Depression is something that until quite recently was not talked about openly. Sufferers had to suffer in silence for the most part. So when things finally did change for the better those with depression had people to talk to that understood their condition and could sympathise. There were also new drugs they could take, “anti-depressants”. The problem is, for many people with depression the side effects of these drugs far outweighed the positive effects on their depression. We wanted to share with you the best five natural anti-depression supplements.
1. Vitamin B3 and B6
Prescription antidepressants like Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) focus on one of these neurotransmitters in particular: serotonin, which they allow to stay around longer in the system.
A more natural solution, is supplementing with vitamins B6 and B3 (niacinamide). They can make your body conserve the amino acid tryptophan and convert as much tryptophan as possible into serotonin.
A 2004 Danish study of 140 people found that those who were clinically depressed had low levels of vitamin B6 in their blood.
The amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is another natural option for upping serotonin levels.
As a serotonin precursor, 5-HTP may help those for whom SSRIs like Prozac don’t seem to work, says Katie Baker, ND, owner of Stone Turtle Health, a naturopathic family medicine practice in Seattle. “SSRIs block the uptake of serotonin so it sticks around longer,” she says.
But that won’t do much good if not much serotonin is around to begin with. In contrast, 5-HTP is converted into serotonin in the body. “With 5-HTP, you are not plugging up the drain, so to speak; you are just putting more into the sink,” says Baker.
A six-week study of 63 people found that those who took 300 mg daily of 5-HTP had the same depression relief as those who took prescription antidepressants-but with fewer side effects.
3. Fish Oil
Although Americans tend to get adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids from foods like canola oil and nuts, we often come up short in omega-3s, which are most readily available in cold-water fish.
Without enough omega-3s, you tend to not transmit nerve signals properly.
When your brain isn’t running properly, you can feel depressed or anxious.
Scientists have come to the same conclusion: A 2007 study of 43 adults found that those with diets high in omega-6s but low in omega-3s had high levels of proinflammatory cytokines-molecules that tend to be produced in the body when people are depressed or stressed.
However, the research on omega-3s and depression is still developing. One 2009 study found that higher intakes of omega-3s and oily fish may reduce the number of occasions that women suffer depressive symptoms by about 30 percent.
4. Vitamin D
Turns out the multitasking vitamin might also help combat anxiety and depression.
A 2008 study of 441 overweight and obese men and women in Norway found that those given 20,000 and 40,000 IUs per week of vitamin D supplements had significantly less depression symptoms after one year than those in a placebo group.
It’s unclear how, exactly, vitamin D might fend off depression, but Smith conjectures that it might improve neurotransmitter function.
You can purchase Vitamin D3 here.
An amino acid derivative found in green tea, theanine has long been known to trigger the release in the brain of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. GABA activates the major calming neurotransmitters, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.
But the body has difficulty absorbing supplements containing synthesized GABA.
That’s why Anderson recommends theanine, which the body can easily absorb and, ultimately, use to boost levels of GABA.
You can purchase Naturally High, which contains Theanine and is formulated to improve mood, here.
The South African Depression and Anxiety group are South Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. You can contact SADAG at any time on:
011 234 4837