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SSRI Alternatives, SSRI Antidepressant Natural Help

This entry was posted in Antidepressant and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on February 5, 2024 by Diane Ridaeus

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

SSRI alternatives are almost never offered as a first treatment choice. SSRI medications are most often administered without any searching medical investigations, and prior to nutritional or lifestyle interventions.  Would you be surprised to learn that these omissions are contrary to the DSM V guidelines?35

There are a host of factors that can bring on a depressive state. These include everything from hormone issues to nutritional deficiencies. toxic exposures, and life stressors. How helpful would it be to check some of these things before the prescription pad gets pulled out? Did you know there are many possible interventions before resorting to toxic prescription drugs like SSRIs?

Do Your Symptoms Require SSRIs?

using SSRI alternatives
Alternative to Meds has been all about antidepressant alternatives for 17 years now. We help our clients safely get off antidepressants under medical oversight but also use holistic and environmental medicine to design better regimens for long-term health. We enthusiastically encourage  anyone to review our exciting published evidence showing over 77% of our clients who stop antidepressant meds, with the use of healthful antidepressant alternatives, perform and feel better, with fewer symptoms than when they were medicated! That’s something to shoot for!
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SSRI Alternatives (Non-pharmaceutical)

Many people, even those already taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), have interest and questions about what other options exist in SSRI alternative treatments. And, there may be questions about how effective alternative SSRIs may be. There may also be concerns about drug dependency and side effects, because of the many ways neuroleptic drugs interfere with and disrupt natural biochemistry in the brain and CNS.40

The most effective SSRI alternatives used for treating depression are based on an integrative approach—the approach used at Alternative to Meds Center. Instead of focusing only on prescription medication, this wider context of mental health treatment draws from the entire range of possible treatment methods. These can blend effective strategies such as psychotherapy, lifestyle coaching, targeted nutrition regimens, and physical therapies. Rather than taking a “shot in the dark” approach, the synergy achieved from multiple therapeutic approaches offers better long-term recovery and symptom resolution than any single effort by itself. An alternative, integrative health care counselor or practitioner in a clinical setting can fully evaluate a client’s history and physical state of health, plan strategic diet modification, test for allergies and toxic accumulations, as examples, and then provide coordinated care that can be designed to meet individual needs.1

You may have found that a trip to the doctor is too rushed for such an in-depth approach. If this has happened to you, do not be dismayed. Take the time now, to arm yourself with knowledge, which does not mean reading drug pamphlets dropped off by pharma reps.41

And look for a medical practitioner who understands holistic treatment, is willing to assist your efforts, and is prepared to take the time to do so. You may be able to explore good resources by searching databases online for orthomolecular and natural medicine physicians. The 2020 Journal of Medical Regulation reported that there are well over one million licensed, practicing physicians in the US alone, and many more millions around the world.28 Alternative to Meds Center has a full arsenal of qualified, compassionate, experienced holistically-minded physicians who are licensed in the fields of mental health, holistic and nutritional psychiatry, addiction recovery, and alternative medicine.22 In the world at large, we are hopeful that holistic practitioners can be found who are well-versed in nutrition and other alternative mental health treatments to help you wherever you reside.6,7,8

Natural SSRI Alternatives vs Prescription Medication?

Contrary to the TV ads, feeling happy is not about just one single molecule within the brain. In fact, almost always there are several underpinnings to feeling depressed, chronically tired, and lifeless. Our brain chemistry and our overall health are coaxed by the choices we make. There is much we can do in our daily lives to support a more positive mood and outlook. It might take some effort. Change is not always easy. It might take enlisting quality help and encouragement from others. Very probably, it will require some research and focus on behalf of your own well-being. We hope the information here will help you in your learning journey.

We will discuss various natural alternatives for SSRIs below, including dietary and lifestyle considerations and more. A prescription for SSRI medication may seem like a quick and easy fix but one would be well-advised to stop and take a closer look at the science or lack thereof before deciding on what would be the best and most authentically helpful treatment options for your unique situation.

