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Henry: Hello, I'm Henry Emmons and welcome to Joy Lab.
aimee: And I'm Aimee Prasek. Here at Joy Lab, we infuse science with soul to help you uncover joy. And as you may know, we are working through our podcourse. And today we're going to talk about some foundational supplements to support mental health, and also overall well First, got to say, remember, it is important to check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement. being
So as a reluctant supplement taker myself.
I don't like taking them, but there are some that I do really rely on. We'll talk about those. But there's a lot of controversy, certainly with supplements. Some folks take fistfuls, and other folks will say they are a complete waste of time, practitioners included.
You might hear that from someone. I've heard that from a GP or two in my day as well. So Henry, let's talk first about sort of just the controversy or the use of supplements. Can you share your thoughts on that?
Henry: Well, my view has evolved over time. There was a time, years ago when I was really first getting into more of the holistic work where I think I was so tired of prescribing medication that I really just wanted to use supplements exclusively or natural therapies exclusively.
And I quickly realized that medication has a role too and supplements aren't going to replace that entirely, not for everyone. But I do think that there's a kind of a logical sequence that we can take when we are trying to balance brain chemistry. And so the very first place to start is with diet.
And you know, we've, we're covering diet in the podcast too, and we have this great series on Radically Sensible Eating with Carolyn Denton. Diet is so important and we think first and foremost, that's where we should start. And theoretically, if we were really, really careful and good about our diets, you know, we may not need supplements, at least not these basic foundational ones.
But, it's just not always the case that we eat a pristine diet with food that is full, chock full of the nutrients we need. Or, the food is going to provide enough of certain things to cover for some of our genetic quirks and vulnerabilities. You know, which obviously some of us have. And so supplements, I see as being a good bridge between diet only and medication only.
And I think they can be used, to some extent, for some people to allay the need for medication or even people who are on medication to supplement the medication itself in such a way that it continues to be effective. You know, really one of the biggest problems with medication use over long periods of time is that for many people they lose their effectiveness.
And I think there's complex reasons for that, but one of them is that the medication powerfully changes how the brain uses certain neurotransmitters, but it does not change the body's ability to make the neurotransmitters. To do that, we really have to bring in the right ingredients, the micronutrients and all the good stuff that our body needs to make serotonin and dopamine and all the other important things.
aimee: Yeah. So let's get into that, those foundational elements to support production of those neurotransmitters and to support overall wellbeing. Just a moment to sort of my evolution to this place, um, when I sort of dove headfirst into integrative modalities, I certainly thought that I did not need any supplements, that I could get it straight from diet because I eat very well and just stubborn as I am, I put all the wonderful foods into my, my system, but still needed support. And then when I took the right supplements for me. Uh, I felt better and it was frustrating, but it was true. And so it's something that I rely on, um, not because I want to, but it just makes me feel better. yeah. So let's get into those.
The foundational supplements, that you have shared with me, Henry, that you share with your patients, do you want to talk about those, those sort of essential ones to create that perfect recipe for neurotransmitter production?
Henry: Sure, sure. And you know, you said something that is really worth highlighting, which is that these are also for overall wellbeing. We're talking about mood and helping prevent or get out of depression or anxiety, but it's the things that we'll talk about with the foundations are important for the entire body. Which really fits with our way of thinking about this, which is that the brain is part of the body.
There isn't really a distinction between mental health and physical health, but we need do everything we can to support the body functioning well as a whole. So that's really what these things do, but they do have some special relevance for mental and emotional wellbeing. So, the five foundational supplements that cover a lot of the bases here.
The first is a really solid B complex or potentially a multivitamin. The second is omega 3. Those healthy fats, brain healthy fats. Third is magnesium, my favorite supplement. Fourth is, um, vitamin D. And then fifth is good gut support through a probiotic and potentially prebiotic as well.
aimee: Okay. So let's get into those just a little bit more. So B vitamins, and maybe if you want to touch on activated B vitamins or preferred choice for B's.
Henry: Yeah, so this is an area where the genetic vulnerabilities really come into play. And the reason for that is that there's a known correlation. This has been known for a while now that a certain percentage of people who have recurrent depression, especially the kind of more severe kind of biological recurrent depression, that they're, genetically unable to convert certain B vitamins from your food, from what you bring into your body, to convert it from that into its active form.
