If you just came from the blog post Neuroinflammation and Depression, you may be asking what can you do to reduce it. This blog post will go over some of the best supplements for depression, targeted specifically to reduce inflammation and help alleviate your symptoms. While these supplements for depression focus on a reduction in inflammation, it is important to know that you may also have micronutrient deficiencies that contribute to your psychiatric symptoms. These deficiencies can be improved on broad-spectrum micronutrient therapies or in a more targeted manner with additional functional testing.
Table of contents
Introduction – Supplements for Inflammation
Supplements that can help alleviate inflammation and help with depression include magnesium, essential fatty acids, lithium orotate, and anti-oxidants such as Curcumin, Quercetin, OPCs, and Ashwagandha. (These antioxidants are super interesting and have their own blog posts on how they can help depression).
In this blog post, we will discuss magnesium, lithium, and essential fatty acids.
Essential fatty acids
Stop eating a low-fat diet. You need essential fatty acids. You can get them from your food, but you can also find high-quality supplements. Some essential fatty acids you should be supplementing if you have depression include:
- Omega 3s
- Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA)
- note; if you are vegan and relying on this to convert into DHA, this is not going to work. Only 0-9% of ALA will convert to DHA. You are likely fatty acid deficient.
- Eiconsapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA)
If you eat a Standard American Diet full of industrialized seed oils like soy, canola, and vegetable, you are likely already very high in Omega-6 Fatty Acids. But if you are Vegan and not eating any animal products at all, you are not getting enough Arachidonic acid (AA), and your brain ABSOLUTELY needs this Omega 6. Find some algae supplementation STAT!
If you supplement with Omega 3s, be aware that it may take 10-12 weeks at a high dose for your brain to recover from chronic fatty-acid deficiency. Don’t take a giant dose of DHA or EPA for very long periods, and they can cause imbalances in the fatty-acid profile. DHA/EPA are not solutions to your high brain inflammation, and they are not necessarily fixing the source causing the inflammation (unless that source is a low-fat diet). Better to fix the source of what is causing the inflammation than just take a bunch of supplements so you can continue to mistreat your body or stay in unhealthy environments that are the cause of inflammation.
The two links below are brands I recommend to clients. They are affiliate links, but please do not feel obligated to use them. You may be able to find less expensive supplements for depression but remember that quality matters.
This one is a nice combo of both Omega 3s and 6s Pure Encapsulations VisionPro EPA/DHA/GLA | Supports Natural Tear Production and Retention of Eye Moisture* | 180 Softgel Capsules
The dose can be between 1-3g. Consult with your doctor if you are on blood thinner medication. I am not your doctor, and I am just giving you a heads up on what might help that are not prescription medications. I don’t know your case, so this is not medical advice.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased markers of inflammation. This makes sense. Vitamin D regulates your immune function. And as you just learned, cytokines are regulated by the immune system.
I promise you are probably NOT getting optimal amounts of Vitamin D. Most of our population in the US are either starkly deficient or have insufficient levels for optimal health. The ideal Vitamin D level you are shooting for is between 60-80 ng/ml. This level will also help you sleep better. But I have learned under functional psychiatrists that suggest a level between 75-100 ng/ml to get brain inflammation down and treat neuropsychiatric disorders.
Ideally, you need to get your Vitamin D tested. I like to use UltaWellness and get a blood draw close to home. There is no need for a provider or doctor to order it for you. You can find them here:
Your regular doctor can also order you a Vitamin D test, and it should be covered by your health insurance.
But if getting a blood draw is too inconvenient, you can find a Vitamin D test using a few blood drops and a kit from Great Plains Lab. A provider is required to order this test for you. This is a great excuse for you to contact me, as I am happy to order it for you.
Once you have your level, you can use a Vitamin D calculator to figure out the dose you need to get to the optimal range.
But be sure to recheck because everyone accumulates and metabolizes Vitamin D a little differently and you don’t want to reach levels over 100.
