We all know drugs can be real lifesavers. And we probably all know someone who, at one time or another, felt like an antidepressant prescription lifted them out of a rough patch in their life, or even changed their life. But the widespread use of prescription antidepressants is starting to make some psychiatrists nervous, as they have become the third most common prescribed class of drug, with sales of over $11 Billion (!) in 2010.
A recent study, published in the journal Health Affairs, that came with some heavyweight credentials—Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, the Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research, and Eli Lilly, the big pharma corporation—found that 80% of those antidepressant prescriptions are being written by non-psychiatrists, and that more and more of them are being given for non-psychiatric uses such as PMS and chronic pain.
PMDD, otherwise known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, can be considered both a gynecologic and a psychiatric condition. In today’s health care environment, we can’t blame a gynecologist for prescribing antidepressants for PMDD or severe PMS rather than referring to a psychiatrist. But the study left little doubt that these medications are being overprescribed by medical practitioners who may not fully understand these drugs, their side effects, or how to manage patients taking them.
All of which leads us to wonder, at least as it relates to PMS, PMDD, and antidepressants, why so many doctors and health care practitioners don’t understand how safe and effective natural, holistic PMS remedies actually are:
Diet: There are foods that are bad for PMS such as caffeinated beverages (decaf coffee still contains caffeine, so your reaction will depend on your sensitivity), alcohol, and refined sugar; foods that are good for PMS, like whole grains, leafy greens, broccoli, flax, and soy; and overall dietary factors like food sensitivities or allergies, and blood sugar instability, also called hypoglycemia, that can actually cause PMS. We suspect that most doctors who write antidepressant prescriptions for PMS don’t discuss the healing role of diet in adequate detail. Lifestyle: Lifestyle choices, good and bad, can have a significant impact on PMS symptoms. Premenstrual syndrome has been proven to be connected with cigarette smoking, weight, and stress. And exercise is one of the most tried and true natural PMS relief remedies. Supplements and nutrition: Several nutrients, taken as supplements, are known to help PMS, like vitamin B6, magnesium, and calcium. But nutrients work together, so we shouldn’t forget the other B vitamins, or vitamin D, or essential minerals like zinc and chromium. We’re pretty sure most doctors aren’t extolling the virtues of a high-potency multivitamin as they write their prescriptions! Herbal supplements: Certain herbs are safe, effective, and downright invaluable for treating PMS. Chastetree Berry and Dong Quai are among the most commonly used, though there are others we like as well. It is too bad that so many doctors don’t trust herbal medicine, despite its record of safety as well as the large amount of research showing its efficacy for PMS.
We are thrilled that modern science has created the wonder drugs and technology that are able to help so many people. But we do wish there was a trend towards a greater recognition of the role diet and lifestyle changes, and natural remedies could play in decreasing the need for antidepressants and other pharmacological medications.