SSRI alternatives are almost never offered as a first treatment choice. SSRI medications are most often administered without any searching medical investigations or lifestyle interventions.
There are a host of factors that can bring on a depressive state. These include everything from hormones to nutrition to life stress, and many other factors. How helpful would it be to check some of these things before pulling out a prescription pad? There are many possible interventions before resorting to toxic prescription drugs like SSRIs.
Do Your Symptoms
Alternative to Meds has been all about antidepressant alternatives for a decade and a half now. We help our clients get off antidepressants but also use holistic and environmental medicine to design better regimens for long-term health. Please note that we have exciting published evidence showing over 77% of our clients who stop antidepressant meds, with the use of healthful antidepressant alternatives, perform and feel better, i.e., with fewer symptoms than when they were medicated! That’s something to shoot for!
15 Years Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
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 they may be.
The most effective SSRI alternatives used for treating depression are based on an integrative approach—the approach used at Alternative to Meds Center. 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 can fully evaluate a client’s history and physical state of health, and then coordinate care 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 so, do not be dismayed. Take the time to find a medical practitioner who understands holistic treatment, is willing to assist your efforts, and is prepared to take the time to do so. There are well over a million practicing physicians and half a million specialists in the US today. There are over 9 million doctors in the world. Alternative to Meds Center has a full arsenal of qualified, compassionate, and experienced physicians who are specialized in the fields of mental health, holistic psychiatry, addiction recovery, and alternative medicine. In the world at large, we are sure there are ample practitioners who are well-versed in nutrition and other alternative mental health treatments to choose from 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. Our brain chemistry is coaxed with 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 from others. Very probably, it will require some research on your own behalf. We hope the information here will help you in your learning journey.
We will discuss other 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.
For example, new research on the antimicrobial effects of antidepressants is 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 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 these medications cause the adverse reactions that they do.9 A healthy and thriving microbiota 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
Useful SSRI Alternatives
Below, we discuss some options to explore for SSRI alternative medicine and alternative therapies that can provide relief without medications. This can include various genres of counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of talk therapy, bodywork therapies, such as therapeutic massage, chiropractic, osteopathic manipulative therapy, and craniosacral therapy (CST). Also made available to our clients are these: acupuncture, targeted amino acid therapy, IV therapy, GABA, 5-hydroxytryptophan, SAM-e, and other protocols depending on what the person’s testing profile shows would be beneficial. Perhaps testing shows a deficiency in minerals such as magnesium, or certain vitamins. 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 Also, herbal therapy with passionflower has documented benefits for insomnia, depression, anxiety, and overall stress reduction.24 Other herbs could be useful as SSRI alternatives, such as St. John’s Wort, used to treat depression, anxiety, cuts and burns,25 as well as valerian, shown to be helpful for inducing sleep and improved sleep quality.26
Any form of exercise, including walking, yoga, swimming, working out in a gym, or in the living room, and equine therapy are all very enjoyable yet powerful natural alternatives to SSRIs. Exercising serves as a natural form of SSRI alternative medicine and may be 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 SSRI alternatives are available in your locale right now.
SSRI Alternatives Include:
Modify the diet.*3
Eat sufficient “brain food” such as proteins, greens, vegetables, omega-3 oils, cereals.14
Exercise regularly, take walks, yoga, preferably outdoors when possible.15
Keep a consistent bedtime and aim for 8 hours sleep every night.16
Avoid alcohol & recreational drugs.17,18
Support a healthy microbiome with prebiotics, probiotics, and dietary elements such as fermented foods.9.10,11,12
Overhaul the diet. Get checked for a magnesium deficiency. Replace refined flour with unrefined and add supplementation and other dietary changes to correct.13,14
Methods of relaxation such as yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, nature walks, music therapy, hobbies.19,20,21
Acupuncture is documented as an effective treatment for depression.5
CBT (cognitive behavioral counseling) has been shown equally or more effective than medication treatment for psychiatric symptoms.23
*Changes to the diet, along with other SSRI alternatives contribute to an effective treatment plan that can be tailored for each person.3
Enlist Help To Find The Root Causes
Consult with an alternative, integrative health practitioner, nutritional psychiatrist,22 or other holistic doctors about SSRI alternatives you can use for depression or other mental health symptoms. One of the most important and successful ways of mending depression with natural alternatives to SSRIs is through exploring and discovering any reasons or causes of depression.
Give some thought to the way your circumstances can affect your perspective on life. Explore your environment, sleep patterns, and 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
Alternative 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.
5. Park J, Linde K, Manheimer E, Molsberger A, Sherman K, Smith C, Sung J, Vickers A, Schnyer R. “The status and future of acupuncture clinical research.” J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Sep;14(7):871-81. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.SAR-4. PMID: 18803496; PMCID: PMC3155101. [cited 2020 Dec 17]
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 2021 May 14]
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.
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.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.