SSRI Alternative — Restore the Gut-Brain Connection

ssri microbiome mood connectionOne example of a safe alternative to SSRI drugs that is receiving much interest focuses on restoring the microbiome, often called the “second brain.” But there is more to the story. New research on the antimicrobial effects of antidepressants is also receiving much interest from the medical and mental health communities. We have been looking at this subject for more than 15 years at Alternative to Meds Center. Current research by McGovern et al suggests that when a person takes an SSRI medication, concentrated amounts of that drug remain in the colon for a significant length of time. The effects of SSRI medication as an antimicrobial agent are a big concern that is too often overlooked.12 Studies on the after-effects of a course of antibiotics clearly show that depression and other mental health symptoms are associated with exposure to antibiotics which disrupt the gut microbiota.29 The state of one’s gut microbiota should be seriously considered in the field of mental health. This knowledge can help understand, at least in part, why SSRIs may cause or contribute to the adverse reactions for which they are known.9 A healthy and thriving gut microbiome is essential for mental health as well as physical health. A 2019 article in the British Journal of Hospital Medicine authored by Butler et al advises that gut bacteria are relatively easy to improve with prebiotics, probiotics, and diet. These nutrients can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and improve cognitive function. And the authors note that these interventions have produced encouraging results, with positive implications for mental health treatment.10,11

Explore A Wide Range of SSRI Alternatives

Below, we discuss some options to explore for SSRI alternative medicine and alternative therapies that can provide relief without medications.

These can include various genres of counseling like cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of talk therapy, bodywork therapies, such as therapeutic massage, chiropractic, osteopathic manipulative therapy, craniosacral massage therapy (CST), changes to diet, supplementation, neurotoxin removal, neurotransmitter rehabilitation, and other SSRI alternatives that are discussed in more detail below.

SSRI Alternatives Include:
  • ssri holistic alternativesOverhaul the diet. Cut the sugar, neurotoxic artificial sweeteners, processed and junk food, replace refined flour with unrefined, do include sufficient “brain food” such as good quality proteins, fruits, and vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids.*3,10
  • Preferably choose organic wherever possible.14
  • Get checked for magnesium or other deficiencies, and add supplementation and other dietary changes to correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies.13
  • Supplementation:  clinically tested herbal and other non-pharmacological agents have shown amazing efficacy such as St John’s wort, Passionflower, saffron, and many others.2,3,13,14,22,24-26,31,32
  • Exercise regularly, take walks, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, go hiking, do forest bathing, swimming, and yoga, preferably outdoors for adequate sun exposure when possible.15,20,33
  • Keep a consistent bedtime and aim for 8 hours of sleep every night.16
  • Avoid alcohol & recreational drugs.17,18
  • Support a healthy microbiome with prebiotics, probiotics, and dietary elements such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and other fermented foods.9,10,11,12
  • Methods of relaxation such as yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, therapeutic massage, mindfulness meditation, nature walks, music therapy, art therapy, and enjoyable hobbies.19,20,21,33,37,38
  • Acupuncture is considered a promising treatment for improved mental wellness.4,5
  • CBT (cognitive behavioral counseling) has been shown equally or more effective than medication treatment for psychiatric symptoms such as insomnia, depression, and more.23
  • Volunteer work is probably the best-kept “secret” to life satisfaction, personal happiness, and well-being.36

*Changes to the diet, along with other SSRI alternatives contribute to a highly effective treatment plan that can be tailored for each person.3

Diet and Supplementation — Powerful SSRI Alternative Therapies

At Alternative to Meds Center, we use targeted amino acid therapy, IV + NAD therapy, GABA, 5-hydroxytryptophan, SAM-e, nebulized glutathione, and other protocols depending on what the individual’s testing profile shows would be most beneficial. Lab testing can reveal a deficiency in minerals such as magnesium13 or certain vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that need to be replenished. Omega-3 fatty acids may improve cognitive function and provide other beneficial effects. Fascinating research published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience shows a surprising time correlation between the rising incidence of depression in the general population and less consumption of foods rich in omega-3 oils.14

Herbal therapy such as with passionflower has documented benefits for insomnia, depression, anxiety, and overall stress reduction.24 Other herbal remedies have shown to be very useful as SSRI alternatives, such as St. John’s Wort to treat depression, anxiety, as well as everyday cuts and burns.25 Valerian has been shown helpful in clinical trials for inducing sleep and improved sleep quality.26

A number of studies have shown both saffron and curcumin to be as effective as Prozac© in the treatment of depression.2,31,32

Exercise is a Healthier Alternative to SSRI Medication

Any form of exercise, including walking, yoga, hiking or forest bathing, swimming, working out in a gym, or in the living room, and equine therapy are all very enjoyable yet powerful natural alternatives to SSRI drugs.15,20,33,39 Tai Chi and QiGong are time-tested and gentle therapies for health and strength.37,38 Exercising serves as a natural form of SSRI alternative medicine and may act as a promising intervention for depressed individuals according to research published in the American Journal of Medicine.15 There exists a bountiful reservoir of authentic therapies that can be blended into a unique program for recovery from depression and health recovery after SSRI use. It could be highly advantageous to you or your loved one to research what exercise options as SSRI alternatives are available in your locale right now.

