Supplements That Can Help With Depression
Depression is a serious problem that effects most of us at one point or another. The disease is quite common with a wide range of symptom from low moods, poor energy, to reduced interest in normal activities that we once took pleasure in. Short term depression is a normal thing, and often comes from feeling overworked and stressed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you might want to first rule out those feelings as the cause of your depression. A great resource is found on this website.
When Depression extends over a period of time you should seek help. Depression left untreated can have terrible consequences like suicidal thoughts. Conventional depression treatment is usually aimed at therapy or counseling combined with prescription medications that often have side effects which shouldn't be ignored. They can even cause suicidal thoughts or amplify those a person is already having. That's why to combat the mental issue, psychiatrists have worked hard to identify alternative treatments without the side effects. What they have found is that some vitamins, supplements, and herbs can help with depression in some people.
Since I suffer from depression on occasion myself, I searched for alternative treatment methods and have put together a list of easy to find and inexpensive supplements that may help with the signs of depression. Here are the ones that are most commonly described as helpful. I have taken each of them and describe what my experience was.
Saint John’s Wort or Hypericum Perforatum
This is a popular natural anti-depressant with a mechanism similar to that of the pharmaceutical antidepressants such as SSRI's (Paxil and Prozac). Some studies indicate that this herbal supplement is effective, while other studies say it is not. Despite the confusion, I decided to give it a try. My experience with St John’s Wort is that it does work and gives a slight mood elevation - but not if I take too frequently. The best way I have found to use St. John's Wort is to use it for a few days, then take a day or two off. Other times, I will only take it on the days I feel a little down. This seems to keep me from becoming immune to the herb.
This is a beneficial amino acid which is found in green tea. You can get a healthy dose of L-theanine by drinking matcha, the purest type of green tea, which also has high antioxidant levels and additional health benefits. Many people take it because it is reported to enhance focus and concentration by boosting the brain’s alpha waves and increasing serotonin levels.
Since some report that it helps elevate mood via the increase in serotonin, I gave it a try. I didn't really find that it did much for me. A few days I felt like my day was going good, but not necessarily because my mood was any better. L-theanine is very inexpensive and trying it shouldn't cause any side effects so it wouldn't hurt to try it yourself.
We need a very small amount of chromium in our diet, and is found in foods like potatoes and animal protein. Many adults are slightly deficient in the metallic element so supplementing with it makes sense. Chromium works by regulating blood sugar levels and stabilizing your mood. It also helps to control brain chemical levels such as melatonin and serotonin.
When taking chromium as a supplement the recommended amount is 200 mcg, which is the dose I tried. After about a month I found that my energy levels were more steady (probably by controlling my blood sugar) and I would say that I had a mild change in my mood. Many diabetics report mood swings when their blood sugar levels drop, so I would imagine the steadying of my blood sugar resulted in my slightly better mood. Definitely worth trying, but don't expect amazing results. Probably best for mild depression or help with seasonal disorders.
Common signs of an iron deficiency include mood changes, chronic fatigue, and low energy. I eat meat, especially red meat, and have never found that I was iron deficient in my blood work. That's probably why I didn't see any improvement with my depression when supplementing with iron.
If you decide to give it a try, the daily recommended amount of iron for pregnant women is 25 mg while 18 mg is recommended for women of childbearing years. You can split your iron doses to reduce chances of constipation and to encourage smooth bowel movements.
Studies have found a connection between cognitive functioning, mood changes, and vitamin C levels particularly in the elderly. According to to research, there can be a significant reduction in depression and anxiety with intake of adequate levels of vitamin C through supplements or diet.
I take vitamin C regularly to fight off colds, so this was already part of my routine. If you are deficient in it, or find you get frequent colds - supplementation might help with depression. Since vitamin C is water-soluble and cannot be stored by your body, you must take it regularly to maintain healthy levels.
Magnesium is beneficial for issues like constipation, muscle tension, relaxation etc. It also plays a role in brain hormone production which can ultimately have an influence on your mood. A healthy diet will ensure you get adequate magnesium since it is found in foods such as dark and leafy greens, nuts, dried beans, and whole grains but you can also take it in supplement form. I gave it a go, and didn't really see much of a difference which I expected. I wasn't deficient to begin with. If you are, it's common to find magnesium combined with vitamin c at the store and it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.
There is plenty of upcoming research supporting that idea that omega-3 fatty acids play a beneficial role in brain health - particularly in relation to helping with overall mood changes, cognitive functioning, and depression symptoms. I rarely eat fish, and omega-3s are mostly found in foods like fatty fish such as herring, salmon, and mackerel.
I gave it a try and found that over about a month I did notice a slight improvement in mood, a little more than I did with chromium. If you are not allergic to fish based products, omega 3's are worth a try. If yo are allergic you can try alternative sources like nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
Depression is a serious topic, but if you feel that you suffer from the signs of depression there is hope. Before you turn to prescription remedies, talk to you doctor and see if some over the counter vitamins and supplements I have talked about may help with the problem. That may mean you need to get some blood work to determine if dietary deficiencies are the culprit. If your doctor clears you to take a hands on approach to tackle your depression, let me know what worked for you.