Stuff I take specifically to help ward off depression
fish oil (3g/day) [examine.com]
Dosages used to treat depression vary between 1–6 g per day (study). I take 3 g/day (~2g EPA, ~1 g DHA). EPA is much more effective than DHA for depression, so make sure to get a brand with a 2:1 EPA:DHA ratio. You can also buy pure EPA but it is quite expensive.
Vitamin D (1000–2000 IU/day)
Lack of vitamin D can cause depression but most cases of depression are not caused by lack of vitamin D. There isn’t good evidence that vitamin D is effective against depression for people who are not deficient (study). Some people say that Vitamin D prevents cancer, but a recent large-scale 6-year cohort study found no effect study. My vitamin D was slightly low a few months ago, so I am taking 4,000 IU — 2,000 in the morning and 2,000 IU in the evening. I plan to take 2,000 IU long term for maintenance. Anything below 20 ng/mL is considered low. I’ve seen the reference range a blood test given as 20–100 ng/mL, but most people are on the lower side of this, between 20–40 (link). Dr. Robert D. McMullen, a psychiatrist on YouTube says that an optimal blood level is 70 ng/mL. “Megadoses” of 10,000 IU/day are not uncommon to boost levels. When vitamin D enters the body (such as after taking a supplement or sitting in the sun), most of it is stored in the fat. This is due to an old evolutionary strategy to store vitamin D during the summer for use in the winter. Apparently this is why it takes large supplementation to increase blood levels to the normal range — fat reserves must be replenished as well.
Low dose prozac
I used to take 2.5 mg. Small doses in the range of 2.5mg — 5mg are nearly as effective as the more often prescribed doses (20–60mg), but with less severe side effects. See this link for more info.
Stuff I take for nootropic effect but may also help with depression
I take 4.2 g/day. There’s weak evidence it might be helpful.
I take a very small amount every day with choline. There’s very weak evidence might be helpful with depression.
lions mane (in morning)
Lions mane is normally taken as a nootropic or neuroprotectant. However personally I have found that it boosts my mood. There’s some weak evidence from Japanese studies it might boost BDNF, something which is hypothesized to have an anti-depressant effect.
Stuff I take purely for nootropic effective
Nicotine gum (2–4mg/day)
See my blog post on the subject.
Caffeine (100–200 mg /day)
I limit caffeine intake to 2 cups of tea a day since I worry about caffeine interfering with optimal sleep. In my experience caffeine doesn’t exacerbate anxiety except when changing daily dose up or down (tolerance effects are strong with caffeine).
Stuff I take or have taken to help with sleep
I sometimes keep a cup of Chamomile tea near my bedside. I did this daily for about 2 years during grad school. My routine is to take some before bedtime and then if I wake up in the middle of the night and am thirsty I’ll drink a tiny bit more.
For about a month or two I was taking 1–3 g right before bed. Glycine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is extremely safe since it is an essential amino acid. I’m surprised more people don’t take this to help with sleep.
For years I took 0.5 mg, given difficulties with waking up in the middle of the night, I now take 2mg extended release. The optimal dose is .3 mg/day. Anything higher will only create a higher dependency level and won’t add additional benefits.
I used to take this at night if I woke up, to “take the edge of” anxiety about getting back to sleep. It is great because it has a short half life and definitely will not leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Nowadays I just take this occasionally in the morning with coffee or caffeine pills for a slight synergistic nootropic effect.
I took 25mg to help sleep better while taking prozac. Unlike off-the-shelf sleep aids like diphenyldramamine and other antihistamines, there are no anti-cholinergic side effects with trazodone. Many studies have showed that long term use of anticholinergic agents is associated with early onset of Alzheimers and dementia. If you can obtain it, Trazodone is something that is great to have in your cubboard as a safer alternative to OTC sleep aids. Just make sure to take the minimal dose, for most people my guess is that’s probably around 15–25mg.
Stuff I take for general health
– I take One-A-Day men’s. Make sure to get one that only gives you 100% DV so you don’t overdose on any vitamins.
Iron (100%DV) examine.com
I take this every few days. Similar to vitamin D, low iron may contribute to depression (meta-analysis) Most multivitamins (such as Centrum, One-A-Day, etc) do not contain iron. I take a cheap 100% DV iron supplement daily from NOW (study). It is easy to overdose on iron, especially if you use cast-iron cookware. If you notice stomach problems or constipation, try cutting down.
Multi b vitamin (100% of DV for 6 b vitamins )
I take one of these every few days.
I take 250mg (~50% RDA) daily as a supplement since it is somewhat hard to get to the 100% RDA with a vegetarian diet (especially if you don’t eat many eggs). Supposedly this helps with cognition and memory since it is an essential precursor for acetylcholine.