Trading Prozac for Supplements

Nestled among the psychiatrists who habitually prescribe prescription drugs to their depressed patients, are a few who believe that nutrition, not medication, is the key to mental wellbeing.

Whether it's in response to an increasing distrust of antidepressants or a natural follow-up to studies that have linked nutrients to the control and reversal of psychological disorders, nutritional therapy is becoming a legitimate field. "There have been huge advances over the past few years finding that nutritional intervention can treat many behavioral and mental conditions we used to think were untreatable," explains Lewis Mehl-Madrona, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Los Angeles psychiatrist Hyla Cass has even written 10 books on the subject. In Natural Highs: Feel Good All the Time and 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health she's combined her mental health expertise with a background in nutritional medicine and has come up with some definitive theories on how what we eat affects our happiness. "Diets high in refined foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can actually interfere with our natural brain chemistry," she says.

While experts in nutritional therapy support dietary changes, simply adjusting what we eat is not always enough to change the way the brain functions. To increase the chances of actively influencing our mental health, they recommend a regimen of supplements that can include the following: [Note: Of course, it's important to consult a health care professional before embarking on a major course of supplements.] 

B Vitamins All B vitamins boost mood by facilitating neurotransmitter function. This is especially good news for women over 65 who have notable B-12 deficiencies.

Essential fatty acids There have been great results from these superhero fatty acids. They're an essential part of every cell membrane, and healthy membranes help your brain function efficiently.

Amino acids As the building blocks of neurotransmitters, amino acids can help elevate mood by increasing the production of serotonin.

Saint-john's-wort A classic, this herb is best for mild to moderate depression.

Rhodiola rosea An adaptogen - it can increase your resistance to a variety of stressors — rosea may decrease mild to moderate depression.


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