Inositol As Treatment For Depression

What is Inositol?

Inositol is a naturally occurring isomer of glucose, found in various forms.  It is a member of the “B Complex” group of vitamins, though it is not a vitamin in itself. The most common form of inositol is myo-inositol. The nutrient is a direct precursor of phospholipids, a major component of cellular membranes, which helps to maintain proper transfer of electrical energy and nutrient transfer across the cell membrane. In essence, inositol helps to facilitate healthy cell membranes, which in turn, facilitate nerve impulse in the brain. 

Inositol also participates in the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter possessing effects known to be beneficial in battling depression and anxiety. Inositol is said to influence increased serotonin production. This is different than most SSRIs or anti-depressants, which simply protect serotonin from being absorbed and depleted. Inositol, however, should not be stacked with convention SSRIs or anti-depressant medications, as it could potentially result in serotonin poisoning.

Inositol is present in a typical North American adult diet, though only in amounts of about 1 gram daily (or less). A single gram represents a fairly small amount of inositol, thus, supplementation is typically necessary to receive therapeutic effects for depression, anxiety, and/or OCD. Inositol can be found as a naturally occurring nutrient in seeds, nuts, citrus fruits, cereals and legumes. 

Inositol as a Medication for Depression

Many individuals seek the treatment of depression. Natural remedies for depression, including herbs for depression, and, herbs as an anxiety disorder treatment have long been sought. Though not an herb, so to speak, inositol has been reported decreased in those suffering from depression. In a double-blind controlled experiment, participants were given 12 grams of inositol daily for a period of four weeks. At the four week mark, participants who had been administered the inositol treatment had benefited significantly on the Hamilton Depression Scale; especially when compared to those who had been given a placebo.

Inositol seems to work for anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD, additionally. In a different study, participants were administered up to 18 grams of inositol daily for a 12 week period. This experiment was a double-blind, controlled, random order crossover study. Significant reductions to OCD severity and anxiety followed the treatment. Notable improvements on the Hamilton Rating scale for Anxiety scores, agoraphobia scores, and Clinical Global Impression Scale scores were seen following the Inositol treatment.

Dosage & Side Effects: Inositol for Depression

While most studies indicate that 12-18 grams daily is the proper dosage for therapeutic effects, many individuals have reported positive results after using much smaller amounts. These amounts typically ranged from 1-3g daily, taking dosages of 500-1000mg three times daily. Most capsule/table forms of inositol come in 500mg servings; thus, reaching the necessary 1-3 grams is typically not too difficult a feat to achieve (especially when compared to other natural remedies for depression). Most first timers seem to start with a 500mg dose, 3 times daily. Since there is no proof that amounts less than 12 grams/daily are effective, actual dosage amounts and requirements may vary greatly. Be sure to consult a physician before starting an inositol supplementation regimen.

Inositol should be taken for a period of 4-6 weeks before positive effects can be expected. This 4-6 week ramp up period has been found not only necessary, but, beneficial in most studies conducted on the nutrient. Again, one should not expect to see any positive effects on depression, anxiety, or OCD until 4-6 weeks after the commencements of inositol supplementation. Furthermore, some mild side effects have been studied and reported with daily inositol supplementation, including gas and diarrhea. Some speculate that inositol side effects may be beneficial, however, and that the regulation of serotonin in the brain can help to improve sleep and reduce insomnia. All in all, inositol might be a very beneficial alternative treatment for depression and anxiety.

Depression and Weight

Depression – one of the most common mood disorders – often manifests itself in physical changes as well as the mental condition. Changes in body weight occur in most patients suffering from mood disorders, and weight loss from depression is common. Depression also brings with it the risk of weight gain, though the loss of weight seems to indicate the need for professional medical help based on the implications. Losing weight is a sign that the body is not nourishing itself to appropriate levels of sustenance, which will cause additional negative effects that can amplify the initial depression. Weight loss from depression can also be indicative of other conditions that spawned as a result of the disorder.

Depression is a condition affecting the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin – the chemical most related to happiness – is one of the neurotransmitters thought to be affected heavily by depression. Combined with changing levels of dopamine and epinephrine, a fluctuation in serotonin will affect the body’s desires to eat, sleep and exercise. Though much of the research surrounding depression still focuses on the exact causes of the disease, the scientific community agrees that these 3 chemicals and neurotransmitters are affected from those experiencing the symptoms.

Depression can lead to problems sleeping and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which contributes to the weight loss. When a body is not maintaining a regular sleep schedule with stretches of activity, it will experience heightened levels of cortisol. This hormone has a role in regulating metabolism and blood pressure. Cortisol is linked to the emotions surrounding stress, including anxiety. Losing sleep regularly inhibits activity during the day or work hours, which causes an individual to feel anxious about their productivity and compounds the initial depression by affecting metabolism. Generally, an individual will react in one of two ways to these chemical changes. Most suffering from mild depression will gain weight and eat more as a means of comfort. Those suffering from more severe or specific depressions may try to regain control of their life or battle anxiety by not eating enough through the day.

Severe depressions can also lead to eating disorders. These disorders are then attributed to weight loss from depression as the first condition promoted the secondary disorder. Anorexia and bulimia are commonly attributed to an underlying depression. These conditions are present symptoms of complete undernourishment or a gluttonous eating event followed by purging. Anorexia and bulimia do massive, sometimes irreversible damage to the body and must be addressed professionally. Therapy and positive reinforcement have shown effective results when applied in a closed environment to patients of these eating disorders.

Weight loss from depression is specific to the individual and their diagnosis. There is no precise therapy for anyone suffering from such symptoms, and individual results may vary. Changes in weight that parallel a period of depression may not be the result of an additional eating disorder. Less severe changes in weight that reflect a decrease in appetite can often be reversed with medication, behavioral therapy and an increase in activity. Increased activity and positive reinforcement often come with the added benefit of restful sleep. The combination of these positive drivers results in an overall improvement in well-being.