Supplements & Antidepressants

What would you think if I told you that one of the most common illnesses in the United States isn’t, as of yet, able to be comprehensively treated in a routine manner? Anxiety and depression issues are some of the most common health problems in the country, with more than 40 million adults alone impacted every year. And unfortunately, there is no single medication or routine that can completely solve those issues for all individuals.  Sometimes a single antidepressant medication is enough to address the symptoms, as often some residual symptoms of depression and anxiety remain and that is where the possibility of using additional natural treatments that would improve the antidepressant effect becomes relevant.  

Natural treatments for depression

With all of that said, there are a variety of treatment options to augment the effectiveness of antidepressants, many of them involve taking an additional medication, while others are exercise and light therapy.  In addition certain supplements may be beneficial in treating depression symptoms. The supplements are not meant as a replacement for more medication treatment in moderate or severe depression, but they could very well be used to help increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. With this in mind, research into the most effective supplements when it comes to treating depression continues, and the inclusion of supplements into a treatment plan for depression is a rising trend that has many people excited.

What are “nutraceuticals”?

While the trend of including supplements and nutraceuticals in every day routines is growing, not everyone will be familiar with the term “nutraceutical”. With that in mind, then, let’s take some time to talk about what this phrase means. Nutraceutical is a broad term that is used when referring to some kind of product taken from food sources that offers health benefits above and beyond basic nutritional value. These are often substances that help promote one’s general well-being in addition to preventing and managing various symptoms from a variety of disorders and health issues.

The phrase comes from two different words. The first, nutrient, is defined as a component of food that is nourishing. The second, pharmaceutical, is defined as a medical drug. Coming the two gives the word nutraceutical.

Can nutraceuticals and supplements help with depression?

According to one meta-analysis and review published in 2016, there is a growing  interest in the practice of adding supplements to a treatment program in order to help increase the efficacy of depression treatment and to minimize the effects of the disorder. This review was conducted by searching various health information portals for clinical trials that included adjunctive nutrients being used for depression.

The review found primarily positive results when it comes to the following supplements:

·       S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

·       Methylfolate

·       Omega-3 (ethyl-EPA or EPA)

·       Vitamin D

The use of these nutraceuticals for the treatment of depression, then, is backed by evidence. The quality and quantity of the research evidence is not great, the research we do have is positive. While none of the above might be able to necessarily treat moderate or severe depression all on their own, when included in a patient’s routine in the form of supplements, they could increase the efficacy of antidepressant treatment and help manage negative symptoms related to the disorder. In mild depression and anxiety supplements can be used as a first line treatment before adding any medication treatment.

Are supplements right for you? If you are struggling from depression and are in search for some kind of effective treatment option, speaking with your psychiatrist regarding the inclusion of supplements might be beneficial.  Many medical doctors have very limited training in using nutrition, lifestyle and supplements, so you may need to look for an integrative psychiatrist or functional psychiatrist or another holistic medicine specialist.