Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Supplements to Fight Stress and Depression

Diets that are deficient in the following essential vitamins and minerals often lead to depression and anxiety. Since attaining all of these essential vitamins and minerals through diet alone is extremely difficult, supplementation may be highly beneficial.

Flax Seed or Flax Seed oil 

The Stanford University website states, "Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids necessary for human health...They are termed 'essential' because they cannot be produced by the body, and must therefore be obtained from the diet" (link). The University of Maryland Medical Center adds, "Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation" (link).

I personally take a vegetarian flaxseed capsule, and I notice it helps with my mood almost immediately. In her book called "Soak Your Nuts", long time vegan and raw foods expert Karen Calabrese says, "Flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid" (p. 110). Some vegans also choose to take algae oil, which is rich in DHA Omega  (Flaxseed oil doesn't contain DHA, but it helps your body create enough DHA).
 Supplement Price? About $8 per month

Vitamin D3 (Link). 

Many studies have linked a vitamin D deficiency with depression (Link). Vitamin D is available through sunshine - so if you spend 15 minutes in the sun every other day at least, with at least 1/3 of your skin exposed to the sun, your levels should be fine and no supplement is needed. However, winter months often make sun exposure nearly impossible, and most Americans do not exercise outdoors every day. As a result, "three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D" (Link). So in most cases a supplement may be beneficial. Wild caught fish and free range eggs are also a great source of vitamin D. In the United States, the US government mandates that farmers add a vitamin D supplement to milk. That being said, it is important to note that pasture raised dairy is healthier and much more humane than than factory raised dairy (Link). Though the RDA for vitamin D is at roughly around 500 IU for adults, many experts recommend doses of up to 5,000 IU per day (Link)

Supplement Price? About $12 per month

Vitamin B12 (Link). 
Check out my post on the best B12 supplements Here!

Vitamin B12 plays a pivotal role in a person's nervous system and energy level. B12 deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression: "B12 protects the nervous system. Without it, permanent damage can result (e.g., blindness, deafness, dementia). Fatigue, and tingling in the hands or feet, can be early signs of deficiency" (Link). B12 can be obtained through diet alone by eating yogurt, cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, fish, or other meats. Vegans can obtain enough B12 through supplementation and/or eating B12 fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and cereal. Supplement Price? About $12 per month.

B12 Rich Foods:
B12 Content                  
Beef Liver 1 slice

Chicken Liver 100g

3 oz Salmon
1 large Egg
1 Cup Cottage Cheese
1 Cup Yogurt
1 Cup Plain Yogurt
8 oz. Cup of Milk
1 Oz. Swiss Cheese
3 Oz. Chicken or Turkey
63 micrograms 

21 micrograms  

2.4 micrograms
0.6 micrograms
1.6 micrograms
1.5 micrograms
1.4 micrograms
0.9 micrograms
0.9 micrograms
0.3 micrograms
60% (% goes down 
for larger servings)
60% (% goes down 
for larger servings )

For a B12 calculator, check out this awesome link Here!


"Whole Foods Multivitamin" (Link)

The nice thing about a great multivitamin is you cover most of your vitamin needs without trying very hard (with some exceptions such as Omega 3's). However, many multivitamins are not well balanced and contain glues and fillers that make them harder to dissolve. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Megafoods whole food multivitamins, which are made completely from whole, vegan foods. They include great sources of B12, vitamin D, and most of the other vitamins that effect our sense of well being. 

If you take a great multivitamin like the one above (or a similar option) and eat a balanced diet that includes omega 3 DHA, you may not have to take any additional supplements (depending on your needs). If your stress persists even after your nutritional needs are covered, you may then want to consider taking herbal supplements, like some of the ones mentioned below. 


The following herbal supplements are not required in our diet. However, taking them may provide natural relief from depression and anxiety. Always remember to pay attention to suggested dosage and other information on bottle. 

Bach Flower Essences. 

"A just published scientific study conducted by researchers at the University of Miami School of Nursing in conjunction with The Sirkin Creative Living Center (SCLC) has found that Rescue Remedy®, an all-natural remedy created from flower essences, is an effective over-the-counter stress reliever with a comparable effect to traditional pharmaceutical drugs yet without any of the known adverse side effects, including addiction" (Link 1) (Link 2). To find out how Rescue Remedy works, check out my post on flower essences HERE!

Kava Kava (Link)

Kava kava is an amazing root that has been proven helpful in elevating mood and reducing anxiety: "A 2004 study found that 300 mg of kava may improve mood and cognitive performance. That is significant because some prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, such as benzodiazepines (like Valium and alprazolam or Xanax), tend to decrease cognitive function" (Link).

5HTP (Link)
"Some small studies indicate that 5-HTP may work as well as certain antidepressant drugs to treat people with mild-to-moderate depression. Like the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), 5-HTP increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. One study compared the effects of 5-HTP to fluvoxamine (Luvox) in 63 people and found that those who were given 5-HTP did just as well as those who received Luvox. They also had fewer side effects than the Luvox group" (Link).

"Chamomile compared favorably with placebo on other outcome measures...and was well tolerated by participants. These results suggest that chamomile may have modest benefits for some people with mild to moderate General Anxiety Disorder" (Link). 


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