Whilst on my quest for better mental health and well-being, I’ve spent much time over the past 15 years looking at what I could put into my body that would help to bring some relief from my mental and physical pain. Nutritional supplements were my first real attempt at anything outside of prescribed medication. You will see that it has been a journey of years and experience that have shown me the benefits of adding these supplements to my daily diet.
When I was first diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, I was always at a complete loss as to why this was happening. I felt there was absolutely no reason in my life for me to be depressed. Doctors and loved ones assured me it could happen to anyone and was likely due to the stress I had been under, and genetics. I accepted this. But always in the back of my mind I kept thinking, ‘there is something wrong’ ‘there is something wrong with my chemicals’. But having no means of investigating this, I accepted prescribed medication, gladly I might add and with great success, and moved on.
But the nagging inside me didn’t last. When another bout of depression came I felt the need for further investigation. By this time the internet was fully loaded and I was able to get my hands on much more information. Here is what I found:
I am by no means an expert in this area. All information that I have, I have researched myself. I have always discussed with my doctor and psychiatrist before adding the supplements to my medication. I share these findings with you, only as a means of you looking into doing the same, should you choose to, in the hope that you will have similar results. Please ensure that you discuss fully with your doctor before taking any additional supplements.
Way back in 2000 I was going through a particularly bad patch of depression. It was the second major episode I had experienced and it was far worse than the first. I was trying prescribed medication to no avail for a long time. From sheer desperation, when traditional medicine wasn’t working for me, I took to Google and searched on anything that I could take to help. Following a lot of reading one major theme kept appearing: Omega 3. It would seem that Omega 3 fish oil was not only good for the heart, but also beneficial in supporting brain function and activity. Most importantly I read that in higher doses, it had brought marked relief from depression and anxiety. So, I did not need to read any further. I checked with my doctors and I started taking 3 x 1000mg of Omega 3 supplements a day. Within 2 weeks I noticed a remarkable difference. My mood had lifted slightly, I was less anxious and my mental clarity was greatly improved. As an additional benefit, my skin, hair and nails were all stronger too. So suffice to say, I have continued taking my Omega 3 for the past 15 years and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. In addition, the supplements also support the heart and help with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Omega 3 and alopecia
As part of the fibromyalgia and auto-immune problems I have suffered with alopecia over the years. It has usually come after a bout of illness, when a virus had been acute. I would lose a patch of hair, about the size of a 50p piece and it could be anywhere on my head. When the hair falls there is literally nothing there. It is bald as a babies bum! When it first happened I was devastated. I thought all my hair was going to fall out. But it didn’t. What did happen was that at around the same time I lost my first patch, I had just started taking the omega 3 supplements. And literally, within a week of taking them, the hair started to grow back. It was like a miracle. So over the past 10 years, when my hair occasionally falls out, I take strength in the knowledge that it wont be gone for long, and that the omega 3 that I take will help the hair grow back.
In more recent years, having been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I was once again on the hunt for any nutritional support I could get to help with the pain and fatigue. Anxiety and depression were also bad again following another long episode. I was taking prescribed medication but having the most horrendous mood swings and pre-menstrual tension. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at that the age of 26. This caused all sorts of hormonal balance problems including bloating, pain, heavy periods, facial hair and mood swings. Having trawled through countless articles, yet again desperate, another common theme came up. Magnesium supplements.
Now my mum had sworn by magnesium supplements when she went through a very difficult menopause. She swore it was the only thing that got her through the anxiety, sweats and sleepless nights when HRT did nothing. So with this in mind I thought that I had nothing to lose by trying. Again I spoke with my doctor and he actually told me, that during the 1980’s, the use of magnesium for treating depression, was very popular. But that over time, other medications became available and magnesium was once again overlooked.
The research I found had suggested that Magnesium Citrate was the best formula and had shown incredible results in bringing relief for many mental health conditions from clinincal depression, bipolar to schizophrenia. The research went on to say that they felt that with the right combination of nutritional supplements, any health problem could be tackled.
Magnesium has also had great results for those that cant sleep. It helps to relax the body and enduce a restful night.
A deficiency in magnesium has also been linked to restless leg syndrome, where the legs spasm and twitch at night.
I ordered my supplements and I tell you now, the whole truth, within 4 days of taking the supplements the noise in my head had gone. My nerves were no longer shot. I didn’t feel any PMS feelings and pain was greatly reduced. I felt more together, more ‘normal’ instead of manic and hormonal. All in all a winner! What was really interesting was that even though I had had many scans showing PCOS, the last scan I had said that there were very few cysts on the ovaries. The consultant asked if I had taken any medication. I told him I had done nothing other than add a magnesium supplement to my diet. His response? “Well done! Its working!”
