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Imagine going to the health food store to pick up supplements that you heard were safe, natural, and going to make you feel better.  You then start taking this supplement and notice that you actually feel worse. Scary, right?

And confusing too, because natural means safe, right?

Wrong.

Supplements, although natural, can act like drugs in the body.

Supplements, just like drugs, force the body or brain to perform certain actions that they are not doing on their own, naturally.  This in turn will affect many other biochemical and enzymatic pathways in the body which can lead to a worsening of symptoms, or even create different problems, AKA side effects. (Yes, you can get side effects from natural supplements.) This is especially true when it comes to your mental health.  Taking supplements that affect your brain chemistry can run a high risk of being more harmful than helpful if they aren’t the right fit for you.

Here’s some specific examples of what I am talking about:

There are many supplements and herbs that act to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain.  The most commonly used supplements for this include: 5-HTP, SAME, and St. John’s Wort.

Here’s something most doctors don’t tell you though.  Supplements that work to increase serotonin in the brain should NEVER be used in conjunction with SSRI medications.  This is because those supplements work in a very similar way to the antidepressant medications. This similar way of working leads to an additive effect that floods the brain with serotonin and often leads to toxicity.

When there is too much serotonin in the body, you are at high risk of developing serotonin syndrome.

Excess serotonin can be caused by SSRi's or nutritional supplements

As you can see the symptoms of excess serotonin and serotonin syndrome can range from mild to life threatening.  If you feel that you have these symptoms please speak to your doctor immediately. Many of these symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Long term supplementation with 5-HTP, despite its claims for helping with mood support, is actually contraindicated for depression.  This is because 5-HTP can actually cause depletion of the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine which all play an important role in mood regulation.  You can check out the research findings here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415362/.

Another concern with 5-HTP, SAME, and St. John’s Wort is with bipolar disorder.  Any supplement or drug that increases serotonin is contraindicated in bipolar disorder.  This is because increasing serotonin in the brain can induce or worsen a manic episode.

This is why it is NEVER recommended to self-treat for a mental health condition without doctor supervision. You could potentially be making your condition significantly worse.  

We started this blog with you in the supplement aisle, so presumably you are looking for a natural way to get relief. So, let’s talk about the safest and most effective treatment for long term healing – homeopathy.

Homeopathy works to stimulate the body to heal its biochemistry and find the ideal chemical balance for you. Nothing in your body gets forced with homeopathy, which means once you have fully healed/recovered, you no longer need treatment. And really, that is what you are ultimately hoping to find in that supplement aisle, isn’t it?

Jump over here to learn more about homeopathy, how it works, and to see if it might be what you are actually looking for.

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Dr. Rachel Rozelle

Dr. Rachel Rozelle

Associate Doctor at Resilience Naturopathic