Depression and vitamin deficiencies

10 Nutritional Deficiencies That May Cause Depression

I’m not sure why more psychiatrists don’t first test for nutritional deficiencies before dispensing Zoloft or Prozac, and especially antipsychotics like Seroquel and Zyprexa. The good ones will send you to get lab work done before upping your meds or adjusting anything. Sometimes we do need antidepressants. But other times we need spinach — think of Popeye.

In addition to seeing a psychiatrist regularly, I now work with an integrative health physician who tests my nutrition levels every year. If you haven’t ever tested your nutrition levels, you might inquire with either your psychiatrist or primary-care physician. The supplements can be expensive, but you can make it back two- or threefold by not having to see your psychiatrist as often. You should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re on prescription drugs.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I was surprised when my results showed an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency because I eat plenty of salmon and take fish oil supplements every day. That shows you just how much fish — salmon, tuna, halibut — or flaxseeds and walnuts we need to consume to be at an optimal level. These essential minerals reduce inflammation and play a critical role in brain function, especially memory and mood. The body can’t make them, so you need to either eat them or take supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are just one of the supplements I take every day for depression.

2. Vitamin D

According to Mark Hyman, MD, bestselling author of The Ultramind Solution, vitamin D deficiency is a major epidemic that doctors and public health officials are just beginning to recognize. This deficiency has been linked to depression, dementia, and autism. Most of our levels drop off during the fall and winter months, since sunlight is the richest source. Dr. Hyman believes that we should ideally be getting 5,000 to 10,000 IU (international units) a day.However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends most healthy adults get only about 600 IUs daily.

3. Magnesium

Chances are good that you are magnesium-deficient because up to half of Americans are. Our lifestyles decrease our levels: excess alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, phosphoric acid (in soda), chronic stress, antibiotics, and diuretics (water pills). Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the stress antidote, the “most powerful relaxation mineral that exists,” according to Hyman. It is found in seaweed, greens, and beans. The NIH recommends a daily intake of about 400 to 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium for adult men and 310 to 320 mg for adult women.

4. Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins like vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 can provide some incredible health benefits, including reduced stroke risk and healthy skin and nails. On the other hand, a vitamin B deficiency may impact your mental health. More than a quarter of severely depressed older women were deficient in B-12, according to one 2009 study.

The best sources of vitamin B-6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, and leafy green vegetables. For vitamin B-6, the NIH recommends a daily intake of 1.7 mg for adult men, and 1.5 mg for adult women. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk) and shellfish, such as clams, mussels, and crab. Most adults should need to consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12 daily, according to the NIH.

5. Folate

People with a low folate level have only a 7 percent response to treatment with antidepressants. Those with high folate levels have a response of 44 percent, according to Hyman. That is why many psychiatrists are now prescribing a folate called Deplin to treat depression and improve the effectiveness of an antidepressant. I tried it and it didn’t seem to make that much of a difference; however, I have several friends who have had very positive responses to Deplin. You need not try the prescription form of Deplin. You could just start taking a folate supplement and see if you get any results. Your daily recommended folate intake depends on your gender, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and age. However, most adults need at least 400 mcg daily. You can also get your daily folate requirements by consuming foods high in folate, including dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, and citrus fruits and juices.

6. Amino Acids

Amino acids — the building blocks of protein — help your brain properly function. A deficiency in amino acids may cause you to feel sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. Good sources of amino acids include beef, eggs, fish, beans, seeds, and nuts.

7. Iron

Iron deficiency is pretty common in women. About 20 percent of women, and 50 percent of pregnant women, are in the club. Only three percent of men are iron deficient. The most common form of anemia — an insufficient number of red blood cells — is caused by iron deficiency. Its symptoms are similar to depression: fatigue, irritability, brain fog. Most adults should consume 8 to 18 mg of iron daily, depending on age, gender, and diet, according to the NIH. Good sources of iron include red meat, fish, and poultry. If you really want to get more red blood cells, eat liver. Yuck.

8. Zinc

Zinc is used by more enzymes (and we have over 300) than any other mineral. It is crucial to many of our systems. It activates our digestive enzymes so that we can break down our food, and works to prevent food allergies (which, in turn, averts depression in some people, since some of our mood disruptions are triggered by food allergies). It also helps our DNA to repair and produce proteins. Finally, zinc helps control inflammation and boosts our immune system. The NIH recommends a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc for adult men and 8 mg for adult women.

9. Iodine

Iodine deficiency can be a big problem because iodine is critical for the thyroid to work as it should, and the thyroid affects more than you think: your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune function, and brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When it’s not functioning properly, you can feel very depressed, among other things. You can get iodine by using an iodine-enriched salt, or by eating dried seaweed, shrimp, or cod. I take a kelp supplement every morning because I have hypothyroidism. The daily recommend amount of iodine for most adults is about 150 mcg.

10. Selenium

Like iodine, selenium is important for good thyroid function. It assists the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active thyroid hormone, T3. It also helps one of our important antioxidants (glutathione peroxidase) keep polyunsaturated acids in our cell membranes from getting oxidized (rancid). Most adults need about 55 mcg of selenium daily. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which contains about 544 mcg of selenium per ounce.

8 Nutrient Deficiencies That Cause Depression and Anxiety

If you’re managing depression, anxiety, or both, you have been told that pharmaceuticals are the only way to manage your mood. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be absolute life-savers in the short term. Long term, these drugs can have dangerous side effects. They can also be hell to get off of. Antidepressant drugs can also cover up the root cause of your mental health concerns. They can keep you from learning about what your body really needs to balance your mood and energy. No shade or shame or BS if antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills are working for you! Your body, your choices. If you’d like to learn about common factors that may be playing a part in your mental health concerns, read on my love!

Nutrients, vitamins and minerals are vital for maintaining your mental health. When these things are out of balance, symptoms like depression, anxiety and fatigue can rear their ugly little heads. If your mental health could use some support, it’s worth checking out if you are deficient in the following:

1. B Vitamins

Low levels of B vitamins are correlated with depression, fatigue, and irritability. Increasing your intake of B vitamin-rich foods can lead to improvements in mood and energy. Most important for mental health are vitamins B6, B12 and B9 (folate).

These vitamins play a vital role in producing chemicals, like serotonin, that affect mood and other brain functions. They’re also important for help us detoxify, and keep our hormones in balance. The methylation process and other detox processes in our bodies depend on having enough of the right kind of B vitamins.

Aside from B12, which you can read more about here, your body cannot store these vitamins for long periods, so you have to replenish them regularly through food (1).

My favorite food sources of B vitamins include:

2. Iron

Iron helps your red blood cells carry oxygen to your brain, organs and every little corner of your body. The health of your brain and your nervous system depend on healthy iron levels. Low iron levels can result in less oxygen going to your cells. Iron deficiency can cause a range of symptoms including depression, fatigue, low energy, weakness and irritability.

