I’ve been quite the brave woman this year, when it comes to my health. In addition trying every trendy workout under the sun, I also have consumed a number of buzzy wellness concoctions. Yes, from apple cider vinegar drinks to CBD tinctures and bath bombs, I literally say yes to anything that promises to do my body good. Most recently, I’ve dabbled with a cocktail of supplements, including those designed to boost your mood.
Now, to be clear, there’s a number of products out there that fall under the mood-boosting category, with key ingredients that can help with stress and anxiety. “Mood-stabilizing supplements work to regulate the dopamine levels in your brain,” says Joseph Sheehey, Founding Partner & CEO of Cured Nutrition, to The Zoe Report. “Dopamine, a chemical found in the brain, is known to play a role in the regulation of mood, memory, attention, and motivation [...] Magnesium, CBD, and ginseng are great examples of ingredients that are well known to help balance overall mood.”
Other key elements for mood-boosters can include Ashwagandha, St. John's wort, ginkgo, lemon balm, B vitamins, and GABA, says wellness expert and founder of Wellness Styled Dana Kofsky to The Zoe Report. In addition to regulating dopamine, Kofsky says mood-boosting solutions can also work to enhance serotonin levels. “They can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety,” she explains. “They create a calmer nervous system which can naturally boost your mood.”
For context, my little experiment with mood-boosting supplements happened in the midst of a fairly healthy season. I was particularly focused on creating a regular fitness routine, eating better, and keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum (with the exception of the occasional glass of wine, because a girl’s gotta live). I had a firm resolve to improve the state of my body from the inside out … emphasis on the inside. So, I believe I was in optimum condition to dip my toe into the get-happy pond.
The product I chose to experiment with was Love Wellness’ #Mood Pills. In glancing at the ingredients I noticed some familiar ones that you’ll also recognize from those listed above: organic St. John’s wort, organic gingko leaf, vitamin B6, and GABA. According to the brand’s site, the supplements are designed to assist with “tricky periods,” “the blues,” and “better sleep.” Considering I’ve struggled with all three issues, I figured this was the perfect agent for my research. Anxiety and stress have been longtime visitors of mine, and hit me more intensely right before I menstruate (thanks, science). I’ve tried several natural solutions to steady my monthly hormone roller coaster, but never found anything that truly made an impact.
Most nutritionists and health pros will tell you it takes a few weeks for supplements to kick into your system, and that includes mood-boosters. "Although an instant effect can be noticed with energy-focused supplements, the full effects of many adaptogenic or mood-enhancement products may take two to three weeks," says Sheehey. "Building the ideal system levels of any supplement will always vary from person to person."
Here's the thing: In the span of just over a week, I didn't experience jaw-dropping changes in my mood. I definitely wasn't Julie-Andrews-singing-on-a-mountain happy. However, in just 10 days or so, I definitely noticed some subtle adjustments that were considerable enough to make we want to finish my bottle of #Mood Pills.
Curious how my week-long run went with these magic pills? Ahead, the ins and outs of my enlightening trial.
Like most women (90 percent, according to the Office On Women's Health), I struggle with some fairly intense symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome — both physical and hormonal. About a week or so before my period hits, I bloat more than usual and experience fatigue. More concerning, however, is the emotional and mental effects that I've dealt with since I was a teen and, believe it or not, have only worsened since I've hit my 30s, which the OOWH says is pretty standard.
For me, specifically, I find myself more tense, anxious, irritable, and sensitive than usual. Scenarios and conversations that typically wouldn't phase me suddenly trigger my emotions and frustration. I find myself tearing up easily and dwelling much more on situations that I would normally shrug off easily. My anxiety is at a true high at this time. For so long, I felt like this monthly emotional spiral was out of my control and something I would just need to quietly bear for the next few decades.
The fact that Love Wellness' #Mood Pills promised to help regulate PMS-specific mood swings was a selling point for me in choosing my vehicle for this experiment. In full disclosure, I took the pills in conjunction with a supplement cocktail that included anti-bloat, energy-promoting, and detoxicating solutions (all from HUM Nutrition). I was also working out about three to four times a week, which is also a variable to consider in this study.
Maybe it was the combination of supplements, regular movement, and healthy-ish eating that made for the perfect mood-enhancing formula. Either way, for the first time in years, my typical and familiar pre-menstrual tension and emotional decline did not make an appearance. Seriously. The usual tell-tale signs that my period was on its way failed to materialize, with the exception of an increased appetite (which I don't take issue with). Bloating, irritability, fatigue, and unexplained sensitivity were nowhere to be seen. In fact, I found myself calm and with more stamina when I worked out.
Again, it's very possible these results are due to the trifecta of supplements, regular fitness routine, and better eating habits. Also, for what it's worth, my menstruation period itself was a bit lighter and easier on my body, as well. (I typically get terrible back pain and tummy issues, which were considerably lessened this time around.) So there's that.
As impressed as I was by the results of my little mood-pill experiment, it's not necessarily something I want to depend on to keep my mood elevated for the rest of my life. Kofsky seconds this notion, stating that, despite their au naturel formulations, mood supplements are not magic pills. “They are not a ‘fix-it’ product,” she says. “Relying on supplements to help increase your mood from time to time is OK, but if you're suffering from long-term sadness, low energy, or anxiety I would consult your doctor. Supplements are a good enhancer for occasional use when life is a bit more overwhelming than normal but not good for long-term use.” Sheehey agrees with this sentiment, stating that no supplement can correct a poor lifestyle. “If you are looking to improve overall mood and quality of life, a supplement is meant solely to work alongside a well-rounded lifestyle that includes things such as proper nutrition, embodied movement and sleep,” he says.
I'm definitely open to the idea of taking these get-happy pills here and there in conjunction with regular exercise, which I know is an effective mood-booster and stress-reliever for me. I'll also plan my dosage around my menstrual cycle to keep the monthly blues away. For adaptogens in general, Sheehey says he goes for a specific approach. "Building the ideal system levels of any supplement will always very from person to person and a typical adaptogen regime calls generally for a 6:1 approach (six days on, one off)," he says.