Mental & Emotional Stability

Peer-reviewed research and internal memos by Roche confirm that Accutane can and does cause issues which include psychiatric disorders. From my own experience, I know that impaired mental and emotional stability can certainly be a major impact of having taken accutane. Below are some topics that may help including neurotransmitter support.

Vitamin D

Many people are low in vitamin D, particularly in the winter months. When I started taking 10-20,000 IUs of vitamin D every day, my mental and emotional health improved markedly. Currently, I take 10K on waking, 5K mid afternoon, and 5K at bedtime. Be aware that this is higher than clinically advised.

It’s important to take vitamin D with K2. Taking vitamin D3 with vitamin K2 helps to ensure the calcium transported by the Vitamin D is absorbed by your bones where it’s needed and not deposited in soft tissues. I take the Solaray brand.

I happened across this video which may help to explain why accutane users tend to have low vitamin D:

This video made me curious if liver damage from accutane affects its ability to convert Vitamin D to the active form. That could explain why I feel so much better when I supplement with a significant amount.

If taking too much Vitamin D is a concern, here’s an interesting video from Dr. Eric Berg:

Understanding Electrolytes

Finding the proper and effective balance of electrolytes for your body can be a major key to feeling better. Electrolytes can affect sleep, mood, alertness, physical energy, and fatigue. Below I list three electrolytes that have been important in my accutane recovery. Electrolytes are a complex topic so I recommend doing your own research on them.

Potassium

The body needs about 4,700 mg of potassium per day. Most people are getting nowhere near this. There are some relatively easy ways to address this:

  • Start eating large salads (7-10 cups of greens per day). Note however that reduced bile production related to accutane may cause SIBO in which case large salads may cause bloating and gas. The solution here is to reduce the amount of greens and try taking purified bile salts.
  • Eat foods high in potassium
  • Purchase a potassium supplement. Dr. Berg’s electrolyte powder is the best one I’ve found as it contains 1,000 mg of potassium per scoop. That’s far more potassium than I’ve been able to find in any other product. I drink several electrolyte drinks per day with this powder in it. It comes in several flavors and this version is a bit less expensive.

Potassium is relaxing. I also drink an electrolyte drink before bed. It helps with sleep.

Magnesium

Magnesium is needed in order for muscles to be able to relax after they contract. If you feel tense, magnesium might help. I take 400mg of magnesium glycinate before bed. I’ve found that to be the best time for me as the relaxing effect contributes to getting good sleep.

Sodium

Sodium deficiency can cause fatigue. Avoid table salt (sodium chloride) completely and use either sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. These are better for you and will not irritate the digestive tissues.

The amount of sodium you can consume/need depends on whether you are on a keto diet or not. I add about a 1/4 teaspoon to the electrolyte drinks that I make several times a day.

Neurotransmitters

A major step in my own accutane recovery occurred when I began to consider neurotransmitters. I began to question if the deep exhaustion I was experiencing might be related to neurotransmitters and not just be a physical exhaustion (caused for example say by physical energy production in the mitochondria of the cells).

Something I’ve become acutely aware of is the the gut brain axis. Here’s a little primer from John’s Hopkins on the brain gut connection. What is not discussed in that article is that neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are produced in the gut. I had a MAJOR breakthrough once I figured out how to support the body’s dopamine production. “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that promotes enjoyment and interest in life.” My dopamine production had been so badly damaged that I was literally dying of sadness.

There are a couple products I’ve tried and am using everyday now. They may or may not be helpful to you. Please note that working with neurotransmitters can cause profound shifts in moods, mental states, and emotional states. This can be dangerous, though I’ve found that the products below to be supportive and not overwhelming. Nevertheless you may want to work with a qualified healthcare professional when addressing neurotransmitters.

Dopa Mucuna

Interestingly, in Ayurvedic texts, mucuna was called Atmagupta, meaning “secret self within.”

Here is an article discussing the benefits of Mucuna that I found helpful. Something mentioned there that I’ve found to be true, is that mucuna has a cumulative, toning effect on the nervous system.

Dopa Mucuna is a mucuna extract product made by the company “NOW”.

From the label: “Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that promotes enjoyment and interest in life. With 15% L-Dopa (the immediate precursor of dopamine), NOW® Dopa Mucuna helps the body to make what it needs with this important neurotransmitter. Mucuna has been used in the traditional Ayurvedic system in India for thousands of years.”

What Dopa Mucuna has done for me: An important breakthrough for me in my recovery from accutane was when I realized that the exhaustion I was experiencing might not just be low physical energy. One problem I was experiencing was that after sex, I would be unable to function for up to two weeks.

One day, while in one these 14 day black holes, the question arose, “I wonder if this might have to do with neurotransmitters?” Turns out it did.

