Posted on by Village Green Nutrition Team
Do you know which vitamins and minerals can help support your mental health? Evidence increasingly shows that nutrition plays a huge role, and that nutritional deficiencies can have a substantial negative impact on both your body and your mental health. A good diet is important, as well as supplementation of key nutrients, as needed.
It is helpful to know how to identify a deficiency, what the long-term impacts include, and which supplements you should consider to help keep your mind and body balanced and healthy. Here's some helpful information about vitamins and other nutrients, and their impact on mental status.
What is a Nutritional Deficiency?
A nutritional or vitamin deficiency occurs when you have a shortage of a particular nutrient in your body, usually because you do not take in an adequate amount through your diet. Common signs of vitamin deficiency can include fatigue, brain fog, dry skin, anxiousness, moodiness and depression, to name a few. Supplements may not treat a diagnosed mood disorder on their own, but adding the right ones to your diet may help make a big difference in your mental state.
The 5 Most Common Deficiencies
There are several common nutritional deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders and other health problems. Addressing deficiencies with nutritional supplements may help support mental well-being.
1. Omega–3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health and cognitive function. A deficiency in this key nutrient can also lead to symptoms like brittle hair and dry skin, but individuals who don't get enough of these fatty acids may also note symptoms of fatigue and sleep disorders. Poor sleep can have a substantial impact on many areas of mental health because when your body is not given adequate time to recharge, it can lead to higher levels of stress and depression. Omega-3s are often found in fatty fish and fish oil, but such fatty acids can also be taken through supplements.
2. B VitaminsB vitamins – including vitamins B1, B3, B-6 and B-12, and nutrients like folate/folic acid – help support nervous system function. Many people with a B-12 vitamin deficiency struggle with tingling feelings in their hands and feet. Taking vitamin B-12 can also help with fatigue by improving energy levels. Many choose to take B vitamins together in one supplement rather than taking them separately.
3. Vitamin DPeople typically obtain vitamin D by spending time outside, because sun exposure on the skin naturally stimulates production in the body. That means many take in less of it during the winter months, as they spend more time indoors to avoid the cold and other inclement weather factors. Adding a vitamin D supplement can help people avoid symptoms of seasonal depression. Some dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, as well.
4. MineralsMany common minerals – including calcium, chromium, iodine, iron, lithium, selenium, zinc and magnesium – also impact mental state. Mineral deficiency, or an imbalance, can play a role in decreased overall immunity, lead to poor sleep habits, and cause a sharp increase in instances of major depression. Taking a high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement can help to avoid deficiencies.
5. The Gut-Brain Link
Recent studies have also delved into the topic of beneficial bacteria and their impact on the gut-brain connection. As it turns out, gut health is directly linked to brain function and optimal health throughout the rest of the body. Imbalances can lead to problems like:
- Depressed immune function
- Mental health conditions
- Focus issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Mood fluctuations
- Sleep disorders
- Poor digestion
Many health professionals recommend probiotics and other dietary supplements like hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes to help balance gut health and improve overall digestive function. Poor levels of beneficial bacteria and other gastrointestinal imbalances can lead to problems with digestion and nutrient absorption, negatively impacting overall health.
Taking the right supplements can have a major impact on mental well-being. Getting enough of the right nutrients may be able to help reduce or eliminate symptoms of depression and elevate mood.
7 Common Causes of Nutrient Deficiencies
1. Daily Diet
Diets that are high in processed foods and low in nutrients are often linked to depression, so making a shift in your eating patterns can be a great way to help boost your mood. Some people avoid certain healthy foods due to texture difficulties, picky eating, or simply personal preferences, while others may unintentionally limit nutrient content of their foods through:
- Restrictive diets, including low-carb diets or low protein intake, which can make people deficient in amino acids
- Vegetarian or vegan diets, which are typically low in B12 vitamins and can lead to symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Low-fat diets
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, good sources of protein and essential fatty acids, and limiting processed foods, is a great way to boost mood and decrease your risk of mental health problems
2. Ability to Absorb NutrientsYour genetics can impact the metabolism of certain vitamins, including vitamins A and D, and folate. Some people cannot process these substances properly, which can lead to vitamin deficiencies. Others may struggle to break down the nutrient forms provided in some supplement brands, typically those of lesser quality, which makes it crucial to choose high-quality supplements.
3. Less-Than-Healthy Lifestyle HabitsBoth smoking and regular alcohol use can deplete many of the vitamins in the blood. Heavy alcohol users are more likely to have poor nutritional habits, which can lead to imbalances within the body and eventually to mental health disorders like depression.
4. MedicationsSome medications naturally deplete nutrient stores in the body. Others may make it difficult for your body to process certain vitamins and minerals. Your healthcare provider or nutritionally-oriented pharmacist may suggest supplements if a prescribed medication is draining your body of certain nutrients.
5. High Levels of StressHigh levels of stress can interfere with your ability to absorb and process vitamins or minerals because your body is running on a "fight or flight" response and may not be able to perform its everyday functioning as well. Depression symptoms may increase alongside stress levels, too, making it essential to find ways to calm your mind and body.
6. Chronic DiseasesSome chronic diseases can cause issues with processing nutrients in food. As a result, some patients with chronic diseases may suffer from increased risk of depression and major depressive disorders, or struggle to receive the right treatment for depression symptoms.
7. PregnancyPregnancy increases the demand on the body for certain nutrients. Back-to-back pregnancies can further deplete stores in the body and lead to increased deficiencies, as well as deficiencies in the mother that are passed to the baby. This makes it important for pregnant women to consult with their doctor to ensure their nutrient levels stay where they need to be.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can contribute to a host of conditions and lead to significant mental health issues. Taking dietary supplements can help support mental health and well-being, balance your nutritional levels, and improve overall functioning.
If you're looking for high-quality supplements to aid your mental wellness or support your overall health, contact Village Green Apothecary to speak with an expert about supplements and their impact on wellness.
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Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
Margo's impressive knowledge base is the result of a unique blend of educational and professional experience.
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
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Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND is a pioneer of integrative medicine and a leading authority on science-based natural medicine.
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Dr. Rav Ivker is a holistic family physician, health educator, and best-selling author.
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Dr. Brown's blended perspective of healthcare includes a deeply rooted passion for wellness and spiritual exploration.