One of the most common questions I am asked is if you can take amino acids while on antidepressants or while weaning off of them.
The answer is, yes, but with caution.
Amino acids can be used to either enhance the performance of an antidepressant or to help you get off antidepressants without going through extreme withdrawals.
If you don’t know how to take amino acids while on antidepressants, you could experience some dramatic side effects.
Before we begin, you might be wondering why I’m asked about this so often.
Antidepressants Don’t Always Solve The Problem
If you’re reading this, you are probably like most people who went to the doctor, complained about depression, and was given a prescription for a medication to fix your problems at one point.
Most people that find my site search in Google to learn about how to deal with the negative effects they are experiencing taking an antidepressant. Antidepressants can be hard to withdraw from, and a lot of times people still feel depressed or anxious while on them.
Interestingly enough, while SSRI’s and antidepressants are powerful, they usually never completely fix the problem for people or they only help people for a short duration of time.
Antidepressants Don’t Produce More Neurotransmitters
The most common type of antidepressant, SSRIs, prevent serotonin from going into reuptake mode. This means that you don’t actually have more serotonin, you are just using the small amount more.
The problem with this is that that small amount of serotonin can no longer be converted into melatonin or 5-HIAA.
According to the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, 5-HIAA may be just as important as serotonin for your well-being! Studies have been done that have shown that reduced levels of 5-HIAA have resulted in destructive moods, violent crime, suicide, insomnia, and addiction.
Most people that struggle with mood problems have both low serotonin and 5-HIAA. Antidepressants often act as a band-aid, and don’t fix the problem.
Not only that, according to physicians writing for the New England Journal of Medicine, “51% of approved drugs have serious side effects not detected prior to approval.”
I believe that antidepressants should be a last resort, rather than the first option, for these reasons.
However, if you are taking an antidepressant, you can either take amino acids while continuing your antidepressant, or you can use amino acids to wean off of your antidepressant (which is more common).
How To Take Amino Acids While On Antidepressants
Most people are looking to wean off their antidepressant. However, many people use amino acids to enhance their current medication’s effects.
5-htp and l-tryptophan are amino acids that aid in the production of serotonin. If you are taking an SSRI (see table below for common antidepressants and their function) then these two amino acids can help you actually produce more serotonin and have it work better.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps produce more catecholamines. Some people that take SSRIs complain of side effects such as being tired, low sex drive, low motivation, etc. This is because SSRIs can deplete the levels of catecholamines. L-tyrosine can help eliminate some of those side effects.
If you decide to take amino acids while on antidepressants, make sure that you take the smallest dose possible to see if there are any negative effects first before increasing the dosage. That way you can catch any bad interactions early and not suffer from negative side effects.
When you take amino acids and antidepressants at the same time, aim to take them 6 hours apart so they can work individually. When you take amino acids, also make sure that you take them on an empty stomach, otherwise they won’t work because they will be competing with all the other amino acids you take into your body when you eat protein.
Taking Amino Acids To Wean Off An Antidepressant
Before you begin the process of weaning off an antidepressant, make sure that now is the right time for you.
In my popular post, How To Get Off Antidepressants Without Going Insane, I talk about how I waited until I didn’t have as much stress and responsibility in my daily life to start weaning off just in case I experienced bad side effects. This way my life wasn’t negatively impacted and I didn’t have to worry about performing in too many roles.
Take The Smallest Dose Possible FIRST Before Continuing
Always take the smallest dose possible while you are experimenting with amino acids while on antidepressants to make sure you don’t experience any negative effects.
Once you’ve done that successfully and everything went well, then you can take the full 50mg capsule. If that is OK, you can increase your dosage until you find that it is working well for you and stop there.
Take the Right Amino Acid(s) That You Need
SSRIs affect serotonin levels. If you take an SSRI, you will want to take either 5-HTP or tryptophan.
If you take atypical antidepressants or SNRIs, you will want to take either tyrosine, DLPA, or l-phenylalanine along with 5-HTP or Tryptophan if needed. SNRIs and some atypical antidepressants (like Wellbutrin) affect the brain’s norepinephrine levels. Tyrosine or DLPA with 5-HTP or Tryptophan can help restore these neurotransmitters back to healthy levels.
Common SSRIs include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly, Sarafem)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva)
- Srtraline (Zoloft)
Common SNRIs include:
Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
Atypical Antidepressants include:
Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL)
Trazodone (Oleptro) – if you use this for sleep, take Tryptophan or Melatonin at night
Mirtazapine (Remeron, Remeron SolTab) – for sleep try Tryptophan or Melatonin
For example, if you were trying to get off Celexa, you could first try a low dose of 5-htp and see how it affects you. If you get positive results, you can increase your dosage to the desired amount. If you take 5-htp and it doesn’t work very well, you can try l-tryptophan at a low dosage and see how that works.
Ideally take one of those twice per day, such as around 5:00 P.M. and before bed. If everything is going smoothly, begin to slowly taper off your antidepressant. While tapering off, you may find you need to take more of the amino acid to reduce the withdrawal symptoms, always being careful about how much you are taking and asking yourself if there are any negative effects.
Then once you’re off the antidepressant, you can keep taking the amino acid for a few months until you no longer need it, and use the foundation of beating depression naturally with food and nutrition to keep your moods stable and happy.
If you are taking an SNRI, you can use an amino acid to boost serotonin and an amino acid to boost catecholamines. Again, 5-htp and l-tryptophan boost serotonin while amino acids like l-tyrosine, DLPA, and l-phenylalanine boost catecholamines.
What If I Am Taking A Benzodiazepine Or Anxiety Medications?
If you are trying to wean off of benzodiazepine or anxiety drugs like Klonopin, you can use specific nutrients for extra support such as GABA, taurine, inositol, and glycine to help your body naturally produce more of the calming neurotransmitters.
The most important part of the process is to go slow and use the smallest dose possible. Gauge the effects, and either switch strategies or increase your dosage if everything is going well.
Getting off an antidepressant can be a hard process, and I personally wouldn’t have been able to do it without using amino acids and nutrition to help me.
Comment below if you have any questions or want to share your journey.