There's a complex chemical process called methylation that has to occur in order for the B vitamin to be activated and therefore used in its usable form by the body. This is particularly true for folate or folic acid, but, B6 is also a factor and even B12. It's important to get them in the right form in order for the body to be able to really use it.
So people who have this genetic quirk, if you will, they could eat a diet really high in folate, you know, all those fresh leafy greens, you know, they could eat them right off the stalk and they still might not be able to get enough of the folate or folic acid in the form that the body needs it. So it's really important that these B vitamins be activated.
aimee: So, we'll also, to note here, we'll put links to all of these in our show notes. and some of the ones that we really like and also where you can purchase through our partner store, Fullscript, as a way to also support this podcast, keep it moving, and all the directions on how to sign up and then receive a discount also through Natural Mental Health, will be available there.
So you can check the show notes. You don't have to take all the notes here. So B vitamins we just covered, let's go to omegas and maybe Henry, if you can hit on vegetarian options as well, instead of just, pulling fish out of the sea, if that's a concern for folks. Or maybe actually taking a omega capsule, yeah.
Henry: Yes, but actually, before I get into the omega 3s, let me just make a couple more comments about the B vitamins. The B vitamins might be, you know, for people with certain forms of depression, may be the most important of the things we're talking about. So it's really worth highlighting. But I want to say a couple of other things.
One is that the doses do need to be higher than what is in the recommended daily allowance for these to be really effective. And so this notion that you're wasting your money, you're just, you know, B vitamins are just kind of going through your system and totally ineffective taking high doses.
I think that there is a reason for some people to take more than just what you get in your food or the recommended. daily allowance. So it's more like a therapeutic dose rather than just covering the basis kind of dose. Second thing is not to underestimate the power of these. There's been some really interesting, good research on B vitamins alone as an intervention for depression, making a significant difference, particularly, I think, in relapse prevention.
And then this is just an anecdote, but it just is seared in my memory. Some years ago, after one of my books came out, I can't remember which, but I was, um, I was asked to speak at a Buddhist center, so this is a mindfulness center, and I spoke and then we had a Q&A period and the questions were mostly about, some spiritual aspect of this approach.
But I had an elderly gentleman in the back of the room, who I think was, this was his first time ever in a Buddhist center, but he raised his hand and he just really wanted to make a comment. And I was expecting something related to mindfulness and, you know, emotion and something, and instead he shared his story.
He was, I think he was 87 years old at the time, and his wife had died a couple years ago and he became just severely depressed, suicidal at times, and his neighbors became so concerned about him. And he was on some medication that was not really pulling him out. And so they gave him my book to read. So here he is in the back of the room holding up my book, and his testament is to the thing that he did that he got from my book was to take B vitamins, high dose, and it, it was like it, it turned the key and his medication suddenly started working, his mood lifted within two weeks, I mean, it was just a remarkable story.
But anyway, just, yeah, they can work. And I do want to say two things about the potential downside or side effects of B complex. One is that some people do find them a little bit hard on the tummy, some people find they create a little discomfort or nausea even. And so if that's the case, you might need to get by with just a B6 or just a folic acid.
And then the second thing is that there's a very small number of people who find the B vitamins a little bit overstimulating, kind of over activating. And if that's the case again, maybe just B6 in a certain form would be a little bit easier on your system.
So, with those things said, let's go on to Omega 3.
aimee: Yeah can I say quickly, I have a B vitamin and a caffeine rule. If it's after 10, no activated B vitamins or
Henry: There you go.
aimee: because I feel like it does activate me a little bit, you know, which is great at like 8am when I'm rearing to go, but
not great at 12am when I try to fall asleep. So
Henry: Yep, good reminder. If you're taking a high dose B complex, take it in the morning.
Henry: Okay, so the omega 3. And this is another area where there is really a lot of research, particularly for bipolar illness, but I think too for depression and any form of inflammation. The omega 3s are useful at toning down inflammation of the body and also supporting good communication between nerve cells, the neurons, the cell wall of the, In other words, the outer layer of the nerve cells are made up largely of, omega 3 fatty acids and they get, they get incorporated and make those receptors and those cell walls function at their very best.