Folks who menstruate monthly or are pregnant are at greater risk for iron deficiency. Low iron levels in humans who do not have a regular monthly bleed or who are not gestating a wee fetus can be a serious concern, and can indicate an occult, or hidden, source of blood loss. No need to freak out or worry. Just make sure you get some competent medical care, k?

Heme foods rich in iron:

  • Oysters, mussels and clams
  • Liver, beef or chicken
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Eggs

Non-heme iron sources:

  • Chard
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cashews and white potatoes
  • Legumes (especially lentils)
  • Black strap molasses (1-2 Tbsp/day)
  • Stinging nettle leaf tea steeped overnight to get the most iron out of it.

Consume vitamin C-rich foods paired with non-heme iron-rich plant foods. For example, spinach and lemon juice; lentils and tomatoes; kale and sweet potato.

I have a whole article all about iron deficiency, and you can read that baby right here.

3. Iodine

Iodine is a key component in thyroid hormone, so a deficiency can cause a host of symptoms. You literally can’t make the hormones your body needs to fuel your metabolism without iodine. Thyroid health is a massively important part of your mental health. Your thyroid regulates so many important things in your body—your mood, energy, metabolism, growth, immune function, and brain performance—to name a few!

When you don’t have enough iodine and your thyroid isn’t performing at its best, you may have symptoms of depression. Full body depression. The overall blahs. Sluggishness. Slow digestion. It can be pretty rough!

Beyond hypothyroid symptoms, common iodine-deficiency symptoms include:

  • Trouble producing saliva and properly digesting food
  • Skin problems, generally dry skin
  • Less than awesome concentration and focus
  • Difficulty retaining information
  • Muscle weakness, achiness or even pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Metabolic issues, leading to sugar-level imbalance and weight management difficulties

Iodine sources:

  • Seaweed (in order from most to least iodine: Kelp, Kombu, Hijiki, Arame, Dukse, Wakame, Nori)
  • Cod
  • Shrimp
  • Organic eggs
  • Cranberries
  • Tuna
  • Prunes
  • Bananas

Want to learn more about hypothyroid? Check out Episode 10 of The Feminist Wellness Podcast – Hypothyroid is a Feminist Issue (an episode for humans of all genders!)

4. Vitamin D

When our bare skin is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun, our bodies do the science of activating vitamin D in our cells.

Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common. Makes sense: we’re indoors more than ever before. So many of us travel in a car or underground instead of walking everywhere, like our not-so-distant ancestors did. Most of us spend all day in a building, working. We get home after dark all winter. Our bodies are just not getting that Sunshine Time we SOOO desperately need to be both happy and healthy!

Research is showing links between vitamin D deficiency and depression, dementia and even autism. Low vitamin D can also leave you fatigued and irritable. Without sufficient Vitamin D, your immune system also tanks.

Supplements may be the only solution as it is difficult to get vitamin D from your food. So taking that walk out of the office at lunch time is not only important because movement is so vital for our wellness, but also because getting some sunshine on your skin and some vitamin D into your body is darn good medicine.

5. Selenium

Selenium is a mineral with very potent antioxidant properties. It is so important for mental health, healthy metabolism and optimal thyroid function. It is important in the activation and conversion of thyroid hormone.

Low selenium levels have been linked to depression and low mood. It’s recommended to get 200 mcg of selenium per day from food, supplements or a combination thereof.

Selenium sources:

  • Brazil nuts (the best source!)
  • Mushrooms
  • Seafood, especially oysters and tuna
  • Beans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Liver (you knew I’d say liver!)

6. Magnesium

Magnesium is very important in mood regulation and has an impact on your nervous system. It is necessary for most functions in our bodies. However, up to half of the population is magnesium deficient. Our lifestyles may be one cause of low magnesium levels. Alcohol, white table salt and the sodium used in processed foods, coffee and sugar can all decrease our magnesium levels. And because our soil is so bereft of minerals, magnesium is not as available in our food the way it once was.

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety, migraines and high blood pressure. Magnesium can be found in foods like spinach, dark chocolate (yum!), oily fish, bananas, and almonds.

7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation. They are vital for brain function, especially memory and mood. If your diet is low in good quality fats, like omega-3s, then your body can only make low quality nerve cell membranes.

Oily fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as are fish like cod and cod liver oil. These healthy fats can also be found in flaxseeds and walnuts.

8. Gut Health

Leaky gut is when your intestinal walls are permeable to food particles, yeast, bacteria and other beasties that shouldn’t be leaking out into your systemic circulation — your blood stream. This can lead to a host of symptoms from irritable bowel to eczema to depression and anxiety.

When your gut lining isn’t strong and healthy, your body may not absorb food properly. This can lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies and inflammation systemically. If you are having symptoms like excessive bloating, constipation, diarrhea or other irritable gut symptoms, your nutrient deficiency may be coming from your gut being unable to absorb your nutrients.

Leaky gut treatment tips:

You can help your GI system to be happier by eating foods high in probiotics like kefir, beet kvass, yogurts and sauerkraut if you can tolerate these foods. Also, learning what your triggers are that cause your gut to be affected and try to wean off them. The most common triggers of gut-inflammation and IBS/leaky gut symptoms are dairy, gluten, soy, eggs and corn.

You can download my free Leaky Gut Guide and listen to the episode of my Feminist Wellness Podcast that talks all about leaky gut and how to help your body heal!

In Closing

It is important to have your blood checked before you start taking new supplements or vitamins, as it is possible to have too much of certain vitamins and minerals. So first find out how your body is doing, and then add in what’s needed. If you can get the nutrients you need from foods, then do that first. If you are battling to eat enough of the right things that your body needs, as shown on blood tests, then top yourself off with good quality supplements, preferably under the guidance of a well-trained Functional Medicine professional!

And remember: while learning to manage our minds, processing our traumas and our pasts and learning to think about today and tomorrow in new ways are VITAL for improving our mental health, it’s not just all in your head. The health of your cells, your gut, your brain, and the balance of nutrients in your system plays a huge role in all of our mental health. Without mental health there is no physical health, without physical health there is no mental health. Attend to your perfect human body with patience and love, and learn to manage your mind to reduce your experience of stress, anxiety and depression.

