Depression is defined by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, thoughts of self-harm or suicide. While depression is a normal human emotion, prolonged feelings of depression can be a result of a chemical imbalance. Depression is associated with a number of things such as low serotonin levels, inflammation, oxidative stress, and a shrunken hippocampus. Medications are often prescribed for depression, but can have a number of dangerous and unpleasant side effects.Depression can easily be managed with the right nutritional profile. Targeting nutritional deficiencies, boosting neurotransmitter production, reducing inflammation, neutralizing oxidative stress, and promoting brain cell regeneration and repair are effective ways at combating depression. Nutritional supplements are a natural and effective way to safely accomplish all of that. Here is a list of some supplements that are known to help with depression. Some supplements have most of these things combined for convenience.
One supplement for treating depression that is growing in popularity is 5HTP. 5HTP stands for 5-hydroxy-tryptophan. It is the chemical intermediate between tryptophan and serotonin. The body gets tryptophan from food sources, and then converts it into 5HTP. 5HTP is then converted into serotonin. By taking 5HTP as a supplement, you are directly introducing it into the body, and skipping the first step of the conversion. This enables it be converted directly to serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter for regulating mood, sleep and appetite. Using 5HTP can increase serotonin levels, and help improve depression, anxiety, insomnia and overeating. There has been a decent amount of scientific research on 5htp as a depression treatment aid. It has shown efficacy is improving the symptoms of depression. Some precaution should be exercised while taking 5HTP however. It is possible for the body to have an excess of serotonin, causing serotonin toxicity, also called serotonin syndrome. This can occur if 5HTP is taken in combination with antidepressant drugs or other serotonin boosting drugs. You should consult your doctor if you are taking any SSRI or MAOI medications before taking 5HTP. Also be careful using 5HTP with recreational drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamines or opiates.
B Vitamins (B6,B12, B3, B9):
B vitamins are essential for maintaining proper health. Vitamin B6 is an important cofacter for converting the amino acid precursor, Tryptophan into it’s respective neurotransmitter, Serotonin. B6 is also involved in the formation of other important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrin, epinephrin and GABA. Deficiencies in vitamins B6, B12, Folate (B9) and Niacin (B3) are associated with depression symptoms. Sometimes simply supplementing with these can alleviate depression, and contribute to a normal neurotransmitter production.
Tyrosine is an amino-acid that acts as the direct precursor to dopamine. Sometimes depression can be linked to low dopamine levels. In food, we eat amino acids such as L-phenylalanine, which gets converted into L-tyrosine by the body. Tyrosine helps your body skip a step and create dopamine more effectively.
Magnesium is essential to whole body health, being critically involved in over 300 functions! It is especially important for the nervous system and brain. Magnesium has been shown to enhance cognitive abilities. Similar to B6, magnesium is also involved in the production of neurotransmitters. Magnesium contributes to synaptic plasticity, allowing brain cells to recover from stress or trauma more easily, and form new synaptic connections. Magnesium is also a NMDA glutamate antagonist. Drugs with the same mechanism of action have shown dramatic promise for treating depression. Because of it’s glutamate antagonist activity, magnesium helps protect against the oxidative damage of glutamate excitotoxicity. Many people have magnesium deficiencies due to inadequate supply in food from modern agriculture’s use of mineral-poor soil. Supplementing with magnesium contributes to overall health and is a fundamental mineral for the nervous system.
The fruit of the blueberry plant (Vaccinium) contains a number of powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals which have many health benefits. Blueberries contain anthocyanins which evidence has shows reduces inflammation, may help fight cancer, reverses aging, and improves memory and depression. Blueberry compounds, also contribute to neurotrophic cell proliferation by increasing neuronal growth factors such as BDNF in the hippocampal region of the brain. The hippocampus is typically smaller in depressed people. Blueberry may contribute to maintaining a healthy, plump hippocampus. They also provide protection against neurotoxicity and DNA damage. The strong antioxidants are good for combating oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation, tissue damage and degeneration of neurons. Blueberry also shows anti-inflammatory effects and has been clinically shown to prevent cognitive decline and memory loss.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice that’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine and food for thousands of years in Asian countries. It contains a group of polyphenolic compounds called curcuminoids. The most researched of these compounds is curcumin. Turmeric has been found to exhibit anti-cancerous, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. Turmeric has amazing immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, cognitive enhancing, brain protecting and regenerating properties. Stress, sleep deprivation, and toxins can cause inflammation in our body and brains. Turmeric promotes reduces inflammation neutralizes free-radicals with it’s antioxidant properties. Turmeric increases levels of other antioxidant vitamins in the body such as vitamin C and E, combating oxidative stress and DNA damage. Turmeric also promotes a protein called BDNF, which promotes brain cell and dendrite growth. Turmeric has been clinically shown to also increase BDNF, stimulated neuronal growth in hippocampal regions of the brain, an area that is typically smaller in depressed patients. Tumeric shows the potential to help reduce B-amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer disease.
Black pepper, from the plant Piper nigrum, contains a polyphenolic compound called Piperine. Piperine has been clinically shown to improve the absorption of nutrients when taken with food or other supplements. It is also a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. Piperine has also been found to be an effective pain reducing agent. Black pepper also aids in digestion and detoxification. It has MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) properties, which means it inhibits the degradation of neurotransmitters by enzyme monoamine oxidase. This allows for more neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine to be available.