How to Overcome Trauma & PTSD without Medication

The subjective experience of trauma is unique and varies according to the individual and the type of trauma. What does not vary is the fact that trauma often results in a devastating intrusion into a wished-for life of peace, calm, and well-being, along with a corresponding unexpected and undesired fragmented sense of self and of life in general.
— Dr. Rollin McCraty, Ph.D.

Eating healthy and supplementing with specific nutrients was never enough for me to overcome my chronic mental health problems.

A broken heart.

I had to work hard at overcoming emotionally traumatic experiences as well. 

Trauma isn’t just something that happens to you in the past.

It’s not just a story or a memory.

Emotional trauma can actually change your brain, and how you see yourself in the world, leading to profoundly disturbing physical sensations and emotions in the present moment. 

It can occur because of one single event, or build up gradually due to a threatening or lonely environment.

These traumatic events and experiences, in both childhood and adulthood, can linger inside you and make you feel depressed, anxious and fearful for years. 

This is commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it’s a heavy burden to carry.

We’re made to believe that talk therapy and psychiatric drugs are the best way to overcome it.

But that is simply not true.

You can overcome psychological and emotional trauma without having to resort to life-long therapy and medication.

It’s not necessarily easy. 

It can take some time and effort.

But it can definitely be done.

I’m living proof. 

So today I’m going to share with you the therapies and treatments that have changed the course of my life by allowing me to permanently overcome emotional trauma and PTSD. 
 

Why Talk Therapy and Drugs Aren’t the Best Treatment Options

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, a psychiatrist at the Boston University School of Medicine and one the world’s leading experts on trauma, is convinced that talk therapy isn’t that effective, and psychiatric drugs don’t get to the root of traumatic issues:

The study of trauma shows that you cannot “knock sense” into people by talking to them. Trauma is not an issue of cognition. It’s an issue of disordered biological systems.

Based on my experience, I agree with Bessel van der Kolk, and I highly recommend you check out his book The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma if you’re interested in learning more. 

The book talks about how the brain is shaped by traumatic experiences, how traumatic stress is experienced by the entire body, and how this knowledge needs to be integrated into conventional treatment. 

Because of trauma, I used to struggle with chronic hyper-vigilance – a heightened state of awareness and over-activation of my "fight-or-flight" response. 

In other words, my brain was irrationally on constant alert.

This is because trauma impacts the “unconscious, emotional, reptilian" part of our brains, causing us to become chronically frightened and interpret the world as dangerous.

You know you shouldn’t feel that way, but you do.

And then that makes you feel even more defective and ashamed.

You cannot reason your way out of that.

Talk therapy can be helpful in acknowledging what has happened to you and how it has affected you.

But talking about it doesn’t put it behind you.

It simply does not go deep enough and affect the emotional, reptilian part of your brain. 

Your body can actually hold onto trauma, and it wasn’t until I tapped into the reptilian part of my brain with the following 12 treatments and therapies that I was able to permanently let it go and move on with my life. 

And even if you don't think you've experienced anything too traumatic, you'll probably benefit from these steps. 

1. Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that shows you your brain activity in real-time and teaches you how to self-regulate it.  

Sensors are placed on your scalp to measure your brain’s activity, and the measurements are displayed using video or sound.

In this powerful video, a captain with multiple deployments in Iraq shares his experiences in dealing with PTSD, and how neurofeedback treatment aided in his recovery.

Personally, neurofeedback was the most impactful action I took to overcome trauma. I previously wrote about my experience with it here

It works at a deep subconscious level, breaking the cycle of trauma and post-traumatic symptoms.

It allows you to move past traumatic events without actually having to talk about them and relive them, and shifts you into a natural, healthier state of mind.

And research shows that it works. 
 
Just last year, individuals with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder completed 40 sessions of neurofeedback, and researchers found it significantly reduced their PTSD symptoms (3). 

In my 38 years of practice, I have never seen any treatment that comes close to producing the results that Neurofeedback offers. I have seen results achieved in days and weeks that previously took months and years to achieve, using the best methods available to us.
— Dr. Jack Woodward, MD, Board Certified Psychiatrist

In another study, victims of torture who had not responded to conventional treatment did 20 sessions of neurofeedback and demonstrated a “substantial recovery” (5). 

Researchers have also concluded that neurofeedback is “helpful in the shedding of substance dependencies that are common in treatment-resistant PTSD” (4). 

