Since the onset of the coronavirus shutdowns last March, depression rates in this country have soared by 300 percent. And that’s understandable, given all the economic, social, and medical uncertainties and challenges people continue to face.
But the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs commonly prescribed by mainstream docs just don’t work…
In fact, they can even cause great harm.
Thankfully, as I explained on Tuesday, scientists are now beginning to understand more and more about why SSRIs don’t work. And we’re learning more about how to improve mood with natural, effective dietary supplements instead of potentially harmful and dangerous drugs.
Let’s take a closer look at the problem…
Antidepressant drugs tackle the wrong problem
Since the 1970s, the mainstream has thought of depression as some kind of “chemical imbalance” that they could fix with drugs, such as the SSRIs that soon came along. But at least as far back as 2014, researchers realized that artificially boosting serotonin with drugs just wasn’t the answer. They wrote in the leading German psychology journal that:
Antidepressants are supposed to work by fixing a chemical imbalance, specifically a lack of serotonin in the brain. Indeed, their supposed effectiveness is the primary evidence for the chemical imbalance theory. But analysis of the published data and the unpublished data [at the time] that were hidden by drug companies reveals that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect…
And now, many forward-thinking researchers are thinking of depression as a normal, protective, biological response to stress…not a chemical imbalance with low serotonin.
In fact, we now know that humans respond to stress by producing more serotonin in key regions of the brain (such as the amygdala). And the more serotonin produced in this area—the more fearful and anxious you feel. So, the problem with depression isn’t low serotonin…it may be too much serotonin! (No wonder many patients prescribed antidepressant drugs report feeling more anxious and “buzzed.”)
Later, in that same German report, the researchers added:
The serotonin theory is as close as any theory in the history of science to having been proved wrong. Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressant drugs may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future.
Personally, as you know, I rarely use the word “prove” in my own writing. But in this case, it seems to be a pretty accurate assessment of the failed serotonin theory…and the misguided use of antidepressant drugs.
Fortunately, you have many natural ways to boost your mood without resorting to these toxic, ineffective drugs.
On Tuesday, I wrote about four simple, healthy lifestyle habits you can adopt. And now, research reveals how a few key supplements may help increase those benefits…
Try these science-backed supplements to boost mood
In a recent analysis of 40 previously published clinical trials, researchers looked at the effect of dietary supplementation on mood in people taking antidepressants (SSRIs and the old-fashioned tricyclic antidepressants [TCAs]).
It turns out, people who took four dietary supplements along with SSRIs experienced a significant boost in mood compared to patients who only took prescription drugs. The four supplements were:
- Fish oil
- Methylfolate (a specially formulated form of folic acid, which is a B vitamin)
- Vitamin D
- S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
Of course, the science behind fish oil and vitamin D in relation to mood looks especially promising. In fact, fish oil—which contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA— produced the most statistically significant improvements in mood.
And plenty of other studies show that omega-3s and vitamin D work well to boost mood and reduce depression, all on their own, in people not taking antidepressant drugs. These supplements seem to work by influencing the gut-brain axis and reducing chronic inflammation.
When it comes to fish oil, specifically, research has shown protective effects in more serious mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, psychosis, and schizophrenia.
And in one study, doses in the range of 200 to 2,200 mg per day were found to be very effective against depression. (These are actually low-to-moderate doses for optimal health, going by all the science.)
Accordingly, most fish oil supplements contain pitifully low amounts of omega-3s. So, you’ll want to find a brand that contains as many omega-3s as you’d get in a healthy serving of fatty fish—like salmon. Here are my updated dosage recommendations, based on the latest science and your dietary intake of fish.
Of course, quality also matters. Especially when it comes to fish oil supplements, as there are lots of terrible brands that contain mercury and other harmful substances, and
quickly become rancid. You can learn how to spot the real deal in the October 2013 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“What you REALLY need to know about fish, omega-3s, and prostate cancer risk”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, click here to get started.
When it comes to upping your vitamin D levels, I suggest supplementing daily with 250 mcg (10,000 IU). You’ll also want to make sure you eat plenty of foods with vitamin D, including full-fat, organic, free-range dairy and eggs as well as fatty fish, such as tuna and wild-caught Pacific salmon.
At this time of year, you should also try to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes each day in the sun without sunscreen. This kind of healthy, daily sun exposure triggers your skin’s natural production of vitamin D. And it probably explains why people report feeling so happy and relaxed at the beach!
In the end, supplementing with both high-quality fish oil and vitamin D will help boost your mood…and also protect you against just about every chronic disease on the planet, as I often report. So, make sure to add them to your daily regimen—starting TODAY.
“Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” JAMA Network Open, 2020; 3 (9): e2019686. doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19686
“Antidepressant Use in Persons Aged 12 and Over: United States, 2005-2008.” NCHS Data Brief. 2011 Oct;(76):1-8.
“Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect.” Z Psychol. 2014; 222(3): 128–134. doi.org/10.1027/2151-2604/a000176
“Adjunctive Nutraceuticals for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; 173(6): 575-587. doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15091228
“Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression.” J Clin Psychiatry 2011 Dec;72(12):1577-84. doi.org/ 10.4088/JCP.10m06634. Epub 2011 Sep 6.