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What Is a Mood Disorder? How To Recognize and Treat Mood Disorders

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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Mood Disorder
Mood Disorder

Did you know that about 1 in every 100 adults have bipolar disorder at some point in their life with the majority of people developing this condition between the ages of 15-19?[1] Today, mood disorders, or neuropsychiatric disorders, are one of the principal grounds of disability in developed, as well as low and medium income countries. As a matter of fact, over 150 million individuals suffer from a mood disorders worldwide.[2][3]

Have you ever felt that a mood booster is necessary? Have you ever noticed that what happens during the early morning hours usually sets the tone for the rest of the day? When everything goes as it should, you tend to feel more relaxed, happy and ready to face a new day. However, when things are not going well, you’re more likely to remain grumpy until bedtime.

If you are looking for a definition of mood, it can commonly be defined as a state of mind or a feeling. Experiencing low and high moods is a natural part of being human. In fact, this is one of our best qualities: the mood does not remain static, but it is affected by many factors surrounding us in our daily lives. Things like biological influences, diet, environment and our very own lifestyle can have a tremendous impact on our mood.

While Mother Nature has already offered us many natural solutions to fight mood disorders, some people need that “little extra help” to encourage them to get through the day. Our Mood Disorders category was specially designed to offer you guidance in choosing the best supplement to help you cope with several neuropsychiatric mood disorders, most specifically, depression.

It is important to remember that while supplements can be a great option, the most effective ingredients that affect mood can often be found in nature. Healthy foods like salmon, tuna, herring, trout, mackerel, foods that contain B-vitamins and even caffeine are amazing in enhancing mood.[4][5][6]

Mood Disorders – More Threatening In The Future

Mood Disorders

The World Health Organization prognosticates that mood disorders will become the second most widespread health condition worldwide by the year 2020.[7] So what are we doing to stop and treat these life-altering mood disorders? 

The conventional treatment – antidepressant medications – come with a multitude of adverse effects. Because they fear potentially dangerous side effects, people don’t know where to turn to find a therapy that won’t cause even more health problems. The good news is there are natural remedies for mood disorders that are efficient and address the cause of the condition. 

If you’re seeking a natural way to improve your depressive symptoms, a healthy diet that provides essential oils, crucial minerals and vitamins for brain function and hormone balance, and lifestyle changes are just some of your alternatives.[8]

Common Causes and Symptoms of Depression

Causes and Symptoms of Depression

A mood disorder occurs when an individual experiences low mood persistently, to the point that it starts to interfere with his daily life. Coping with depression can be remarkably painful for both the individual experiencing the symptoms and his loved ones.

The causes of depression are diverse and include:[9]

  • Genetic illness; 
  • Abuse;
  • Certain medications;
  • Death or loss;
  • Unresolved emotional problems;
  • Food allergies;
  • Stress;
  • Hormonal imbalances;
  • Deficiencies;
  • A neurotransmitter imbalance;
  • Lack of sunlight;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Nutrition;
  • Toxic mold;
  • Toxicity from metals.

Although a mood disorder can appear at any age, it often develops in adulthood. For example, it’s prevalent in middle-aged or older adults who are struggling with other serious medical issues, like Parkinson’s disease, cancer, or diabetes. But other risk factors for depression include taking certain medications that cause depressive side effects, a family history of depression, significant life changes, trauma, and ongoing stress.

Mood disorders can manifest with a variety of different symptoms[10] including: persistent sadness, fatigue, low mood, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, irritability, weight changes, difficulty concentrating, low sex drive, digestive issues, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, feelings of helplessness, aches and pains, disinterest in hobbies or activities, headaches, thoughts of death or suicide, and attempting suicide.

Alternative Remedies for Mood Disorders

Remedies for Mood Disorders

So-called natural treatments for mood disorders aren’t a replacement for medical diagnosis and treatment. However, for some individuals, certain dietary supplements and herbal extracts do seem to work well, but a lot more clinical studies are required to determine which are most likely to help and what adverse effects they might cause.

1) St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is a plant that’s native to Western Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. In Europe, St. John’s Wort is commonly recommended as a way to treat depressive disorders, but the FDA hasn’t approved the herb for the United States to treat this condition.

