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How Organic Food Played a Crucial Role in My Decision to Quit 11 Years of Antidepressants

How Organic Food Played a Crucial Role in My Decision to Quit 11 Years of Antidepressants

In the summer of 2001 and at the urging of my then-girlfriend, I went for an appointment to go see her naturopathic doctor in New York City, the place where we were both living at the time. Having done acupuncture since high school, I had always been open to alternative medicine and was curious what […]

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In the summer of 2001 and at the urging of my then-girlfriend, I went for an appointment to go see her naturopathic doctor in New York City, the place where we were both living at the time.

Having done acupuncture since high school, I had always been open to alternative medicine and was curious what this woman could do for me.

During our session, she asked me about all of my health and dietary habits – eating, drinking, smoking, drugs, exercise. Everything. In the midst of this conversation, the topic of organic food somehow arose. I remember that I had some notion about what organic food was but wasn’t overly familiar with it.

When I asked the doctor why I should be eating organic food, she responded “because it doesn’t have chemicals or pesticides.” Yet, I already knew that it didn’t have chemicals or pesticides.

The question I really meant to ask was “Don’t we need the chemicals to kill all the bad stuff?” Somehow that didn’t make it out of my mouth.

After leaving her office that day, I set out to educate myself about organic food. I soon learned that we didn’t need pesticides to kill all the bad stuff and that these pesticides were in fact very harmful.

My foray into organic food started with research on the Internet and then migrated into shopping at the natural market. First, it was the organic apples and pears. Next, I moved onto lettuce, carrots and spinach. Soon came rice and popcorn. After that, I then proceeded to tackle every other food on the shelf.

As my interest became more of an obsession, I developed a real paranoia about everything non-organic that I was putting into my body. There is no doubt that I drove myself and many other people crazy because of this.

What made matters more complex was that I was taking Prozac at the time. I started on this antidepressant during my junior year of college because I was having so much trouble getting through the day. Each day was heavier than the next and life was becoming a major struggle. As it was already, I felt totally in over my head at Brown and my parents worried that I wasn’t going to make it.

Why was I so down? It is hard to say exactly. There was no specific event or trauma that I can point to. However, my best guess is that it was probably a very bad case of seasonal depression. The dark New England winters and lack of sunlight have a tendency to do that to me.

So, I ended up following the advice of both my parents and my psychiatrist to go on medication. More specifically, Prozac. Fast forward nearly 11 years later and I was still on the drug.

That summer of 2001 was the very first time that I had ever considered going off of antidepressants. And I reasoned that if I were ever going to do it, this was the time.

Life was finally going really well for me. I had a great job, a beautiful South American girlfriend and a fantastic apartment overlooking Union Square in NYC. Furthermore, my company had just closed a $17M round of financing.

As I debated the spiritual questions as to whether Prozac fit in my life anymore, something else became clear. I was expending so much time, energy and money to keep chemical-laden food out of my body yet I was popping two pills filled with chemicals into my mouth each morning. This didn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Going off of Prozac was the continuation of my purification process. Two years before, I had quit drinking. One year before, I had quit smoking cigarettes. Now, it was Prozac.

As I started to get rid of the bad stuff, the things that would nourish my body were coming in. It was at that point that I started to truly believe in the tremendous importance of food and how food is medicine. Organic food, that is.

The decision to stop taking antidepressants was the biggest one I have ever made. For several years, the road after Prozac was beyond brutally difficult. I had lost everything – my job, my life savings, my independence, my girlfriend. My hope. The best part of my day was when I went to sleep at night. The worst part of my day was when I woke up in the morning and was reminded that I was still alive.

Regardless of all the pain that I had to endure, I knew the only path for me was to be antidepressant-free. And organic food played a pivotal role in helping me see that this was indeed the right decision.

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11 Comments

  • Josh says:

    @Nancy…if you read the heading of the article, notice the words “MY DECISION TO QUIT ANTIDEPRESSANTS.” I don’t think Max is preaching anything. What he’s doing is telling readers his story on why he decided to leave antidepressants behind. This obviously isn’t what everyone should do…it’s his choice, and he’s telling his story. No apology necessary.

  • Nancy says:

    Max…. very irresponsible article trying to connect Organics with the potential to alleviate depression and suggesting that stopping antidepressants can be done.

    You are out of your element here.

    You owe your readers an apology and for heavens sake, do not preach organics and stopping antidepressants as a solution….very bad inference.

  • Alexandra says:

    Let me start by saying that I am a huge proponent of eating organic and minimally processed food. I enjoy your posts and learning about new and exciting organic foods on the market. However, this post made me cringe as I was reading it…. “I was expending so much time, energy and money to keep chemical-lad food out of my body yet I was popping two pills filled with chemicals into my mouth each morning.” There is a very important distinction that needs to be made between pesticides (many of which contain neurotoxins) and anti-depressants. The way that SSRIs like Prozac work, is to block the reuptake of serotonin in your brain. So you’re not giving your body anything that it doesn’t have already—some people simply need more of it. Would you argue that someone with type 1 diabetes who is injecting genetically engineered insulin is doing something that is at odds with eating his or her organic diet? Probably not.

    Anyway, I could ramble on, but when writing these sorts of posts, please be sensitive to the fact that there are folks out there who will always need medication—simply because of brain chemistry—and that they may need to embrace medication alongside other healthy choices, and that might actually makes perfect sense.

    Also, be mindful that for folks struggling with depression who may have tried making several lifestyle changes–such as switching to an organic diet– and have experienced no change, reading an article that suggests organic food can be the solution would likely make them feel like, “What’s wrong with me that this won’t work?”

  • davidg says:

    I’ve done the anti-depressant routine for a TBI recovery and hated every pill I took. After that I went through a phase of taking vitamins & supplements. Both were useful as temporary props, note the word temporary. Then 2 years ago I made the decision to take nothing but healthy food. It’s a slow process, for some things (like sugar which if you’re not careful creeps into all kinds of food you buy). One of the most helpful things to get off was gluten. I’m not allergic but have found 3 conditions that it causes or exacerbates.

    No question, being careful or fussy if you like, is one of the best things you can do for your health.

  • Michelle Fox says:

    Great article, I need more. I started on an anti -depressant when my brother completed suicide 12 years ago and now I have just lost my mom to Alzheimer’s Disease. I have tried to go off….brutal.

    I eat clean!!! No drink or smoke. More info, please.

  • Claire says:

    What a great post Max, thank you for sharing and being so honest

  • Max Goldberg says:

    Thanks so much for your kind words Luanne!! I appreciate it very much. Stay committed to the food that you want to eat and be the positive influence that you know is right.

    Live well,
    Max

  • Luanne says:

    What a testimony! I suffer from a lot of anxiety and food is my drug. I know what is right for me but putting it into practice is really hard when I am feeling out of sorts. I know if I would just stick with it, real food would help…its just frustrating sometimes when 6 other people in your household dont want to eat what you do! Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story! Good for you, and very inspiring and helpful to know that food can be the answer outside of drugs. Thank you for sharing.

  • Max Goldberg says:

    Thanks Vanessa! More will be coming. Stay tuned……….

    Live well,
    Max

  • VANESSA NOEL says:

    WOW !!!! THIS IS AMAZING !! I WANT TO READ MORE – PLEASE CONTINUE.

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