In the last few blogs, we focused on Omega-3 and its potential effects on your mood.
Especially, EPA Omega-3.
What’s at the tip of your fork can certainly affect the way you feel.
But even if you are diligent about your diet, it’s difficult to get all the ‘happy nutrients’ you need from just your plate.
This is when supplements can help.
And no, a multivitamin does not count as a supplement for depression! They will not give you the right kind and quantity of what you need.
- It’s EPA, not DHA, that helps with mood
- Take 1000 mg of ‘unopposed EPA’ per day.
- The mg of EPA minus the mg of DHA is the unopposed EPA in your fish oil pill.
The best Omega-3 supplements for depression:
- OmegaVia – 520 mg of unopposed EPA
- Minami MorEPA- 528 mg of unopposed EPA
- Renewlife OmegaSmart - 660 mg of unopposed EPA
The current batch of OmegaVia has 572 mg of unopposed EPA per pill. We are conservative on the label, so per the label, there is 520 mg unopposed EPA per pill. (I’ll explain more about the importance of unopposed EPA in another blog)
So you’d need two pills each of any of the above three products. And more is not necessarily better!
OmegaBrite is good too but it only has 300 mg of unopposed EPA Omega-3 per pill.
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega has 100 mg of unopposed EPA Omega-3. Nordic’s EPA Xtra has 393 mg unopposed EPA.
Vitamin D3 stimulates production of serotonin, so this is not surprising.
How much should you take?
Well, I feel pretty comfortable telling people to take 10,000 IU of D3 per day for the first week. But I don’t recommend staying at that high dose for more than a week or so.
Your ideal maintenance dose is impossible to guess without actually measuring it – so don’t guess. Talk to your doctor and get it measured. It’s relatively cheap to measure and even cheaper to supplement. Get it to around 50 ng/ml. For most people, ideal dosage is somewhere between 1000 IU and 5000 IU per day depending on where you live and how much sun you get.
Vitamin D is slow-acting. If your ‘tank was on empty’ for a while, it may take a few months before levels reach acceptable levels. So don’t expect to feel remarkable a day after taking 10,000 IU.
Vitamin D is not exactly a ‘vitamin.’ It is a steroid-like substance. So more isn’t always better. In some people, too much D can increase calcium levels in the blood. So, again, work with your doctor on this.
Favorite brands? None. Most Vitamin D3 supplements are comparable. The raw material ingredient (cholecalciferol) is very inexpensive and you should be able to get a year’s supply for under $20.
Oh, here is a brilliant and even cheaper idea: go outside in the summer, and get 10-15 minutes of upper body and leg exposure to midday sun. No sunscreen – it blocks D3 production. No shades – the bright light will help reset your circadian rhythms and can have a positive effect on mood.
And finally, this study says combing Prozac with Vitamin D is much better at treating depression than Prozac alone.
Magnesium is often called the original chill pill.
Geek speak: magnesium does a lot of things but it does its best work between brain synapses, where it keeps calcium and glutamate from ‘exciting’ the NMDA receptors too much. Overexcited neurons = tension and anxiety. Magnesium keeps a lid on this. Not enough magnesium and the neurons will eventually die. Neurons and synapses going kablooey in the brain doesn’t help you stay cheery. Oh, and remember St. John’s Wort from the 1990s? Everyone thought it was a natural alternative to Prozac. Turns out St. John’s Wort was simply good at protecting cells from the dangers of magnesium deficiency.
Too much calcium (yes, even from bone health supplements) and stress can wipe out magnesium. Food and water is where we used to get most of our magnesium.
But processed foods have virtually no magnesium. And they remove magnesium from the tap water to keep pipes clean. Dandy.
All that calcium and very little magnesium can make you pret-tee tense, anxious and may be even depressed.
This study showed rapid recovery from major depression in just 7 days, with magnesium supplementation with each meal and bed time. It’s not a perfectly designed study, so your mileage
may will vary. But the study is a good read and I think you should pay attention to the message.
Leafy green veggies and nuts are good sources of magnesium. Googling ‘magnesium rich foods’ will turn up beans and whole grains. Ack! Pass on the whole grains – they will spike your glucose, goose your triglycerides, cause havoc with gluten and the phytates will remove valuable nutrients from your body. There is NOTHING present in whole grains that you can’t get from veggies. Nothing. But I digress.
