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These anti-inflammatory fatty acids are critical to brain health throughout our lives. During pregnancy, omega-3s help foster fetal brain development, contributing to neurotransmitter signaling and the growth of nervous tissue. In adults, omega-3 deficiencies are linked to a range of mental health issues, including depression, ADHD, dementia, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

These fatty acids are found in foods such as cold-water fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, but it can be hard to reach optimum levels unless you’re eating fatty fish (such as salmon or sardines) at least twice a week.

Accordingly, integrative psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD, believes most of us benefit from supplements that contain several fatty acids from the omega-3 family: alpha-linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Of these, DHA and EPA are the most easily metabolized forms of omega-3.

How to Supplement: Seek out a quality fish-oil formula with high concentrations of EPA and DHA (for vegetarians, algal oil is a good option). Adult men need around 1.6 grams of omega-3 daily; adult women need about 1.1 grams.

(For a guide to understanding omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and how they influence your health see “The Omega Balance.”)

Learn More

Explore our collection of mental health articles to find more information that can assist you in supporting your overall well-being.

This was excerpted from “8 Key Supplements to Boost Your Mental Health — Naturally” which was published in Experience Life.

Alexandra Smith, MA, LPCC

Alexandra Smith, MA, LPCC, is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Minneapolis and an Experience Life contributing editor.

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