As we deal with the continued experience of living in a pandemic, combined with the aftermath of natural disasters, like Hurricane Ida, it’s more important than ever to prioritize wellness, nurturing ourselves with the self-care that we so desperately need.
For those looking for natural strategies to help us handle stress and anxiety more effectively, a few key nutritional supplements may help to give your body the boost it needs, while we continue to work toward our wellness goals.
We want to be sure to have the stress-management basics covered, of course. Fundamental elements of self-care include adequate sleep, nourishing foods and regular exercise. Let go of perfection, take it easy on the booze, do our best to surround ourselves with the positive and make time for gratitude.
If you find that you’re doing all – or at least most of these things and it’s still just not quite enough, here are six nutritional supplements that have been shown to help to boost mood, improving feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
Supplementing with 400 to 1,600 mg daily has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression, with several studies finding that it appears to be as effective as certain prescription antidepressants.
The American Psychiatric Association suggests supplementing with SAMe as an alternative to conventional antidepressants like Paxil or Effexor for people dealing with depression who prefer to use alternative therapies.
And here’s an added bonus: SAMe has also been shown to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis, perhaps as effectively as anti-inflammatory drugs like Celebrex, and with fewer negative side effects. It doesn’t happen overnight, though — it may a take a month of supplementation before experiencing relief.
If you opt to take SAMe, daily doses may be given as 1-3 divided doses. SAMe is best taken on an empty stomach, 30-60 minutes before meals or two hours after meals. Don’t take it in combination with other antidepressants, unless under a physician’s recommendation and guidance.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used in traditional medicine, meaning that it increases our resistance against physical, chemical, or biological stressors, bringing a ‘normalizing’ or stabilizing effect into the body.
In adults with chronic stress, clinical research shows that taking 240 mg ashwagandha extracts daily or 300 mg twice daily for 2 months reduces perceived stress levels by 30% to 44% and decreases cortisol levels by 22% to 28%.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. It is found along with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the liver and tissues of marine mammals and oily fish. It is also found in some species of microalgae.
Supplementing with EPA seems to reduce symptoms of depression, especially in patients already being treated with conventional antidepressants.
Those who are already being treated with conventional antidepressant medications may benefit more from EPA than those not taking antidepressants. Preliminary clinical research shows that taking 500 to 1,000 mg EPA twice daily with standard therapy improves symptoms of recurrent major depression, such as depressed mood, guilty feelings, worthlessness, and insomnia, after 2-4 weeks of treatment.
Theanine, Passionflower and Lavender
These are three of the mildest mood-boosting supplements, with the least number of known side effects and interactions.
Theanine (also referred to as L-theanine) is an amino acid, one that can be found in green tea, and is typically used in doses of 200-400 mg daily for 4-8 weeks.
Passionflower is an herb that may help to reduce symptoms of anxiety, with some studies showing that it may be as effective as a medication. Typical dosage is 45 drops of passionflower liquid extract daily, or one 90 milligram tablet daily.
Lavender is a popular aromatherapy remedy; people find the scent relaxing. often used to help relieve stress and anxiety and promote good sleep.
We can’t emphasize it enough: Always check potential mood-boosting supplements with your physician, as well as your pharmacist, if you’re taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. And don’t rely solely on a supplement to help you cope with stressors. Instead, consider it just that: a supplement to your other de-stressing efforts and strategies
Keep in mind that just because a supplement is natural or even shown to be safe in long-term studies doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe for you — or that it’s side-effect free. Always check with your physician before taking any supplement. And since many supplements can interact with certain drugs – and other nutritional supplements – also check with your pharmacist to find out about any potential negative interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements.
For those pregnant or breastfeeding, research is scarce for most of these supplements, so best to avoid supplementation unless otherwise guided by your physician.
Also, only take one product at a time to avoid potentially unsafe adverse supplement interactions, and start with the smallest recommended dose.
As always, check with your health practitioner + pharmacist before adding any new supplement to your regime.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.