Ask the Health Food Expert – Philip Rouchotas, Msc, ND
Q: I have been taking an antidepressant for almost two years now for depression and anxiety. While it has certainly helped, I still suffer from depression and anxiety fairly often. Is there anything natural that can help that is also safe to combine with my medication?
A: This is a common situation. Prescription antidepressants fail to help many people, or offer partial help to others. There are certainly natural medicines that are completely safe to combine with antidepressant medications, and usually offer a large and important magnitude of benefit.
Fish oil: in order to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, the fish oil used must contain much more EPA than DHA. No less than a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA is recommended, and much higher EPA levels should be considered (in our practice, we usually recommend an oil that is a 6.5:1 ratio of EPA:DHA). In one study, people with Major Depression were assigned to high EPA fish oil, Prozac, or both. 56% of people on fish oil, 50% of people on Prozac, and 81% of people receiving both experienced a significant benefit from the treatment. The appropriate dose is 1000mg of EPA per day.
Vitamin D: compared to “otherwise healthy” people, people with a diagnosis of depression or anxiety generally have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood. When people with depression are supplemented with vitamin D, their mood improves. When people taking an antidepressant who still experience symptoms of depression supplement with vitamin D, their mood improves.
B complex: Supplementing a B complex has been shown to improve overall well being and mood. B complex vitamins lower homocysteine, a notorious vascular poison. Elevated homocysteine has been shown to powerfully predict increased likelihood of experiencing depression.
Melatonin: insomnia is commonly present in people who suffer from depression or anxiety. The dosing of melatonin is very individualized. If you take melatonin and have a bad experience, the next day take half as much, and so forth. If you take melatonin and find it has no effect, the next day increase the dose, to a maximum of 15mg per day.