Unlike Vitamin D3, if you decide to supplement with magnesium, it is very easy to buy the wrong product.
Most drug-store magnesium pills are made of magnesium oxide. Even reputable brands like NatureMade use magnesium oxide. Magnesium oxide is not easily absorbed. You might as well swallow a pebble. Stay away from these products.
Well-absorbed magnesium salts are not dense – they are fluffy and cannot be compressed into one small pill. You need to take 4 Jigsaw magnesium pills – and they are not cheap – but they are time-released, so you’re unlikely to experience a laxative effect.
Unless you eat like a hunter-gatherer caveman, you need to take a magnesium supplement. Even if you don’t have depression.
There are lots of studies that link B-vitamin deficiencies to mood imbalance and depression.
Getting enough Vitamin B12 is a real problem for some people, especially vegetarians. Unless you eat clams, oysters and liver regularly, you may want to think about supplementing.
People used to eat liver. Now they think it is gross. It isn’t. Avoid it at your own risk. Here’s a recipe.
Folate, B6 and B12 help create happy chemicals – dopamine and serotonin. SAM-e is also important here – see more on that below.
As far as supplement recommendations, well, I think these are OK. I’m open to suggestions. Share your thoughts in the comments section below if you know a good brand. I take an occasional chewable B12 but depend mostly on my diet for B-vitamins – egg yolks and grass-fed beef liver.
Watch out for the wrong type of B-vitamin!
Most multivitamins and drug-store variety B-complex contain small amounts of the cheap form of B12 called cyanocobalamin. Not good. Look for the better methylcobalamin form instead.
Same goes for Folic Acid and Folate. Folic acid is cheap, synthetic stuff and found in most multivitamins. You can overdose in Folic acid. You are much better off choosing Folate. Look for Metfolin or Quatrefolic brand Folate.
Jigsaw Health provides the right type of B-vitamins in their formula. Someone at Jigsaw has done their homework.
SAM-e levels are low in depressed individuals. And several positive studies show that it is at least as good as prescription antidepressants in effect.
SAM-e (say Sammy) is made by our bodies…but to produce it, you need B-vitamins and methionine. Methionine is an amino acid found in meat. Vegans take note.
Which brand to buy?
The recommended dosage is 400 to 800 mg taken twice a day. This can get very expensive. Most brands of SAM-e are fine. There are only a couple of factories in the world that make this stuff and most brands sell the same raw material – usually Italian made. The Chinese may be getting into the game, in which case, forget what I said! Drugstores and Walmart type stores value cost competitiveness, so the likelihood of finding Chinese ingredients there is high.
Costco has a good deal on NatureMade SAM-e.
SAM-e is generally pretty safe, but taking a lot of it without taking a B-complex or a good multivitamin is not a good idea (long story) but just to be safe, take it with a multi.
Creatine also works in a similar way to SAM-e. But I’m not aware of any comparisons between the two when it comes to efficacy.
In a recent study, depressed people taking creatine along with their anti-depressants responded better than those taking the Rx pills by themselves.
And creatine has the advantage of being a lot cheaper than SAMe.
Every thyroid molecule in your body has iodine attached to it.
And iodine can only come from your diet. Mostly wild seafood, seaweed and dairy. A little bit comes from iodized salt. But since so many people are cutting back on salt and so many more eat at restaurants where they don’t use iodized salt, iodine deficiency is coming back.
Without enough iodine, you’re likely to have an under active thyroid. And an under active thyroid can make you feel tired and depressed.
Some of my vegan friends like to snack on dried seaweed – the stuff is loaded with iodine. I tried it. Ptoooey!
So now I take LifeExtension’s Sea Iodine.
In case you were wondering…
Why didn’t I talk about 5-HTP, Tryptophan, GABA, Theanine or St. John’s Wort? Well, these may work, but they don’t address the root cause of the problem – poor nutrition. Other than SAM-e, all the other supplements recommended here are actual nutrients that you need on a daily basis. Once you’ve met those needs either through your diet or with supplements, then you can start looking at other ingredients.
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