Approximately 16.1 million people in the American adult population suffer from a major depressive disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health this is almost 7 percent of the entire adult population. What’s also striking is that of this high percentage of people, a staggering number do not find relief through traditional prescription medications. This means that many are turning to alternative treatment sources to battle their depression.
Dietary supplements are playing an increasingly important role in the prevention and treatment of many illnesses and diseases. In addition to physical illnesses, supplements are finding a role in the treatment of many mental health issues. There are now combinations of compounds that can effectively improve mood and even treat the symptoms of chronic depression. Finding a supplement with some or all of the following mood enhancing, depression battling ingredients can help lead to a lessening of depressive symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin at the Mayo clinic, fish oil supplements can be effective at alleviating the symptoms of depression in some people. Several recent studies are showing support for the idea that omega-3 fatty acids may actually help in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. One focus of the investigation is how people with clinical depression often have low blood levels of brain chemicals called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). When these chemicals are replaced synthetically it leads to improvement of depressive symptoms. Therefore, a brain functioning with low levels of omega-3s is likely to show symptoms of depression.
A 2007 study also set out to look at the relationship between omega fatty acid imbalance and depression. They followed 43 adults with diets that had an imbalance of high omega-6s and low omega-3s. What they found was that the majority of these people had high levels of chemicals that are often found in people handling high level of stress or are clinically depressed.
A more recent study found that higher levels of omega-3s can reduce the number of occasions that women suffer depressive symptoms by about 30 percent.
B Complex Vitamins
Another important depression busting vitamin is B complex vitamins. Danish scientists found that an unusually large number of people diagnosed with clinical depression had low levels of vitamin B6 in their bloodstream. This led to the hypothesis that people with low B complex vitamins may be showing signs of clinical depression as a result. Additional B vitamins that may alleviate symptoms are B3 and B12, as these deficiencies have been noted in populations of people living with depression.
By including B complex vitamins in your daily supplementation, you can help ward off the symptoms of depression and a depressed mood. These B vitamins are commonly found in well-rounded multi-vitamins. Just be sure to choose a supplement that is carefully crafted to ensure your body gets what it needs.
Amino Acid 5-Hydroxytryptophan
The amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an additional natural way to increase serotonin levels. Low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin has been closely associated with depression. Because 5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, it is becoming a rising star for people with depression who SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like Prozac don’t work. When taking an SSRI medication it’s job is to block what’s called reuptake, so the serotonin stays in the brain longer, leading to an elevated mood. If there is no serotonin, there will be no improvement in symptoms. The benefit of using 5-HTP as opposed to a traditional SSRI, is that 5-HTP is converted to serotonin in the brain.
Studies have shown that people who took 300 mg of 5-HTP each day had the same depression relief as those who took prescription antidepressants-but with fewer side effects. This shows promise for people who felt they were dependent on potent medications for alleviation of their depressive symptoms.
L-theanine is an amino acid compound most commonly found in green tea leaves, as well as an edible mushroom known as Boletus badius. Theanine is widely known to initiate the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA in the brain. GABA is associated with some of the more calming neurotransmitters found in the brain. If you could take GABA naturally you would enhance relaxation and minimize depression and anxiety. The problem is that our bodies have a difficult time absorbing synthesized GABA. This is where theanine becomes an important possibility for people with depression. If theanine boosts naturally occurring GABA in the brain, it’s regular consumption can help promote a state of relaxation, with lower levels of depression.
Vitamin D is known for naturally warding off a number of illnesses and promoting systems within the body. Deficiencies of this important vitamin can lead to many negative side effects. In recent years it has come to light that this versatile vitamin might be useful in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
During a 2008 study 441 people were given a dose of either 20,000 or 40,000 IUs of vitamin D supplements per week. What the researchers found surpassed even their own expectation. The participants taking the highest dose of vitamin D showed clinically significantly less depression symptoms after one year than those in a placebo group. While the researchers don’t quite know how vitamin D helps depression, they believe that it somehow helps with the process of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Depression is a serious illness that strikes millions of Americans each year. While some patients turn to medications to treat the symptoms of their illness, a rising proportion of these people are turning to natural supplements. By finding a multi-vitamin or supplement that contains some of these important vitamins and minerals you can be on your way to improvement in your depressive symptoms.