Just a few years ago I was taking numerous medications and at an all time low in my life. I had a medication for depression, anxiety, migraines, and insomnia. I started to wonder if these medications were exacerbating my conditions and/or interacting with each other. While I felt “ok ” many things in my life were falling apart. I had lost a job, which made my mental health worse, as you can imagine. I was rekindling a relationship with someone who was toxic for me. Physically, I was a wreck. Despite being on prophylactic medications and abortive medications for migraines I was getting them almost daily. I started having panic attacks, which lead me to seek additional support, which lead to more medications. Even though the medications helped, my life continued to spiral downward and I still felt horrible physically. It wasn’t until I almost became homeless, that I realized something needed to change.
I resumed working at a job I had previously worked at that specialized in vitamin IVs. As a perk, employees were allowed to get one free vitamin IV a month. I always felt amazing after getting my IV and wondered if taking vitamins more regularly could impact my mental and physical health. Luckily the owners were big on educating staff and patients as to the benefits of supplements and were up on some of the latest research. This lead me to start doing some research of my own. Shortly after exploring the ins and outs of vitamins and minerals, I began a regimen of supplementation and elimination of medications slowly over time. I am happy to say that now 4 years later, I do not take a single prescribed medication. I feel better now than I did when I was in my early 20’s. I still have bad days, but the good days definitely outweigh the crappy ones.
Many who suffer from mental health issues are finding that natural supplements can significantly impact their mental well being. The list is long in regards to which supplements are best. The following supplements just might have saved my life and just might do the same for you. Personally, I have found that the lack of side effects while taking supplements is a major factor that has improved my overall physical and mental health. As always you should consult your physician, do you own research and ensure that medications you are already taking will not be contraindicated before taking any of these supplements.
B vitamins, especially vitamin B6, B3 (niacinamide), B12 and B9 (folate) can be very beneficial for those with depression. B vitamins help your body conserve the amino acid tryptophan and convert as much tryptophan as possible into serotonin, which is necessary to feel good. B vitamins also help with the creation of norepinephrine and dopamine in your body. Serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are neurotransmitters that greatly impact your feelings of love, happiness and general sense of well being. These neurotransmitters also impact your moods and anxiety levels. When taking B vitamins I feel a little more pep in my step. B Complex covers most of the B vitamins, just read your labels carefully. Ideally B12 itself should be taken sublingually (under the tongue) or in an injection as it is absorbed more easily. Some people are born with a genetic mutation called the MTHFR gene mutation, which may change the way they metabolize and convert nutrients from their diet into active vitamins, minerals, and proteins their body can use. Due to this mutation, they may need to take a methylated form B12. Eating citrus fruits, avocados, bananas, broccoli, brown rice and red meat can boost your B vitamin levels.
One of my favorite ways to increase my absorption of magnesium is by taking Epsom salt baths. I’ve mentioned using Dr. Teals Epsom Salts in several other posts. If baths are not your thing, there are many ways to up your magnesium including topical creams and supplements. Our bodies need magnesium to produce the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. When I take this supplement I feel at ease and calmer. It also makes my muscles more relaxed. I try to take this in the evening since it can also help with my insomnia. I just recently tried Natural Calm, which almost seems to help me get to sleep faster. Without optimal levels of magnesium you could increase your chances for mood swings and account for higher levels stress. It’s surprising how many people are magnesium deficient. Additionally magnesium helps with headaches, constipation, digestion, insomnia, calcium absorption and blood pressure. The book called, “The Magnesium Miracle” by Dr. Carolyn Dean, can shed more light on this awesome supplement. Foods that are high in magnesium include, avocados, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, black beans and dark chocolate. By the way, Amazon is currently running a deal on this brand of magnesiusm.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. The more you are in the sun the more your body will produce vitamin D. While I don’t feel an instant difference with this supplement overall I feel I have a significant improvement in my immune system. Vitamin D has numerous physical benefits, and just as many psychological benefits. A lack of vitamin D seeks to be present in those who experience depression and anxiety. Vitamin D is converted by the liver and kidney into a hormone (“secosteroid”). This hormone is so pertinent to brain function, its receptors can be found all over the brain. Vitamin D can increase the sense of well being and your quality if life. You should consult your physician to obtain your vitamin D levels prior to dosing. You can get vitamin D many ways, including by getting sunlight, taking vitamin D supplements or by eating vitamin D-rich foods like eggs, mushrooms and fish (especially wild salmon, tuna, and mackerel). I don’t recommend getting your vitamin D from milk, as I am not a big fan of milk. This is definitely a supplement that needs to be researched. There are so many benefits to vitamin D that this paragraph does not begin to even touch on.
