Mood can be supported through proper nutrition and supplements offer a great safe and natural option for your customers to get these nutrients. There are supplements that support memory and focus, reduce stress and combat brain fog. The consumer market for this area is quite broad.

Of course, lifestyle can also play a big role in mood and brain function, so it’s important to get adequate diet, sleep and exercise.

The body’s ability to function optimally decreases naturally with age, leading to muscle loss and brain depletion. Research has shown that brain volume decreases about 5% per decade after age 40, and accelerates further after age 70 (1). Many supplements can aid memory support and are beneficial to take at any age because they help overall positive mood. Some of these include acetyl L-carnitine, B vitamins, choline and ginkgo biloba.

Many people battle stress and anxiety and could benefit from the following natural supplements:

Magnesiumis a key component to help reduce stress and anxiety, whether taken as a supplement or consumed through foods that have a high content. It is a mineral that aids in regulation of the nervous system, reducing stress, anxiety, irritability and restlessness. Those experiencing these may have a deficiency (2).

L-theanineis an amino acid that can help relieve stress and anxiety without the the side effect of drowsiness. It works by enhancing brain wave activity and synthesis of GABA, which balances levels of dopamine and serotonin to cause calmness (3).

Valerian rootis well known for its calming effects, and is used to aid sleep and reduce stress and tension.

Lemon balmis known as a calming herb from the mint family and is commonly combined with valerian or chamomile to aid in relaxation and sleep. It’s available in many forms such as capsules and extracts (5).

Other natural supplements act as a mood lifter. It should be noted they should not be considered “cures” for depression or other illnesses. It is advisable for consumers to see a medical professional to make sure particular supplements are safe for them. Side effects are possible as well as dangerous drug counteractions. These are some of the options:5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)works in the brain and nervous system to increase the production of serotonin. This is because the chemical is a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin affects many areas like sleep and appetite. Serotonin is also associated with feeling good (6).Many prescription anti-depressants function by maintaining a high level of serotonin in the brain. 5-HTP should not be used by those suffering from clinical depression but if you’re feeling like you’re in a foul mood, it may make your day easier.

St. John’s wortis a plant that has been used for centuries for medical purposes. It also works to increase serotonin levels to improve mood. However, there are contradicting studies that talk about the unknowns of the plant. It can have severely negative interactions with other antidepressants, so consumers are advised to seek out a medical professional (7).

Omega-3sand fish oil supplements have been found to improve mood and brain chemistry. Since cell membranes are partially made of omega-3s, by increasing the levels of these essential fatty acid it allows serotonin to more easily pass through the membrane. Americans typically don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet so supplementation is especially important. Fish oil supplements are considered to be some of the best sources of ­­omega-3s. Also, flaxseed oil is a good source of omega-3s and can either be used in food or as a supplement — an ideal solution for vegans (8).

More recent studies have looked at the benefits omega-3s can have on women suffering from postpartum depression. Results from a study show that women who took fish oil capsules prior to pregnancy had less anxiety and depression symptoms after delivery than women who took a placebo pill (9).

Studies have also found there could be a link between depression and a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D receptors are found in multiple areas of the brain and in spots that have to do with development of depression. Vitamin D in the brain hasn’t been fully researched yet—one theory is that it affects chemicals like serotonin (10).

S-adenoslymethionine,or SAM-e can be a natural mood enhancer. It is a naturally occurring compound in the body that boosts serotonin and dopamine. Studies have found a correlation between low levels of SAM-e and depression (11).

Probioticsare commonly thought of to support gut health, but studies show they can also positively impact mood and ease stress by producing neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin. They can also help decrease inflammation in the body, which can be an underlying cause of depression and mood disorders. Similarly, prebiotics can help regulate mood by decreasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol (12). Herbs such as holy basil, ginseng, ashwagandha and licorice root can also be used to lower cortisol levels.

None of these foods and supplements should be considered a quick fix or an alternative to modern medicine. Rather, these are items that when taken daily can help maintain a healthy brain and therefore mind. Some supplements can be valuable to take at a younger age to possibly stave off problems that may arise down the road. Of course, it’s always important to consult with a physician before starting any supplement regimen.WF

References1. ­­­Alan Rillorta, “Supporting Cognitive Function with Magtein,” 2. Neil Bernard Boyle et al, “The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review,” 3. James Lake, MD, “L-Theanine Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety,” 4. Natural Remedies, “Valerian Root,” 5. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Lemon Balm,” 6. WebMD, “5-HTP,” 7. University of Maryland Medical Center, “St. John’s Wort,” 8. WebMD, “Fish Oil to Treat Depression?” 9. WholeFoods Magazine, “Can Natural Remedies Boost Our Mood?” 10. Vitamin D Council, “Depression,” 11. Psychology Today, “SAM-e: The Natural Mood Enhancer,” 12. Kathleen Jade, “The Best Probiotics for Mood: Psychobiotics May Enhance the Gut-Brain Connection,”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine December 2017