Updated: Jul 22, 2019
Many of my clients ask me for natural ways to treat anxiety and depression. Sometimes, I do believe seeing a psychiatrist is necessary, especially if the client is experiencing suicidal thoughts or panic attacks. However, there are natural nutrients that can help stimulate synthesis of your neurotransmitters related to mood and mental health like GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. If you are not familiar with these neurotransmitters, I will put it more simply. I think of Serotonin as the happy chemical, GABA as the relaxation chemical, and dopamine as the pleasure chemical. Low levels of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA are associated with depression and anxiety. SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibiters) are often prescribed to treat anxiety and depression.
1. Amino Acids
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for our neurotransmitters. As many as 12 amino acids are created by the body and the other 8 essential amino acids have to be supplied through diet. As we know, MAD or the Modern American Diet is not providing people with proper nutrition and many people live deficient in essential amino acids.The neurotransmitter dopamine is made up of the amino acid tyrosine and the neurotransmitter serotonin is made up of the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan also triggers the hormone melatonin which aids in sleep. Without these two amino acids, your body will not synthesize enough serotonin or dopamine which is linked to low mood and aggression. What is recommended? I recommend a free form amino acid with the 8 essential amino acids that human beings must receive through diet. I take this everyday and it makes me feel so clear headed. Like the fog has been lifted. I have included a link for a great amino blend on amazon.
2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Our brain is an organ made up of mostly lipids (fats). It is estimated that 50% of those lipids come from polyunsaturated fats that must be obtained through diet. Our diet should give us about 1:1 ratio of Omega 6’s to Omega 3’s but unfortunately, most people eat about 15:1. Scary right? This is scary because this imbalance causes inflammation which leads to many diseases including heart disease and depression. Adding an omega 3 supplement to your diet helps tremendously. I recommend Nordic Naturals and take this daily to help with brain function including focus and neurotransmitter synthesis. I have included an amazon link below.
3. B Vitamins
B vitamins are very important for cognitive health and function. Complex B vitamins support the brain’s neurological function and B-6 and B-12 support neurotransmitter function specifically. Low levels of B vitamins are associated with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and ADHD. B-12 vitamins are only supplied through animal proteins so many vegans or vegetarians are not receiving any B-12 without supplementation. I recommend a B complex with folate for optimal absorption and benefits. I have included an amazon link below.
The original chill pill. Studies have shown that deficiencies in magnesium are linked to many mental health disorders but most importantly, anxiety. Magnesium is a calming and relaxing mineral that helps stimulate GABA. Magnesium can also help regulate the nervous system which can make fears, stress, and anxiety more manageable. SAD or the Standard American Diet, once again leaves most Americans deficient in this calming mineral consuming around 250mg per day with the recommended daily intake at 420mg. Our ancestors regularly absorbed this mineral from the soil they were farming in or being in sea water. I wonder if surfers are so relaxed because they are getting more magnesium than the rest of us from being in the sea? The best way for your body to absorb magnesium is to do a foot or body soak. I have linked my favorite magnesium soak for you below.
5. Turmeric (with black pepper)
If you know me, you know I am a huge believer in reducing inflammation and using Turmeric to do so. If you read my blog on Inflammation and Mental Health then you know that chronic inflammation is causing a health epidemic including in mental health. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to effectively reduce depression, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. Turmeric also decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, the list could go on and on. Turmeric readily crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect brain cells and increase blood flow to the brain. This helps the synthesis of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Turmeric has many more benefits and almost zero risk so I highly recommend this for anyone and everyone. In order for your body to properly absorb turmeric, it should be combined with black pepper. I have linked my favorite turmeric with black pepper supplement from my favorite supplement company below.
Adding these 5 nutrients to your daily routine can significantly increase balance of your neurotransmitters and your overall mental health.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].
Katie Nix, MA
Licensed Professional Counselor