The toll that quarantine has taken on mental well being is starting to be studied thoroughly but I don’t think any of us need a study to tell us that major changes to our typical habits can cause some mental unrest and stress. There are several nutrients involved in preventing depression and while many of them can be obtained by eating a healthy diet, there may be some that you need a supplement for due to an inadequate diet or just higher than average needs for them. Let’s start with the B vitamins. There are many B vitamins, some identified by a number and some by a totally different name, but they all fall under the B-complex family.
Thiamine (B1) This vitamin helps convert glucose into energy in the brain. A symptom of deficiency is irritability and symptoms of depression
Niacin (B3) Niacin is a major component of NAD and NADP, two coenzymes involved in cellular metabolism, deficiency can cause depression, memory loss, and confusion.
Pantothenic Acid (B5) This B vitamin is one of the most important vitamins for human life as it makes blood cells. Deficiency of pantothenic acid is rare and often comes with other nutritional deficiencies, but symptoms include depression, fatigue, and insomnia
Vitamin B6 This vitamin is needed for making serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine (things that make us feel happy). While true deficiency of B6 is rare, this is a vitamin many need to supplement as a typical diet often doesn’t provide enough to maintain optimal levels. Symptoms of deficiency include impaired immunity and mental confusion.
Vitamin B12Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the functioning of the nervous system and is also essential for making red blood cells. Deficiency is fairly common but difficult to diagnose, it often is mistaken for a folate deficiency. One of the many symptoms of deficiency is mood disorders and depression.
In addition to the B vitamins, there are many other vitamins that contribute to our mental health as well, one of the most studied is omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, found in fish oil. These essential fatty acids are needed for proper brain development and function and can prevent or reverse depression symptoms. They even protect against dementia and memory loss as you age. Even if you eat fish regularly, it may not provide optimal levels of omega 3s so a fish oil supplement could be an excellent addition to your wellness routine.
Another vitamin that you see me writing about all the time that also contributes to mental well being is vitamin D. This vitamin seems to be involved in almost everything regarding health and this is no exception. Research is showing that vitamin D may play an important role in regulating mood and preventing depression.
These are not the only vitamins involved in brain health but it’s a good place to start. Be sure to discuss these vitamins with your doctor and ask if they are a good choice for you. And, as a reminder, please do not neglect your regular healthcare checkups or ignore any health symptoms to avoid the doctor’s office. They know how to keep you safe and neglecting your health can have very serious consequences. Sending you all wishes for good health, mental as well as physical!
-Amy Denker, MS, RD, LD
More about me:
I attended Oklahoma State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Exercise. I went on to earn a Master’s of Science degree in Dietetics and Nutrition and completed the Dietetic Internship Program at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.