Another supplement that is amongst the most popularly studied is Omega-3 Fatty Acids, or what’s typically found in fish oil. More and more we’re seeing studies pop up around mental health and mental health disorders. Recent meta-analyses (think “studies of studies”) have proven to show how supplementing with Omega 3 Fatty Acids has been beneficial for those suffering from bipolar disorder, unipolar disorder, ADHD, traumatic brain injuries, and mild cognitive impairment.
Omega 3’s have shown to be beneficial for these types of mental health disorders because of a key component in fish oil, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs are essential for maintaining and improving the health of the cells in our nervous system – neuron cells and schwann cells in particular for fellow nerds out there.
What we tend to see in the standard American diet – which has the amazing abbreviation of SAD – is very low PUFAs. The most common PUFA found in the SAD is actually an Omega 6 fatty acid which is found in corn. Putting it bluntly, if you have a dietary intake of more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3 fatty acids, you’re screwing up your system. That type of ratio contributes to increased inflammation throughout the body and can result in worsening of our mental health, among other things.
When supplementing with fish oil for mental health, I tend to prescribe my patients with higher doses than those just looking for decreasing joint pain or increasing sport performance. This is because Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), the mood-improving ingredient in fish oil, has shown to help stabilize mood while simultaneously acting as an antidepressant. It’s for this reason that we look for at least a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA for fish oil supplements. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has proven to be helpful with other conditions, but not those involving mental health.
With that said, if you’re looking for a supplement that helps with your mood and/or neurological health, then an Omega 3 Fatty Acid with a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA is the thing to do the trick. I’d recommend starting with anywhere between 2,000-3,000 mg.
It should also be stated that not all fish oil supplements are the same. Better quality brands are third party tested. This is done to make sure your fish oil hasn’t gone rancid or been contaminated with elements like mercury.
Always consult with a physician before you start aimlessly throwing supplements into your routine. Supplementing with fish oil can increase bruising/internal bleeding especially if you’re recently coming off of a surgery or have other health conditions.