Anxiety and depression are two separate conditions, but according to Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D., it is not unusual to experience both disorders at the same time. Almost half of patients with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Richard N. Podell, M.D., of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said nutritional therapy works on the body's same biological systems as commonly prescribed medications. Vitamins and other supplements to help with anxiety and depression are an important and effective component of treatment.
There is a correlation between depression and vitamin B deficiencies, Hall-Flavin said. Whether depression causes the deficiency or the deficiency causes depression is unknown. However, B vitamins are essential for normal brain function and mood regulation. Hall-Flavin recommends taking a B vitamin supplement to help combat depression.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil supplements, either alone or especially in combination with prescription medications, seem to be effective as a therapy for depression, Hall-Flavin said. While more research is needed, it appears that low levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the fatty acids found in fish, are common in people with depression. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements both contain EPA and are widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Eating more fish is another simple way to increase your omega-3 intake.
S-adenosyl-L-methionine, also known as SAMe, is a chemical produced by the liver and used in the production of neurotransmitters. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Scott Olson, ND, said people taking between 800 and 1600 milligrams per day show significant improvement in depressive symptoms. SAMe should not be used by people with bipolar disorder, however, because it may trigger manic episodes. No side effects have been observed from SAMe supplementation, according to Olson.
Low levels of amino acids are often found in people with depression and anxiety, according to William Nelson, NMD, a naturopathic physician who specializes in amino acid therapy. Supplementation with therapeutic doses of amino acids sometimes results in an improvement in mood in just a few days, but the typical course of treatment lasts from two months to a year. Patients continue to use low doses of amino acid supplements thereafter. According to Nelson, the amino acids are converted to neurotransmitters. As neurotransmitter levels rise, depression and anxiety symptoms diminish. No side effects have been correlated with amino acid therapy.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is an herbal extract that is commonly used in the treatment of depression. The Mayo Clinic says the supplement seems to be effective in relieving symptoms of mild to moderate depression. However, the herb interacts with other supplements and prescription drugs, and should not be used without the guidance of a health care professional. St. John’s wort does not seem to be useful in the treatment of severe cases of depression.
Always consult a health care professional before starting a new supplement regime. Although they are natural, some herbs and nutritional supplements can have serious interactions with over-the-counter and prescription medications.