If you’re interested in digging more into the research, here is a list of studies looking at neurofeedback for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. 

It’s best to work with a qualified practitioner.

But I also like the Muse headband. It’s a good substitute and gives you real-time feedback in your brainwaves while you meditate.

I previously wrote about it here, and you can get it through Amazon or the Muse website

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2. Vagus Nerve Stimulation

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body and part of your parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system.

Stimulating your vagus nerve allows you to more effectively respond to emotional trauma and overcome it. 

Research shows that vagus nerve stimulation can help treat a number of treatment-resistant anxiety disorders. This includes patients with PTSD that haven’t responded to medication (34-35). 

Vagus nerve stimulation has also been shown to enhance the “extinction of conditioned fear”, making it useful for severe anxiety and PTSD (36-38). 

So how do you stimulate your vagus nerve naturally?

I previously provided 13 ways to activate your vagus nerve in this post.

I recommend reading that post alongside this one because many of the mind-body practices and nutrients discussed – such as yoga, acupuncture, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids – have also been shown to directly help people overcome emotional trauma. 

3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

The cure for the pain is the pain.
— Rumi

I mentioned above that neurofeedback lets you move past traumatic events without actually having to talk about them and re-live them.

But sometimes that isn’t enough.

Sometimes you have to relive your trauma to actually move past it. 

That’s where Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) comes in.  

EMDR is a fairly new, non-traditional type of psychotherapy, but it’s growing in popularity, particularly for treating emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

During a session, your therapist will move his or her fingers back and forth in front of your face. You’ll then follow the hand motions with your eyes while thinking of a disturbing event from your past. 

As you do this, your brain will start to reprocess the traumatic memory until it no longer bothers you. It allows you to come to peaceful terms with previously-disturbing events and, surprisingly, leads to increased insight about yourself. 

In my experience, it is one of the most impactful actions you can take for your mental health. 

This is a very good video about EMDR and trauma. More people should see it. 

I did 4 sessions of EMDR and it really helped me come to terms with certain traumatic experiences from my past. I didn’t know it at the time, but these previously traumatic events were wearing me down, and life is now lighter and brighter since finishing the treatments.  

According to Dr. Norman Doidge, the author of The Brain’s Way of Healing, EMDR is the most promising treatment for trauma and PTSD.

More than 30 controlled clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of EMDR therapy for overcoming emotional trauma and PTSD (15, 25-33). 

Several studies have found that 84 to 100% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after just three 90-minute EMDR sessions (16). 

Other studies have found that 77% of multiple trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after only six sessions, and 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions (17, 18). 

And EMDR has also been shown to be effective in children who have experienced emotional trauma (19). 

As a result of this, researchers and multiple health organizations have concluded that EMDR should be a first-line treatment for acute and chronic PTSD, and must be considered before medication because it’s been shown to be more effective than SSRI antidepressants (20-24). 

Although the research continues to pile up in support of EMDR, it remains controversial among some health care professionals. This is likely because it does not rely on life-long talk therapy or medication, and therefore puts a lot of people out of business.

It’s best to work with a qualified EMDR therapist first so that you understand how EMDR works.

Once you experience the treatment and understand it, you can actually self-administer EMDR

4. Loving-Kindness Meditation (Metta)

I recently found out about loving-kindness meditation in Tim Ferriss’ new book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, and have been practicing it since.

Loving-kindness meditation, or metta, is a practice designed to enhance feelings of kindness and compassion for yourself and others.

A cartoon Buddhist monk meditating. Loving-Kindness Meditation can help you overcome trauma and PTSD without medication.

You repeat positive phrases to yourself and direct well-wishes towards other people.

You can learn how to practice it here or through this video

In one study, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) practiced loving-kindness meditation for 12 weeks. 

At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers reported increased levels of mindfulness and self-compassion in the veterans. 

And three months later, the veterans had reduced symptoms of trauma and depression because of their enhanced feelings of compassion (1). 

Another study found increased positive emotions and self-acceptance in veterans who practiced loving-kindness meditation (2). 

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5. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

Emotional Freedom Technique, or “tapping”, is a form of therapy based on ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. 

A woman tapping and using EFT. EFT can help you overcome trauma and PTSD without medication.

It involves tapping a series of acupressure points while thinking about a traumatic event and stating positive affirmations.