So it's really important for the entire nervous system, but also for anybody who has inflammation. And remember that depression for probably a good percentage of people is related to systemic inflammation. So the omega 3s really help to tone that down. And most of the research is done on marine omega 3s, you know, on fish oil.
But as you point out, Aimee, not everybody is, either wants to eat fish oil or some people don't like the taste or the smell of it. Which, by the way, you can reduce if you keep it in the refrigerator. But, still there's also reasons to use vegetable sources for omega 3.
And you can get good ones now with evening primrose oil, flax, borage seed oil. You can get products that combine several in one. You can get algae based Omega 3 as well. So you're still getting it from marine products, but just it's vegetable life instead of fish life.
And the, I think the key for all of these is to be taking enough of it. Because they're, they're not cheap. Omega 3 is not cheap. You probably want a really highly concentrated product, so you don't have to take, you know, a fistful of pills. These are big pills. Um, you can get them in capsule form or you can get them in liquid form, although most people don't like slurping down a, a spoonful
aimee: of fish.
Henry: fish oil.
But, they are big pills and so you want to kind of be efficient with them and get the highly potent forms of it.
aimee: Yeah. again, we'll have these, uh, noted and show notes, uh, links for those. Let's move to your favorite
Henry: My personal favorite, magnesium, probably because I'm a little bit of an anxious type and magnesium is so good for me personally, but I think it's really got a lot of broad usefulness. So magnesium is a mineral. And minerals, you know, have a positive or a negative charge to them. And magnesium is really important for nerve cell function and communication.
So it's a way for the brain cells and your muscles as well to relax after they have been active. So, the nerve cells fires or the muscle cell contracts and then it needs to relax in order to do it again. And magnesium is important for that happening. So, I think magnesium is really good for sleep. It's good for calming anxiety, it's good for making serotonin and supporting mood, kind of broadly.
So I just love it for a lot of reasons. And I think it's also good for keeping the bowels moving. But that is one of the side effects is that some people, if they're taking too much can get loose stools or cramping. So you just have to watch the dose. The form of magnesium I like for mood and anxiety is called Magnesium L -threonate.
It's a little more expensive but it's a great way to really try to support your sleep and your nervous system and calm anxiety.
aimee: Henry, do you find that magnesium L-threonate is easier on the stomach?
Henry: I think it is easier, certainly easier than magnesium citrate. That's the most, that's what most people purchase is magnesium citrate. And that's actually what people use to relieve constipation. Okay, so it's
Henry: on the stomach. I think magnesium glutamate, L glutamate, is the kind that's easiest on the stomach.
So that's another option for folks who really just don't tolerate magnesium very well. Try the magnesium glutamate.
aimee: Side note, I was studying in India for a while and the traditional Tibetan healers, so in their parliament in exile, they would grind the herbs on magnesium rocks , the herbs that were used for, um, anti-inflammatory herbs and things like that. It was kind of magical. So, thinking about sort of that relationship of magnesium for these tinctures or medicines that were focused on mood support and anti inflammatory responses. It's kind of beautiful. It's like, wouldn't that be great if our pharmaceutical companies were like outside sort of blending herbs on rocks and very different. So
Henry: I can easily imagine you doing that, Aimee.
aimee: If I led a pharmaceutical company be lots of rocks and stones and sticks and it'd be very different. All right, let's talk about vitamin D3. Vitamin D3.
Henry: So D3, which is the active form of vitamin D, it's called vitamin, but it really acts in the body more like a hormone. It's super important for all kinds of physiological processes, including supporting mood and reducing inflammation. And so vitamin D is a really simple thing to add. I think living in North America, particularly north of Atlanta, that's kind of the line that the angle of the sun is really insufficient for much of the year, for anybody living north of that.
Certainly living where we do, Aimee, in Minnesota, it's kind of a no brainer. I take it, I recommend my patients take it starting around October 1st, all the way until around April 1st, or even through the month of April. I think around 5,000 units is, which seems high, but it's a, it's a really good amount for most folks, unless you know that your vitamin D level is already normal or even a little high.
