanking receptors may become less sensitive. These types of dysregulation outcomes cannot be fixed by taking more of the drug. The best way forward is to discover the root cause(s) for mood and other unwanted symptoms. Lab testing for markers is instrumental in finding the root causes for many symptoms that drug therapy alone was not able to resolve. Finding the root cause is the most logical approach to solving the problem.26
When a person stops taking Lexapro they may encounter Lexapro withdrawal and may suffer symptoms of anxiousness, sleeplessness, brain zaps, overstimulation, or even Tourette’s-like and OCD symptoms.28 The body may be struggling while trying to readapt after drug-induced neuroplastic changes.27 With proper support, including before and after drug cessation, these outcomes can be softened and made more tolerable and comfortable.
Treatment at Alternative to Meds Center aims to discover any medical reasons why an individual may be depressed. Our rehab program is designed around lab testing, stabilization of neurochemistry through corrected diet, and the use of natural substances and supplements that actually help create serotonin,29 medically supervised cessation techniques, and a wide range of adjunctive treatments such as nebulized glutathione and IV therapy, yoga, massage, equine therapy, peer support, personal counseling, elimination of environmentally accumulated toxins, healthy microbiome support through cleansing, and many other natural therapies for effectively combating depression. Please take time to review the amazing roster of treatments available at the center on our services overview page.
We invite you to give us a call and talk, so you can get an understanding of the comprehensive array of resources for Lexapro alternatives that are the backbone of our programs for natural mental health.
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Originally Published Nov 5, 2019 by Lyle Murphy
Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
Lyle Murphy is the founder of the Alternative to Meds Center, a licensed residential program that helps people overcome dependence on psychiatric medication and addiction issues using holistic and psychotherapeutic methods.