Supplements for Depression

Meta description: Although there’s a wide variety of supplements for depression, only a handful have been scientifically proven to be effective in the treatment of mood disorders.

Since depression can sometimes be the result of nutrient deficiencies or chemical imbalances, mental health professionals have recently begun to prescribe various supplements that are believed to have a positive impact on depression.

From CBD-based products like edibles and oils to vitamins and minerals, there’s a broad variety of supplements for depression. However, healthcare professionals suggest these alternative treatments shouldn’t replace good old-fashioned talk therapy or psychiatric medication (in the case of severe depression).

But how exactly do these supplements work? And are they as effective as manufacturers claim? Before we answer these questions, let’s take the time to understand how depression works.

What is depression?

Have you ever felt so hopeless and disappointed that life no longer seemed to hold any meaning? Have you ever felt so exhausted and ‘spent’ that you couldn’t even find the energy to get out of bed? Have you ever reached a point where ending your life seemed like the only way to the pain and suffering that has taken over your day-to-day life?

That’s pretty much how depression feels like, and those of us who’ve been there know how difficult it is to go about your daily life when your mind is clouded by negativity and disappointment. On top of that, you feel too guilty and embarrassed to ask for help.

The common signs of depression

Depending on the severity of the condition, depression can manifest through a wide array of physical, psychological, and social symptoms. Some of the most common signs of depression are:

  • Lack of energy/exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Digestive problems
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Feelings of hopelessness and despair
  • Rumination
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Suicidal ideation

As you can see, depression can affect the overall functioning of our body causing medical problems as well as psychological distress. That’s why many experts recommend natural supplements for depression to restore the imbalances that may contribute to this condition.

‘Traditional’ treatments for depression

As I told you before, supplements fall under the category of alternative and complementary therapies. In other words, you can’t overcome depression just by popping a few vitamin tablets.

Ask any licensed mental health professional, and he will tell you that the best course of action is a mix of therapy and medication (if necessary).

Working side-by-side with a therapist or counselor will help you understand how depression works and the steps you need to take in order to overcome it. However, if the severity of your symptoms interferes with the therapeutic process, then you’ll most likely have to consult a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication.

But aside from the ‘traditional’ approach to depression, you can always improve your chances by using various supplements.   

How do supplements work?

In broad lines, supplements can either restore your vitamin, nutrient, and mineral levels to normal or have a positive impact on your brain and nervous system.

Very often, depression is accompanied by gastrointestinal problems, immunodeficiency, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. This has led researchers to believe that depression may be a psychological manifestation of physical illness.

For example, some experts believe that by treating gastrointestinal problems with vitamins, probiotics, and omega 3, we can alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with depression.

Today, the pharmaceutical industry offers a wide array of supplements that claim to improve mood or relieve depression. However, not every supplement you’ll find on the market is a viable option for depression. Sometimes, there’s little scientific evidence to back up the alleged positive effects.

Four science-backed supplements for depression

CBD oil

CBD oil (or cannabidiol oil) is a natural compound extracted from the cannabis plant. In recent years, cannabis and hemp oils have become extremely popular in the medical field.

Many experts believe CBD can cure several physical and emotional conditions, including depression. And it’s all thanks to the endocannabinoid system which regulates sleep, mood, appetite, and hormone levels.

Through this system, CBD can have a direct impact on the stress receptors in the hippocampus, resulting in better emotional processing. Furthermore, it can also help you increase appetite – a problem that many depression sufferers often deal with.  

Whether you prefer oils, balms, or edibles, CBD-based supplements can prove quite useful in alleviating depression.

Magnesium and zinc

When you don’t have enough zinc in your diet, chances are you might experience a severe lack of energy. Zinc deficiency is often associated with symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and hair loss.

Same goes for magnesium deficiency. When your body lacks this crucial mineral, chances are you might end up dealing with restlessness, stress, and depression. A recent study revealed that magnesium plays a vital role in affective disorders such as depression and a magnesium-rich diet can significantly lower your chances of developing this condition. [1]

If you want to keep depression at bay, make sure to supplement your diet with plenty of zinc and magnesium.

Saffron

Saffron, or red gold, is the most expensive spice in the world. For thousands of years, saffron has been used to treat various diseases. This ‘luxury’ spice contains a wide array of healthy ingredients such as potassium, sodium, proteins, and vitamins.

Recently, scientists have discovered that saffron can be successfully used in the treatment of depression. Furthermore, this spice can also reduce anxiety. [2]

When it comes to treating depression, experts believe saffron extract has fewer side effects than most commonly used pharmaceutical antidepressants which makes it an excellent supplement for mild and moderate depression.

Vitamin D

Some experts believe depression can be caused in part by vitamin D deficiency. In fact, this deficiency is often correlated with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.

A 2014 study revealed that vitamin D supplementation might play a significant role in the management of depression. [3]

Some of the most abundant natural sources of vitamin D are egg yolk, tuna, salmon, beef liver, cereals, apples, and dairy products. You can also keep help your body synthesize this vitamin by exposing yourself to the sun for at least 15 minutes each day.

Who would have known that something as common as vitamin D can serve as a viable supplement for depression!?

Some controversies regarding supplements for depression

Although many depression sufferers claim supplements have alleviated some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with this condition, some experts choose to remain skeptical. One recent meta-analysis concluded that when it comes to supplements for depression, the available data is not yet sufficient or inconclusive. [4]  

But since most of the supplements for depression that exist on the market today have little to no harmful side effects, you can always give it a try and see how it works. However, to eliminate any risk, make sure to consult a psychiatrist or physician before you take any supplements that impact the chemistry of your body.

References:

[1] A. Rajizadeh, H. Mozaffari-Khosravi, M. Yassini-Ardakani and A. Dehghani, “Effect of magnesium supplementation on depression status in depressed patients with magnesium deficiency: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,” Nutrition, vol. 35, pp. 56-60, 2017.

[2] A. L. Lopresti and P. D. Drummond, “Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study,” Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 207, pp. 188-196, 2017.

[3] S. Spedding, “Vitamin D and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Comparing Studies with and without Biological Flaws,” Nutrients, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 1501-1518, 2014.

[4] C. Schefft, L. L. Kilarski, T. Bschor and S. Köhler, “Efficacy of adding nutritional supplements in unipolar depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” European Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 27, no. 11, pp. 1090-1109, 2017.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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