Depression and anxiety disorders are seemingly increasing on a global level and impacting the overall health and well-being of people’s everyday functioning.
Typically, when one goes to the doctor to alleviate these problems, a doctor will ask a few questions about your overall mental functioning, and more often than not, hand you a prescription for some expensive anti-depressant or anxiety reducer.
While medications are beneficial for short-term relief, they provide a dependency and, most importantly, are treating the symptoms and not the root of the problem. What many doctors neglect to look at is a person’s metabolic or nutritional deficiencies, which may be greatly impacting their mental health.
From a holistic vantage point, our gut is known as the “second brain,” and there are structural/anatomical reasons for this reference. The “second brain,” known scientifically as the enteric nervous system, consists of sheaths of neurons located in the walls of our gut and make up the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve runs from a person’s esophagus to their anus, roughly nine meters long. Due to the interconnectedness of our gut and enteric nervous system, once our gut bacteria is out of balance, we become susceptible to emotional disturbances most commonly manifested as depression or anxiety. The following are eight nutritional deficiencies that might be impacting your mood.
1. Health Food Deficiency?
Do you simply have an unhealthy diet? Is your diet filled with sugar? Junk foods? Sodas? Processed foods? If you answered yes, then chances are your diet is having an impact on your mood and overall health. Nowadays, people are busier than they have ever been before, and when this happens, diet and exercise are one of the first things to be neglected. Fast food restaurants, TV dinners, and general stores like 7-Eleven, make a huge profit on our busy lifestyles. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression are just a few of the harmful health impacts diets lacking in nutrients can cause.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Deficiency.
A deficiency in Omega-3 fatty acids, or an imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, may effect one’s mood. Omega-3s are important for brain functioning and positive mental outlook. Research has shown that a diet lacking or having an imbalance between an Omega-3 and Omega-6 can negatively impact one’s mental health in the following ways: ADHD, depression, Schizophrenia, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Omega-3s also help people who suffer from inflammation and pain problems. Foods that are rich in Omega-3s are Flax seeds, Chia seeds, hemp seeds, leafy greens, beans, and seaweed.
3. Vitamin D Deficiency.
Vitamin D helps your bones and teeth, and they are necessary for absorbing phosphorus into the blood stream, which helps your mental and physical health. Have you heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Symptoms of SAD look just like depression, expressing themselves during the winter months due to lack of sunlight. A study analyzed more than 1,200 individuals for vitamin D deficiency and associated mental disorders. The study found that deficiency in vitamin D was present in people with depression and panic disorders. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. Just going for a walk or spending some time outside is beneficial. Other great sources of Vitamin D are spirulina, choral, bee pollen, wild mushrooms, and fortified nut milk.
4. B-Complex Vitamin Deficiency.
The B vitamins convert food into fuel that allows us to stay energized throughout the day. While the B vitamins work in conjunction together to provide energy and cellular repair, and even can produce stress relief, each B vitamin (nine in total) have their own specific benefits, from promoting healthy skin and hair to preventing memory loss and migraines. New research is emerging in the field of Neuropsychiatry that shows a link between B vitamin deficiencies and mood disorders, including depression. Foods that are rich in B vitamins include: seeds, nuts, leafy green plants, beets, and other root vegetables.
5. Zinc, Folate, Chromium, and Iron Deficiencies.
Minerals originate from soil, but unlike vitamins, they cannot be made by people, animals, or other living systems. Minerals in the soil are absorbed by plants and then get passed to humans and other animals who eat such plants. Research has shown that minerals like Zinc, Folate, lithium, Iron, and chromium help those suffering from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, eating disorders, and subsets of alcoholism. Since minerals are considered trace elements, one only needs a small amount of them to benefit. Some foods that contain essential minerals include whole-grain breads, fresh fruits, and deeply colored vegetables.
6. Iodine Deficiency.
Iodine is necessary for one’s thyroid to work properly. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and is noted as one of the most important glands in the body. The thyroid gland affects every function of the body, including body temperature, immune function, brain performance (concentration, memory, and more). When the thyroid is not working optimally, one can be subject to a multitude of health concerns, such as depression, cognitive impairments, fibromyalgia, and a variety of cancers. Foods that are rich in iodine are iodine-enriched salt, dry seaweed, potatoes, cranberries, and kelp.
Magnesium is sometimes referred to as the stress elixir, the “most powerful relaxation mineral that exists.” Most people are deficient in this mineral because of fast food lifestyle diets, excess alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, and phosphoric acid (found in soda). Without this mineral to help us reduce our threshold levels of stress, anxiety might seem heightened, with people becoming more irritable, depressed, restless, and even experience headaches. Foods containing Magnesium are seaweed, dark leafy greens, and beans.
8. Amino Acid Deficiency.
Like minerals, Amino Acids are not created naturally in the human body. There are a total of 12 necessary amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and help one’s brain to function properly. A deficiency in amino acids many cause one to feel sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. Good sources of amino acids include beans, seeds, nuts, and bee pollen.
If you could identify with many of the points outlined above, it might be in your best interest to evaluate your diet and lifestyle. While many outside influences do impact our mental health, what we eat every day has the potential to change us from the inside out. Incorporating dark leafy greens, nuts, and fresh fruits into your diet provides all the vitamins and minerals that may be missing.
The benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle will impact you in many ways: You will sleep more deeply, think more clearly, grogginess will diminish, aches and pains will fade, and you will have heightened energy. If you change your diet and your mental health problems persist or worsen, please consult your doctor or mental health practitioner.
Author: Naomi Zelin
Editor: Travis May