As I write this it's the start of Mental Health Awareness week. It's a topic that lies close to my heart. I believe mental and emotional health is as important as physical health.
In a previous chapter of my life I had the experience of depression, anxiety, addiction and insomnia.
I was heavily medicated, disconnected, broken, numb and hiding from the world.
I needed love.
I needed forgiveness.
I needed acceptance.
I needed support.
I needed gentle healing.
My recovery consisted of many elements. I found support and guidance in rehab, therapy, councilling, meditation, sound healing, ancient plant medicines, shamanic treatments, trauma release therapy, Bach flower essences, homeopathy, super-foods, herbs and nutritional supplementation. Most importantly, I discovered a hidden strength by surrendering to Spirit and giving myself permission to be vulnerable and speak my truth (even if at times my voice trembled).
Looking back, my mental breakdown led me to a life-changing spiritual breakthrough.
Today my life is very different.
I am functional.
I am sober.
I am not medicated.
I sleep well.
I feel my feelings - even if at times I still want to escape them.
I have supportive friends.
I am in a loving and supportive relationship.
I realise my worth - most of the time (a work in progress).
I have purpose.
I respect my body and nurture my mind.
I feel connected to life and realise that life loves me.
And I feel compelled to be of service and support you. This is my core intention behind everything that I do.
Recovery is possible.
In my quest to rebuild my mind and body I discovered things that work and things that didn't. Mother Nature is a powerhouse and I draw my inspiration from her. Here I share with you my top 3 nutrients for the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia. I use them daily to stay well and trust them with all of me. I first started using these nutrients when I was in rehab in July 2015. At the time I was taking a sleeping pill and anti-depressant. I was determined to leave rehab drug-free.
Please note: My decision to discontinue the use of my prescription medication was personal and not supported by the rehab centre's psychiatrist. I do not recommend you stop the use of any medication without consulting with your health-care provider first.
If you've been following my work, you've heard of niacin! This unassuming, affordable and safe water-soluble B-vitamin is my supplement super hero.
Much of my understanding about this nutrient I discovered thanks to the research of Dr. Abram Hoffer (11 November 1917 – May 27, 2009). Dr. Hoffer was a Canadian biochemist, physician, and psychiatrist. According to him, megavitamin therapy and other nutritional interventions are potentially effective treatments for many health disorders. Dr. Hoffer was the world authority on niacin. Niacin plays a role in over 500 reactions in your body. Interfering with any of these vital reactions will cause disease.
Niacin usually causes a 'flush' a few minutes after it is taken due to it's vasodilation effects. The capillaries are dilated and the blood flow through the organs is increased. There is an internal increase in the blood flow as well as in the skin, which may last up to several hours. Non-flush preparations are available.
The first report of niacin's anti anxiety effects featured in 1949, when it was reported that it was synergistic (works together with) with some prescribed drugs. Dr. Hoffer found that it had anti-convulsive effects if combined with anticonvulsants, and it was possible to achieve better control with less sedation by adding niacin to the anticonvulsant program. More niacin, less need for the drug in other words. Anxiety drugs are highly addictive and toxic because the withdrawal effects are so severe and prolonged. Physicians concerned about the use of these drugs could study Dr. Hoffer's work. They will be reassured that megadose vitamin therapy for anxiety is much more effective without the use of dangerous drugs.
Niacin is also very effective in the treatment of:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
I take between 3-6grams of No-Flush Niacin (Solgar) daily.
L-theanine (an amino acid) may sound like an unfamiliar substance, but there’s a pretty good chance you unknowingly ingest it: for example, in the cup of green tea you drank this morning.
Known as a psychoactive substance, L-theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and directly affect the central nervous system by interacting with the brain itself. Psychoactive substances have access to the central nervous system and are believed to have the ability to affect mental abilities and states including your perception of the outer world, the speed at which you think, and the mood you are in.
L-theanine seems to promote relaxation and affects the mood positively. Be mindful though - Not all these effects have been shown to be consistent. It is possible this this could cause drug-seeking behaviour when used excessively.
L-theanine affects Alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are associated with a state of waking relaxation. L-theanine has been shown to stimulate the brain’s alpha waves, suggesting that it has the ability to put users into a more relaxed state without ultimately causing them to fall asleep. It also seems to increases dopamine levels. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is released by the brain as a “reward” after engaging in “rewarding” activities such as consuming food or having sex, increases in the brain in response to L-theanine. Substances that cause the release of high levels of dopamine can be addictive, resulting in a compulsion to seek the perceived feeling of “reward.” However, L-theanine stimulates low enough levels of dopamine that it has not been shown to produce cravings or "seeking" addicted behaviour in lab tests on rats or in the (more limited) tests on human subjects.
I take between 100mg-250mg of Solgar's L-theanine daily, usually at night.
5-Hydroxytryptophan is a chemical by-product of the protein building block L-tryptophan. It is also produced from the seeds of an African plant known as Griffon simplicifolia. 5-HTP is widely used for insomnia, depression, anxiety, migraines and tension-type headaches, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It is a compound that gets converted into the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the production of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia and many other conditions. A typical dose of 5-HTP is in the range of 300-500 mg, taken either once daily or in divided doses. Lower doses may also be effective, although usually when paired with other substances. 5-HTP should not be taken with any neurological drug that has been prescribed for antidepressant or other cognitive purposes unless cleared by a medical doctor. This is most important for SSRI usage, wherein the combination with 5-HTP is potentially lethal.
I use Solgar's 5-HTP daily.
Nutritional supplementation is one piece of my mental wellness puzzle. A very important piece. It is my experience that a well nourished mind is a calm and rested mind.
When I was in the throes of anxiety, depression and addiction my mind and body were starved of life-giving nutrients. At the time I fuelled my being mostly with alcohol. I slowly rebuilt my inner landscape with whole food, rest, hydration, gentle movement, meditation and high dose nutrient therapy. It has worked for me. It may or may not work for you too.
My mental health takes priority in my life. Daily I nurture it. I believe it is our birthright to feel alive and whole.