It’s best to do EFT alongside a therapist, but you can also practice it yourself.

If you’re interested in learning how to do it yourself, check out The Tapping World Summit, and the book, The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living

I’ve never done EFT with a therapist but I use the technique myself on a regular basis to reduce stress.

I previously discussed how it can lower your stress hormone here

Research also shows that it can also help you manage and overcome emotional trauma. 

Last year, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of all high-quality EFT studies and concluded that 4 to 10 sessions of EFT can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder without side effects. They determined that it’s just as effective as EMDR and cognitive behavior therapy (6). 
    
Researchers have stated that even though the approach has been controversial, there’s no doubt that EFT “is unusually effective in its speed and power because deactivating signals are sent directly to the [fear centre of the brain]” (12).

Tapping on selected acupoints during imaginal psychological exposure quickly and permanently reduces maladaptive fear responses to traumatic memories and related cues.
— Dr. David Feinstein

Several individual studies have also found that it quickly and permanently reduces PTSD symptoms in military veterans, disaster survivors, and other traumatized individuals (7-11).

With veterans, studies have found that EFT significantly reduces their psychological distress, and 90% participants no longer score positive for PTSD after just six treatment sessions. These improvements remained one year later (13-14). 

The film Operation: Emotional Freedom also documents a number of veterans and their families as they go through EFT therapy.

6. Forgiveness

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
— Nelson Mandela

Research shows that difficulty forgiving oneself and difficulty forgiving others is associated with increased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (51). 

One study found that a when a victim of emotional trauma forgives the person at fault, there is a significant reduction in their PTSD symptoms (52). 

Two people holding hands. Forgiving one another can help us overcome trauma and PTSD.

And emotionally-abused women that did forgiveness therapy experienced significantly greater improvements in their PTSD symptoms than women who received an alternative treatment (53). 

So if you’ve experienced emotional trauma, you need to focus on letting go. 

Easier said than done, I know. Luckily, a lot of the therapies above – particularly EMDR – make it easier to forgive. 

I started using “forgiveness affirmations” several years ago after reading The Success Principles:  How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield.

Below is the main forgiveness affirmation from the book, and I recommend reading the full book for more tips on forgiveness.

I release myself from all the demands and judgments that have kept me limited. I allow myself to go free – to live in joy and love and peace. I allow myself to create fulfilling relationships, to have success in my life, to experience pleasure, to know that I am worthy and deserve to have what I want. I now go free. In that process I release all others from any demands and expectations I have placed on them. I choose to be free. I allow others to be free. I forgive myself and I forgive them. And so it is.

7. Brain Stimulation

There are several forms of brain stimulation, but two stand out for the treatment of emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The first is cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), which I have personal experience with. 

CES involves the application of a low intensity micro-current (less than 2 mA) to the brain. This current stimulates the brain via electrodes placed on the earlobes, and affects emotional regulation by influencing neurotransmission in the brain – including serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin – which play a role in depression, anxiety and sleep (42-44). 

I know it sounds dangerous but it is very safe and has been widely used in Europe since 1950 and in the US since the 1960s (39). 

It’s also been cleared by Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of depression, anxiety, addiction and insomnia (41). 

Research has found that CES treatment (20 to 60 minutes daily, 3 to 5 days each week for 4 weeks) decreases the frequency of PTSD symptoms in veterans (40). 

In an online survey of 145 veterans and military personnel, 60% of individuals used CES to treat their PTSD, and the majority of participants reported at least a 50% reduction in their PTSD symptoms when using their CES device for at least 20 minutes, once or twice daily. The results shows that individuals who were not taking any prescription medication rated CES more effective than veterans who were also taking medication (45, 46). 

Unlike all other brain stimulation modalities, it’s relatively inexpensive and you don’t need to go see a professional to take advantage of it. 

I use it based on the presentation of the client – do they have difficulty falling asleep? Are they anxious or depressed? Do they have chronic pain? These symptoms respond well to CES. It is a non-addictive alternative to medication; a gentler solution.
— Dr. Jonathan Douglas

I personally use the cranial electrical stimulation that comes with the David Delight Pro device. You can get it here or through Amazon.

I find it really helpful when I’m stuck in an “anxious rut.” It snaps me out of it. It also calms my nervous system and makes me sleepy before bed. I often combine it with this acupressure mat.

