Depression is a mental illness that plagues millions of Americans every year. Given the numerous side effects of traditional antidepressants, natural supplements have been explored as an alternative. Many people are familiar with supplements such as St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and 5-HTP, but there is new research indicating that other supplements may have the potential to be effective as well. Inositol is a less-known supplement that may have beneficial impact on patients with depression.
What is Inositol?
Inositol is a nutrient that is often referred to as “vitamin B8,” though it is not professionally classified as a B vitamin. This nutrient is evident in the tissue of all animals and serves to aid in important body functions. The most concentrated levels of inositol appear in the heart and brain.
Inositol serves many functions within the body. It is present in all cell membranes and assists the liver in processing fats. Additionally, it represents an important nutrient in muscle and nerve function, which may be related to its role in the central nervous system. Inositol plays an important role in monitoring serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels. All of these neurotransmitters are vital components to an individual’s mental health; these are the targets for most conventional treatments of depression and other mental health issues. Given this, it is no surprise that clinicians identified Inositol as a potential supplement to treat depression.
Where does Inositol Come From?
Inositol is an essential nutrient that is often gathered from the diet. Specific foods release inositol when digested. These foods include whole grains, nuts, beans, citrus, and cantaloupe which all contain phytic acid. When the phytic acid is broken down by the bacteria in the digestive tract, inositol is released. It is estimated that 1,000mg of inositol is released daily by consuming the average American diet.
What Can Inositol Treat?
Inositol has been studied in the treatment of many different illnesses. Inositol may potentially be used in brain illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD. Research [* Levine J., Controlled trials of inositol in psychiatry. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol . 1997;7:147-155] on its effectiveness in treating obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, bulimia, and panic disorders is thus far inconclusive. Research is still underway, but inositol is also implicated for use in treatment of the following illnesses; polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), metabolic syndrome in post-menopausal women, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy.
There is some research that has found Inositol effective in treating depression. One specific study [Levine J, Barak Y, Kofman O, et al. Follow-up and relapse analysis of an inositol study of depression. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci . 1995;32:14-21.] found that individuals diagnosed with depression and given 12g of inositol daily for 4 weeks showed significant improvement in their depressive symptoms compared to individuals receiving the placebo. Other research [(Am J Psychiatry 1995; 152:792-794), panic disorder (Am J Psychiatry 1995; 152:1084-1086) obsessive-compulsive disorder (Am J Psychiatry 1996; 153:1219-1221), and bulimia and binge eating disorder (Int J Eating Disord 2001; 29:345-348).] completed in Israel also found benefits of using inositol in the treatment of depression and other mental illnesses.
The dosage of inositol administered in most research conducted has been 12 grams per day .This 12 grams is typically administered divided into two or three doses, which would be 6 grams twice daily or 4 grams three times daily. Inositol is most reasonably priced when purchased in powder form which typically represents 2 grams per teaspoon. The powder is then dissolved in juice or water. Inositol is started gradually at 1 teaspoon twice daily to 2 teaspoons three times daily. As with any supplement, check the dosing instructions on the product, and make sure to involve your doctor.
Contraindications & Side Effects
The most common reactions to inositol are diarrhea, nausea and flatulence There is currently no research to suggest the implications of taking Inositol long term. Individuals with bipolar disorder are not advised to initiate this supplement without consulting with their health care provider as it may be associated with manic cycling or mood disturbance. There is currently very limited research on the safety of inositol for children, pregnant women, and individuals with kidney and/or liver disease. Keep in mind that it is important to talk to your health care provider prior to initiating any new supplementation.