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A lot of men are surprised when they ask me if there are supplements they can take instead of medication and I say, ‘Yes.’ Many doctors recommend prescription meds because they’re so well studied. Supplements are trickier because they don’t have that same amount of backing. Yet there is evidence for some of them. Here are my favourites – with caveats, of course.
Ideally, talk to a doctor before taking them to be sure they won’t interact with any other medication you may be on. Always buy from a trusted brand and reputable vendor; you need to be sure that your supplements contain the ingredients they say they do. If your mood symptoms are on the mild side, here’s what we know about what may help you feel better.
Best Relaxing Supplements
Useful for: Mild depression, meaning that you have some symptoms but can get through the day without them affecting your life too much. Not sure how mild yours are? Google the PHQ-9 rating scale.
What’s the dose? Start with 1g a day; you can go up to 2g. Fish oil has two components: EPA and DHA (both omega-3 fatty acids). Look for at least 60% EPA. It may take six to eight weeks to have an effect.
Take note: If your cholesterol is high, watch your numbers; fish oil may increase low- density lipoprotein (LDL), which isn’t ideal – although it may lower triglycerides, which is good. Talk to a doc before taking this if you’re
on blood thinners, though.
Useful for: Stress and anxiety. It might also help with insomnia, but don’t expect it to knock you out on the first night.
What’s the dose? Studies tend to use 300mg twice
a day for at least six weeks.
Take note: Don’t expect many benefits from adding it to a smoothie at the juice bar; you need it every day for several weeks for it to work. Be careful if you’ve had a hormone-sensitive illness such as prostate cancer, as this herb may affect hormone levels.
Useful for: Mild depression. This might be useful if you can’t use fish oil. (Vegans, take note.)
What’s the dose? It can boost energy, so start low and go slow. I suggest starting at 200mg per day for a week; go to 400mg the next week. I don’t recommend more than 800mg twice a day. It can take six weeks before you notice a change.
Take note: A compound found naturally in the body, SAM-e has been studied for depression since the 1970s. It’s approved as an antidepressant in some European countries.
Useful for: Performance anxiety, like doing well in a tense meeting or on a test. It may reduce the body’s stress response during those tasks. Effects are mild. It may also help with attention and reaction time.
What’s the dose? 200mg; many studies suggest it can create a calm but alert state in about an hour. (It’s one of my favourite supplements.)
Take note: L-theanine is in green and black teas, but there’s only about 6mg of L-theanine in a cuppa.
Useful for: Mild depression (again) and mental fatigue, although more studies need to be done. Research is mixed on whether it can also help with anxiety.
What’s the dose? Research has found that 340mg once or twice a day for at least six weeks may boost your mood and help you feel more emotionally stable.
Take note: Look for a product that contains active ingredients in the concentrations that have been studied; that’s one with 3% rosavins and at least 1% salidrosides.
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