Natural Support for Tapering Off Antidepressant Medications

Currently around one in six Americans are taking some sort of psychiatric medication with majority of them on an antidepressant. As long term use of antidepressants is on the rise, more and more side effects are being associated with chronic use. There are issues of tolerance for many individuals and higher doses are being prescribed to combat these symptoms. For those that are looking to discontinue their antidepressant medications there are often many issues with withdrawal that make it difficult to do so. There are many ways to support your body with natural solutions in order to help ease the symptoms during the tapering process.

Before beginning to taper of any medications it is important to make sure your body and brain have the right support in order to minimize any side effects. This support is found by providing your body with the necessary building blocks for brain cells and neurotransmitters through good nutrition and supplementation. There are many foods, nutrients and supplements that are vital for optimum brain function and we will discuss several of these in this post.  

Two of the more commonly used nutrients that help to support brain health and neurotransmitter levels include magnesium and Vitamin D.

1. Magnesium - Magnesium is a crucial nutrient for production of neurotransmitters and healthy brain function. Chronic, long-term stress and medications may deplete magnesium levels. A deficiency in magnesium may cause a wide variety of symptoms including anxiety, mood swings and muscle aches. Magnesium comes in several different forms and one of the best tolerated forms is Magnesium glycinate.  Forms that are more geared to cognitive support also include Magnesium Threonate.   

2. Vitamin D - Vitamin D is also a common deficiency in our culture. It is known for its effects on bone health buts Vitamin D function has also been linked to optimum brain function as well. There are receptors for Vitamin D located throughout the nervous system and Vitamin D can help to control inflammation and cognitive function. Higher levels of Vitamin D are associated with improved moods and optimal cognitive function. Supplementation with 1,000-2,000 IU per day of Vitamin D is recommended for most individuals who are tapering off antidepressant medications.

Just like we need to provide the building blocks our body needs for our brain cells and neurotransmitters through supplementation, we have to make sure we are providing the right nutrition through diet as well. There are general dietary changes that can be made before and during tapering that will support optimum brain health as well as specific foods that will help to further minimize symptoms. A well-balanced, nutritious diet is crucial in order for the brain to restore balance while tapering off medications. A good diet will also help to balance blood sugar which acts as our brain's fuel. Some specific dietary guidelines include the following:

1. Eat whole, fresh foods and avoid all processed and refined foods. Make sure to eat plenty of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables daily

2. Stay hydrated with water, fruit juices and herbal teas 

3. Choose top quality protein foods such as organic lean meats, beans and legumes. 

4. Increase intake of omega-3 rich foods such as seeds, nuts, avocados and olives or olive oil

5. Avoid additives like MSG as this acts as a neurotoxin and may cause imbalances in brain chemistry as it mimics an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain.

There are also many nutritious and beneficial foods with specific benefits to the brain and nervous system. Celery is a great source of mineral salts that supports the brain biochemistry. During the tapering process, detoxification is important and cilantro can help to support detoxification of any toxins in the body. Wild Blueberries are an excellent anti-oxidant (polyphenols) that can help to repair the brain. Avocados are a great source of healthy fats that help to nourish the brain as well. Increase intake of fruits like raspberries, blackberries, mangoes and apples in order to get glucose to fuel the brain. Walnuts contain several neuroprotective compounds and anti-oxidants to support brain health. All of these foods are very beneficial during the tapering process.  

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