I've also heard that the Fischer Wallace CES device helps a lot of people but haven’t used it personally. 

The other form of brain stimulation that can help you overcome emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder is called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) 

TMS is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain.

Studies have found that TMS can significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms including hyperarousal, intrusive thoughts, vigilance, withdrawal and emotional numbness. The effects are persistent and remained significant 3 months after treatment (47-49). 

However, unlike CES, you cannot do TMS at home. You need to find a practitioner who provides the treatment. 

8. Gratitude

Gratitude is the tendency to appreciate positive occurrences or being thankful for receiving certain benefits in your life.

A piece of paper that says “I am grateful for…”. Gratitude can help you overcome trauma and PTSD without medication.

Studies have shown that gratitude is associated with increased resilience to emotional trauma, and individuals with PTSD have significantly lower dispositional gratitude (54-55, 58).

But luckily, this can be changed through practice. 

Research shows that over time, daily gratitude promotes positive outcomes after trauma and reduces symptoms of PTSD (56-57). 

My recommendation is to write down five things that you’re grateful for every day. I try to do this regularly.

They don’t have to be big things. Anything will do. It could be as simple as being grateful for the apple that you ate today.

And if you do this every day, you’ll start to gather a pretty big list of things that you can look over whenever you’re feeling ungrateful. 

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9. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Biofeedback

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats.

It’s a reliable psycho-physiological marker for the functioning of your nervous system and accurately reflects your ability to cope with stress.

People with good HRV tend to be more optimistic, take initiative and are stress resistant.

People with low HRV tend to be depressed or anxious and have trouble learning.

Several studies show that higher HRV is associated with less anxiety and fear, and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder display lower levels of HRV (63, 65-66, 69-72). 

Our results don’t necessarily suggest that lower HRV causes PTSD, rather that it’s a harbinger or a signal that the body’s stress response system is not functioning optimally and that may put the individual at greater risk of developing PTSD once he or she has been exposed to a trauma.
— Dr. Arpi Minassian, Ph.D

In one study, marines whose HRV was low before they were deployed were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD after deployment (73, 74). 

Luckily you can increase your HRV

Researchers have found that HRV biofeedback significantly reduces symptoms of PTSD, improves cognition for those suffering from PTSD, and improves the efficacy of other therapies that treat emotional trauma (64, 67-68, 75). 

I increase my HRV by using the EmWave2 biofeedback device

You can get it through Amazon or the HeartMath website, and I previously wrote about the benefits of using it here.

It’s been shown to increases HRV coherence in combat veterans with PTSD (76-77). 

And it’s important to note that when your HRV is high, your vagal tone is also high. They are correlated with each other (78-80). 

So stimulating your vagus nerve will also increase your HRV. Check out this post for 13 ways to do it. 

10. Curcumin

Curcumin is the most heavily researched compound within turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow colour.

It’s one of my favourite compounds for the brain

As I discussed before, it can lower your stress hormone, increase your brain’s growth hormone, and strengthen the integrity of your blood-brain barrier

It may also be able to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder. 

PTSD is characterized by unusually strong and persistently reactivated “fear memories", and researchers have found that curcumin impairs the reconsolidation of fear memories in animals, and concluded that it could be used to treat PTSD (50). 

In other words, supplementing with curcumin may help your brain forget about previously traumatic experiences. 

There are several different forms of “bioavailable” curcumin and I've tried most of them. The “Longvida” form is my favourite. You can get it here.

11. Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. This includes neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity, all of which can have a huge effect on your mood and brain function.

It’s one of the three nutrients that I think everyone should be taking for their brain, as most people are deficient.

As I’ve discussed before, it can help you overcome addiction and withdrawal and support your brain's mitochondria.

Studies reveal that magnesium enhances this process so that events which previously caused an emotional response no longer trigger fear. Magnesium L-threonate helps the prefrontal region of the brain block the return of old fear memories.
— Dr. Michael Smith

It can also help you overcome emotional trauma. 

Studies have found that supplementing with magnesium threonate increases levels of magnesium in the brain and enhances the extinction of conditioned fear responses to traumatic memories. The researchers concluded that it may be used to enhance PTSD therapy (59, 60). 

Foods that contain magnesium include spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate and bananas.

But supplementation or taking Epsom salt baths is still necessary for most people because magnesium is rapidly used up during times of stress and certain psychiatric drugs can deplete magnesium. You can get the threonate form here. 

12. Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone released by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. It helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm), and adequate levels of melatonin are necessary to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply throughout the night.

A disrupted circadian rhythm is linked to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and researchers have concluded that supplementing with melatonin is a “promising treatment strategy in the management of PTSD” (61). 

Animal research has also shown that melatonin reduces PTSD-induced anxiety-like behaviors in rats (62). 

You can get melatonin here.

Or you can take this sleep supplement. It contains magnesium and a number of natural compounds that increase the production of melatonin naturally. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount. 

Other than supplementing with melatonin or taking a sleep supplement, here are some others actions you can take to naturally produce more melatonin and improve the quality of your sleep:

Conclusion

You don’t have to live with emotional trauma for the rest of your life. 

You can overcome post-traumatic stress disorder and live a happy, fulfilling life

An illustration of a solider or war veteran with a broken brain and PTSD.

And medication and life-long talk therapy are not your only solutions, despite what many so-called experts say.

There is a much better way.

Remember, traumatic stress has very little to do with cognition. Instead, it stems from the emotional part of the brain that is rewired to constantly send out messages of danger.

These therapies and treatments have helped me come out on the other side of emotionally traumatizing experiences and post-traumatic stress disorder, and have allowed me to live more fully in the present moment:

I hope you get the chance to try them and they help you too. :)

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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7 Important Nutrients Depleted by Psychiatric Drugs

There is no biological free lunch.
— Tim Ferriss
Bottle of psychiatric drugs and fruits and vegetables.

If you try to cheat nature, it will backfire. 

By managing symptoms with synthetic man-made drugs, you may feel better for a while. But once you stop those drugs, you will end up with more symptoms than you started with.

I experienced this firsthand. 

When I was on SSRI antidepressants and Adderall, I felt better initially.

But then something just didn’t feel right.

I started suffering from cognitive decline, something I hadn't experienced before.

I eventually got fed up with the medication and tried getting off of them.

But then I felt remarkably worse – much worse than I did before starting the medication.

Doctors simply told me I was experiencing a relapse of my depression and anxiety.

But that couldn’t be it, because not only were my symptoms much worse, but I also had new symptoms - symptoms I didn't experience before I went on medication.

So I did some research, and discovered something called “drug-induced nutrient depletion”.

Studies show that pharmaceutical drugs can deplete your body of critical nutrients through multiple mechanisms, including increased excretion of vitamins and minerals, and impaired digestion, absorption and storage of nutrients. Over time, nutritional deficiencies can develop. And these deficiencies can cause additional symptoms and increase side effects. In fact, many drug "side effects" are simply nutritional deficiencies. 

This is clearly a problem because, as I’ve discussed before, nutrient deficiencies can be one of the main causes of mental illness. Being prescribed medication which then further depletes vitamins and minerals from your body will make you worse. It’s an epidemic that seems to be ignored by the conventional medical system. 

Citrus fruits and prescription pills.

You may even develop new symptoms or side effects months or years after starting a medication because it takes time for nutrients to be depleted from your body. So both you and your doctor may not make the connection between the original medication and new symptoms. 

These additional symptoms and “side effects” are often diagnosed as a new disease, leading to a new prescription, which further depletes nutrients. 

So it’s clearly a downward spiral where you could end up being on multiple medications. 

At my worst, I was on four psychiatric medications. Thankfully I'm off them all now and very healthy. 

But this article discusses the seven key nutrients that are commonly depleted by psychiatric medication, and how you can replenish them, minimize side effects and feel better. 

Your drug package insert won’t list these deficiencies, and your doctor is definitely not aware of them.

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1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule found in every cell of your body and plays a key role in the production of energy. 

It’s also an antioxidant and protects your body and brain from free radical damage. 

Higher levels of CoQ10 have a “significant antidepressant effect” in rats because of its “well-documented antioxidant effect”. This makes sense considering the increasing amount of scientific literature suggesting that oxidative stress contributes to depression.

Unfortunately, studies show that a number of psychiatric medications including antidepressants, deplete CoQ10.

Low levels of CoQ10 can cause brain fog, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, depression and irritability.

Other deficiency symptoms can include increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, and shortness of breath. 

That’s why I recommend supplementing with at least 100 mg of CoQ10 if you take one of the medications below, which have been proven to deplete CoQ10:

  • Antipsychotics - Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Antidepressants - Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)

You can get CoQ10 here.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. This includes neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity, all of which can have a huge effect on your mood and brain function.

It’s one of the most important nutrients for optimal brain health, and reduces anxiety, depression and irritability. Yet, many people are deficient in magnesium today and may experience the following symptoms because of it:

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Muscle weakness, cramps, tremors, and spasms

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Insomnia

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Heart arrhythmias

  • Osteoporosis

  • Nausea

Interestingly, these symptoms sound very similar to the list of side effects of many common common psychiatric medications.

And research has shown that the following psychiatric medications deplete magnesium from your body, increasing the likeliness of developing a deficiency:

  • Antidepressants - Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Venlafaxine (Effexor)

  • Central nervous stimulants - amphetamine (Adderall), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), atomoxetine (Strattera), dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)

Inadequate magnesium levels contribute and worsen many neuropsychiatric problems. This includes depression, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, ADHD, pain, schizophrenia, irritability, premenstrual syndrome, drug abuse, and short-term memory and IQ loss. Case studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia or major depression who have attempted suicide had significantly lower levels of magnesium in their cerebrospinal fluid. 

Maybe doctors should consider prescribing magnesium – something that actually gets to the root cause of these conditions – rather than giving out medications that cover up symptoms and actually make the underlying condition worse. Just a thought.

So if you have mental health condition, or take medication to deal with it, I'm convinced you should be supplementing with magnesium every single day. I take 200 mg of this magnesium supplement before bed. You can get it here.

Besides supplementation, you should make sure to eat lots of food with magnesium, including avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, spinach, dark chocolate, halibut and beets. 

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Baby sleeping under a blanket.

Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. Melatonin helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm).

It is critical for deep and restorative sleep, which is necessary for optimal brain and mental health. 

Yet many psychiatric medications can deplete your supply of melatonin, increase your need for melatonin, or interfere with the activity of melatonin. This can lead to insomnia at night and fatigue during the day, which are common side effects of psychotropic medication. You may also experience frequent waking throughout the night.

Here are some of the drugs shown to affect melatonin:

  • Antidepressants, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Venlafaxine (Effexor)

  • Benzodiazepines, including Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (‎Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

If you take one of these drugs, you should consider supplementing with melatonin every night. If you don’t take medication, it is still a safe and effective way to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. You can get melatonin here.

You can also consider taking this sleep supplement. It contains magnesium and a number of natural compounds that increase the production of melatonin naturally. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount. 

4. Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, plays a key role in energy metabolism throughout your entire body.  

As a result, a deficiency can affect the entire body, leading to low energy, weight gain, and skin and thyroid problems. 

The following drugs can inhibit the absorption of vitamin B2, increasing your need for supplementation:

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)

  • Antidepressants, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)

Lower levels of vitamin B2 have been found in people with depression, so giving them psychiatric medications can actually make them feel worse in the long run. 

To help yourself, you can supplement with Vitamin B2

When I was on medication, I took this Vitamin B2 supplement through Amazon.

I now take the Optimal Zinc supplement because it includes Vitamin B2.

Healthy food sources of Vitamin B2 include pastured eggs, leafy vegetables, beef liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and almonds. 

5. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a key nutrient that boosts mood, deepens sleep, and supports your entire nervous system. 

It accomplishes this by playing a key role in the production of many neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin, GABA and dopamine

But since psychiatric medications alter these neurotransmitters, vitamin B6 levels can be affected as well. 

When I took antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, multiple functional and integrative doctors suggested I supplement with vitamin B6.

This is because multiple medications have been shown to deplete Vitamin B6:

Fruits and vegetables displayed to show the letter B and the number 6. Vitamin B6 is depleted by psychiatric drugs.
  • Antidepressants, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil).

  • Benzodiazepines, including Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (‎Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)

So if you take one of the above medications, I highly recommend supplementing with Vitamin B6

I previously took 100 mg of this Vitamin B6 supplement when I was on medication. 

But I now take the Optimal Zinc supplement because it includes both Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B2. 

Drugs that deplete vitamin B2 will also indirectly deplete vitamin B6 because B2 is required to activate B6:

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)

Symptoms of B6 deficiency include weakness, mental confusion, depression, insomnia and severe PMS symptoms. 

