Supplements For Depression, With Clinicals

Today, antidepressants are a huge business and over the past few decades big pharma has really monetized depression. By 2023, the antidepressant drug market is predicted to reach $15.98 billion which will only continue to band-aid symptoms and stop people seeing the truth behind depression and what is really going on. Depression is actually a multi-faceted, root cause illness but most people (in fact 85% of Americans) still believe that depression is caused by a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain and/or body. Antidepressant prescribing has increased by 34.8% in the last 6 years taking it to 83.4 million prescriptions in 2021/2022. This is even despite recent advances in the medical community establishing clear evidence that disproves the serotonin theory of depression and even goes to show that only about 25% of people with diagnosed depression actually have abnormally low levels of the relevant neurotransmitters, with some actually having very high levels of them instead.

Despite conflicting evidence, people continue to be prescribed and rely on depression medications like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)) without looking into the root cause of what is going on. Whether they actually work is another question. Some studies have shown that initial prescriptions of antidepressants may only work around half of the time and even when switching between drugs, 30% of people with depression will never find relief from taking medication supposed to help. While the placebo effect has been acknowledged by The Lancet, the majority of research studies show that SSRIs actually have no benefit over placebo for mild and moderate depression. You can read more about antidepressant drug efficiency here, here and here on Sertraline specifically.

While medications like SSRIs can help in a small number of cases, they can have so many follow-on impacts and side effects in the short, mid and long term. You can read more about the dark side of antidepressants here and this is even more concerning when you understand that the CDC have confirmed that 1 in 4 people who take antidepressants in the United States have been on these meds for 10 years or more.

Depression can be driven by so many things including inflammation, pathogens, gut dysbiosis, trauma, loneliness, a dysfunctional nervous system and HPA axis, genetic predisposition and nutritional imbalances and deficiencies among other things. I prefer to do a full spectrum of health tests including a full nutrient panel (looking for deficiencies), genetic testing (look for the MTHFR and COMT gene) and hormone and thyroid test as well as checking for inflammation in the gut, looking for gut dysbiosis, assessing mycotoxins (using an OAT test), heavy metal testing, as well as testing for food allergies, intolerances and blood testing for stealth infections. These can help you work out what is going on at a root cause that may be impacting your mental health and inflammation levels. Head here for more info on how root cause tests can help you get to the bottom of what is driving your depression.

While going on this journey, here are some of the top supplements you can take a look into to help treat your depression naturally. Please consult a healthcare professional before you start self supplementing.

Here are some of my the supplements that you should consider if you are looking to heal your depression the natural way or are looking for more natural alternatives to supporting your mood:

  • Vitamin D - growing research continues to conclude that vitamin D levels inversely correlate with clinical depression and researchers in systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed randomized controlled trials found that vitamin D supplementation equal to or exceeding 2,000 individual units (IUs) per day may help reduce depressive symptoms.  A 2013 meta-analysis study found that the participants with depression also had low vitamin D levels and interestingly, the same analysis found that people with low vitamin D were also at a greater *risk* of depression as well as having higher rates of depression.
  • B Vitamins - research suggests that B vitamins can help with depression as they help produce and manage chemicals in the brain that can drive depression when not regulated. Systematic reviews and further research also concludes that B vitamin deficiencies may increase the risk of depression, and that “treatment with folate and/or vitamin B12 reduces depression scale scores, increases remission, and prevents the onset of clinically significant symptoms of depression in people at risk.” Another more study looking into Vitamin B6 specifically confirmed that there is a direct connection between vitamin B6 deficiency and depressive symptoms.
  • Zinc - A 2011 study suggested a correlation between zinc dysregulation and deficiency in both neurological and psychiatric challenges, including not only depression but also Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, ADHD, and more. More recent studies are also showing that the more depressed someone is, the lower the zinc level and so supplementing with zinc helps to regulate neurotransmitter pathways and helps to support brain health.
  • St John’s Wort is a herb well known for its antidepressant power, working as well, if not better, than antidepressants in double-blind placebo controlled studies against Paxil and Prozac. Other studies against Zoloft and Celexa showed the same outcome and confirmed St John’s Wort can perform as well without so many side effects. 
  • Fish Oil - high in omega-3 fatty acids can support with brain function and help reduce inflammation associated with depression. Research and studies have found that EPA is the one that helps the most when it comes to depression. Checking your omega 6-3 ratio is so important too. Many people don’t understand the importance of this ratio and often are too high in omega-6 which is why supplementing with omega 3 is critical to the balance 
  • 5HTP & Tryptophan - these work as precursors to serotonin, working to naturally boost serotonin levels in the brain;
  • L-Tyrosine - is a supplement that can increase brain norepinephrine concentration that, when regulated, and available in the right amounts, can lead to better moods; 
  • L-methylfolate (a type of folic acid) has also been proven to help people who have a genetic make up that has been connected to depression. This is now being prescribed by the FDA to people who don’t respond to antidepressants; finally
  • Multi mineral supplements are critical for full body health and mood support due to research showing the association between lower intake of minerals and depressive symptoms. A 2019 study showed that deficiencies in potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and copper were all significantly and negatively correlated with depressive symptoms 
There are also other, more progressive supplements, that can help but that haven’t hit the mainstream fully yet. In particular, studies are showing the power that Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Cordyceps hold in helping depression. Lion’s Mane has been shown to promote an improvement in mood disorders and of the quality of sleep and studies have also shown that Cordyceps exhibit anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects by reducing inflammation and helping to modulate neurotransmitters. They confirmed that it can be used as a ‘functional food to prevent depression and anxiety’.

Nootropic saffron is also an interesting supplement that is being researched more as a possibility for increased mental wellness and its impact on neurotransmitter regulation.

Finally, getting on a good, high quality probiotic is critical to starting to overhaul your mental health or fighting depression. The gut-brain connection is becoming better understood more than ever before and many neurotransmitters that influence our mental health are created in our gut. If your gut health isn’t up to scratch, or you have an imbalance in bacterial strains or are experiencing some level of gut ‘dysbiosis’ and or ‘dysfunction’, the follow on impact on your mental health is real due to the way that these impact neurotransmitter creation and regulation. Working to balance your gut microbiome is a critical piece of the mental health jigsaw. You can read more on the effects of probiotics on depression here.

So, as you can see, there are so many ways that you can work on your mental health without medicating and supplementing is just one part of the process. I hope that this can help you understand that there are other ways to attack the root cause of what is driving your depression. I’d love to hear what you incorporate as part of your mental health toolkit.

Love Jena x

***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST****