Helping Combat Mental Illness
Research has shown that several processes inside the body, including inflammation and oxidative stress, can influence mental health, including feelings of depression and anxiety. While long-term mental health conditions, such as depressive and anxiety disorders, should be treated with medication and talking therapies, some supplements are thought to help ease the worst symptoms associated with or that cause mental health conditions.
This article looks at some of the best supplements for mental health and the benefits they can bring to individuals.
Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions
Many symptoms associated with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, occur at different times in people’s lives. When experienced over a long period, they can be due to long-standing mental health conditions.
Examples of symptoms that are symptomatic of depression include:
- Changes in appetite.
- Feelings of emptiness.
- Feelings of suicide and self-harm.
Examples of symptoms associated with anxiety include:
- Feeling anxious.
- Feeling jumpy.
- Sense of impending doom.
- Raised heartbeat.
- Dry mouth.
Research suggests that some natural supplements, or synthetically-created compound supplements, often known as nootropics, can help ease symptoms of mental health issues.
Supplements for Mental Health
Different supplements work on other parts of physical and cognitive help, each of which can aid mental health. Here are some of the best, with an overview of potential benefits.
Fish Oil (High EPA)
Often known as Omega-3, fish oil is high in fatty acids, vital to aiding brain functions and can reduce inflammation linked to depression. Fish oil contains two types of Omega-3s, EPA and DHA.
EPA has been found to have the most significant benefit to an individual’s cognitive function by helping to increase blood flow to the brain and having an anti-oxidative impact on brain health, thus easing symptoms of mental health conditions. (1)
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Evidence suggests that B vitamins can help with depression (2).
B vitamins produce, stimulate and control important chemicals in your brain that are crucial in easing symptoms of depression and regulating mood. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine) require Vitamins B9, B12 and B6 to be regulated and produced.
Indeed, research suggests that Vitamin B deficiencies can increase the risk of depression, while Vitamin B12, in particular, increases remission and helps prevent the onset of clinically significant depressive symptoms. (3)
Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral critical to brain health and regulating pathways that allow neurotransmitters to move throughout the cognitive system. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the deficiency of which has close links with depression. Zinc supplementation has been shown to have antidepressant effects in humans.
That said, more research is needed to fully appreciate the benefits of Zinc as a supplement to aid depression. Early research suggested that Zinc increased the amount of the brain fertilizer BDNF in the brain, resulting in increased resilience, similar to anti-depressants; however, further studies in humans have proven inconclusive. (4)
When exposed to adequate sunlight, the body produces vitamin D naturally. Some people have insufficient Vitamin D levels, particularly those living in northern areas with less year-round sunlight exposure, with rates of depression higher in these parts of the world than others.
Vitamin D receptors may be involved in creating some neurotransmitters in parts of the brain associated with depression. Research has found that Vitamin D supplementation has aided depression in cases of major depression. (5)
L-Theanine may sound like a lab-created super-compound, but it is a naturally occurring amino acid regularly found in green and black tea. L-Theanine’s effects have been found to have a calming and relaxing impact on individuals, positively affecting mood and easing some anxiety symptoms.
This is achieved by boosting alpha waves in the brain, keeping the brain in a state of waking relaxation while also increasing the “reward” neurotransmitter released by the brain. Research has confirmed the easing of stress-related symptoms and cognitive function within healthy adults, meaning that people who drink green tea daily can benefit from this amino acid's benefits. (6)
Reading any article on mental health will extol the virtues of getting good sleep in association with good mental health and mood regulation during the day. Magnesium is crucial to melatonin production, the hormone that controls and regulates the sleep cycle. (7)
In addition, magnesium is essential for energy, good metabolism, tiredness and fatigue reduction, as well as the normal nervous system functioning. Low magnesium levels lead to increased stress and anxiety, with levels depleting rapidly during periods of angst.
Anyone can suffer symptoms of poor mental health, whether fleeting or as part of a longer-term mental health condition. However, further research is required to fully understand the impact of supplements as a treatment for mental health conditions. While they can ease some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression, they should not be used as a replacement for mental health medication.
If you are already on medication for mental health conditions, seek medical advice to ensure any supplement you’d like to take is compatible with your meds to avoid any potentially serious side effects.
- Omega-3 fatty acids for mood disorders
- B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review
- Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials of folate and vitamin B12 for depression
- The effect of zinc supplementation on brain derived neurotrophic factor: A meta-analysis
- Efficacy of vitamin D supplementation in major depression: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial