Three natural supplements for depression and anxiety
For people struggling with depression and anxiety, whether it be seasonal affective disorder (SAD), post-partum, or daily depression/anxiety, upping serotonin levels is an essential weapon in the battle with both depression and anxiety.
Anti-depressants are usually targeted directly at serotonin. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are the most commonly prescribed to those struggling with depression. They block the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, so more is available right in the brain.
There is no doubt that anti-depressants work, and for some people it is the only way they are able to feel better. If you haven’t found a medication that works for you or you are searching for a drug-free alternative, you do still have options. There are a few ways that we can naturally restore our body’s serotonin levels to aid in the fight against depression and anxiety.
Our bodies naturally produce an amino acid called 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. 5-HTP helps our bodies produce serotonin. There is a plant native to West Africa called Griffonia simplicifolia and its seed pods contain the same amino acid that our bodies need to produce serotonin. The seed pods are collected and turned into a supplement that you can buy in many stores or easily find online.
It is recommended to start with the lowest dose of 5-HTP and work your way up. Start with 50mg taken on an empty stomach around 3-4 p.m. and then another 50mg at bedtime. Repeat this for 3 days before you increase each dosage to 100mg. If you do not notice results within 4-6 weeks, it is okay to double the dosage but be careful not to take too much for too long. Although 5-HTP is safe, too much serotonin in your body has its own set of problems. Be sure to take a B-complex vitamin in conjunction with the 5-HTP supplement. B vitamins help the body metabolize 5-HTP.
L-Tryptophan is another essential amino acid that our bodies naturally produce. Like 5-HTP, it helps our bodies create serotonin. When levels are low, our bodies are unable to synthesize the correct amount of serotonin that we need for our brains and bodies to function properly. L-Tryptophan is found in a wide variety of foods and can also be found in pill form.
Eggs, tofu, nuts, chocolate, chickpeas and pineapples are all great ways to boost your levels of L-Tryptophan. Otherwise, you can take 500mg for L-Tryptophan capsules 2-3 times a day.
ST. JOHN’S WORT
St. John’s Wort is a weed-like plant that grows yellow flowers and has been used as a health aid in traditional European medicine for thousands of years. The flowers of the plant are dried or extracted for oils, capsules and teas. Research shows that using St. John’s Wort can be as effective as some anti-depressants and when taken in conjunction with SSRIs, St. John’s Wort increases the effectiveness of the drug.
St. John’s Wort can be taken in liquid form or swallowed in capsules. It is recommended to take 300mg in the morning, afternoon and night. It can affect other medications such as some birth controls, so be sure to check with a health care professional, if possible.
Too much serotonin can cause something called serotonin syndrome. It’s tricky because some of the ways that serotonin syndrome presents itself are similar to that of anxiety and depression. Irritability, agitation, disorientation and restlessness are all things one with serotonin syndrome might experience. If you are taking any of these supplements are don’t notice results, or if these symptoms start occurring, it would be a good idea to lower your dosage or try a different supplement. It is always best to consult a health care professional, if you have one available to you.