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When our anxiety and depression peaks, we can often feel like this is the one that will do us in. We feel overwhelmed, nauseous, frightened, spaced out; the list goes on. Everyone has their own opinion on medication for mental illness. I take Citalopram for my anxiety. I have tried to come off it, and I felt awful. My anxiety came back in full force. I was emotional and my mood swings were uncontrollable. So I decided I was better off on it. But I do prefer natural remedies for anxiety and depression.
Some people don’t like or want to take traditional medications for anxiety and depression, and this is also completely fine. It has to be your decision. No one else’s.
So with that being said, I have tried some other more natural remedies for anxiety and depression. Some of them have been worthwhile, some not so much. Here I will round up what has worked for me, and what hasn’t, and why. Hopefully, you will find them helpful in making a decision about what’s right for you.
5-Hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid naturally produced by our bodies. When we suffer from anxiety, depression and sleep disorders, our serotonin levels drop. 5-HTP is what your body uses to produce serotonin, so it makes sense that this supplement will be helpful in realigning our serotonin levels. My experience with this was good; before I started taking Citalopram on the advice of my doctor, I was taking 5-HTP daily and it really helped improve my mood, my sleep and my energy levels.
The reason I stopped taking it was due to my doctor telling me it was no good for me. It’s important to note, that while I always advocate speaking to your doctor about medical issues, I don’t always believe they know what is right for you. Thousands of people all over the world take 5-HTP, but it is not a prescription drug, and I believe doctors don’t like us taking things that don’t benefit the pharmaceutical companies. (That being said, this is just my personal opinion.)
After coming off of Citalopram, I tried to go back to 5-HTP, but I believe my body is so reliant on the medication now, it doesn’t know how to do what it’s supposed to naturally so 5-HTP wasn’t as effective for me the second time around.
I do intend to try again in the future, working with a herbalist to give me advice on how to handle withdrawal the correct way.
The sun gives us a natural source of vitamin D, this vitamin helps us to regulate our mood, and keeps our nervous systems and brains healthy.
Many of us who suffer from anxiety and depression, often report feeling lower in the winter months when the sun seems absent, the nights draw in earlier and we rise for work in the dark. Some are affected so badly, they can be diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder). For these people, the use of a UV daylight lamp can be extremely helpful. For those of us who just feel blue during these months, a vitamin D supplement can be just as effective.
During the summer months, it’s important to get out in the sunlight as often as possible to absorb some natural vitamin D and fresh air.
I personally take this because I am vegan. Vegan’s don’t get vitamin B12 from animal products as meat-eaters do, so it’s important to get this vitamin in a supplement form.
A B-complex supplement contains all 8 B vitamins that we need to stay healthy, they do things like helping to break down the food we eat to give us energy, keeping our skin, nervous systems and brains healthy, and making red blood cells.
Without these important vitamins, we can become seriously ill, so it’s important to take them for general health as well as to help our mood.
It’s also interesting to note, that it’s not only vegans and vegetarians that suffer from this deficiency. The meat that most people eat today is far more processed than it used to be and doesn’t have as many good nutrients, so if you are feeling tired and suffer from mood swings, you may need a Vitamin B supplement. It’s always worth talking to your doctor about this.
I have taken magnesium in the past, it is good for anxiety, IBS and sleep disorders. When my blood tests showed I was no longer deficient, I stopped taking it. I do keep tabs on my magnesium levels, and if they dip again I will take a supplement again.
Magnesium can also be found naturally in foods such as spinach, almonds and dark chocolate. But a supplement will ensure you get enough. (Note that taking high doses of Magnesium can cause diarrhoea so always start with a low dose and increase gradually)
Magnesium is also good for your hair and nails.
Essential for our brain health, you can get omega-3’s from flaxseed/linseeds for those of us who eat a vegan diet, and fish for those who eat it.
Our bodies do not make this fat naturally so it’s important to make sure we get a decent amount through diet or supplements. As it can interfere with medications, it’s important to speak to your GP or alternative professional to ensure it is safe for you to take a supplement if you are currently taking any medication.
Studies have shown that a low level of omega 3’s can increase the risk of anxiety and depression.
I often sprinkle a spoonful of flaxseed on my cereal, add it to mashed potato or sprinkle it on a salad. It’s an easy way to make sure I get some omega-3 in my diet.
Anaemia can be caused by all sorts of things, such as heavy periods, pregnancy, some over the counter painkillers and more. It can cause severe fatigue, weakness, brittle nails, shortness of breath and affect your sleep. Iron deficient anaemia is the most common type and is easily solvable with an iron supplement. If you are OK with taking iron tablets, you can take pretty much any iron supplement you like. If like me, however, you have IBS and it is affected by iron, you would be better served to take a liquid iron supplement such as Spatone. It is gentle on the stomach and easily absorbed. I take mine with a little pure orange juice; it takes away the strong metallic taste and vitamin C helps your body absorb iron more efficiently.
Although not directly related to anxiety, garlic is an excellent immune system booster. When I am going through a bad time with my anxiety, I have a tendency to let my self-care slip. I don’t eat properly, I stay up too late, and I drink fizzy drinks to boost my energy levels. My sleep suffers, my IBS flares up and as a result, I am more prone to getting poorly. Garlic supplements help to give my immune system the boost it needs to see me through this period until I am able to get back to looking after myself properly.
This is a herb that is can be really helpful for sleep. You can take it in a supplement form too. I do suffer from sleep problems, but not with falling asleep. I just don’t seem to be able to stay asleep. This may the reason that Valerian didn’t seem to help me much. I know people that swear by it, and if you have difficulty dropping off when you go to bed, this may also help you.
So that’s my take on the world of natural remedies for anxiety and depression. As always, I would suggest you speak to a professional before taking any supplements. I always discuss new supplements with the manager of my local Holland & Barrett store. She knows me and the medication I take, she knows all about supplements and never steers me wrong.
I do, however, get most of my supplements from Healthspan. They are cheaper and they offer a wider vegan range of supplements. They also offer a subscription service which means you don’t have to remember when you need to get some more, and this gives you a small extra discount.
Do you take natural remedies for anxiety and depression? Are there any that I missed off this list? Let me know in the comments below!