Is there such a thing as a “natural” antidepressant? Can vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients calm the often high waves of anxiety? The answer to both of these important questions is yes, they absolutely can. Nutrients create lasting change because they work at the cellular level, without all the nasty side effects of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, which can, over time, leave you feeling much worse.
You may have tried St. John’s Wort, 5HTP, tryptophan, or any other number of nutrients or herbs with little to no results. You may also feel the “natural” approach is woo woo science but please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater before reading what I’m about to share with you.
If you’ve read my story, you know I came out of the womb with depression and anxiety, which would later manifest into OCD and suicidal ideation for most of my life. I tried so many things to fix my broken brain. I’ll never forget the first time I tried 5HTP. The effect was immediate. I felt so amazing I thought I’d found the cure to my pain and suffering. I was so happy, so calm, and so joyful. Unfortunately, after about 3 days, the effect wore off and I was back in my black hole of suffering.
Depression and anxiety can have many root causes such as food intolerances (gluten and dairy are big triggers), blood sugar imbalances, mold, viral infections, gut dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut bacteria), yeast overgrowth, concussion, and trauma and abuse.
In my clinic, all of these coincide with biochemical imbalances that occur as a result of genetic and epigenetic (how your genes interact with your environment) insults. To break this down even further, the nutrients we receive while in utero have a profound impact on our mental and physical health. If our parents also have nutrient deficiencies or overloads such as copper toxicity, a condition I see in most of the women I work with, those will be passed onto us and can cause severe anxiety and depression.
Why this isn’t another post with a long list of vitamins to buy for depression and anxiety
Before I get into my top vitamins and minerals that can help depression and anxiety, I need to share with you why this isn’t another article with a long list of nutrients to try with links to buy those nutrients.
It’s to protect you.
Nutrients are powerful. In fact, it’s better not to take anything at all, than take something that could potentially be contraindicated for your chemistry, therefore making your symptoms worse. This is why I don’t recommend multi-vitamins. Since every human on the planet has their own unique biochemistry, it’s best not to consult Dr. Google without proper testing before taking supplements. Even if you are an identical twin, you still have your own unique biochemistry and should be tested apart from your sibling.
The missing link in healing depression and anxiety
As I shared previously, proper testing and a full medical history are critical to figuring out what you are deficient in, what you are overloaded in, and what your overall biotype(s) is. This should also include any trauma and/or abuse you suffered because the PTSD from these experiences can set off a chain of events that can also alter your biochemistry.
Nutrient therapy is the art of using specific forms of nutrients in therapeutic doses to change brain chemistry. It’s powerful and should not be taken lightly. Your brain is simply too precious to experiment with the likes of Dr. Google.
Getting to the root cause of your depression and/or is a very different process than simply taking an antidepressant, which should never be prescribed without testing, to begin with. This is why antidepressants have a black box warning label. Some people should not take them because they could become suicidal.
This is the reason many people don’t find the relief they are seeking after trying a wide range of vitamins, herbs, and other nutrients to heal their depression and/or anxiety. 5HTP had a very short shelf life in me because I didn’t yet know I was copper toxic and undermethylated, conditions that run in my family and were passed on to me.
Vitamins and minerals that help with depression and anxiety
So now we come to the reason you clicked on this article to begin with. Below are three of my top nutrients for depression and anxiety because they are so critical for the brain (and body) to function optimally.
I call zinc a “master mineral” because it’s needed to create neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes. Here in the United States, we think zinc deficiency is something that only impacts third world countries that can’t afford nutrient-dense, zinc-rich foods such as beef and lamb.
But the truth is we are living in a time of massive zinc deficiency, here in America, Europe, and all over the world, that’s significantly impacting growth, development, immune function, and your ability to think, feel and act.
In fact, a whopping 90% of folks that struggle with depression and anxiety are zinc deficient and it’s the number one chemical imbalance I see in children that struggle with learning challenges, temper control problems, behavioral disorders, depression, anxiety, and focus and concentration problems.
Zinc is a co-factor in the creation of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and calming GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
Zinc deficiency in parents prior to conception can cause miscarriage, fetal growth restrictions, learning disabilities, mental health challenges, and can even influence gender because it takes a lot more zinc to create a male than a female. While there is no way to determine gender, I almost always see zinc deficiency in couples that miscarry males and only produce girls.
Click here for a more comprehensive overview of zinc.
B6 (also known as pyridoxine) and P5P (the activated form) are required for the synthesis of dopamine and GABA in the brain. A genetic (in my case undermethylation) or acquired deficiency of B6 can result in abnormally low levels of these essential neurotransmitters and a myriad of problems, including ADHD, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Pyrrole disorder is a stress disorder that I commonly see in my clinic. It results from a deficiency of zinc and vitamin B6, as well as an intolerance to omega 3 fatty acids.
In addition to the production of neurotransmitters, vitamin B6 is involved in more than 80 biochemical reactions in the body such as protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, and the creation of red blood cells to name a few. B6 is also important in regulating the menstrual cycle and conditions such as PMS, PMDD, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), and endometriosis.
Like zinc, there are many different forms of this important mineral and each form serves different functions in the body. Most of the people I work with in my clinic are either deficient in magnesium or are taking a cheap form that is not well-absorbed by the body.
For example, magnesium citrate and oxide don’t have the best bioavailability to access the brain, but are good for constipation, serving as a prokinetic or motility agent.
Magnesium glycinate, taurate, and threonate are the forms I use in my clinic to support the brain because of their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Magnesium glycinate contains the amino acid glycine, which is helpful for insomnia and calming. Magnesium taurate contains the amino acid taurine. This form is also calming and has a neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
Both forms are gentle on the GI tract and because of their amino acid bonds, help the magnesium enter the brain.
If you struggle with depression and/or anxiety or know someone that does, please share this post. It is in sharing that we eliminate guilt and shame and bring about healing.