When you take your Vitamin D dose, pair it with at least 100mcg of Vitamin K2. It helps keep the calcium that increased D releases out of soft tissues like kidneys and arteries. Some good options that I recommend to clients are below (affiliate links). Choose one that makes sense for the dose the calculator has guided you to take.
If you take blood thinners please do not take K2 without consulting your doctor
These are the brands that I take personally. Again, these are affiliate links. If you can find a better deal elsewhere, please do so.
And here is a nice Vitamin D3/K2 option in the same capsule:
Vitamin D3 + K2 | 5000 IU of D3 (as cholecalciferol) for Optimal Calcium Absorption | 100 mcg of K2 (as menaquinone-7) for Circulatory Health | Supports Bone & Immune Health | 60 Vegetarian Capsules
When you eat a highly processed food diet, magnesium is one of the first minerals to disappear. Even if you eat organic produce, the amount of magnesium found in those items is down about 30% from what it used to be due to industrialized agricultural processes. And if you are stressed for any reason at all, you use up magnesium stores very quickly. Your cortisol levels go up when you are stressed, and this triggers your immune system, and this increase in immune system activity depletes magnesium stores.
Add to this that if you eat a lot of carbohydrates, this further depletes your magnesium because molecules of magnesium are needed to unlock the energy from carbohydrates.
Is it any wonder that you are magnesium deficient?
No really. I promise you that unless you are supplementing, you are almost certainly deficient. And I am not even going to bother to tell you to test your levels of this nutrient. Most of your magnesium is hiding in your cells and bones. Only a tiny portion is floating around in your blood. So a blood test won’t really give you a good idea of your levels. You would have to go after some advanced functional testing with a provider to figure your levels out.
Just assume you need some. Especially if you are depressed and trying to modulate inflammation. Magnesium has direct anti-inflammatory properties in the nervous system, which is incredibly helpful for depression.
The form of magnesium I most often recommend for clients is magnesium glycinate. There are two brands that I recommend and will share below as affiliate links. For someone with depression, I will encourage 600-800mg daily. You cannot overdose on magnesium. If you do, you will just get loose stools. If you notice this, you would just back off a dose.
I take this one:
CanPrev Magnesium Bis-Glycinate 200, Veggie Capsules, 240 Count
This is not a medication. The use of elemental lithium as a supplement provides levels no higher than what you would find in drinking water to varying degrees around the world. These small doses do not appear in blood tests and are not dangerous.
But supplementation with lithium orotate can be life-saving. Particularly if you suffer from depression and have suicidal ideation and/or substance abuse. Generally, you would supplement 1mg to 5mg, and people can start with 1mg and slowly work up to whatever dose they like. Don’t do this without a practitioner if you have kidney disease. It just would need to be monitored, but would still likely be very helpful. Some people need more lithium than what is provided in the drinking water they have access to in their area. You are not going to increase your lithium levels to any appreciable amount with dietary changes. Lithium is almost non-existent in food.
What is the mechanism of action thought to be at play with lithium and the treatment of depression?
You guessed it. Lithium reduces brain inflammation. Possibly by adjusting how the brain metabolizes existing Omega 3 fatty acids.
Below is the supplement I will suggest to clients. This is an affiliate link.
Pure Encapsulations – Lithium (Orotate) 1 mg – Support for Calmness and Behavior – 90 Capsules
After you work up from 1mg (if you choose), Weyland is a good brand with 2.5mg and 5mg options.
You may need higher amounts than this, and I encourage you to work with a knowledgeable practitioner to help guide you.
I would be happy to work with you on your healing journey. You can learn more about me here. I am licensed in Washington state but can work with people through consultation services. You may contact me here to set up an appointment.
Be sure to check out the other two articles in this series!
If you want to learn more about the underlying mechanisms that cause depression in more detail, you will enjoy my posts on the topic.
Great resources regarding supplements for depression can be found on Psychiatry Redefined. They provide free webinars and you may even be able to find a functional psychiatry provider near you.
Another great resource on eating to combat depression is Georgia Ede, MDs site diagnosisdiet.com
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Because you have the right to know all the ways you can feel better!