I think it's a good amount to support you through the winter months without becoming toxic.
aimee: Do you suggest, um, with your patients, Henry, D3 in the summer?
Henry: I do, for some people. If people know that their Vitamin D levels have been low, that they've gotten the test measured through their primary care clinic. Then they should stay on it through the summer. I think, too, people who simply don't go out in the sun much, maybe they're fair skinned or burn easily or just, you know, have had some kind of skin cancer.
Anybody who's really careful not to get sun exposure. Maybe a lower dose, like 2,000 units in the summer per day is a good insurance.
aimee: All right, let's roll into this last foundational supplement, probiotics.
Henry: So, most of us are familiar with or hearing about the gut brain connection, right? It's so super important. We know now that in many respects, the health of your brain starts in your gut, really. And a big part of that has to do with having good, healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut. The kind that actually help produce some of our neurotransmitters like serotonin.
90 percent of your body's serotonin is actually in the gut and these healthy bacteria are part of the reason for that. There are so many things these days that can disrupt our normal, healthy balance in the gut including our diets that are sort of high in sugar or low in fiber, taking antibiotics.
being exposed to toxic things through our water or our food supply. So there's lots of things that, reasons why it can go awry. And I think a probiotic, if you are dealing with any gastrointestinal discomfort or digestive issues, it's a really good thing to do for a while. I don't think people need to take the pill form forever, but maybe for a few months, three to four months, maybe six months. But you want a really high potency probiotic with a variety of different types of probiotics in them. And you also may want to vary it up from time to time. So you're not always taking the same pill, for months or years at a time. They're kind of expensive. And so I think people should also really look for dietary sources of probiotics like yogurt and kefir, kombucha, fermented vegetables. I think it's a good idea just generally to eat some form of fermented food virtually every day.
aimee: Alright, so we've talked about B vitamins, omegas, magnesium, D3, probiotics, and just to be aware of cost and quantity of pills in the mouth, which are things that I... I'm very much concerned about because don't like taking supplements, I don't like paying for them. So I know something that, um, Henry, you have told me about is a good multi.
So I take what's called Neuromood Pure Pack. And then seasonally or so I'll do a probiotic. And that has honestly just worked wonders for me. And there's another multi I was on as well that I really liked, but this one I like because it's just, it also includes an anti inflammatory curcumin. It's a beautiful blend for me.
It's worked really well. So can you talk about how we can condense this or some other options to make the foundations work for us cost wise, frustration wise?
Henry: You bet. Well, one thing is that you may not need to supplement with all of the things we've talked about all of the time. Personally, don't eat quite as healthy in the winter months. And plus I'm trying to stave off seasonal mood changes. So I start all of these around October 1st and stay on them through April.
And by and large I come off of them in the summer. I stay on my magnesium but I, I You know, I don't take everything all year round. So some folks might want to do this seasonally or maybe they want to do it if they're going through a particularly hard stretch with stress and you just know that you're, you need some extra nutritional support. Or you know, if you've got certain problems with your gut or with sleep or something, then it's really a good idea to focus on those times, especially if you're concerned about cost.
I also really like being able to put things together into a single pill or a single packet so you don't have to buy several separate bottles, which is a lot more expensive. You don't have to fuss with them every day. The packet you mentioned, Aimee, is I just think is really great. It's designed, it's the Neuromood Pure Pac k is designed specifically for depression and to support depression or anxiety. It covers the foundational basis plus some additional amino acids just to support good, healthy brain chemistry in a broader way. And it's, a lot less expensive than buying them all separately and it's a lot easier.
aimee: Yeah. I'm a big fan. I love that very flexible approach to the supplements that you just shared with us, Henry, just tuning in, like what works for you dependent on the situation and season, and cost. So, there's beauty in that really listening to our bodies to give us some insight. Yeah. So folks, I hope this has been super helpful.
Supplements are something that I really appreciate. I'm grateful that I can take them cause they do help me. And so if you are looking for supplements as well, we have our Fullscript partner store. We would love to have you support the podcast by purchasing through us. And you have a discount through Natural Mental Health that you can find when you sign up for our partner store.
So again, I hope this has been really helpful and we'll see you for our next podcourse lesson, which we're getting into, we're just going to start to explore the mind and heart in the next section.
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