Counteracting the Side Effects of SSRIs

It seems like every day a new SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) or mood stabilizer joins the world of pharmaceuticals. For some, these drugs are necessary since going down the natural path and participating in therapies have not been successful. Though these medications are helpful for reducing the depression and anxiety, they happen to come with many negative side effects. Here is a breakdown of the most common side effects associated with SSRI treatment and natural ways to counteract them.

Note: Before trying natural supplementation in tandem with medication be sure to speak with a physician. Some additional side effects may occur or the medication may lose its efficacy when adding additional supplements.

Drowsiness and Sleep Issues

Drowsiness is one of the most common side effects associated with SSRI intake. This occurs because these medications act as sedatives to alleviate anxiousness. Even though drowsiness is occurring it is a different experience than the drowsiness felt when falling asleep.

In fact, those taking SSRIs find it more difficult to fall asleep and experience poor sleep quality due to sleep disturbances. This starts a vicious cycle because lack of sleep causes daytime drowsiness on top of the drowsiness already experienced as a side effect of the medication. [1]

How to Improve Sleep Quality and Counteract Daytime Drowsiness with Lifestyle Improvements

One of the best things one can do when experiencing these side effects is to incorporate proper diet and exercise into their lifestyle. Exercise releases endorphins that improve well-being and natural energy. Research shows those who exercise daily are far less fatigued on a daily basis. [2] Nutrient-dense foods also play a key role in energy production. The body depends on proper nutrition for basic functionality.

The most common mistake made when fatigued is to reach for the nearest caffeinated soft drink for a quick boost. A short burst of energy turns into a sugar crash which leaves the individual feeling worse than before. Caffeinated soft drinks often contain extreme amounts of caffeine. Heavy use causes caffeine dependency as well as an increase in anxiety. Most individuals who are taking SSRIs are anxious to begin with so this would make those symptoms worse.

High caffeine intake will also further reduce sleep quality. Eating small, nutrient-dense meals throughout the day is the best way to eat for energy production. [3] Individuals should drink more water as dehydration can cause fatigue. [4] Some individuals become dehydrated without even knowing it.

Natural Supplements to Improve Energy and Sleep Quality

There are several natural remedies on the market that may counteract these negative side effects.


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 is present in all cells throughout the body; it is responsible for generating cellular energy. [5] Taking a CoQ10 supplement will increase the amount present in the cells thus increasing natural energy. CoQ10 supplements do not contain caffeine and are non-stimulating so these will not affect sleep patterns or cause anxiousness.


Due to the amount of processed foods available on the market and the high expenses of eating organic, it is almost impossible to obtain all vital nutrients the body needs for proper functioning. Taking a multivitamin will fill these nutritional gaps resulting in improved physical and mental function.

Acetyl L-Carnitine

Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is an amino acid responsible for transporting fats to the cells for energy production. [7] ALCAR not only improves physical energy, it also reduces mental fatigue and improves cognition. [8]



Glycine is an amino acid responsible for neurotransmission. This amino acid shortens the amount of time taken to fall asleep as well as improves sleep quality. [9] Using a glycine supplement may also decrease the amount of drowsiness experienced the day after supplementation. [10]


Theanine is another amino acid that has sedative effects. Taken before sleep, this supplement improves sleep efficiency. [11]

Loss of Sex Drive and other Sex Related Issues

There have been many negative sexual related side effects experienced in those taking SSRIs. These side effects consist of erectile dysfunction, low libido, and difficulty reaching orgasm. This could be due to the serotoninergic effects of this medication. Serotonin terminals target dopamine and norepinephrine pathways. These two neurotransmitters are responsible for arousal and desire. [1,12]

How to Improve Sexual Health

Sometimes this side effect only occurs during the first few weeks of taking the medication. The best thing to do if these side effects persist is to explain these side effects to the prescribing pharmacist. In most cases, there may be an alternative medication that better fits the individual. There are several SSRIs out there that claim to not have as many negative sexual side effects. In the meantime, there are a few supplements that may help.


L-Arginine is an amino acid that plays a role in nitric oxide production by acting as a vasodilator. Nitric oxide assists in increased blood flow throughout the body. Erectile dysfunction can improve by using vasodilators because they increase blood flow to the penis. This results in improved ability to achieve and maintain an erection. [13]

This supplement is also beneficial for improving sexual health in women. The increased blood flow enhances clitoral sensitivity and sexual satisfaction resulting in an increased ability to reach an orgasm. [14]

Tongkat Ali (Long Jack)

Tongkat ali has many benefits when it comes to sexual health. This supplement boosts testosterone which is crucial for increased sexual desire. This supplement also enhances erections, improves sperm motility, and improves overall well-being. [15]

Weight Gain

Weight gain seems to be one of the largest complaints from SSRI users. Some SSRIs actually affect metabolic function resulting in a decrease in the number of calories burned. These medications also increase appetite in most individuals resulting in insatiable cravings. [1,16]

How to Improve Metabolic Function

Proper diet and exercise are crucial for overall health, wellness, and weight management. Exercise and increased muscle mass result in more calories burned throughout the day leading to an increase in fat loss. Calculating calories consumed and TDEE is a great way to come up with a sensible diet plan.

In order to feel fuller longer, consume a diet high in protein and fiber. Another way to improve metabolic function is to eat smaller, more frequent meals and never skip breakfast. There are several supplements to assist with satiety and metabolic function without causing overstimulation.

Green Tea

Green tea is one of the best supplements to take for overall health due to its many benefits. This supplement improves endurance and speeds up metabolism. Green tea is also high in polyphenols which are potent antioxidants that protect the body from free radical damage. [17]

Raspberry Ketones

Raspberry ketones increase metabolic rate. This supplement also increases lipolysis which is the body’s ability to burn fat. [18]


SSRIs can cause extreme hunger pains due to the appetite increase making it difficult to stick to a sensible diet and calorie restriction. Glucomannan is a type of fiber that absorbs water in the stomach resulting in appetite suppression. [19]


In some cases, the best way to attack depression and anxiety is to try natural supplementation, therapy, meditation, and making some lifestyle adjustments. However, some individuals may have major cases and need to seek medical treatment.

If you are considering beginning an SSRI treatment, ask a doctor about all the possible benefits and side effects of each to determine the best fit. If any negative side effects occur from these medications, consult a physician before discontinuing these treatments.




David Johnson is a freelancer with an avid interest in supplements that help relax, enhance mood, and provide cognitive enhancement. Most days he can be found researching innovative ways to bring his readers sounder sleep, better moods, and more.

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