St. John’s Wort has been linked to many health benefits.[11] The most important benefit – when it comes to mood disorders – is its ability to increase serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical in the brain that people with depressive disorders are often low in. Several powerful antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, and St. John’s Wort is believed to be one of these antidepressants.[12]

A 2008 review[13] of 29 studies on St. John’s wort discovered that the plant was just as useful for treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants, yet resulted in less adverse effects. On the other hand, the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health sponsored two separate clinical trials that determined that St. John’s Wort wasn’t better than a placebo for treating different forms of depression.[14][15][16]

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), St. John’s Wort may be efficient in milder forms of depression, although its benefits haven’t been conclusively determined either way.

The major downside of St. John’s Wort is its many negative interactions with lots of prescription medications, other herbal extracts, and even many dietary supplements that are based on minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. 

Regarding prescription medication, St. John’s Wort can negatively interact with birth control pills, blood thinners, and chemotherapy medications. Always discuss with your doctor before taking any St. John’s Wort based medication.

2) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (like EPA and DHA) are a healthy type of fat found in fish such as sardines, trout, and salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly available in supplement form and are sometimes called “fish oil capsules.” 

According to the Mayo Clinic,[17] multiple clinical studies have found that individuals who have low levels of DHA and EPA (the two most common brain chemicals found in fish oil supplements) may be at an increased risk of depression. Getting a higher ratio of DHA to EPA is ideal.

In addition to taking fish oil dietary supplements to get more Omega-3 fatty acids, you can also increase the amount of fish you eat. Consuming fish three times a week can raise your Omega-3 fatty acids levels without the aid of other dietary supplements.

Remember that some fish can have high levels of mercury. These include tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish, tuna and shark. Avoid these in favor of fish with lower levels of mercury, such as salmon, light canned tuna, sardines, and freshwater trout.

3) Probiotics

Most recent studies show that probiotics can improve cognitive performances and general brain health, which is due to the gut-brain link.[18] Probiotic supplements can promote glycemic control and aid nutrient absorption, helping to avoid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels. But most importantly, researchers believe that there are direct lines of communication from the gut to the brain, so taking probiotics actually changes your brain chemistry and behavior, thereby reducing depressive symptoms and improving cognitive function.[19]
A 2017 study[20] illustrated the relationship between mood disorders and gut health. The study was conducted on 44 adults with mild to moderate anxiety or depression and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Half of the subjects took a probiotic (Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001), and the other was given a placebo. Six weeks after taking probiotics daily, 64% of the patients taking Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 reported a decrease in the occurrence of depression symptoms. Of the patients receiving a placebo, only 32% (so about half) reported decreased depression.

4) Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3

A meta-analysis and systematic review[21] assessing the effectiveness of Vitamin D supplements as natural remedies for mood disorders discovered that Vitamin D based supplements might be a good option for the management of depression. This type of supplementation works by changing vitamin levels in a way that’s comparable to antidepressant medications.

Vitamin D acts similar to a hormone in the body and affects brain function, which is why Vitamin D deficiency is usually linked to an increased risk for mood disorders. This includes depression and seasonal affective disorder (or “winter depression”), a form of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.


DHEA (also called Dehydroepiandrosterone), is a hormone produced by our bodies. Any change in DHEA levels can be linked to a form of depression. Several clinical trials concluded that an improvement in depression symptoms could be associated with taking DHEA as a dietary supplement.[22][23][24][25] However, further research is needed in this area. 

Although it’s regularly well tolerated, DHEA has potentially severe adverse effects, mainly if used in high doses or long term. DHEA made from wild yam or soy is not effective.

6) 5-HTP

5-hydroxytryptophan (commonly referred to as just 5-HTP), is available over-the-counter in the United States but requires a prescription in some countries. The use of 5-HTP may play a role in improving serotonin levels, a chemical that affects mood[26] – but the evidence is only preliminary and more research is needed. There is a safety concern that using 5-HTP may cause a severe neurological condition, but the link is not clear.

Final Thoughts on Mood Disorders

Mood Disorders

Depression is one of the principal causes of disability in developed, and one of the conditions that cripple over 150 million individuals worldwide. Antidepressant medications come with a slew of side effects, the reason why most people turn away from a treatment that may bring on more health problems.

However, there are straightforward natural remedies for mood disorders like high-quality dietary supplements, Omega-3’s, supplementing with a B vitamins complex or Vitamin D3, and making lifestyle changes. Seeking counseling and community support has also proven to be beneficial for individuals who are struggling with depressive symptoms.

Reference Sources