Improve Sleep Habits

Aim for 8 hours of good quality sleep regularly. A fascinating clinical study from 2017 published in The Lancet Journal of Psychiatry showed strong evidence that inadequate sleep was responsible for a great many negative mental health symptoms. Specialized sleep interventions have proven to improve sleep quality, and duration, and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychotic symptoms, and psychological distress without the use of drugs of any kind.16

Removal of blue-light and Wi-Fi electronics from the bedroom has also been shown extremely effective at improving sleep quality.30

Relaxation Techniques are Effective Alternatives to SSRI Drugs

Whether you live city or rural style, qualified therapists and classes are becoming more and more accessible to everyone. Acupuncture has been shown promising in small cohort trials for improving mental wellness, although there is a surprising paucity of large clinical studies as of this date.4,5

Massage therapy is very popular for both physical relief and mental relaxation and has been shown in clinical trials to be extremely helpful in relieving symptoms such as anxiety and depression, improved vitality, and a heightened sense of well-being. Mindfulness meditation is a popular and portable activity that has shown efficacy for improved mental health.19

Many people find music therapeutic as a relaxation aid, as well as a source of welcome stimulation at other times.21

We invite you to explore your own preferred relaxation techniques, such as QiGong and take a look at other SSRI alternative options Alternative to Meds Center provides for its clients.

Enlist Help To Find The Root Causes as a Holistic SSRI Alternative

ssri addiction root causesConsult with an alternative, integrative health practitioner, nutritional psychiatrist 22 and/or other holistic doctors about SSRI alternatives you can use for depression or other mental health symptoms. One of the most effective ways of mending depression is through counseling, a natural alternative to SSRIs. One can engage in exploring and addressing areas that are dragging a person down because they are unresolved. Some examples might be relationship troubles, work and career-related gaps in fulfillment and satisfaction, past loss, incomplete bereavement, or other areas of personal interest. With a trusted guide at hand, much relief can be found in counseling.

Give some thought to the way your circumstances can affect your perspective on life. Explore your environment, sleep patterns, your diet, what you do in your free time, and who you spend your time with. Ask yourself if the way you are nourishing yourself every day is helping you to feel better, or is it making things worse? And know that without a doubt, there are plenty of natural and alternative ways of supporting your outlook and mood along the way. You can feel happy again—in mind, body, and spirit—with some supportive guidance, deep reflection, and perhaps some proactive work on your part.

More About SSRI Alternatives at Alternative to Meds Center

ssri alternative treatmentsAlternative to Meds Center’s drug rehab program is focused on discovering the medical reasons that may be causing a person to feel depressed. You do not have to subscribe to the single-molecule or chemical imbalance theory, for instance, that being “low in serotonin” is the only factor contributing to depression. Has thyroid or adrenal function ever been checked? have you tested for magnesium or other deficiency? Is there an accumulation of neurotoxins like heavy toxic metals, environmental toxins, etc., that ruin the metabolism of food into energy? Is the diet is so significantly lacking in nutrition that it can’t produce what is needed for brain health? Or is one wrapped up in an unfulfilling life where one may need more positive surroundings to make healthy changes? Take time to review the references listed in the summary above and at the end of this article, and you can gain a wealth of information that you can use today to begin to improve your condition.

The Alternative to Meds Center treatment program uses lab testing, targeted nutritional therapy, IV therapy, neurotoxin removal, natural substances to rehabilitate the neurochemistry, careful and comfortable medication withdrawal methods, massage therapy, yoga, peer support, QiGong, outdoor hiking, CBT, and other counseling, Equine therapy, and many other non-drug-based therapies to effectively resolve depression and other unwanted symptoms naturally. If you have already tried SSRI drugs but need to taper from them, we also specialize in holistic tapering programs. Please visit our services overview page for much more expanded descriptions of our services. Call us to learn more about the SSRI alternatives at Alternative to Meds Inpatient Center, and how we deliver the quality of help that is uniquely designed for you or a loved one to regain authentic, natural mental health and vitality.

