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Anti-Depressants - Is now really the right time to stop?

Many people choose to see a naturopath because they are taking medications they really want to stop, but are afraid to because of the withdrawal side-effects... A common example is anti-depressants.

Working with your medical team

I encourage my clients to see their doctor to discuss reducing the dose. I think it is important to manage this holistically and taper slowly. Mental health plans can be beneficial as they can include psychologist visits. Mental health is complex and it takes support from a team to create the best outcome.

Timing is Everything

A question that is important to consider is WHY NOW?

Is there a particular reason?

Is this a good time to stop?

Do you have any big events (even positive ones such as a wedding, buying a home etc.) coming up in the next month? Is there a better time? A holiday or a quieter period at work?

How will you cope if there is dizziness or wooziness in the next 2-4 weeks as the serotonin receptors readjust?

In an ideal world if I have had the chance to work along side someone before beginning the process of reducing the medication, then we have a much better success rate & are better able to mitigate some of the issues faced. Making changes to nutrients levels, in particular B vitamins, magnesium & zinc is crucial in this period. These nutrients are critical for the nervous system, which is under a lot of stress at this time...

Recognising the Signs

It is helpful if we can get a family member or friend on board. Someone who can recognise early warning signs of a depressive episode. Often there is a lot of sadness & fear in the first month or two & this can be due to the effects of the drugs leaving the system rather than a re-emergence of depression. Having someone who has known you for a long time can often help here....

Lifestyle Changes

This is where the magic happens. I like to design steps that are taken until they become habits, and we build on them. Once they become part of the routine, and you feel like you are making progress we gently add more activities or foods to support rebuilding your mental & physical health. It is amazing to see how one small step then another can lead to a happier healthier life.

Examples of initial homework steps are;

Walking for 10 minutes.

Sitting quietly for 3 minutes.

Eating 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.

Eating protein at breakfast...

Sound too simple? You would be amazed what small steps can lead to. You cannot change everything even if you want to, and over the years I have learned to not encourage massive change as it is not sustainable. Slow & steady wins the race.


Diet is one of the most important changes. It is often one of the most difficult steps to get started. When a person feels unmotivated, overweight, tired, stressed etc, eating healthy simply isn't on their radar. It has to be..... Reducing inflammation in the body is a key step in battling depression so finding a low processed diet that you enjoy is the first step.

The majority of your serotonin is made in your gut. Feeding the good bacteria and reducing bad bacteria is key.

Fluctuations in blood glucose & insulin levels can dramatically increase anxiety. Eating a diet that is based on real whole-foods will help with nutrient levels, gut health & balance blood glucose levels.


I often prescribe herbs such as Rhodiola, Saffron, Curcumin or St Johns Wort to support mental health. If anxiety begins to increase during this period I often use herbs such as Lemon Balm, Passionflower, Withania or Lavender, etc. depending on the person & the need.

Amino Acids

Precursor molecules to serotonin can be beneficial such as 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). These can be thought of as the building blocks to help make more neurotransmitters.

Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (Gaba) if low can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating and memory or learning problems. Muscle pain & headaches are common when adjusting medications & insomnia and other sleep problems can emerge during this transition period. GABA can often help here.

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) s an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, neuro-protector and mood-modulator. PEA has an antidepressant and anti-anxiety effect in animal models. It has also been shown to improve the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale in humans.

Obviously not one size fits all. But I find that there is much that natural health has to offer during this transition period. This does not replace the need to work alongside a medical team such as a GP & psychologist, but it doesn't have to be one way or the other. Why not take the best of both world to reclaim your right to happiness & health.

Lesley Rix

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