Mood fluctuations are a normal part of the human condition. Troubling events trigger sad moods, joyful events trigger happy moods, and periods of low stress and high social support can lead to a mood of contentment. However, moods do not always correspond to outside events, and negative moods may persist even when there does not seem to be an obvious cause. Supplements may help. If your negative moods are severe or long-lasting, consult a qualified health care provider.
Nutritional consultant Phyllis Balch recommends several mood-brightening herbs in her book, "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." St. John's wort, whose medicinal use dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks, is widely used for depression, as is ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb that is regarded as a brain tonic. Passionflower, chamomile, hops and skullcap are all mild relaxants. Kava, originally used in the Pacific Islands to promote conviviality and relaxation, relieves anxiety without impairing cognition. Use these herbal supplements under the supervision of a qualified health care professional.
In his book "Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum Potential," psychiatrist Daniel Amen states that deficiencies in vitamin D can be a factor in depression and other mood disorders. Because vitamin D is manufactured in the body from sun exposure, vitamin D deficiencies are becoming increasing common as people spend less time outdoors. Amen states also that deficiencies in vitamin B-6, a nutrient that plays a role in the production of a mood-regulating neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid, can cause anxiety. You can get adequate levels of vitamins D and B-6 from a varied, nutritious diet or from a good multivitamin. Your physician can advise you about the healthy use of vitamin supplements.
Fish Oil Supplements
A 2009 article by Jerome Sarris of the University of Queensland published in the journal "Nutrition Reviews" states that symptoms of depression are associated with lower dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the bloodstream. Sarris describes several studies in which fish oil, an omega-3-rich dietary supplement, helped improve mood in depressed patients. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. Because they cannot be produced within the body, they must be obtained through dietary means. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3s, but fish oil can be a good substitute for people who do not consume fish in adequate quantities. Consult a qualified health care provider before adding fish oil to your daily regimen.
Amino Acid Supplements
Amino acids are necessary for the synthesis of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that play key roles in mood and motivation. According to Sarris, this observation has led to speculation that amino acid supplements could help improve mood. Sarris describes a clinical trial in which L-tryptophan was found to be equally effective as a prescription antidepressant. Preliminary studies also indicate that amino acids DL-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine also may be useful for improving mood. The use of amino acids, however, is not an adequate substitute for advice and treatment from a qualified medical provider.
- "Nutrition Journal"; Nutritional and Herbal Supplements for Anxiety and Anxiety-Related Disorders; S.E. Lakhan et al; Oct. 7, 2010
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; Phyllis Balch; 2006
- "Magnificent Mind at Any Age: Natural Ways to Unleash Your Brain's Maximum Potential"; Daniel Amen; 2009
- "Nutrition Reviews"; Major Depressive Disorder and Nutritional Medicine; J. Sarris, et al.; March 2009