  1. John E. Lewis, Eduard Tiozzo, Angelica B. Melillo, Susanna Leonard, Lawrence Chen, Armando Mendez, Judi M. Woolger, and Janet Konefal. (2013) The Effect of Methylated Vitamin B Complex on Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms and Quality of Life in Adults with Depression
  2. Hidese S, Saito K, Asano S, Kunugi H. (2018) Association between iron-deficiency anemia and depression: A web-based Japanese investigation.
  3. Mats B. Humble. (2010) Vitamin D, light and mental health.
  4. Tamlin S, Conner Aimee, C Richardson, Jody C Miller. (2015). Optimal Serum Selenium Concentrations Are Associated with Lower Depressive Symptoms and Negative Mood among Young Adults.
  5. Alan C Logan. (2004). Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional

8 Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Mood Imbalances

September 20th, 2019

• Free eBook: 35 Gut Recovery Recipes

Do you have anxiety, depression, frequent mood swings, or other mood issues? You are not alone. One in five adults deals with mood imbalances. That’s over 40 million people in the U.S. alone! Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health issues and both are on the rise.1

Many people on the autoimmune spectrum experience mood issues. I know how you feel! Before my diagnosis of Graves’ disease, I had experienced serious anxiety and panic attacks. The good news is that I know how you can improve your mood naturally.

Did you know that your mood is closely connected to the nutrients you absorb? When patients with mood imbalances came to me for help, I always checked for nutrient deficiencies that could have been causing or contributing to the problem.

Finding out what these nutrient deficiencies might be is the first step. Then you can learn the root causes of the deficiencies and how to correct them so you can reclaim your health and happiness.

Here are eight nutrient deficiencies that research has linked to mood imbalances.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent in places where there is little sunshine for many months of the year. However, even if you are living in one of the sunniest places in the world, if you are spending most of your day indoors then chances are your sun exposure will not give your body enough vitamin D. A Vitamin D supplement is the only way to ensure you are not deficient. Vitamin D is crucial for various important functions in your body, including the proper absorption of phosphorus into your bloodstream. This is essential for your mental health as it facilitates cell repair and tissue growth in your brain and body, promotes the healthy development of your brain cells, and helps to maintain your memory and cognitive abilities. Low vitamin D has been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or sadness and depression during the darker months of the year. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to depression and panic disorder.2,3,4

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

An imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids can create mood imbalances and mental health problems. Did you know that the human brain is 60 percent fat? Since your body cannot make essential fatty acids, you need to eat healthy fats to fuel your brain.

If your diet is low in good quality fats such as Omega-3s, then your body can only make low-quality nerve cell membranes. If your diet is high in good fats, your brain can create high-quality nerve cells that support your brain function and mental health. Since Omega-3s enhance B cell activation and select antibody production, they are essential for lowering inflammation in your body. As a result, they can enhance your brain function and positive mood. Low Omega-3 can result in depression, attention-deficit disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), and schizophrenia.5,6,7,8,9

Vitamin B

B vitamins convert food into fuel, helping your body to stay energized and to repair cell damage. They play a role in many areas of your health, including your immune function, digestion, circulation, hormonal health, sleep, nerves, and mood. B vitamins are absolutely crucial for your mental health, reducing stress, and preventing memory loss. Vitamin B deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety, phobias, and other mood disorders.10,11,12,13


Magnesium is a powerful mineral for relaxation in the body. Magnesium deficiency can lead to stress, depression, and anxiety. Since our soils have been depleted of magnesium, magnesium deficiency is common even among those who are eating a healthy and balanced diet. It’s even more prevalent among those consuming too much processed food, refined sugar, salt, alcohol, and coffee.14,15,16,17

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Aside from helping your body to build muscles, they are necessary for healthy brain function as well. Deficiency in amino acids has been linked to depression, brain fog, sluggishness, and lack of focus.18,19,20


Zinc supports your healthy brain function. It activates your central and peripheral nervous system. It also plays an important role in neurotransmitter, enzymatic, and hormonal processes. Zinc deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.21,22,23,24,25


Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in the world. It is especially common among women who have heavy periods, are breast-feeding, athletes, picky eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Iron is essential for the health of your brain and nervous system. Deficiencies can lead to depression, anxiety, poor concentration, ADHD, and irritability.26,27,28,29


Although lesser-known than most minerals, selenium is essential to immune health, thyroid function, fertility, and a number of other bodily processes.30 Selenium deficiency has been linked to autoimmune conditions, Hashimoto’s, diabetes, cancer, and mortality. A new study has also linked selenium deficiency to depression and negative mood.31,32,33

Causes of Nutrient Deficiencies

Now you understand which nutrients play a key role in your mood. To correct these deficiencies, it is important to learn why you may be lacking these nutrients.

A Nutrient-Poor and Inflammatory Diet

If you are eating a poor diet with lots of processed food, refined sugars, and white flours then your meals are completely devoid of nutrients your body needs to balance your mood. Inflammatory foods, such as gluten and dairy, grains and legumes, sugar, eggs, caffeine, nuts, seeds, and nightshades can cause leaky gut, which leads to poor nutrient absorption and health problems.

Leaky Gut

An unhealthy diet, environmental toxins, certain medications, and stress can all lead to leaky gut. In leaky gut, tiny holes in your gut lining allow food particles, bacteria, yeast, and viruses to enter your bloodstream. As a result, your body can’t absorb foods properly, leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inflammation, health problems, and mood imbalances.34,35

Genetic Mutations

Common gene mutations such as MTHFR can reduce your body’s ability to convert nutrients, including B vitamins, folate, and choline to their active form via methylation. VDR mutations can lead to vitamin D deficiency. Mutations that control sulfation can lead to low zinc levels.36

How to Prevent or Overcome Nutritional Deficiencies

You can restore optimal levels of key nutrients in your body by upping your dietary intake and addressing the underlying causes of your deficiencies. Following these steps, you can nourish your body and create a balanced mood and happiness.

Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet

Getting your nutrients through food is the best method and an essential step for recovery. Following The Myers Way® protocol will set you up for success.

To support your mood and mental health, eat plenty of these foods:

  • Vitamin D: fatty fish, grass-fed or pasture-raised meat, organ meats, spirulina, wild mushrooms, and bee pollen
  • Omega-3: grass-fed meats, wild-caught fatty fish, flax and chia oil
  • Vitamin B: leafy greens, root veggies, animal protein, fresh and dried fruits, seafood, and avocados
  • Magnesium: dark leafy greens, seaweed, figs, fish, avocado, and bananas
  • Amino Acids: animal protein (including Paleo Protein powder), and bee pollen
  • Zinc: oysters, seafood, lamb, grass-fed beef
  • Iron: red meat, shellfish, organ meat, dark leafy greens
  • Selenium: garlic, turkey, liver, red meat, spinach, and bananas

My cookbook, The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook contains over 150 recipes featuring foods that are packed with nutrients that you need to overcome autoimmunity and support your overall health, including your mood and mental health. The best part is that it is much more than just a cookbook. It lays out the four pillars of The Myers Way® to help you optimize your diet and lifestyle for preventing or reversing autoimmunity, supporting your physical and mental health, and reclaiming your life.

Repair Your Gut

Although eating a diet of real, whole foods is critical for overcoming any health challenge, it may not be enough if you are dealing with a leaky gut since the absorption of nutrients is the true key to your recovery. As I always say, “You aren’t what you eat, you are what you digest and absorb!”

Repairing your gut will improve your ability to reduce inflammation and absorb nutrients properly. When your body can finally absorb all the nutrients from the good food you eat, your mood will improve as well.

To repair your gut, I recommend using the 4R approach:

  • Remove the bad. Get rid of inflammatory foods, toxins, allergens, and gut infections.
  • Restore the good. Add healthy, nutrient-dense foods to your diet. With the help of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid (HCL), restore good digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Reinoculate with healthy bacteria. Reestablish a healthy gut flora using high-potency, high-quality probiotics.
  • Repair your gut. Rebuild the mucosal lining of your gut using collagen and Leaky Gut Revive™.

Learn About Your Unique Genetic Needs

If you are curious about how your unique genetics can cause nutrient deficiencies, you can order a genetic test through Once you receive your data, you can enter it into one of several third-party tools, such as Livewello or Genetic Genie to check for possible genetic mutations and what they mean to your health.

Add High-Quality Supplements

While eating a nutrient-dense diet is the ideal way to meet all your nutrient needs, the unfortunate truth is that our nutrient-depleted soils, toxic environment, and high-stress modern life make it very difficult to rely on food alone. High-quality supplements can fill the gap and provide you the nutrients you need.

I recommend taking these supplements on a regular basis to correct mood imbalances, reverse autoimmunity, and to achieve total health.

  • Multivitamin: Taking a high-quality, daily multivitamin is the building block of optimal health. I’ve specifically designed a multivitamin filled with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and selenium to support your mood.
  • Vitamin D: When supplementing with vitamin D, it is necessary to select a supplement that includes vitamin D3 and K2 as they work together to repair and create health.
  • Omega 3: When selecting an Omega-3 supplement it is important that you choose from reputable sources that verify through a third party that they have no detectable mercury in their product.
  • Vitamin B: In addition to taking a high-quality multivitamin, If you have one or two MTHFR mutations, my Methylation Support is an excellent choice with pre-methylated B vitamins and other essential nutrients.
  • Magnesium: I recommend NeuroCalm Magnesium as the best form of magnesium supplement for healthy mood, cognitive function, brain health, and relaxed sleep because it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Now that you understand which nutrient deficiencies may be causing your mood imbalances, the root causes of these deficits, and how to correct them, you have the power to take back your life. You can reclaim your health, repair your body, and balance your mood by eating a nutrient-dense diet, repairing your gut, understanding your genetic needs, and taking the right supplements.

Article Sources

Why Do I Need This Test?

Doctors order a ferritin test if other blood tests point to possible anemia, which can lead to a lack of oxygen in the blood. It can be used to check if there is too much or too little iron in the body. Doctors can also use it to diagnose restless legs syndrome and Still’s disease in adults (a rare type of arthritis with fever and rash).

Low iron could be the cause if you’re:

  • Often feeling dizzy, weak, and tired
  • Having headaches
  • Look pale

You may also have strange cravings for licorice, chalk, dirt, or clay. You may feel a burning sensation on your tongue.

If left unchecked, low levels of iron can cause heart failure (when your heart doesn’t pump blood to your body as well as it should). It can also cause these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Leg pain
  • Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus

A ferritin blood test can also help your doctor figure out whether your body is storing too much iron. High levels may point to alcohol abuse, infection, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, overactive thyroid, or some types of cancer.

Symptoms of high iron levels vary and can include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Heart problems
  • Joint pain
  • Low sex drive
  • Loss of body hair
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss

Natural health: Vitamins to help with anxiety and panic attacks

Megan Sheppard says there are a number of nutrients that are important when it comes to reducing anxiety levels.

Q. I have always been a shy person, not really comfortable in strange situations or with people who I don’t know very well, but recently I have become more anxious than usual and prone to panic attacks.

I am not interested in taking medications. Are there any supplements that might help me?

A. There are a number of nutrients that are important when it comes to reducing anxiety levels — in particular the B vitamins.

While therapeutic doses of individual vitamins have been shown to be beneficial in alleviating certain symptoms, it is always a good idea to take a good B-complex alongside individual B vitamins since they work synergistically.

Vitamin B1 is important for balancing blood sugar levels, which are a significant factor in anxiety levels.

Vitamin B3 plays a crucial role in the synthesis of serotonin and has been shown to help with anxiety at a dosage of 1,000-3,000mg per day.

Vitamin B5 supports the adrenal glands, which reduces stress and anxiety levels.

Vitamin B9 (also known as folate or folic acid) and vitamin B12 are important in balancing out depressive moods.

Vitamin B6 together with magnesium can balance out anxiety that occurs in conjunction with PMS.

Great foods for getting your B vitamins include liver, meats, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, legumes, nutritional yeast, and molasses.

Inositol (vitamin B8) is a water-soluble fatty lipid necessary for healthy cell production.

This can be a particularly useful nutrient to consider where obsessive rumination of thoughts is a problem.

Inositol triggers the release of calcium, and plays a role in the transmission of messages throughout the central nervous system.

Calcium, along with magnesium, helps to nourish the nervous system and prevent anxiety, panic attacks, and restlessness or irritability.

Magnesium has long been known for its calming properties on the nervous system, and it is also used to relax tight or overworked muscles.

Magnesium and calcium are usually taken together, where you need twice as much magnesium as calcium, although anxiety sufferers may need to supplement with magnesium alone.

While most people supplement somewhere between 400-600mg of magnesium (and a corresponding 800-1,200mg of calcium), evidence suggests you may need up to 1,000mg daily of magnesium to help with panic attacks.

Leafy greens are rich in magnesium, along with whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, beef, chicken, fish, and bone broths.

Essential fatty acids either from fish oil or seeds (such as chia, flaxseed, and hemp) are also useful in reducing the frequency and severity of panic and anxiety attacks.

Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked with anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The body makes its own vitamin D as a response to sunlight exposure, and it is also found in eggs and fatty fish.

It is also important for immune function, bone health, and heart health, along with protecting against cancer.

If you decide to supplement with this nutrient, make sure that you choose vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), not the synthetic D2 form (ergocalciferol).

Other factors worth considering are hormonal imbalances, thyroid imbalance, and adrenal dysfunction.

The adrenal glands are often overstimulated, particularly where physical, emotional, or mental stress is ongoing.

If this increased production of cortisol goes on for too long, then adrenal fatigue sets in, where cortisol levels are too low.

Hormone levels are all linked, so an imbalance in one area likely indicates that all three —thyroid, sex hormones, and adrenals — need rebalancing.

You mention you don’t want to take medications, but it is still important to work alongside a health professional.

Integrative or functional medicine practitioners are open to nutritional treatment and will be aware of which tests are useful to keep track of your levels of vitamins, minerals, and hormones in order to tailor a specific plan for your needs.

How Can Vitamin A Impact your Anxiety?

