A few thoughts on depression before I start on the supplements…
Depression is often a symptom of a physical illness or issue.
Gut problems, chronic inflammation (often starting in the gut), allergies, brain injuries, thyroid issues – these are all problems that can cause depression.
Whenever possible, address the physical cause, rather than the symptoms of depression.
Many of these supplements are also effective for MMA recovery and for enhancing physical performance. For more specific information on supplements for combat sports such as MMA, see my boxer’s diet article here.
Acetyl L Carnitine
One of my favourites, Acetyl L Carnitine, often referred to as ALCAR, is a potent supplement that enhances cognitive function, increases male fertility and in many can reduce or eliminate symptoms of depression.
Start with a low dosage (500mg) and assess your tolerance, it can cause gut problems.
Works within 15 minutes. Also great for energy and awareness.
Make sure to get the Acetyl version, as this can pass the Blood Brain Barrier whereas normal L-Carnitine can not.
Side Effects: Bad farts
Omega 3 is crucial for cognitive health and wellbeing in the short, medium and long-term. There is a modest amount of research suggesting that fish oil might help people who are suffering from depression.
Phospholipid forms of Omega 3 have been recently touted as a potential treatment/way to ward off degenerative brain diseases.
look for a high-quality omega 3 supplement, with a relatively high EPA content.
Fish oil is also a strong anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is often a pre-cursor of mental health issues.
Magnesium is fantastic for muscular-relaxation, it has also been shown as a potent supplement to treat both anxiety and depression.
Chelated forms of magnesium, for example, magnesium glycinate are generally thought to be superior and more bioavailable than other forms of magnesium.
St. John’s Wort
This stuff made me feel terrible. It works with serotonin in some respect. Perhaps it works better if your depression is caused by low levels of serotonin in the first place.
For more information visit examine.com
A precursor to Tryptophan, 5 HTP is great for sleep, depression and anxiety.
Don’t take with SSRIs.
There is some evidence that 5 HTP taken long term can cause issues with your heart.
Side Effects: GI problems.
Lack of sunlight can cause depression. In countries such as Norway, it’s a big (and well recognised) issue.
Supplementing with Vitamin D3 (ideally with vitamin k2) is a good idea for most people who work indoors.
SAD Lamps can also be an effective way to increase energy levels and ward off depression during the winter and all year round if you work indoors.
Heat Stress, Exercise and Diet
Obviously these aren’t supplements so I won’t go into too much detail…however, saunas (and ice baths) have gained a lot of attention in recent years thanks to the mental and physical health benefits that they can provide.
Exercise is crucial for the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system, for self esteem and the overall functioning of your body and mind.
Diet is a crucial factor in terms of mental health. Inflammation and gut issues are often linked to and can even cause depression.
Eating a diet that is free from inflammatory foods such as sugar, and high in anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric can make a huge difference.
Any exercise, food or supplement that reduces inflammation and/or improves gut health will improve or help with depression – in the majority of cases.
Supplements that are effective for reducing inflammation include:
Tart Cherry Juice
The ketogenic diet is also very effective but may not suit everyone and makes you feel terrible for the first 2 weeks or so (unless you use exogenous ketones). The targeted ketogenic diet may also be worth looking into.
Food intolerances and ‘leaky gut’ can also lead to inflammation.
If you have IBS or any other gut issues, it might be worth looking into, reducing or cutting out dairy and possibly wheat. Giving up dairy was life-changing for me.
Please Speak to a Doctor or Healthcare Professional before taking any supplements
There’s a growing body of research, that suggests that psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms), in the right setting, can be highly effective as a treatment for depression.
High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction.