Omega-3: A Natural Mood Stabilizer to Fight Depression in 2016

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Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Omega-3 to Fight DepressionThe year 2016 is about to start; but for some people, letting go of 2015 might be difficult.

You don’t know what to expect in 2016 and that can be quite scary. Some people even experience depression in the New Year due to all the changes, not to mention the short winter days, so finding a natural mood stabilizer can be very helpful.

Depression has many triggers and some people will go through some tough times in 2016.

Omega-3 fatty acids are natural mood stabilizers that might prevent depression and keep emotions in check this year.

Postpartum Depression in Women

Postpartum depression affects approximately 10% to 15% of women. But women who take antidepressants in their third trimester do have an increased risk of complications. Plus, antidepressant-use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of premature delivery and lower gestational age at birth.

Thus, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be reluctant to take antidepressants. It might not be so safe for the fetus or baby. Women with postpartum depression are reported to show reduced blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but normal levels of omega-6 fatty acids.

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Try taking a natural mood stabilizer (i.e. a daily serving of omega-3 supplements or include more fish into your diet) to help combat postpartum depression.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Mood Stabilizers That Help With Postpartum Depression

There have been some promising studies that indicate how omega-3 fatty acids can help curb the likelihood and symptoms of postpartum depression.

A study conducted by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that consuming fish rich in omega-3, two to three times per week can greatly lower the risk of postpartum depression and significantly reduce its symptoms. For women who don’t like the taste of fish, supplementation can be used at a dosage of 300 milligrams, five times per week, between weeks 24 and 40 of pregnancy. Continuing supplementation afterwards can also help avoid depression.

A second study, an eight-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study comparing omega-3 (3.4 grams/day) to a placebo was conducted in 33 women with postpartum depression. Omega-3 treated patients showed a much greater reduction in their depressive scores when compared to the placebo group.

Besides, there were no adverse effects in either the patients or the newborn babies. There was, however, one study in 51 patients over eight weeks that failed to show any benefit from omega-3.

Omega-3’s are not a guaranteed mood stabilizer for postpartum depression and more work needs to be done; however, there have been some promising results.

Depression in Children

In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the use of antidepressants in children and adolescents, namely that an increased risk of suicidal thinking and suicide have been associated with the use of these drugs.

Parents are becoming more skeptical of resigning their children to pharmaceutical treatments and more open to the idea of natural, safer treatments. Omega-3 fatty acids should be a part of a well-balanced diet to help stabilize the mood of depressed children.

Because pharmaceutical drugs can increase mood fluctuations and potentially exacerbate depressive symptoms in children, finding alternative measures for mood stabilization in children could be a safer alternative.

Omega-3 for Childhood Depression

There is only one high-quality study on the efficacy of omega-3 in childhood depression.

Investigators studied 28 children between the ages of six and 12-years-old who were randomly assigned to receive 560 milligrams to 600 milligrams a day of omega-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid) or a placebo for a period of four months.

Those who were treated with omega-3 showed a significant reduction of depressive symptoms starting at eight weeks of treatment, whereas the placebo-treated group failed to improve. Even though it was a pilot study, the results are quite encouraging— especially in view of the safety concerns related to the use of antidepressants in youth.

Anyone who is already on antidepressants—pregnant or nursing women, children, and men/women of any age—should not discontinue use of their medication without speaking to their doctor first.

If you want to consider natural avenues, such as omega-3 fatty acids, work with your doctor. Discontinuing medication suddenly can have negative consequences.

Why Omega-3 Works for Depression

More research is required to fully understand why omega-3 fatty acids might help with mood stabilizing and depression, but there is some evidence to show that it does. It could be because omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. through oily fish) are the only way to get DHA, the most abundant fatty acid in the human brain. Omega-3 may also help modulate neurotransmitters and abnormalities that play a role in depression.

Omega-3’s are not an alternative treatment, however, as data is not yet concrete on their effectiveness. You should talk to your doctor about using them as a complementary treatment, while finding ways to include more of them into your diet. The more omega-3 in your diet, the healthier you’re likely to be.

10 Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Mood Stabilizers)

Here are 10 of the best foods to eat for omega 3’s. Please note that fish oils are the best source of DHA, the most important omega-3 fatty acid:

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Flaxseed
  • Salmon fish oil
  • Dried chia seeds
  • Black and/or red caviar
  • Sardines
  • Cod liver oil
  • Mackerel
  • Radish seeds
  • Atlantic wild salmon

Halibut, tuna, oysters and herring are also rich in omega-3 and eating one or two servings of fish per week can help you get all of the omega-3 fatty acids you need to maximize its benefit in your diet. And although a number of seeds, nuts, oils and grains all feature omega-3 fatty acids, they lack the all-important DHA.

Including a variety of sources is recommended and contributes to a healthy diet but getting it from fish sources—with the skin—is highly important. If the taste doesn’t suit your fancy, look for fish oil supplements (but the natural sources are better).

Read Next:

Sources for Today’s Article:
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, “Omega-3 consumed during pregnancy curbs risk for postpartum depression symptoms,” ScienceDaily web site, April 12, 2011; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110412153813.htm.
Wojcicki, J., et al., “Maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk for perinatal maternal depression,” Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 2011; 24(5): 680–686, published online Oct 7, 2010; doi: 10.3109/14767058.2010.521873.
Borja-Hart, N. L., “Role of omega-3 Fatty acids for prevention or treatment of perinatal depression,” Pharmacotherapy, 2010; 30(2):210-6; doi: 10.1592/phco.30.2.210.
Nemets, H., et al., “Omega-3 treatment of childhood depression: a controlled, double-blind pilot study,” Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, 2006; 163(6):1098-100.
Osher, Y., et al., “Omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid in bipolar depression: report of a small open-label study,” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2005 Jun; 66(6):726-9.


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Dr. Jeffrey Shapiro, MD

About the Author, Browse Jeffrey's Articles

After receiving athletic and academic awards at Yale and Stanford, Jeff has coached those seeking peak wellness, appeared on ABC News 20/20 and served as a consultant for CBS News 60 Minutes and The Late Show with David Letterman. As the author of many research studies and practicing anesthesiology/critical care medicine for more than 20 years, Jeff can be your guide to common sense decision making regarding drugs, supplements and vitamins. With no corporate sponsors and no vitamins or supplements... Read Full Bio »