Any person who knows much about nutrition has to admit that vitamin A is a necessity in everyone’s body. It is a soluble fat vitamin. Vitamin A plays so many roles in our bodies, and it is essential to include it in the diet.

As long as you have enough vitamin A in your body, there is a guarantee of a good vision; you are sure that you have a robust immune system.

It also helps in body growth as well as reproductive health. Vitamin A is also crucial for your brain to function well. There are organs in our body that do need vitamin A so that they can function properly, for example, the lungs, heart and the kidney. Almost 80-90% of the vitamin A is stored in the liver. The other name for vitamin A is retinol.

Can vitamin A help with anxiety?

Vitamins tend to act like drugs. It depends on the number of vitamins that you are going to take in. Your body reacts to everything that you consume. You need to be very careful. This affects even the people who take in vitamin supplements. Remember, everyone gets a different reaction from food, fruits or even supplements. Do not start using something just because your friend is using it and it is working out for them.

When you take in some of the foods that do contain vitamin A, you are likely to notice that some of them may make you feel uneasy. You can be nervous, experience insomnia, anxiety or you can get so restless. Once you take in something that you have never consumed, listen to your body response.

It helps you to determine what you should eat and what you should not. This also applies to supplements. I will always advise anyone to consult their doctor if they get a weird feeling when they consume something.

As much as you need vitamin A in your body, you need to aware that some food products that have vitamin A are likely to give you anxiety. It is so uncomfortable and irritating. Note better; you should not start avoiding taking in vitamin A products. You need vitamin A in your body.

Yes. Vitamin A helps to minimize anxiety feelings. Anxiety tends to bring some discomfort hence making hard for anyone to settle and have a peace of mind. Well, vitamin A helps to promote well-being. When you are lacking vitamin A, there is a high chance of you having anxiety issues. Consider using Vitamin A to help with anxiety problems. The vitamin is of great It is of so much help.

How can you use vitamin A for anxiety?

Vitamin A helps to nourish the most critical system in our body that is the nervous system, and hence your muscles can relax. A proper functioning nervous system helps in minimizing stress mentally. When you are relaxed, you cannot get any anxiety.

When you are calm, there are slim chances for you to have a panic attack.

Vitamin a has the fatty acids, and they are a necessity in our bodies. They are also helpful in reducing anxiety.

Benefits of vitamin A

It helps in the protection of your skin and eyes from direct sunlight: UV rays affect the skin, but when you have sufficient vitamin A in your body, your skin will not be damaged at all. You are safe from skin cancer.

Strong immune system: the immune system acts as a defense mechanism in your body. Vitamin A traps all the bacteria in your body protecting from falling sick. Vitamin A is responsible for the function and production of the white blood cells.

Healthy bones: you may think that concentrating on calcium or vitamin D will make you have strong bones. Unfortunately, no. Vitamin A is also necessary for healthy bone development.

Healthy reproduction and growth: this applies to both men and women. In reproduction, both genders are responsible in cases of infertility. You should never blame your spouse in the instance where she cannot bear you a child. You, as the man might also be the problem.

In case you want to have a baby, both of you should consider consuming foods rich in vitamin A. if the woman does not have enough vitamin A in her body there is a high chance that she might miscarriage.

You need to add vitamin A in your diet. There are so many cases of deficiency diseases, and it is all because people do not add some of the necessary vitamins including vitamin A in their diet. The primary cause of vitamin A deficiency is lack of enough vitamin A in the tissues and the blood.

There are two types of causes of vitamin A deficiency, and they do include the primary vitamin A deficiency that is mainly caused by a long-term deprivation of the diet. The other cause of vitamin a deficiency is secondary vitamin A, and it is brought by insufficient absorption, transport, and storage of vitamin A.

Signs and symptoms of vitamin A deficiency

Night blindness: When you have difficulties in adjusting to the dim light, and you notice that you are not seeing things correctly at night, it is the high time that you should seek medical attention. It is one sign of vitamin A deficiency, and you should not ignore. You should start taking meals that are rich in vitamin A with immediate effect. There is a high probability that you may end up being blind if it is not treated.

Effects on the skin: the skin may start being dry or scaly. It is not necessary for the skin only, but it can also affect your lips. They may end up drying too. There is a condition known as eczema that can bring itchiness, and your skin can be inflamed.

Infertility: if you are wondering what may be the reason why you and your partner are not conceiving, well, this could be the reason. Vitamin A is necessary for the development of the baby so if you do not have vitamin an in your body that is the reason why you cannot conceive. Some people may conceive, but later they may get a miscarriage.

Stagnant growth: this usually happens to children. If your child does not have enough vitamin A in his or her body that could be one of the main reasons why he or she is not growing. It is also known as stunted growth.

Longer wound healing: I will give you a scenario, have you seen someone who had gone through a surgery and his or her wound does not heal? Well, the reason could be lack of vitamin A in their body.

Breakouts and acne: vitamin A is the main reason why you have good skin since it helps in skin development. If you lack vitamin A in your body, you are likely to get acne and regular skin breakout.

You need to take the necessary diet to avoid being a victim of vitamin A deficiency. These foods do include, liver, sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots, spinach, kales, cereals, eggs, kitchen, milk, the list is endless. Some people may also use supplements that they do buy over the counter. The supplements can be helpful to your body, but I would always advise you to take in vitamin A directly from foodstuff. These supplements are in the form of dosage. It is a requirement, for medical purposes to have a doctor’s prescription before buying these supplements.

Effects of high dosage of vitamin A

Some people may end up consuming lots of vitamin A thinking that it will work best. A large intake of vitamin A damages the liver, therefore, care should be taken when taking vitamin A. It brings vomiting and very severe nausea. One can also lack sleep. It also carries a headache, dizziness and you may get confused.

High dosage of vitamin A is also the reason why some people are so quick-tempered. It may also lead to coma. To the mothers reading this and your kid has a broad forehead; high dosage of vitamin A could be the reason why your child has a more prominent forehead, unlike your other kids. Overdosing vitamin A can lead to death. Be very careful we do not want to lose you as much as we want you healthy.

Some people cannot even stand in front of many people. This could be because they are shy. There are also some other people who tend to be uncomfortable when they are in a new environment. This disorder is known as anxiety. Anxiety occurs when the brain is not able to produce the neurotransmitter.

These neurotransmitters are GABA and serotonin. Low levels of serotonin lead to panic attacks, depression, and anxiety. Well, you do not have to take any medication. It is usually lack of some nutrient in your body. You can gain by making a well-balanced diet. It works.

Signs and symptoms of a panic attack

Mostly panic attacks occur when one is not fully aware of what is going on. Some people do even faint when they get a panic attack. Here are the four key symptoms.

One can have chest pains. You may feel like your chest is getting heavy. Some people are likely to get a panic attack in case their hearts are pounding fast. Shaking, trembling and getting extra sweaty is also a symptom of a panic attack. In case you experience these symptoms, you should see a doctor. Difficulty in breathing or getting short of breathing is a sign that you are likely to have a panic attack.

