By Adrienne Jack
The brain is a wonderful thing, able to produce everything we need to feel great. Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good” hormone or “motivation molecule,” allows us to experience all of life’s pleasures to the fullest. Serotonin, another neurotransmitter, helps to regulate mood, sleep, concentration, and other behaviors we need to live comfortably. Oxytocin and endorphins, too, play a critical role in our happiness.
Of course, sometimes the brain needs a little help in keeping hormone levels where they need to be – and that help is often available over the counter.
For dealing with anything from psychological conditions to the occasional mood swing, medication isn’t for everyone and can have serious side effects. Fortunately, the most natural things in life don’t come with such risks – and those include exercise, a good diet, and nutritional supplements. Here are a few all-natural remedies to help pick you up.
- St John’s Wort
St John’s wort is a popular herb used for sleep disorders, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and mild forms of depression. In doses ranging from 900 to 1,200 milligrams per day, this supplement is available as a capsule, tablet, liquid extract, or even tea.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s help to stimulate emotions and structural improvement in the brain, and lower risks of depression and other psychological problems. They play such an important role in brain health, in fact, that they make up 8 percent of the brain’s weight. But since the body cannot produce omega-3s, we must get them from outside sources, such as fish oil.
- B Vitamins
These include vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folic acid), and vitamin B12 (cobalamin), which all help to regulate healthy moods and stabilize the central nervous system. B-complex or multivitamins are the best – try Rainbow Light Complete B-Complex.
- Vitamin D
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” naturally produced by the sun, this one is a must – yet deficiency affects up to 75 percent of Americans. Low levels are responsible for cancer, seasonal affective disorder, and diabetes, among other conditions. Consuming vitamin D in the wintertime is especially important, when sunlight is limited.
This miracle mineral increases focus, concentration, energy, and resilience to stress, as well as improving mood. However, deficiency of magnesium is another widespread issue. The answer? A good multivitamin.
Found in almost every cell of the body, zinc can decrease depressive symptoms on its own but can also boost the efficiency of antidepressants. Again, deficiency is extremely common. And fun fact: vegetarians need as much as 50 percent more zinc than meat-eaters, due to the body’s lower absorption rate of plant-based zinc.
Iron is important for keeping fatigue, apathy, and mood change at bay – all of which can lead to depression. The chemical also carries oxygen through the body to support energy levels and muscle strength. This supplement works especially well for women, who are at greater risk of deficiency.
SAMe is a molecule formed naturally in the body, but is available as a dietary supplement. It is known to work better than St John’s wort for more severe forms of depression and can replace prescription antidepressants (in some other countries, it’s only available by prescription).
Tyrosine is an important amino acid and a precursor to dopamine. This supplement can enhance sleep, cognitive function, and emotional wellbeing. It can be found in protein-rich foods, such as meat, fish, and eggs, or products such as this Eboost Shot.
This is another brain-boosting amino acid, generally only found in green tea. L-theanine increases serotonin levels, learning ability, and feelings of relaxation – even to the extent of helping achieve a meditative state. Three cups of green tea per day yield the best results.
Don’t forget that too much of a good thing can be dangerous, and over-consumption of any supplement should be avoided. Mixing certain supplements may not be recommended either. Consult with a healthcare practitioner – preferably one trained in natural medicine – about best practice.