5 Supplements That Naturally Boost Mood and Eliminate Stress
With more than one in five adults taking behavioral medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, it’s not a stretch to say that it seems therapists and psychotherapists are quick to recommend medications these days—probably too quick.
Your mood can be effectively balanced and enhanced naturally, if the building blocks are available to make four key happiness neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, noreinephrine and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Like so many natural remedies, those that improve your mood — like regular exercise, a good multivitamin and fish oil — also improve your overall health. Natural remedies also tend to be gentler on your body, less likely to cause negative side effects than drugs.
Note: If you are already taking drugs for depression, anxiety or insomnia, talk with your doctor before adding a natural remedy. Some of these remedies, like fish oil and SAMe, can actually help prescription drugs work better — but they are best combined only with close medical supervision.
5 Natural Supplements That Help Balance Mood
SAMe (pronounced “Sammy”) is a naturally occurring substance found in every cell. It is composed of amino acids and has a major role in the body. It drives a chemical process called methylation that is critical for the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all important for regulating mood, sleep and appetite. SAMe also seems to improve cell membrane fluidity, helping brain cells signal better to one another.
Brain imaging studies indicate that SAMe affects the brain similarly to conventional antidepressants. Low levels of SAMe are linked with higher rates of depression. There is a wide body of medical research suggesting that SAMe can be an effective tool in treating depression. And research shows it also has joint health benefits! Along with exercise, SAMe is our first choice for mood improvement.
Typical recommended dosage: between 400 mg to 1,200 mg per day, depending on the individual.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is a precursor to two important neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It also supports normal thyroid function. “As a general rule it is helpful for people with low, slow, down depression,” says Kevin Passero, N.D. It goes well taken with SAMe. Some scientists believe that the brain may not be able to synthesize enough tyrosine under stressful conditions and that increasing the availability of tyrosine to the brain helps avoid the negative effects of stress. Tyrosine can also improve alertness after sleep deprivation.
Typical recommended dosage: 500-1,000 mg a day for energy.
5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan, is used by our bodies to make serotonin. By supplementing with 5-HTP, you increase the building blocks available for the production of this vital neurotransmitter, which helps regulate mood, sleep and appetite. Reduced levels of serotonin are associated with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, aggressive behaviors, suicide, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and migraine headaches. Taking 5-HTP seems to significantly improve symptoms of depression, including in patients with treatment-resistant depression. It is a good first choice for people with revved up, anxiety-linked depression, Dr. Passero says.
Typical recommended dosage: 50-400 mg taken at bedtime or in divided doses throughout the day.
4. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort, an herb with a long history of use in Europe, is used for depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In studies, St. John’s Wort extracts perform as well as antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, improving mood, decreasing anxiety and physical symptoms of stress, and helping you sleep better. The active ingredients in the herb modulate the effects of three neurotransmitters related to mood: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Use St. John’s Wort with other antidepressants only with close medical supervision, Dr. Passero warns. It can interfere with a number of drugs, can cause sensitivity to the sun, and paradoxically, can increase depression in some people.
Typical recommended dosage: 300 mg of a standardized extract of St. John’s Wort, three times daily.
GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is a natural substance used for relieving anxiety and elevating mood. In the central nervous system, GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. It decreases nerve activity, preventing nerves from overfiring. In addition to reducing anxiety, GABA improves sleep cycles, leading to more restful sleeping. It has powerful stabilizing effects on blood pressure and helps reduce pain from chronic conditions such as arthritis and lower back pain. GABA supplements can help to relieve the intensity of pain.
Typical recommended dosage: Some doctors recommend GABA in the amount of 2 grams four times daily, but a safer, more realistic dose is 500-2,000 mg taken on an empty stomach at bedtime.
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