You can also be lightheaded, or you can feel dizziness. Some people may ignore a dizziness sign deeming it to be obvious especially for pregnant women. Do not ignore any unusual thing happening in your body. You can also be numb. Avoid stress so that you may not go through the above signs and symptoms of a panic attack.

Natural ways of stopping panic attacks.

Breathing into a bag: when someone happens to have anxiety, you may be unable to breathe. You have to shift your concentration by breathing in and out slowly.

Yoga: yoga helps you to relax as you sit down quietly and meditate. Once you practice yoga often, you have low chances of getting a panic attack.

Use of cold water: When you feel like you are just about to have an attack, you can use cold water. What I mean is you can wash your face with cold water, or you can decide to soak a face towel and cover it around your face. It neutralizes everything, and before you realize it, the feeling of anxiety is gone.

Laugh often: When you are always in a happy mood, there are low chances of you ever getting a panic attack. Laughter always keeps you occupied. It is a way of fooling your mind by shifting all your thoughts into laughter.

When you take in the right nutrients, the adrenal glands tend to respond to stress. Stress leads to anxiety or even panic attacks. Anyone who has ever experienced this needs many vitamins A nutrients in their body. Stress makes you unhealthy. This is because when you overworked by something may it be work, school or family there are low chances of you to eat a balanced diet.

Some supplements are specifically for adrenal fatigue, and they do work well. However, food nutrients are the best. A person who may not have the right guidance on how to eat a balanced diet can result in taking supplements. Do not depend so much on supplements.

Are you getting enough vitamin A? You should now be asking yourself that question. Vitamin A deficiency is not common. As long as you are eating foods rich in vitamin A, then you are safe. You should ensure that your children are eating a balanced meal so that they can grow by being healthy and strong. Staying stress-free is very healthy, pay attention to eating healthy foods. Find distractions, it has worked for so many people, and it will work for you as well.

Dietary Supplements: B Vitamins and the Adrenal Glands

While the sun is allows us to make Vitamin D in our skin, concerns about skin exposure to sun usually require that we get vitamin D from other sources. Fish like salmon, herring, and sardines have reasonable levels of Vitamin D as well as vegetarian sources like egg yolks and mushrooms. In general vitamin D may need to be take as a supplement though as it is hard to stay at sufficient levels with sun and food alone.

2- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: There’s a good reason why you hear health and nutrient experts advocate for increased consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential for healthy brain cell functioning and the reduction of inflammation, and work by preventing trans fats from entering your neural system.

Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring or mackerel, oysters, egg yolks, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Algae is another option for vegetarians and vegans and can be found in supplement form. In general our bodies can use the animal sources of omega 3s more easily than the vegetarian sources.

3- Folate: While you’ve likely heard of folic acid, you might be less familiar with folate. Both are forms of vitamin B9. Folate is the natural form and easier for humans to use than the synthetic folic acid. Along with other B vitamins, folate helps to clear homocysteine–a byproduct found in the bloodstream and associated with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other conditions. Folate also works to support serotonin production.

Beans, peas, lentils and leafy greens such as spinach, kale and arugula are great sources of folate.

4- B Vitamins: Lack of B vitamins can have a significant influence on your overall psychological wellbeing. Vitamins B6 and B12 have been proven to boost skin and nail health, reduce stroke risk and support mental health function. According to one study, more than a quarter of severely depressed women were found to be deficient in B12.

Proteins such as fish, poultry, red meat, and eggs, as well as whole grains, legumes and bananas are rich in B vitamins. B12 can only be obtained from animal based sources, so vegetarians need to be particularly mindful of monitoring their B12 levels and supplementing B12.

5- Magnesium: Essential in over 600 metabolic functions, magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It is vital to brain functions such as stress response, recovery and repair. It is only second to iron as the most common nutritional deficiency in developed countries.

Dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, nuts, leafy green vegetables and dark chocolate. However, much of our soil has been depleted of magnesium making it increasingly difficult to achieve a sufficient level through diet alone and supplements may be a way to guarantee adequate intake.

6- Zinc: Another mineral, zinc is essential to regulating the brain and body’s response to stress. With the highest concentration of zinc in our body’s found in the brain, it is central to healthy brain function. Not only is it is responsible for activating your central and peripheral nervous system, but it is also required for neurotransmitter, enzymatic and hormonal processes. In addition to depression, zinc deficiency has been linked to anxiety, schizophrenia and eating disorders.

Common sources of zinc include meat, poultry, oysters, spinach, pumpkin seeds, raisins and dark chocolate.

7- Iron: Iron is critical to all bodily functions as it carries oxygen throughout the bloodstream. It is also the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in developed countries, and is more common in women than men. Symptoms of iron deficiency can present as similar to those of depression, such as mental and physical fatigue, low mood and irritability. Low levels of iron may also trigger panic symptoms resulting in a panic attack.

Iron-rich foods include shellfish eggs, beans, red meat, organ meats such as liver, spinach and broccoli. If you have fatigue or emotional symptoms it is important to get your blood checked for blood counts, iron levels and ferritin level and if you are anemic, then to follow up the supplementation with another test to make sure that the anemia is resolving.

9 Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Cause Depression

Working in Canada’s largest hospital for mental health and addiction, I absolutely appreciate the impact of lifestyle (nutrition and diet, stress management, sleep and leisure) on mental health.

This doesn’t just include mood disorders like depression and anxiety or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

There’s also no shortage of research on the role and impact of nutrition on other psychiatric illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disease and more.

As a nutrition educator, I give presentations on nutrition and brain health, as well as, food and mood.

I review key nutrients that are absolutely vital for brain health. What you eat and drink directly affects the structure of your brain which, in turn, influences your brain’s function. This includes both the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters, as well as, the presence, or absence of inflammation.

Many of the patients I work with are in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction. Most of them are also dealing with depression and anxiety. I also work with adults who are only dealing with mood disorders (no addiction issues).

How to cope with depression

It’s amazing to me how most psychiatrists fail to appreciate the role of nutrition in mental health, including the connection between nutrition and depression.

It’s not only common sense, but it’s backed up by research (1, 2, 3). No amount of medication can make up for a crappy diet.

There is no biological or physiological need for common ‘mood stabilizers’ such as Pristiq, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, etc.

There is however, a biological need for nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essentially fats & antioxidants for both overall health and mental health.

It’s naive and unreasonable for anyone, doctor or patient, to think that they can be their best self, or have optimal psychological and emotional well-being without addressing their underlying biology.

Whether you’re using talk therapy, medication, or both to manage your depression, you’ll get more for your efforts if you tend to your physical health as well. This includes the health of your brain and your brain needs lots of nutritional TLC too.

If anyone thinks I’m saying that medications don’t have a time and place in mental health management is dead wrong. They do, but it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture

No amount of Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro or Viibryd (Vilazodone) will make up for an inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals.

