Lack of Nutrients Could Trigger Mental Health Disorders

Mental Health - Shaped cauliflower_brain

Rodale News

The food you eat doesn’t just affect your body; it can also have profound impacts on your psyche, according to research published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Nutrition opens an entirely new door for treatment and sufferers of debilitating psychiatric conditions no longer need to rely strictly on medication to treat mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. The researchers found that a healthy diet helps to improve the signs and symptoms of many psychiatric conditions and even augment the performance of pharmaceuticals. When the brain is fed essential vitamins and minerals, those nutrients act as building blocks for the brain to function more normally.

Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, and author of The Supplement Handbook says that “Mental health disorders can negatively impact all aspects of physical health, and they are so complex that without a comprehensive approach—including medication (only if needed), exercise therapy, dietary supplements, and other lifestyle changes—the chances that the treatments will successfully drop dramatically.”

Here are some of the key nutrients your brain needs to stay happy and healthy.

Always consult with your personal doctor before taking supplements, especially if you are taking medication.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Research from The Lancet shows that omega-3s, such as those found in fish oil supplements, help with a variety of conditions. Dr. Moyad suggests that taking 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams a day to help with depression. He also notes that omega-3s have a low risk of interacting with medication and are typically safe to take while on antidepressants, though always consult with your doctor first. If you want to boost your omega-3s naturally, Moyad recommends a diet rich in fish. Wild (not farmed) salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and trout are all excellent sources. Vegetarian or vegan? Chia seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnuts all contain omega-3s as well.

SAMe. SAMe stands for S-adenosylmethionine (say that ten times fast!) and it’s known to promote feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. This study also cites evidence that study participants with depression, who saw no improvement from anti-depressants alone, experienced improvement when adding a SAMe supplement. Dr. Moyad recommends 800 to 1,600 milligrams once a day or 400 to 800 milligrams twice a day.

Folic Acid. You might be familiar with this type of Vitamin B (also known as folate) because it’s a huge component of prenatal vitamins for expecting mothers. Turns out, this nutrient is good for more than just developing brains—it’s good for your brain too. Folic acid plays a role in the production of brain chemicals in adults, and researchers from The Lancet study discuss that some people can experience abnormal changes in one of their genes, which makes their bodies—and brains!—require more folic acid.

Dr. Moyad says, “Folate depletion also appears to occur in the severe depression phase of some bipolar disorders, and it’s worth supplementing (500 micrograms of folic acid or more) to reduce depression.” He recommends taking a folic acid supplement, which allows your body to absorb more of the essential vitamin. His recommended dosage per day is 500 micrograms.

NAC. N-acetylcysteine, abbreviated NAC, is a precursor for glutathione, an antioxidant produced by our own body. The Lancet study references evidence for its efficacy in treating bipolar depression, schizophrenia, and other compulsive and addictive disorders. Dr. Moyad explains that disrupted glutathione production has consequently been linked to mental health disorders. “The reduction in depression was significant enough to warrant discussion with your physician,” he says/ His recommended dosage is 1,000 milligrams twice a day.

Zinc. The Lancet study researchers found that a deficiency in this essential mineral has been associated with an increase in the severity of depression. Similar to SAMe, zinc has been shown to improve depressive symptoms when taken in addition to prescribed antidepressants. Dr. Moyad recommends getting a natural dose of zinc by eating eggs, nuts, salmon, chicken, or beef.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D is commonly known for its role in bone health, but consider this nutrient for brain health, too. Insufficient levels of this vitamin are linked to depression and even schizophrenia. While you can get vitamin D from the sun, we all know the dangers of staying out in the sun too long. Dr. Moyad suggests salmon, eggs, pork, anchovies, meat, milk, and cheese to get your vitamin D from natural sources.