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Feeling down and moody?

A change in lifestyle and supplements can help

Q: I tend to be a fairly emotional, sad, anxious and easily stressed person. In the winter, all of my mood stuff gets worse. What can you suggest that’s natural? -Claire, Newmarket


A:  Supporting mental and emotional health is paramount for one’s overall wellbeing.  First and foremost, I always recommend working with a counsellor or a therapist.  From my own personal experience, working with a counsellor provided me a safe space to be honest and be heard, and they helped arm me with various coping strategies.


Upgrading lifestyle habits can also positively impact mood, such as improving sleep quality and quantity, drinking sufficient amounts of water, managing daily caffeine intake, eating a more whole foods diet, reducing junk food intake, getting daily doses of fresh air and sunshine, exercising regularly, etc.  These are things that most people know they “should” be doing, but let’s face it…life happens and these good habits can fall out of the daily routine.  Everyone can use a gentle reminder about these from time to time, myself included ☺ Supplemental support may come in the form of the following:


GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid) is a type of neurotransmitter, aka a chemical messenger that relays information from the brain.  More specifically, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain whose role is to calm brain activity to help with things such as mood and sleep.  GABA has been shown to increase α-brain waves, and thus promote relaxation.  As a supplement, this calming effect may be extremely helpful for those who suffer from worry, stress, anxiousness, and troubled sleep.


5-HTP (L-5-hydroxytryptophan) is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with feelings of wellbeing and happiness.  As a supplement it can support mood due to its ability to boost serotonin levels.  In studies, when 5-HTP has been compared to various tricyclic antidepressants, it proved to be just as effective and had lower incidences of side effects.  In addition to this, it also acts as a precursor to melatonin, which can be useful in enhancing sleep quality.


Vitamin D deficiency in the blood has been linked to symptoms of depression, and several studies suggest that the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder may be due to lower Vitamin D levels from less sun exposure in the winter months. Speak to your medical or naturopathic doctor about testing your Vitamin D blood levels.


Inositol (or myo-inositol) is a B-vitamin-like molecule. It improves the sensitivity of various receptors in multiple brain signaling systems resulting in enhanced delivery of messages from various hormones and neurotransmitters. Studies show that it may improve both GABA and serotonin receptor sensitivity and have found that high doses may be valuable in alleviating symptoms of mood disorders such as low mood and anxiousness.  Also, due to its role in improving brain cell communication, it may play an important role in improving cognitive function.


** If you are already on a prescription medication, always check with your MD or ND before supplementing to ensure it is advisable.


Dr. Michelle Pobega, ND, runs a naturopathic practice near the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. Stay connected with her at drmichellend.ca, Facebook and Twitter @MPobegaND