Food And Mood

There are dozens and dozens of neurotransmitters produced by your body. What is a neurotransmitter? It’s a chemical that is released at the end of a nerve fiber. The neurotransmitter jumps across (in effect) to the next neurotransmitter enabling all your brain cells to communicate.

This regulates emotions, allows for learning, memory formation, giving a sense of pleasure, focus and attention depending on the neurotransmitter in question.

The three main ones that are talked about in mental health are:

  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinepherine
  • GABA

This is because the bulk of the research has focused on them and the medications used in mental, influence their metabolism.

The building blocks of neurotransmitters are amino acids. You get amino acids from the digestion and breakdown of dietary protein. The critical players in the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters however are vitamins & minerals.

Changing Diets – Changing Minds

The analogy I like to use is a factory beltline that needs a certain number of employees to show up for maximum output/production. If half the staff call in sick, production suffers.

Likewise for neurotransmitter production and function; you need optimal amounts of nutrients on a daily basis. If they are lacking in the diet, mood can be disrupted. This can set the stage for the development of depression and anxiety. Poor nutrition can also aggravate and worsen any existing mood and/or psychiatric disorder.

Brain food

Feeding you brain is easier than you think. By improving your diet and using targeted supplements where indicated, you can improve your brain health while supporting your mood at the same time. The following are the heavy-hitters when it comes to using nutrition for depression support.

Omega-3 fats

About 15-20% of the total fat in your brain, ideally, would be omega-3s. I say ideally because many don’t get enough of this critical nutrient. Of the total amount of omega 3 fats in the brain, 92% of it is DHA omega 3 (4).

The DHA omega-3 fat is critical for brain cell structure. If the diet doesn’t have enough of it, other fats have to take its place. If it’s trans fat, that spells trouble.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders

Trans fat increase inflammation and this increases the risk for depression and poor cognitive function (5, 6).

Omega 3 EPA helps support mental health and depression in a couple of ways. EPA supports neuron function and reduces blood viscosity. When blood flows freely, your brain cells get the oxygen and nutrients they need better. Omega 3 EPA also acts like tricyclic antidepressants by modulating ‘calcium-ion’ flux (7).

EPA also helps to reduce inflammation. which is why research supports the role of omega-3 fats in improving symptoms of depression . Inflammation is now sense as a risk factor for, and aggravating effect on depression (8, 9).

While not fully understood in its role in mental health, EPA’s and DHA’s ‘sibling’, DPA omega 3 is another important nutrient. It also helps to lower inflammation and when consumed along with EPA and DHA, DPA increases the uptake of all three by your body’s cells and tissues.

Food sources of omega 3 fats are fish and seafood, especially fatty fish, omega-3 fortified eggs and supplements. Of note, be sure to consider your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. You don’t want to over consume omega 6 at the expense of omega 3.


Iodine can be thought of as the new vitamin D. Iodine plays a central role in mental health.

It’s an up and coming nutrient but not in a good way because it’s one mineral that most of use are not getting enough of. Ideally iodine should be known for all the good it does like it’s role in reducing the risk for depression rather than being known as a nutrient of concern.

Iodine is critical for a healthy thyroid, the master of metabolism . It has largely been removed from the food supply and whereas we used to get about 800 mcg per day, most are lucky to get between 138 to 350 mcg per day.

The Silent Epidemic of Iodine Deficiency

While this can stave off an overt deficiency, it likely won’t be enough to move people into the functional range where physiological processes are optimal including mental health. Be sure you’re intake of iodine is optimal.

Good food sources of iodine include seaweed, cod, iodized salt. Other moderate food sources include milk, yogurt, and eggs.

Good quality supplements should provide the RDA of 150 mcg per dose as a foundation.

Zinc is a tireless ally. It is involved in over 250 separate biochemical pathways, or reactions. These reactions support just about every function needed for overall health, not the least of which is a strong immune system and mental well-being (10, 11).

Zinc. An Antidepressant

Zinc is critical for neurotransmitter production and function (12, 13, 14). A review of the role of 3 minerals, zinc, selenium, and magnesium were looked at for their role in depression. Findings support the importance of adequate consumption of micronutrients in the promotion of mental health (15).

Effects of Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Major Depression. A Randomized Clinical Trial

Unlike calcium, phosphorus and magnesium which is stored in your body in large amounts, zinc isn’t. You need a steady and reliable source everyday to the most that zinc has to offer.

Of note for vegetarians and vegans, legumes and grains have compounds that keep zinc from being fully absorbed by the body. For this reason, vegetarians might need to eat as much as 50% more zinc than the recommended amounts.

Best food sources include oysters, crab, beef, lamb, pork, dark meat, and chicken. Next best are legumes, cashews and a good quality multivitamin with minerals will have some as well.

Like zinc, magnesium is required for over 300 separate biochemical pathways, or reactions. What is magnesium good for? It’s needed for healthy bones and teeth, reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduced risk for diabetes to name a few.

Most of us only get about half of the recommended amount: 420 mg per for men and 320 mg for women. There are several reasons for this including our intake of mostly refined foods, decreased soil levels, and medications that interfere with magnesium absorption (15).

Many are dealing with health issues that put them at risk for magnesium deficiency as well such as prediabetes or insulin resistance, diabetes, moderate to heavy alcohol consumption, and anyone with gastrointestinal disorders which can decrease absorption (16).

Magnesium is needed to activate the enzymes needed for serotonin, dopamine and norepinepherine production. Also, whereas calcium and glutamate are excitatory in the neuron, magnesium is an ‘antagonist’ to them. Magnesium in this sense is calming bring balance. Not too stimulated, not too under-stimulated. If there’s not enough magnesium in the brain cells and synapses, they won’t work as well and this leads to depression.

Rapid Recovery from Major Depression using Magnesium Treatment

What foods contain magnesium? Good food sources include nuts & seeds, dark green vegetables, avocado, and fish with bones. Not to be outdone are blackstrap molasses, lima beans, whole grains, bran and dark chocolate. Pumpkin seeds are a standout – they contain a lot of magnesium.

Supplements are typically needed to help people meet their minimum daily requirement on a consistent basis. By increasing magnesium intake, supplements will move people with depression beyond just preventing a clinical magnesium deficiency. It will help them have enough magnesium on board so their brain and neurons can function optimally.

Anyone who knows me or is familiar with this blog knows that vitamin D is my baby and that we don’t get enough of this kick-ass vitamin.

This is especially true in Canada. From mid-October till mid-April, the sun is just too low in the sky to produce any vitamin D in your skin. The rule of thumb is: the UVB index needs to be 3 or higher and the sun needs to be high enough in the sky. The easiest way to know if it is, is if your shadow is shorter than you are tall. Easy huh?