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3. Knüppel A, Shipley MJ, Llewellyn CH, Brunner EJ. Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):6287. Published 2017 Jul 27. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7 [cited 2022 June 14]

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5. Wang H, Qi H, Wang BS, Cui YY, Zhu L, Rong ZX, Chen HZ. Is acupuncture beneficial in depression: a meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials? J Affect Disord. 2008 Dec;111(2-3):125-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2008.04.020. Epub 2008 Jun 11. PMID: 18550177. [cited 2022 June 14]

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10. Butler MI, Mörkl S, Sandhu KV, Cryan JF, Dinan TG. The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: What Should We Tell Our Patients?: Le microbiote Intestinal et la Santé Mentale : que Devrions-Nous dire à nos Patients? Can J Psychiatry. 2019 Nov;64(11):747-760. doi: 10.1177/0706743719874168. Epub 2019 Sep 17. PMID: 31530002; PMCID: PMC6882070. [cited 2022 June 14]

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15. Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically DepressedPrim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0301 [cited 2022 June 14]

16. Freeman D, Sheaves B, Goodwin GM, et al. The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysisLancet Psychiatry. 2017;4(10):749-758. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30328-0 [cited 2022 June 14]

17. Guillot C. Is recreational ecstasy (MDMA) use associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms? J Psychoactive Drugs. 2007 Mar;39(1):31-9. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2007.10399862. PMID: 17523583. [cited 2022 June 14]

18. Lee KH, Jun JS, Kim YJ, Roh S, Moon SS, Bukonda N, Hines L. Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Suicide Among Homeless Adults. J Evid Inf Soc Work. 2017 Jul-Aug;14(4):229-242. doi: 10.1080/23761407.2017.1316221. Epub 2017 Jul 5. PMID: 28678621. [cited 2022 June 14]

19. Wielgosz J, Goldberg SB, Kral TRA, Dunne JD, Davidson RJ. Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2019 May 7;15:285-316. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423. Epub 2018 Dec 10. PMID: 30525995; PMCID: PMC6597263. [cited 2022 June 14]

20. Furuyashiki A, Tabuchi K, Norikoshi K, Kobayashi T, Oriyama S. A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies. Environ Health Prev Med. 2019 Jun 22;24(1):46. doi: 10.1186/s12199-019-0800-1. PMID: 31228960; PMCID: PMC6589172. [cited 2022 May 20]

21. Leubner D, Hinterberger T. Reviewing the Effectiveness of Music Interventions in Treating Depression. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1109. Published 2017 Jul 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01109 [cited 2022 June 14]

22. Adan RAH, van der Beek EM, Buitelaar JK, Cryan JF, Hebebrand J, Higgs S, Schellekens H, Dickson SL. Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eat. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019 Dec;29(12):1321-1332. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.10.011. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31735529. [cited 2022 June 14]

23. Gautam M, Tripathi A, Deshmukh D, Gaur M. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for DepressionIndian J Psychiatry. 2020;62(Suppl 2):S223-S229. doi:10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_772_19 [cited 2022 June 14]

24. Janda K, Wojtkowska K, Jakubczyk K, Antoniewicz J, Skonieczna-Żydecka K. Passiflora incarnata in Neuropsychiatric Disorders-A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020;12(12):3894. Published 2020 Dec 19. doi:10.3390/nu12123894 [cited 2022 June 14]

25. Klemow KM, Bartlow A, Crawford J, et al. Medical Attributes of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 11. Available from: [cited 2022 June 14]

26. Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006;119(12):1005-1012. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.026 [cited 2022 June 14]

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29. Lurie I, Yang YX, Haynes K, Mamtani R, Boursi B. Antibiotic exposure and the risk for depression, anxiety, or psychosis: a nested case-control study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2015 Nov;76(11):1522-8. doi: 10.4088/JCP.15m09961. PMID: 26580313. [cited 2022 June 14]

30. Tsouklidis N, Tallaj N, Tallaj Y, Heindl SE. Lights Out! The Body Needs Sleep: Electronic Devices and Sleep DeficiencyCureus. 2020;12(7):e9292. Published 2020 Jul 20. doi:10.7759/cureus.9292 [cited 2022 June 14]

31. Moshiri E, Basti AA, Noorbala AA, Jamshidi AH, Hesameddin Abbasi S, Akhondzadeh S. Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: a double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2006 Nov;13(9-10):607-11. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2006.08.006. Epub 2006 Sep 18. PMID: 16979327. [cited 2022 June 14]

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Originally Published Nov 5, 2019 by Lyle Murphy

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

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.

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