Some of the best food sources of Vitamin B6 include potatoes, bananas and chicken.

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6. Vitamin B12 and 7. Folate

Vitamin B12 and folate are essential B vitamins that play a key role in methylation, one of the most important processes in your body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.

If you are depressed, you likely have lower levels of B12 and folate circulating in your blood, and people with low blood folate and B12 are at greater risk for developing depression

Yet, instead of looking at folate and B12 levels in the blood, doctors often prescribe all sorts of psychiatric medications that have been shown to deplete folate and B12, including:

  • Antidepressants – Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)

  • Benzodiazepines – Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (‎Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)

  • Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)

  • Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Lithium (Lithobid), Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)

B12 and folate deficiency can lead to an inability to methylate properly and increased homocysteine levels. This can worsen your depression, irritability, fatigue, confusion and forgetfulness. 

If you decide to supplement with folate, avoid synthetic folic acid. Instead, you should take a biologically active form of folate (methylfolate). 

I take methylfolate. It's the most effective supplemental form of folate. Many people, including myself, have genetic mutations in the enzyme that produces l-methylfolate in the body. Folic acid is a waste and can actually cause harm if you have this genetic mutation. 

Methylfolate also helps produce SAM-e in the body, which can help fight depression and improve your mood. 

If you decide to supplement with B12, you should avoid the semisynthetic version (cyanocobalamin) and take the methylated form (methyl-B12), which is better absorbed. 

Both methyfolate and methyl-B12 are included in this B complex. Or you can take them separately. 

Good dietary sources of natural folate include leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries. B12 is found primarily in animal foods, and beef liver is a really good source. 

More

Here are some more nutrients that have been shown to be depleted by psychiatric medication. Reduced levels do appear in the research - just not as consistently as the nutrients above - so supplementation should still be considered:

  • Vitamin D – Antidepressants, Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers

  • Vitamin B1 – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics

  • Biotin – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers

  • Essential Fatty Acids, including Omega-3s – Antidepressants

  • Sodium (add sea salt to meals) – Antidepressants

  • Glutathione – Antidepressants

  • Calcium – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Antidepressants, Mood Stabilizers

  • Vitamin K – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers

  • Vitamin C – Antidepressants, Stimulants (Adderall), Antipsychotics

  • Inositol – Mood Stabilizers, Antipsychotics

  • Vitamin B3 – Antidepressants

  • Potassium – Stimulants (Adderall)

  • Vitamin A – Antipsychotics

  • Carnitine – Antipsychotics

  • Various minerals (Zinc, Selenium and Manganese) – Antidepressants

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the medication you may be consuming to manage your mental health actually reduces nutrient absorption, and can rob your body and brain of essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to unwanted side effects and declining health.

On top of this, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are actually a huge underlying cause of mental health issues to begin with. 

Luckily, you can avoid side effects, and even control and overcome chronic mental disease without medication, by restoring these missing nutrients:

If I had simply been prescribed these nutrients, I wouldn’t have needed medication. Instead, I was given a prescription that made my underlying deficiencies worse, and dug me into a deeper mental health hole.

If you have to take a prescribed drug, you can offset many of the side effects and experience much better health by supplementing with the above nutrients. 

So why isn’t this information passed on to patients who are taking psychiatric drugs? Because unfortunately, almost all doctors are unaware that medications can deplete nutritional reserves.

So for now, you’ll just have to be aware of drug-nutrient depletions yourself. 

If you’re interested in learning more, there are several handbooks and resources in the reference section of this article, including the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook and The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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References:

Pelton, Lavalle, Hawkins, Krinsky. Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook. Lexi-Comp; 2nd Ed., 2001

Pelton R Lavalle. The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs. Morton Publishing Co, 2nd Ed., 2004

Vaglini F, Fox B. The Side Effects Bible: The Dietary Solution to Unwanted Side Effects of Common Medications. Broadway, 2005.

A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition: Improve Your Health and Avoid Side Effects When Using Common Medications and Natural Supplements Together

Kishi T, et al, “Inhibition of myocardial respiration by psychotherapeutic drugs and prevention by coenzymeQ,” Biomedical and clinical aspects of coenzyme Q, Yamamura Y, Folkers K, and Ito Y, eds, Elsevier/NorthHollandBiomedical Press: Amsterdam, 1980, vol2, 129-154.

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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