My Favourite Mood-Boosting Supplements

I had a hard time narrowing down my top supplements for use in depression.  From clinical experience, the seven supplements I've listed have proven to be incredibly beneficial for patients.  Of course, before prescribing supplements it's important to view the entire health picture and keep in mind any possible interactions between medications or supplements you may already be taking.  It's never recommended to simply take supplements without a full work-up from a naturopathic doctor.  Not to mention supplementation alone is not the answer to a sound treatment plan for anything.  A combination of dietary and lifestyle changes, counselling and medications if necessary should be implemented as well.

1.  Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is a common deficiency in today's society and is well-known to cause neuropathologies which can lead to symptoms of depression.  If you want to learn more about magnesium, refer to my previous post on why I love magnesium so much!

There are many different forms of magnesium out there and a number of routes of administration, from infusion therapies to injection to oral supplementation, depending on patient tolerability of these routes of administration. 

2.  Inositol

Inositol is a supplement that can be used for a number of concerns, from mental health to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) to improving insulin sensitivity.  More specifically to depression, inositol is involved in improving the efficiency of serotonin signalling in the brain.

Because of inositol's relationship with serotonin, it's also effective in controlling compulsive tendencies and can offer therapeutic value in disorders such as binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and obsessive compulsive disorder.

3.  Vitamin B12

While there are many B vitamins that are important in the management of depression, I thought for the purpose of writing a blog (and not a book...yet!) that I'd stick to one B vitamin for now.  Vitamin B12, preferably in the form called methylcobalamin, is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and high serum levels are often necessary to obtain therapeutic antidepressant effects.

The best route of administration of vitamin B12 with with an intramuscular injection.  This ensures a therapeutic dose is attained in a shorter period of time with longer-lasting effects.

4.  Zinc

Did you know it's estimated that zinc is a cofactor in almost every enzymatic reaction that happens in your brain?  That's an awfully big responsibility for such a small yet mighty mineral.  Low serum zinc levels have been associated with a number of various concerns, including major depression, digestive upset, decreased taste sensation, lowered immune function, poor wound healing, poor sexual function, hair loss and anorexia nervosa.

Just as with magnesium, there are multiple routes of administration of zinc.  My preferred way to administer zinc to patient suffering from depression is through infusion therapies as oral zinc supplementation can cause nausea if not taken carefully.

5.  Probiotics

There's so much emerging research out there on probiotics and their uses not only in general health maintenance but in specific conditions, such as depression.  Various strains have been shown to have different results, with some probiotic strains more indicated for mental health purposes.

But don't go running out and pick up just any probiotic.  Getting a full work-up on your specific health concerns is very important in deciding what strains should be used for you.  Not to mention not all probiotics are the same when it comes to quality, potency and efficacy.

6.  Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that has been used traditionally to help boost energy and maintain stamina.  Research on this fabulous herb has also supported its use in generalized anxiety disorder as well as mild to moderate depression.

An added bonus: Rhodiola is helpful in reducing fatigue, a common side-effect of depression.  Having a little more energy during the day is definitely a good thing!

7.  Fish oil

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.  While there are a number of dietary sources of omega-3's, fatty fish sources are commonly the best (see last week's post for more info!).  From a clinical perspective however, supplementation with a high-quality fish oil for many mental health concerns is important to achieve the therapeutic doses of the active ingredients, EPA and DHA.  Keep in mind that ratios are important for these two active ingredients, meaning it's important to choose the right type of fish oil as they're not all made the same.

While this list is not exhaustive by any means, these are supplements that could be used by a naturopathic doctor in a treatment plan for depression.  And just so we're all clear - the information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and is by no means a substitute for the advice provided by your health care professional or meant to replace any treatment by health care providers.  Self-diagnosis and self prescribing is never a good idea.