The use of natural supplements for mental health has become a trend among many who suffer from depression and anxiety. The best supplements for mental health are supposed to make you calmer, happier, healthier and more successful. Positive outcomes are touted widely, but some of the evidence is anecdotal, based on personal testimony rather than rigorous scientific studies.
Your personal circumstances, diet, health, psychiatric history and many other factors are taken into account by your doctor or therapist when recommending medications and supplements for mental health. Counseling is often needed as well to get to the root of the issues that trigger your feelings of depression, stress or anxiety.
Mental Health Supplements in Food
The food we eat is our primary source of vitamins and minerals, including the ones thought of as mental health vitamins. If your diet has insufficient levels of these important substances, taking mood supplements may make a difference. However, successful treatment is often more complicated than just taking a pill. Below, you can find information about some of the best supplements for mental health.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are promising supplements for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. These fatty acids not only build brain cells but also protect against heart disease and stroke. The body doesn’t produce them naturally, so they’re important to include in your diet.
Studies have shown a statistical link between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and the incidence of depression. In one case, a 1% increase in stored omega-3 correlated with a 59% drop in self-reported depression.
There’s little risk in taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, but taking the appropriate dose is the way to get the greatest benefit. People with seafood allergies and those who are on blood thinners should consult their physician before taking omega-3 supplements.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Flaxseed oil
- Chia seeds
- English walnuts
- Canola oil
There’s evidence that vitamin D deficiency is a factor in many illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression. It may be one of the easiest to find and most affordable supplements for mood disorders. Not only can vitamin D be boosted through diet, but exposure to the sun allows the body to produce the vitamin.
Vitamin D has been studied extensively as a remedy for depression, especially seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression caused by a lack of sunlight. Some of the same groups that report depression also have a high incidence of vitamin D deficiency: adolescents, elderly individuals, the overweight and people with chronic illnesses.
Vitamin D can be found in:
- Cod liver oil
- Rainbow trout
- White mushrooms
- Fortified milk
The effectiveness of magnesium as a mood supplement is indicated by the lowered levels of magnesium found in many depressed people. There’s also evidence that magnesium provides a benefit for those who struggle with feelings of anxiety. Magnesium is a safe supplement to take, and at the appropriate dose, it has minimal side effects.
A study of 8,894 people found that those with the lowest levels of magnesium had a 50% higher rate of depression. People suffering from depression and anxiety reported improvements in both after just one week of taking magnesium supplements. Studies also suggest that a sufficient level of magnesium in your body can help antidepressants work more effectively.
Dietary sources of magnesium include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Shredded wheat cereal
Zinc is a vital supplement for all your bodily systems, including cellular activity in the brain. Reasons for low zinc levels include advanced age, nutritional deficiencies, drug use and alcoholism. Recent studies have suggested that people who take antidepressants and any medications that affect zinc levels in the blood should take a zinc supplement.
Insufficient zinc caused by stress and inflammation leads to less available serotonin, a hormone that causes feelings of well-being. One type of antidepressant, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), allows serotonin to remain in the brain for longer periods. This is a case in which a supplement and an antidepressant can work together to combat depression.
Zinc can be found in:
- Baked beans
- Fortified breakfast cereals
St. John’s Wort
This supplement for mood disorders is not present in food. St. John’s Wort is a yellow-flowered plant that’s been used medicinally since ancient Greek times. Research has shown St. John’s Wort to be effective for mild to moderate depression. A major drawback is that it interferes with a number of medications, including birth control pills, heart medications and cancer treatments.
This two-sided nature of St. John’s Wort is an example of why it’s important to use supplements in conjunction with advice from your doctor. It’s easy to find a wealth of information and advice on the web about using natural supplements for mental health. Unfortunately, though, some of the advice is uninformed, incomplete or exaggerated to sell a product.
Taking Natural Supplements for Mental Health
There’s no magic bullet for eradicating anxiety and depression. Treating these mood disorders is a holistic, or whole person, process. Your health, nutrition, life circumstances and other factors are considered by your doctor when making treatment decisions. The most effective solution is often a combination of therapy, drugs and natural supplements to improve mental health.
At FHE, we’re experienced in creating treatment plans for mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Together, we can create a customized plan that best meets your needs. Our therapists are experts in both mental health and substance abuse issues, and in-patient treatment is available.
If you need help dealing with feelings of anxiety or depression, give us a call today at (833) 596-3502. Our caring staff will help you find the right path toward treatment and recovery.