In today’s society, we’re used to getting what we need in a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, when it comes to balanced mental health, there are no easy fixes.
Many people realize it takes more than one visit to the doctor and a bottle of pills to fix mental health issues. Sometimes pills cause more problems than they solve, or make matters worse.
People are starting to turn to nature for remedies. This is where the concept of holistic health and alternative medicine fits in.
According to the American Holistic Medical Association website, “holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person - body, mind, and spirit.”
In addition, the website states that “the practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health, and prevent and treat disease by addressing contributing factors.”
Holistic health and medicine is often referred to as alternative or complementary medicine. Alternative treatments include natural supplements with herbs and vitamins.
Dr. Theri Griego Raby, the founder and director of the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said in an email that there are a few health supplements that can improve mental health.
“For many of my patients I recommend Vitamin D3, which can be great for stabilizing the mood,” she said. “We really want to build up on this before the fall and winter seasons when we may be prone to seasonal affective disorders.”
“As for omega 3, I suggest taking krill oil because of its ability to help improve mood, depression and ADHD,” Raby added. “Additionally, for times of high stress, B6 complex can help to improve mood as well as symptoms of PMS.”
Other supplements that can improve mood are St. John’s Wort and vitamin B12. People with mild depression might find some relief with St. John’s Wort.
“L-Theanine, which isn’t commonly known, is found in green tea and can help with memory and mood,” Raby said. “Also, medical grade peppermint oil can have the same mood stabilizing and concentration effects by rubbing a little bit in the hands and inhaling.”
She added that if women have mental health issues, they should see a doctor or therapist first, and should find out how certain vitamins and herbs interact with any medication they might be on before trying additional supplements. It’s also necessary to research brands and products, because many have low-grade ingredients that are ineffective.
“For patients struggling with anxiety or stress, I like to recommend 5HTP, a trigger for the production of serotonin, with the added bonus of improving sleep,” Raby said. “B6 and L-Theanine can also have a positive impact on anxiety and calm the body.”
For women who suffer from insomnia, a supplement of magnesium glycinate at bedtime can help them fall asleep, relax muscles and stabilize mood, she said. Valerian root extract and melatonin also serve as sleep aids.
Toni Coleman, a licensed clinical social worker, said in an email that probiotic supplements can help the gut, which in turn helps the mind.
“It’s key to get a baseline before doing any supplementation, which includes blood tests for deficiencies, allergy testing (for allergies/sensitivities) and an organic acids test,” Coleman said. “Hair testing for heavy metals can also be very helpful in uncovering the root of a disorder that is autoimmune in nature, which many of these are.”
She said the next step is to find a trusted health professional.
“Otherwise, folks could spend a lot of money on supplements they don’t need or that won’t cross the stomach and blood-brain barrier,” Coleman said. For example, she said that vitamin B12 is best taken in a shot or patch for many people who suffer from anxiety and depression.
Although many benefit from holistic health supplements, there are others who haven’t reaped the benefits and who are skeptical of the whole movement. Some suggest holistic health treatments haven’t been researched enough to prove any true benefits.
Dr. Russell Green, a psychiatrist in the U.K., said in an email that there is no real evidence to show any supplements or vitamins work to improve mental health. He said that extra vitamins often are not absorbed properly by the body or can be dangerous at high doses.
Green said that the best way to improve mental health is to exercise, engage in activities, and eat a diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables and a variety of foods.
Do you take any supplements for mental health issues, or do you think supplements are ineffective? Share below.
American Holistic Medical Association. About Holistic Medicine. Web. July 17, 2013.
Raby, Their Griego. Email interview. July 17, 2013.
Coleman, Toni. Email interview. July 17, 2013.
Green, Russell. Email interview. July 15, 2013.
Reviewed July 18, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith