Do Supplements for Depression and Anxiety Really Work?
Hey Beauty Bunnies, let’s get real for a minute. Clinical depression and anxiety are no joke. I’ve suffered from mood disorders my whole life, even as a child. I was officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder when I was 16 years old. I started on a roller coaster of prescription drugs, supplements, and other treatments that have often been difficult, sometimes with terrible side effects, but some of those depression treatments have also saved my life. These days, I feel happy and calm most of the time, and most people would NEVER know I have a mental illness, but depression and anxiety are always lurking right outside my window – waiting to come in and smother me. And so – I fight!
Depression and anxiety are hard for some people to comprehend. They think, “well I’ve been sad before”, or “I’ve been nervous before”. Most people have experienced sadness, grief, fear, and anger at some point in their lives. Those feelings can be intense, but they go away with time. Clinical depression and anxiety do not usually go away on their own. They may not be tied to any life event or trigger – sometimes life is going great, but deep sadness or even complete numbness or lack of feeling come anyway. Or they may be directly tied to a devastating life event (violent crime or rape survivors, or soldiers with PTSD for example). There is such a big range with mood disorders – there are many different types, and everyone experiences them differently.
If you experience ongoing depression or anxiety, and it’s affecting your life – your work, your relationships, or making it impossible to get out of bed at all, I want you to call someone you trust and ask them to help you. It’s hard to help yourself when you’re stuck in the middle of a dark brain cloud, and you need someone who will make that appointment with a psychiatrist, drive you to your appointment if you need it, make sure you’re taking your medication, and check in on you when you need it.
Let me make this very clear – depression and anxiety are diseases, just like cancer or diabetes, and there is NO SHAME in seeking treatment. If someone tells you to “just get over it” or “look on the bright side” they do not understand what is going on and you need to find someone who does.
Medical intervention is a must for clinical mood disorders. I recommend seeing a psychiatrist right away if you’re struggling. If your brain is telling you to take your own life, please understand that it is lying to you. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 if you need help. For depression that isn’t responding to medication (or for those who can’t take medication during pregnancy or for other reasons), please look into TMS (you can read about how it saved my life here).
BUT, all of that being said, I believe there is a place for supplements in treating mood disorders. Maybe you’ve been taking antidepressants for a long time, but have hit a rough patch. Maybe something bad has happened in your life and you’re having a hard time dealing with it. Maybe you DO NOT have clinical depression, and you’re usually quite happy, but for some reason, lately, you’re just feeling down. Maybe you’ve had a major life change, and you’re having trouble sleeping, and feeling constantly anxious.
There is such a wide spectrum of feelings that humans can experience, and sometimes you need help to get through a difficult time. Your sadness or anxiety may not be as intense or as long-lasting as someone you know who, let’s say, is suffering from bipolar disorder or postpartum depression. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to feel better!
So, let’s talk about supplements for depression and anxiety. If you’re new to the world of supplements, or a bit skeptical, I invite you to read this first. It’s important to find high quality supplements from brands that you trust. I generally avoid most of the supplements sold in drugstores for that reason. One of the brands I trust is called Quality of Life (you can read my past review of their supplements here). Quality of Life uses high quality ingredients, and everything they sell is backed by human clinical studies. You can check out the research on their site, but I also invite you to go to PubMed, and type in different supplement ingredients to see what kind of research has been done. Don’t just take it from them, or from me – please do your own research.
Quality of Life has two supplement blends that can be helpful for depression and anxiety. The first is called Serenelle. It has a blend of Sensoril (ashwagandha – an adaptogenic herb that helps your body deal with stress), lemon balm (an herb that calms you but also increases mental alertness), L-theanine (a calming amino acid found in green tea) and GABA (an inhibiting neurotransmitter that produces calming alpha brain waves and basically chills you out), that make for a great stress-reliever and anxiety-tamer. GABA is one of my favorite supplements for anxiety. You can read more about GABA here.
Here’s what they had to say about Sensoril (a trademarked, standardized ashwagandha extract): “Sensoril contains active constituents called glycowithanolides. A type of steroidal lactone, glycowithanolides imitate certain corticosteroids (steroid hormones produced in the adrenal cortex). These corticosteriods function to shut off the stress response, protecting the body against the harmful effects of prolonged stress or overreaction to stressors. As a result of their mimicking action, glycowithanolides decrease serum cortisol (a stress hormone), pulse rate, and blood pressure — and increase serum DHEA, a neurosteroid that improves mood.” Please note that ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family, so if you’re sensitive to potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc, you may want to avoid this one.
The second one is called PureBalance Serotonin, and it’s made with a blend of 5HTP, L-theanine, rhodiola, Relora (standardized magnolia bark extract), and Vitamin D3. These ingredients may help with mild depression, stress, anxiety, stress-eating and sleeplessness. 5HTP is an amino acid that acts as a raw ingredient that your body needs to create serotonin (the “feel-good neurotransmitter”). L-theanine, as I mentioned, is another calming amino acid found in green tea. Relora (magnolia bark) can help reduce cortisol, which may be too high if you’re feeling stressed. Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb, which means it can safely regulate your mood, without pushing you too much in either direction (it gives your body only what it needs).
Here’s a bit more on how Rhodiola works from humanclinicals.org: “Rhodiola rosea increases levels of chemicals the brain needs for positive mood, calmness, and motivation — such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine — by inhibiting MAO, the enzyme that breaks them down. Rhodiola’s antidepressant properties also enhance the effectiveness of neurotransmitters in three ways: 1) By increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier to precursors of dopamine and serotonin, 2) through an increase in the release of serotonin, and 3) via in increase in the activity of the serotonin neurotransmitter system in the brain. As a result, stress-related symptoms including insomnia are improved. With better sleep, excessive cortisol levels are reduced. Rhodiola also protects the brain by reducing the secretion of corticotrophin releasing factor under stress.”
I believe both of these supplement blends can be a huge help if you are stressed out, going through a rough patch or just need a mood booster. Mother Nature has lots of science-backed solutions for what ails you. With any nutritional supplement, you just have to take them consistently, and check in with yourself to see if it’s making a difference. Supplements, and particularly herbs, are not a one-and-done type of thing. It’s not like popping an aspirin. You may have to take them for a couple of weeks (or more) to see results (or if you’re ultra-sensitive like me, you may notice a difference in a few days).
If you want to try these (or any) supplements from Quality of Life, you can use my coupon code BUNNY15 to save some money!
Important note – if you’re already taking antidepressants or other pharmaceuticals, please be careful when taking supplements for depression, anxiety, stress-relief or mood. It’s possible that you could increase neurotransmitters to an unhealthy level, so consult with your healthcare professional, and start with a tiny dose to see how you feel. It goes without saying, but if you feel weird with any supplement, stop taking it!
Disclaimer – I am not a healthcare professional, and this is not medical advice. Please see your doctor, naturopath, or integrative MD before trying supplements.