Historically, social norms have made it difficult for men to discuss feelings of depression. With phrases like “man up” and “boys don’t cry” used commonly in our cultural nomenclature, emotions as normal as sadness and fear are believed to be a threat to masculinity.
But the truth is, men get depressed too—and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Over six million men in the United States suffer from depression each year, with many more cases going undiagnosed. That’s why it’s so important to recognize that everyone, including men, can be susceptible to depression.
Men can suffer from depression for a number of reasons, but it may be hard to narrow it down to just one. Sometimes depression “runs in the family,” meaning individuals have a genetic predisposition to the disease. Other times, symptoms are triggered by a traumatic event or life experience. Depression can also be attributed to certain nutritional deficiencies that can cause the brain to be lacking in feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
Treatment options, including therapy and lifestyle changes, can provide tremendous support for men dealing with depression. While medications can be useful, antidepressants don’t work for everyone and some people are turned off by the unwanted side effects prescription drugs can cause. For men looking for natural and effective alternatives to pharmaceuticals, supplementation may be the answer. Two botanicals in particular have been clinically studied and found to have a powerful effect on depression.
Unlike prescription meds, curcumin acts on multiple pathways in the body to stop the cycle of chronic inflammation in the brain. It helps rebalance neurotransmitters and even stimulates the formation of new brain cells. Curcumin also enhances noradrenaline and tryptophan levels, and increases the production of dopamine—another neurotransmitter that controls emotional response in the brain, including the ability to experience pleasure and pain. This is a huge benefit for depressed individuals who report feelings of apathy.
In a published study comparing BCM-95 curcumin—a highly bioavailable form of curcumin—to two popular prescription antidepressants, fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Tofranil), the curcumin was found to be equally as effective as the drugs. Unlike the drugs, however, the curcumin didn’t cause adverse side effects. In another placebo-controlled study, BCM-95 showed antidepressant effects in people with major depressive disorder as early as four weeks after starting treatment. Additionally, people with atypical depression, a form that often doesn’t respond well to antidepressant drugs, reacted exceptionally well to curcumin.
Saffron is another botanical shown in studies to work along unique pathways in the brain to support emotional balance and peace of mind. It has the ability to lower cortisol levels in the body, promote serotonin production, and help preserve levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that calms feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. It is often low in people who experience depression.
In clinical studies, saffron has also been found to reduce the symptoms of both mild and major depression, especially when they overlap with anxiety. In fact, one trial found saffron could reduce the symptom of persistent depressive disorder in just six weeks.
An added bonus of adding curcumin and saffron to a mental health regimen is that both nutrients have far-reaching benefits that can improve your overall health. However, if your depression doesn’t begin to lift after making these and other lifestyle changes, it’s wise to seek help from a qualified mental health provider.