Vitamin D Supplementation for Depressive Symptoms. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

The brain loves vitamin D and has loads of vitamin D receptors just waiting for their payload. Vitamin D deficiency has not only been linked to depression, but anxiety, SAD, and dementia as well. Vitamin D is needed by your amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotion.

Supplementation is the only viable option to raise vitamin D levels to where they need to be for optimal, overall health but as well to lower the risk for depression.

Most people can maintain levels to prevent vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D deficiency symptoms such as rickets and osteomalacia. At least during the spring and summer over deficiency can be avoided with some casual safe sun exposure. But food alone will not prevent low levels during the late fall and winter.

The best resources on the net for all things vitamin D are the Vitamin D Council, GrassrootsHealth and for the technically and scientifically inclined, VitaminDwiki. So much great information, so have at it!

Best food sources of vitamin D are fluid fatty fish like sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring. Also trout, fluid milk and eggs.

Like iodine, selenium is needed for good thyroid function.

Often, just increasing selenium intake can improve early symptoms of low thyroid function. A healthy thyroid supports mental health including reducing the risk for depression.

Selenium is also needed to convert the inactive thyroid hormone T4 to the active form T3. This conversion primarily occurs in the liver, the rest occurs in the gut and then in other tissues throughout the body.

When people are put on thyroid hormone replacement medication, it’s only T4. It’s assumed that people are able fully convert the medication form of T4 to T3 efficiently.

Sadly this isn’t always the case which is why many people who are put on Synthroid or Levothyroxine don’t feel better. Their depression remains or gets worse despite their ‘thyroid’ blood work being normal, e.g. lower TSH.

Ensuring you’re getting enough selenium is a good first step when it comes to assessing your nutrient intake when it comes to managing and/or reducing your risk for depression.

Optimal Serum Selenium Concentrations Are Associated with Lower Depressive Symptoms and Negative Mood Among Young Adults

Selenium is needed to make your body’s master antioxidant and detoxifying compound glutathione. Glutathione is actually the major brain antioxidant.

Increasing glutathione has been shown to improve depression because glutathione reduces inflammation in the brain. Glutathione is also needed to protect the thyroid gland. As it makes thyroid hormone, it produces a lot of hydrogen peroxide and glutathione protects against this.

Good food sources Brazil nuts, nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, oysters, ham, shrimp, liver and chicken.

Iron deficiency is more common in women than men due to losses via menstruation.

The most common form of anemia is iron deficiency. It’s symptoms are similar to depression: fatigue, irritability, apathy, brain fog, lack of motivation and appetite.

Having anemia-related symptoms like these could lead to depression given their impact on quality of life. While anemia may not be the cause for depression, a lack of consideration to iron intake could result in a misdiagnosis. Treatment for depression when it’s an issue of anemia would aggravate depressive symptoms.

Anxiety is another consequence that can stem from having low iron levels. If you have low iron levels, it could trigger panic symptoms given the broad symptoms of anemia, leading to a panic attack. Increased anxiety can lead to depression and vice versa. These two often go hand-in-hand.

Eating vitamin C-rich foods along with iron-rich foods helps to increase the absorption of iron. For women, a multivtamin with minerals typically provides 8 to 12 mg of iron. Men should choose a multi that is iron-free.

Good food sources are beef, pork, lamb, dark meat chicken, eggs, liver, oysters and white beans.


B complex vitamins typically includes about 11 B vitamins all of which are involved in neurotransmitter production and function. B vitamins have many nervous systems benifits.

Some, like vitamin B12 are needed to help maintain brain mass, a.k.a. prevent brain shrinkage, a cause of dementia. A classic B12 deficiency symptom is depression. A symptom that is not really consider in mental health, certainly not in the mental health hospital that I work in.

What’s very interesting is the fact that deficiencies in all of the B vitamins have a psychiatric component. Mood disorders, psychoses, depression, anxiety, memory issues, cognitive function are all negatively impacted by vitamin B deficiencies.

We can’t store B vitamins in our body like we can vitamins A, D E & K. We need a steady supply of they daily to satisfy all our our body’s requirements for them.

Other important B vitamins for mental health include B1, B6, B3, and folate.

Folate, along with B12 and B6 help to lower levels of homocysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism. Elevated levels of homocysteine increase the risk for depression because homocysteine drives inflammation. Inflammation is now recognized as a risk factor for depression. In fact, most of the mood stabilizers, new term for ‘antidepressants’ work for the very fact that they lower inflammation in the brain.

A Food-Mood Connection: B Vitamins and Depression

Folate is another superstar B vitamin that works with vitamin B12 and B6 to support mental health. In order for dietary folate to be effective though, it needs to be converted to its active form 5-MTHR.

However about 66% of the population don’t do this effectively because they have a mutation in the gene 5-MTHF reductase. This gene should turn on an enzyme (protein) whose job is to convert folate into 5-MTHF. For folks with this mutation, it puts them at a 180% increased risk for folate deficiency or a least a functional deficiency – meaning their folate and cellular machinery isn’t functionally optimally.

Best food sources are whole grains, nuts & seeds, dark green vegetables, legumes, eggs, fish, liver and meat.

Vitamin C

Believe it or not, I encounter scurvy in my practice today and it’s 2019. Patients and clients with bleeding, swollen and achy gums all of which resolve within a week after the initiation of vitamin C supplements.

But you don’t have to have scurvy to have functional vitamin C deficiency; an intake that is enough to prevent an overt clinical deficiency but not enough to allow one to function at one’s best.

The Role of Nutrients in Protecting Mitochondrial Function and Neurotransmitter Signalling: Implications for the Treatment of Depression, PTSD, and Suicidal Behaviours

One of the more common symptoms of obvious or functional vitamin C deficiency is depression. Like your white blood cells and adrenal glands, your brain is a huge consumer of vitamin C. This vitamin helps to lower inflammation in the brain, lowering the risk for depression but also helps to prevent oxidation, or rusting, of your neurons.

However 20% percentage of the population can be functionally vitamin C deficient. Not only because they don’t get enough vitamin C from their diet but because they have a gene mutation that doesn’t allow them to absorb and metabolize it properly. This puts them at a 150% increased risk of vitamin C deficiency. Luckily this gene can be tested for using a simple saliva DNA test called Nutrigenonmix.

Good food sources include citrus, broccoli, kohlarbi, guava, papaya, lychee, pineapple, tomato, tomato juice, kiwi, bell peppers and strawberries.

Bottom line

In a nutshell, food feeds the brain. As an organ that accounts for 25% of our metabolic demands, the brain is in need of constant nourishment that can’t be met with a diet of crappy food.

Having optimal mental health cannot be realized if the underlying biology of mood regulation, the structure and function of the brain, isn’t addressed. This is where very building blocks of vitamins, minerals and essential fats come into play.

No amount of medication can make up for a lack of nutrients. Feeding your brain and an optimal sense of well-being is as close as your grocery store.

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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