Your mood often determines how your day will proceed. When your outlook is positive and your mood is good, even stresses and unpleasant parts of the day are manageable, but when your mood is poor, when challenges arise, you quickly feel frustrated, hopeless, and defeated. While everyone finds themselves in bad moods from time to time, chronic problems related to mood can make it difficult to enjoy life and strain relationships with your friends and family.
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In addition to prescription anti-depressants, the herb St. John's wort has been used since the ancient Greeks to improve mood. Researchers have isolated two chemicals in St. John's wort (hyperforin and hypericin) that may improve one’s mood and reduce the anxiety and insomnia associated with mild depression. Many people believe that these substances work on the brain’s chemicals that are responsible for regulating mood. The American College of Physicians considers St. John’s wort to be an option for short-term (six to eight weeks) treatment of mild to moderate depression. However, the evidence is not definitive and St. John’s wort should not be used to replace or postpone traditional counseling or treatment from a healthcare provider. There are also very serious side effects and drug interactions with St. John’s wort. Therefore, tell your health provider and/or pharmacist before starting St. John’s wort to ensure it is safe with your other medications.
Does SAM-e Work?
SAM-e or S-Adenosyl-L-methionine is becoming a more frequently used ingredient in mood support products. This natural chemical is produced in the body from the amino acid methionine. More than 40 clinical trials studied SAM-e and depression. Even though many of these studies demonstrated improvement, many of the studies were only for a few weeks, had a limited number of participants, and used IV or injected SAM-e, rather than an oral form. Therefore, the evidence supporting the benefits of SAM-e is not conclusive.
Does 5-HTP Work?
5-HTP or 5-Hydroxytryptophan is another supplement for mood. The body produces this chemical when the amino acid tryptophan is broken down into its components. In the body, 5-HTP is a required material for the manufacturing of serotonin, the brain chemical that is most responsible for promoting good moods and positive feelings. Some scientists believe that increasing 5-HTP levels in the body can accelerate the rate of serotonin manufacturing, leading to an improvement of mood. One small study published in the peer-reviewed journal Alternative Medicine Review in 1998 demonstrated that 5-HTP was successful on individuals with depression. In 2009, an independent scientific review concluded that compared to a placebo, 5-HTP and tryptophan reduced symptoms associated with depression, but that since side effects including dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and death also occurred, more evidence was still needed. It recommended that it was safer to use antidepressants with less potentially serious side effects.
Should I Talk to My Doctor About Depression?
Keep in mind that mood support supplements are definitely not treatments for moderate to severe depression and other mental health disorders. While they may help those suffering from such problems, clinical interventions may also be necessary. Talk to your doctor about your mood problems if they persist, and due to the interactions with many medications, if you are taking other medications or have any medical conditions, check with your healthcare provider and/or pharmacist before starting a mood support supplement.
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