As an integrative health care provider, the topic of anxiety and depression comes up daily in my treatment rooms. The stress of hectic daily lives mixed with other personal factors (including genetic predispositions toward anxiety and depression) can create a whirlwind of negative thoughts and emotions. Fortunately, there are many natural supplements available to help to elevate our moods and ease anxiety. Below are the top five supplements I use and regularly recommend to my patients.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EFA/DHA)- Already known for their ability to fight heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, omega-3 fatty acids are also great at improving mood. They are considered by some to be just as effective as anti-depressants for battling depression. Besides being available as a supplement, omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in food sources like salmon, flax seed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Take 1000-2000 mg daily for optimal health and mood benefits. (1)
SAME- Commonly used in Europe as a prescription drug for depression, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) has become popular in the United States as an OTC supplement to help elevate mood. SAMe influences the metabolism of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin, both of which can help to elevate and control mood. SAMe may even help with resistant depression. While SAMe is commonly sold in a dosage of 200 mg or 400 mg tablets or capsules, the typical dose for depression is 400-1600 mg daily. (2)
5HTP– 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP)is a by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced from the seeds of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia). 5HTP works by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Several trials have found that doses of 50-3000 mg daily for two to four weeks can improve symptoms of depression, and some early research has also shown that 5-HTP might be as beneficial as conventional antidepressant therapy.
GABA- This neurotransmitter (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), made from the amino acid glutamate, is the chief calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Low levels of GABA are associated with restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and a depressed mood. GABA works by inhibiting nerve transmission in the brain, thereby calming nervous activity. Dosage of GABA can vary, but a general safe dose for anxiety is 500-1000 mg twice daily.
L-Theanine- Derived from tea, this natural compound has become well known as a relaxing agent without being sedating. Research has also shown that it may reduce the perception of stress while improving attention. Considered a very safe supplement, daily dosage is between 100-400 mg daily.