Gut health, leaky gut and probiotics are all worth thoroughly researching. Gut health is essential to mental health. They say your gut (stomach, intestines, etc.) is like a “second brain.” It’s all about the bacteria, especially the “good” bacteria that lives in your gut. This will definitely have to be another post all to itself. Probiotics can affect the bacteria in your gut and essentially allow for the “good” bacteria to move in. This is important because you need your gut flora to be in balance, so that unfriendly bacteria and/or yeast that produce neurotoxins don’t take over your gut. When your gut is out of alignment, it can affect your mood, memories and thoughts. Your microbiome produces more serotonin than your brain, and about 95% of serotonin receptors are found in the gut itself. Additionally there are about 30 other neurotransmitters, you can begin to see how your gut becomes central to feeling happy. Probiotics can help keep your gut happy. Try to avoid things that destroy your gut like antibiotics, sugar and chronic stress. Your tummy and mind will love foods like miso soup, kombucha, sauerkraut and yogurt.
5-HTP is my personal favorite. I truly feel that I could not have stopped taking my antidepressant without this supplement. I experienced what is known as “brain zaps” while trying to come off of Cymbalta. My doctor had never mentioned the risks associated with trying to stop taking that medication. Within 3 days of stopping the medication I started to feel withdrawals that included the “brain zaps.” After doing thorough research on how to handle Cymbalta withdrawals I came across information on 5-HTP. The amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is another supplement for increasing serotonin levels. This is naturally occurring in your body. As a precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP may assist people that have tried taking SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like Prozac with no luck. 5-HTP is converted into serotonin in the body. This helps with feelings of anxiety and depression. When I take 5-HTP, I feel clear headed and a sense of well being. It is recommended to take a fat-soluble version, that’s largely absorbed before it reaches the digestive system as some people have issues with loose stools (not in my case fortunately). It is also advised to take this at night as it may cause sleepiness (bonus for those with insomnia).
(Bonus) Melatonin and Valerian Root
Research has shown that melatonin can not only help with insomnia, it can benefit your pineal gland. While we still don’t know the full function of the pineal gland, we do know that it secretes the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a neurohormone associated with sleep cycle. Not only does melatonin help with insomnia, it impacts anxiety, depression and your immune system. Recently, other research has shown that depression is closely related to melatonin. As an added bonus, the pineal gland, which releases your melatonin, is also considered your third eye. More on how the third eye impacts your mental health in a later post. Personally with melatonin I have strange and vivid dreams.
Valerian root has been used throughout history as a way to treat insomnia, nervousness, trembling, headaches, and heart palpitations. Valerian root is known as ‘nature’s Valium’ because it has similar effects like decreasing anxiety just as good as the benzodiazepines Valium and Xanax. Valerian root increases GABA (a neurotransmitter that reduces nerve cell activity) in the brain and binds to serotonin receptors. Valerian also impacts your cortisol levels, which helps with your stress levels, mood swings, anxiety, depression and irritability. When I have taken Valerian it helps me to stay asleep longer, but does not help me get to sleep faster.
Ultimately by taking these supplements, along with a few others (like Natures Plus Source of Life Gold Liquid), I was able to remain off prescription medications for years now and my life has significantly improved leaps and bounds. I could literally write a whole post on each of these. I cannot say enough about these vitamins and supplements. Do your own research to find how you can include these supplements in your nutrition and other ways to increase your vitamin levels.
As always check with your physician before taking any of these supplements. I listed many benefits and risks, but not all of them.