Nutrition and Diet
Deficiency of nutrients can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Nutrient deficiencies can have a profound influence on the brain and mood.
It is essential that you get adequate amounts of all vitamins and minerals in order to maintain good health and emotional stability. Following are the nutrients that are associated with depression and other mood problems.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
B1 is necessary for the brain to metabolize carbohydrates. A deficiency of B1 can result in fatigue, irritability, memory lapses, insomnia, loss of appetite, and stomach upset. The people most at risk for a serious deficiency are chronic alcoholics, pregnant and nursing women, people who experience frequent diarrhea, drug addicts, the elderly, people with chronic illness, and people who eat mostly junk food.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is essential for growth and the functioning of body tissue. A deficiency can cause symptoms of depression. People at risk include women who take oral contraceptives and those in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
A deficiency of this vitamin can cause depression. Left untreated, it can lead to psychosis and dementia. Symptoms of a deficiency include agitation, anxiety, and mental lethargy. Those people most at risk are the elderly, drug addicts, alcoholics, and people with liver disease.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
A deficiency of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) usually accompanies depression. It is essential for healthy blood, skin and nervous system functioning. It is present in most foods.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) levels are typically quite low in depressed patients, especially women taking birth-control pills or other forms of estrogens. Vitamin B6 deficiency usually arises from malabsorption of the vitamin due to disease, drugs, and an unusually fast metabolism. Vitamin B6 performs several important functions in the brain. It is essential to the manufacture of serotonin. Vitamin B6 deficiency has been strongly linked to depression. Patients usually respond well to supplementation.
High levels of vitamin B6 occur in cauliflower, watercress, spinach, bananas, okra, onions, broccoli, squash, kale, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, peas and radishes.
Dosage: Take 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 twice a day for two weeks, between meals. Then take 50 milligrams once daily for three weeks, between meals. Thereafter, take a good B-complex formula or a multivitamin and mineral supplement to maintain healthy levels of this vitamin.
Recent studies have shown that there is a definite benefit to be gained by giving vitamin B12 to patients suffering from depression, fatigue and mental illnesses of other kinds. Even a slight deficiency of B12 is found to produce marked symptoms. See Folic Acid below.
Vitamin B12 is found mostly in meat and animal proteins. B12 is stored in the liver. A deficiency can lead to symptoms such as dementia, changing moods, irritability, paranoia, mania, and confusion.
Dosage: Take 300 to 500 micrograms twice a day.
Low levels of folic acid have been noted in depressed patients. In studies of depressed patients, 31-35% have been shown to be deficient in folic acid. In elderly patients, this percentage may even be higher. Studies have found that, among elderly patients admitted to a psychiatric ward, the number of patients with folic acid deficiency ranges from 35% to 92.6%. Depression is the most common symptom of a folic acid deficiency. Other symptoms of folic acid deficiency are: fatigue, apathy, and dementia.
Folic acid, vitamin B12, and a form of the amino acid methionine known as SAM function as "methyl donors." to important brain compounds, including neurotransmitters. Without the methyl group, the neurotransmitter cannot perform its function. SAM is the major methyl donor in the body. The antidepressant effects of folic acid appear to be a result of raising brain SAM content.
Supplementing the diet with folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 was found to increase BH4 levels in the body. BH4 (tetrahydrobiopterin) is essential in the manufacture of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine from their corresponding amino acids. Patients with recurrent depression have been shown to have reduced BH4 synthesis.
Folic acid supplementation and the promotion of methylation reactions increase serotonin levels. Elevation of serotonin levels is responsible for much of the antidepressive effects of folic acid and vitamin B12.
Drugs such as aspirin, barbiturates, anticonvulsants, and oral contraceptives can inhibit the absorption of folic acid in the body. Good sources of folate include pinto beans, navy beans, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, okra and brussels sprouts.
Dosage: Typically, the dosages of folic acid in the antidepressant clinical studies have been very high: 15 mg to 50 mg. High-dose folic acid therapy is safe ( except in patients with epilepsy) and has been shown to be as effective as antidepressant drugs.
A dosage of 800 mcg of folic acid and 800 mcg of vitamin B12 should be sufficient to prevent deficiencies in most circumstances. Folic acid supplementation should always be accompanied by vitamin B12 supplementation to prevent folic acid from masking a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Take 800 micrograms of folic acid twice a day for one month. Thereafter, take 800 micrograms once daily.
Inositol is a B vitamin required for the activity of several important neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Depressed people often have low levels of inositol.
In one clinical study. subjects were given 1 gram of inositol per day. The results showed that they had therapeutic results similar to common antidepressant drugs, but with no unwanted side effects. Additional studies confirmed the value of inositol for treating depression.
Dosage: Take 500 milligrams of inositol three times daily for one week. If you note no improvement after that time, discontinue use; otherwise, continue taking 500 milligrams three times daily as needed.
Vitamin C facilitates the absorption of iron and is involved with folic acid and amino acids. A deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, apathy, weight loss, and depression. You will need more than the standard amount of vitamin C if you are on oral contraceptives or tetracycline, or if you are pregnant, elderly or under stress. Bioflavonoids enhance the use of vitamin C and similarly treat depression.
Dosage: l,000 mg three times daily (as ascorbate or Ester C)
Dosage: 400 I.U. daily (as Natural d-alpha-tocopherol)
Iron, sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, chromium, copper, cobalt, manganese, zinc, nickel, strontium, selenium, and molybdenum are all metals, or minerals, essential for proper enzyme function.
Calcium and magnesium are essential to the central nervous system. They work best when taken together.
Dosage: Take a calcium and magnesium combination formula that supplies 500 milligrams of calcium and 250 to 500 milligrams of magnesium twice daily.
Chromium helps keep blood-sugar levels in balance. Take 200 micrograms twice a day for one month, then reduce to 200 micrograms daily.
Selenium is an antioxidant It has a mood-elevating effect when taken in regions where food supply is deficient in selenium.
Dosage: 100 mcg daily
Anemia resulting in lack of energy and depression is often caused by illness or blood loss. Low dosages of iron are helpful for depression caused by anemia.
Dosage: 30-40 mg daily (as picolinate)
Next Topic: Amino Acids for Depression
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