September 24, 2016

The Happy Pill Myth

Is there a better way to health and wellness other than swallowing mind-numbing anti-depressants?

Utah: The best snow on earth, world-renowned mountains, red rock, lakes and glorious rivers; home to outdoor enthusiasits and artists, and world-headquarters of the Mormon Church. Yet Utah is also home to more people prescribed antidepressants than any other place in the world. Why?

Utah's addiction to prescription medicationThe simple answer is that we in Utah have bought into the belief that pills can improve our state of being and make us happy. Doctors prescribe antidepressants to patients to treat a myriad of illnesses: anxiety, restlessness, sleep apnea, stress, sexual dysfunction, you name it and if the problem is psychological the answer is usually some form of SSRI (selective seretonin reuptake inhibitor). But these pills have some terrible side-effects.

“Trust your doctor” was once a truism, but can we really trust them if they believe that for so many problems the best solution is to pharmaceutically alter our brain chemistry, a strategy which has been found to lead to long-term damage?

Could their promotion of this strategy have anything to do with the wonderful lunch they just ate compliments of big pharma, the only little catch being that they must listen for a few minutes about the wonders of new drugs?

Some doctors disregard the fact that we have the alternative ability to alter our brain chemistry by foods we eat and things we do. For example, extended physical exertion releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are chemically similar to morphine and allow our bodies to handle pain, stress and problems. Serotonin and dopamine are both endorphins.

After orgasm the brain dumps dopamine. While eating chocolate our brains also release dopamine. The brain naturally produces reward chemicals. All of these natural methods for altering brain chemistry are impaired if we take antidepressants. So what can we do to feel better?

It turns out there are numerous alternatives for chasing away the winter doldrums—naturally.

Yoga Alternative to prescribed anti-depressants

Julie Mason

It’s Sunday morning. Isabelle

“Ma-shakti-devi” Barger, founder of the Integrated School of Yoga in Sugar House, glides into the studio at Gold’s Gym. She rings a tiny bell to signal the beginning of class and turns on the sound system. A traditional Sanskrit mantra fills the air, “Shiva, Shiva, Shiva tampor.” The music is repetitious and soothing. Isabelle places her hands in the heart center pose and begins leading a succession of “counter-poses,” designed to open the body.

“I was attracted to yoga in the beginning,” she says, “because it worked the muscles in a way that made them lean. Then I noticed I could sleep better and just felt better in my own skin. Eventually I learned how holding the pose could also transform the mind. Yoga slows down the vibrations of the mind,” she says, “preparing the body for meditation.”

Isabelle has been committed to this path for seven years–stumbling on to Yoga “almost by accident.” “It wasn’t at all planned,” she says. “I was just following my heart and my interest.” However, her quest evolved once she entered the ashram of her mentor, Swami Maitreyananda, in Buenos Aires, and became a serious, resident disciple. “I found my life path,” she says.

The  Integrated School of Yoga

Isabelle Barger Founder of The Integrated School of Yoga

When Isabelle returned to Salt Lake in 2008, it was with renewed purpose and focus—to offer Internationally Certified Teacher-Training. She sees this as “the chief means by which I can multiply what I have learned. . . put it out there in the world.” She will have graduated 26 teachers by this February.

 Daves Health and Nutrition

Dave Card Founder of Dave's Health and Nutrition

Movement isn’t the only way to banish winter blues. Nutrition can change mood, too.Dave Card founded Dave’s Health and Nutrition, located in Salt Lake and West Jordan. More than just a health food store, “Dave’s” is a holistic wellness center with ten “wellness counselors” offering by-appointment consultations in everything from Energy Kinesiology to Chakra Analysis. “We don’t have ‘jobs’,” says Dave. “We have a lifestyle. Every employee is passionate about what they do.” As is Dave who sees up to eighteen appointments a day. “I love doing what I do,” he says.

And he’s been doing it for thirty years—switching from psychology to nutrition when “I saw how much better people got on the right supplements.“ Dave knows what he is talking about: “I am a certified Nutritionist, Master Herbalist, and Certificated Homeopath,” he says indicating the many framed documents on his office wall. He also authored three books on cellular health and has developed his own herbal formulas for common problems such as allergies, energy, and hormonal imbalances.

Dave’s top four recommendations for staying healthy include salmon oil, antioxidants, probiotics, and protein at every meal. Very often he says his advice to clients consists simply of pointing out the obvious: “Do you realize what you are doing?” he asks. “Quit doing it.” For Dave, his commitment to a patient exceeds taking two aspirins and calling again in the morning. “My guiding principal is help them to get healthy.”