I ordered my supplements: Magasorb from Natures Best. I take between 2 and 3 tablets a day. The change has been literally incredible.
You may have heard that Vitamin D has been linked to brain function. You may have heard that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that occurs during winter months due to lack of good sunlight. The sun and sunlight provide the body with Vitamin D. Essential to normal brain function.
I had been aware of this and certainly over the last four years whilst still working, I would struggle particularly badly through the winter months. You wake up in the dark, go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Well at least that’s how it is in the UK during the winter.
So once again during my research I looked into the link between a lack of Vitamin D and depression and anxiety. Again the number of research articles were vast and there was a clear pattern. My findings showed that although as yet there are no definitive answers into why Vitamin D causes depression, they do know that Vitamin D is taken up by receptors in the brain and produces serotonin. Our happy chemical.
The research showed that in those with a lack of Vitamin D, some suffered depression and anxiety. It also showed that those with a lack of Vitamin D were more likely to suffer depression and finally that those who took a Vitamin D supplement noticed marked improvements in mood.
Again, armed with this knowledge, I discussed with my GP and started a single Vitamin D supplement each morning.
NB: I generally only take the supplement in the winter months and during periods of bad weather. If the sun is shining and I’m getting enough sun light I do not take the supplement.
Vitamin B Complex
My dad has always taken a strong Vitamin B complex. It was recommended to him years ago as he suffered from severe mouth ulcers and would be in unbelievable pain and discomfort. A local pharmacist told him this was a sign of Vitamin B deficiency and so he began to take the supplements.
My dad went through a very stressful period and some serious health issues a few years back. All throughout this, our family could not believe how well he managed mentally. He slept well, he wasn’t anxious and he took everything in his stride. He still does. Following the vitamin research I had been doing for my own mental health, it became apparent that Vitamin B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. This to me was the key. This is what had kept my dad so strong during extremely stressful times.
Evidence has shown that Vitamin B complex vitamins cannot be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them. B vitamins may be depleted by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in these.
I added a B complex vitamin to my supplements about 3 years ago. I noticed again, that there was an improvement in mood and anxiety was reduced. Together with the other vitamins, I am sure that help to maintain my well-being.
My grandfather was a huge supporter of pure garlic to keep away germs and fight infections. It is a noted age old remedy in our family that rubbing raw garlic cloves on the feet can actually clear a chest infection. It saved many of the babies in our family over the years.
Now my pap took raw fresh garlic. Which you can do. But I opt for garlic supplements just because it’s easier. If I get a virus or infection then I will take chopped fresh garlic with water.
The garlic is important for me right now as fibromyalgia is an auto-immune disease. It means my immunity is basically crap. So as soon as I feel a cold or virus coming on I increase my doses of garlic.
Vitamin C is thrown about everywhere. We are bombarded by its many benefits, but particularly in fighting colds and flu and other viral illness.
As my immune system is already powered to the max, I help it out with a daily dose of vitamin C. I use the effervescent versions and if I am very run down I will make a cocktail using a splash of metatone tonic.
If nothing else, it gives me a reason to think I am helping my body in any way I can.
What does this mean for you?
You may wish to try one of these. You may wish to try them all. Or none. My advice is that as long as your doctor is happy for you to try, then I guess you have nothing to lose except your ill-health.
What is hard for me to say now, is whether I am really any better because of all the supplements I take? I cannot tell you. The only way I would be able to tell is if I stopped taking some or all of them. But having had such incredible success with each one, at different points, I truly believe that they all help to keep me on an even keel. Without them, for all I know, I could be a mess again! So with faith and experience I will continue to take my supplements, to supplement my prescribed medication, and continue on the road to full recovery. With peace of mind along the way.
What has amazed me with this journey of supplementing my diet with the right vitamins and minerals, is the profound effect they have had. What I learnt along the way is that many of the vitamins and minerals that the body NEEDS to function, are not produced in the body. They have to be taken into the body in the form of food and nutrition. Now unless you are eating a pound of fish a day together with spinach, almonds or oranges, it is unlikely you are getting enough nutrients. So if these vitamins and minerals are so vital to a sound and good working body, why are they not the first thing that is checked when you present at the doctor with a chronic illness? This is a question we will answer in another post.
Let me know your experiences and thoughts.