I started researching neurotransmitters and found that a significant portion are produced in the gut. Aha, another piece of the puzzle. So I went to the health food store and got some Dopa Mucuna. The first day I took it, I started crying – because I could feel myself. You see, it turns out that a large portion of the pain and suffering I was experiencing was from the nervous system not being able to transmit its communications along the body’s pathways. I’ve been taking it for about a month now and still have days where I just start crying and grieving because, after decades, the body has the resources it needs to be able to process emotions.

Another effect from taking Dopa Mucuna was deep physical relaxation. This effect was very pronounced during the first few days. Muscles were relaxing. So much so that bones were cracking and releasing. I started sleeping much better.

I’ve found that what works for me with Dopa Mucuna is to take one capsule at 8am and a second one at 12 pm. Taking only one, I found that I would run out of dopamine in the afternoon. Taking two at once was too much. Staggering them gives me fairly even dopamine levels from morning till bedtime. I’m a 6 foot, 180lb male so you might end up using more or less depending on your body size. Capsules can be opened and you can remove half the contents for a milder dose if that’s something you want to try.

L-Theanine

While researching dopa mucuna and the mucuna puriens plant, I came across an article mentioning that L-theanine might be a second option for people who don’t do well with mucuna puriens.

Suntheanine® L-Theanine is a product distributed under the brand “Sport Research.” It says “relaxation and focus” on the label for whatever that’s worth. In experimenting with L-Theanine, I chose to try this brand due to positive user reviews and the fact that it seemed like a quality, GMO free product. (Note: GMO food contains a chemical that can disrupt tissues in the digestive system, something you don’t want if trying to recover from accutane.)

In researching L-Theanine, it seems that it helps to regulate neurotransmitters. You’ll have to do your own research here. I will update this section with more information soon.

What L-Theanine has done for me: I ordered this supplement to try instead of dopa mucuna. Before figuring out how to stagger dopa mucuna as mentioned above, it was either too strong or not enough. That’s what led me to try L-Theanine.

Similar to dopa mucuna, the effect was very pronounced at first. “Relaxed, alert focus” is an adequate way of describing the effect. Helpful and pleasant in terms of mental and emotional state. It can be a little strong at times and, since this is a “double strength” product, I may experiment with something not quite as strong. Where I am at the moment however, is that I take one of these capsules at 10am, in between the dopa mucuna at 8am and 12am.

Update: As I continue in my accutane recovery, I’m finding that I only add in the L-Theanine on days when I want to be intensely productive. It was helpful to take it every day at first, but I’m finding that I don’t need to take it every day now.

Apparently, Theanine is found naturally in things like green tea and certain mushrooms. There are claims that it works well with caffeine. Sport Research sells a version that has caffeine in the capsules.

I have never liked caffeine; however, since I started taking this product and dopa mucuna, I find that I’m enjoying several cups of green tea in the morning and am very mentally alert and productive. I avoid caffeine after noon as I’ve found that impacts sleep.

Green Tea

I find that green tea enhances the effects of Dopa Mucuna and L-Theanine. Both supplements seem to mix well with caffeine. That being said, I find the caffeine in green tea to work well, whereas coffee has far too much for my liking.

If you’ve been dealing with severely debilitating mental fog as I have, being able to effectively manage mental alertness is quite a relief. Some days I drink tea to increase alertness and other days I don’t feel like I need or want it.

I’m going to be significantly expanding this section on neurotransmitters. If you’d like to be notified when more information is available, you can sign up for the accutane recovery newsletter. One of the topics I want to cover is something I’m calling “neurotransmitter starvation.” This term describes the situation where, no matter how much, or what kinds of food you’re eating, the body is not producing enough neurotransmitters. I’ve learned to identify what this situation by feeling and how to deal with it.

Vitamin B6

The body needs several vitamins and minerals to create dopamine, including iron, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6. [1],[2],[3],[4]

So perhaps it’s no coincidence that I have been taking this supplement containing B6, B12, and methylfolate. It was one of my first weapons in combatting the depression brought on by accutane. While it did create an immediate improvement, it did not turn out to be a long term solution for me. Taking too much B6 can lead to toxicity (which comes on as a headache).

Dopa Mucuna seems to be the long term solution for me, to support dopamine production. I do still take the B6,B12, methyfolate supplement about once or twice a week when I need a good night’s sleep.

What’s Your Experience?

If anything on this page helps you, or if it doesn’t, please be sure to come back and leave a comment. Your experience is important and may end up being a critical part of someone else’s accutane recovery.  If you’d like to contact me, you can contact me here.

Back to Part II: Relaxation & Sleep
Continue reading Part IV: Further Considerations