9 vitamins and minerals you can try

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Depression has been linked to low levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your body), including:

In some cases, nutritional deficiencies can alter or worsen these important mood-boosting chemicals.

Keep in mind that research is often mixed or insufficient to determine whether taking a vitamin supplement is effective in increasing neurotransmitter production and reducing symptoms of depression.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often low in people with depression and other mental disorders. For example, research shows that in people over 65, people with depression had 14% less vitamin D than healthy people.

Sun exposure accounts for more than 90% vitamin D needs for most people, but in some cases a supplement may be needed, especially for those who live farther from the equator.

Good sources of vitamin D include:

  • sun exposure (5 to 30 minutes at least twice a week)
  • Cod liver oil
  • fatty fish meat such as trout, salmon or tuna
  • mushrooms
  • fortified milk
  • Egg yolk
  • fortified cereals

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so taking excessive amounts can be toxic. In extreme cases, vitamin D toxicity can lead to kidney failure or irregular heartbeat.

The drugs that can interfere with vitamin D include:

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for the health of the central nervous system, the formation of red blood cells and the synthesis of DNA.

Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to psychiatric symptoms, such as:

In 2013 study conducted in Pakistan, the blood levels of vitamin B12 of 199 people suffering from depression were examined. A deficiency was found in 22% of participants and 36% were in the low standard levels.

Participants with low vitamin B12 levels, as well as some with lower standard levels, were given prescriptions for B12 replacement therapy as well as antidepressants. At a 3-month follow-up, all participants in the treatment group showed at least a 20% reduction in depressive symptoms.

Good food source of vitamin B12 include:

  • Liver of beef
  • clams
  • Tuna
  • fortified yeast
  • Milk
  • yogurt
  • fortified cereals

Vitamin B12 has a low risk of toxicity because it is water soluble and the body does not store it in excessive amounts.

The drugs that can interfere with vitamin B12 include:

Folate (B9)

Folate, or vitamin B9, is the umbrella term for natural dietary folate as well as folate found in supplements and fortified foods. While some people use the terms folate and folic acid interchangeably, folic acid (pteroylmonoglutamic acid) refers to the synthetic form of vitamin B9.

Low levels of folate have been linked to depression and, in some cases, poor response to antidepressants.

In one 2003 US Population Study of 2,948 people aged 15 to 39, folate levels were significantly lower in people with major depression, compared to those without depression. Additionally, a study 2020 found that increased levels of folate and vitamin B12 play a major role in the link between a healthy diet and lower rates of depression.

Good source of vitamin B9 include:

  • spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables
  • liver
  • asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • black Eyed Peas

The drugs that can interfere with vitamin B9 include:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin needed for several functions in the body, including immune function and the production of collagen and neurotransmitters. It also helps reduce chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, which research has shown may play a role in depression.

Good sources of vitamin C include:

  • oranges and orange juice
  • grapefruit and grapefruit juice
  • peppers
  • Kiwi
  • broccoli
  • strawberries
  • Brussels sprouts

Vitamin C has a very low risk of toxicity.

Medications and treatments that can interfere with vitamin C:

  • chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • statins

Niacin (B3)

Niacinor nicotinic acid (NA), is a water-soluble B vitamin essential for many functions in the body, including mood.

Although the average adult only needs about 14 to 16mg of niacin per day, much higher doses have been shown to help some people with psychiatric conditions. When a person needs such a high dose, it is referred to as niacin dependence rather than deficiency.

Several case studies have shown that niacin can lead to significant benefits in people with serious psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar depression.

In Case study 2018a man with bipolar II disorder was taking lithium and several other medications to treat his symptoms.

To treat his anxiety, he was prescribed Niaspan (extended-release nicotinic acid) 1000 mg twice daily. After 6 weeks, he reports:

At the time of the case study, the man had been taking niacin for over 11 years. He had been stable and in good mental health the whole time without any other psychiatric medication (he had slowly weaned off his medication).

It is essential to keep in mind that this was a unique case study of depression linked to bipolar disorder. It is unclear whether vitamin B3 supplementation can also help people with other types of depression.

Good sources of niacin include:

  • beef and beef liver
  • chicken
  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Brown rice
  • fortified cereals

Nicotinic acid, especially in high doses, can cause skin redness — result of dilation of the small blood-vessels. This is a harmless – although somewhat uncomfortable – effect that leads to tingling, burning and itching sensations.

If you want to avoid flushing, you can opt for nicotinamide, a niacin supplement with a slightly different chemical structure that does not cause flushing.

The drugs that can interfere with niacin include:

  • isoniazid and pyrazinamide (together in Rifater; to treat tuberculosis)
  • anti-diabetic drugs

Several minerals have been linked to depression. Yet, as with vitamins, research is often lacking or mixed on whether supplementing with these minerals can help improve symptoms.

Magnesium

Most magnesium has been removed from the heavily processed Western diet. Only 16% natural magnesium found in whole wheat bread remains after the refining process.

Low levels of magnesium can damage your brain and lead to mood issues. There is growing evidence that severe magnesium deficiencies in the Western diet may be linked to an increased risk of major depression.

A 2015 study found a significant link between very low magnesium intake and depression, especially in young adults.

Good sources of magnesium include:

  • spinach and other leafy greens
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • seeds
  • whole grains

The drugs that can interfere with magnesium include:

  • bisphosphonates (to treat osteoporosis)
  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • Proton pump inhibitors

Zinc

Low levels of zinc have been linked neuropsychiatric symptoms, including impaired behavior and cognition, reduced ability to learn, and depression. More, studies have shown a possible link between low zinc levels and depression.

Besides, older research indicates that oral zinc can improve the effectiveness of antidepressant treatment.

Good sources of zinc include:

  • Oysters
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Beans
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • fortified cereals
  • dairy products

Acute symptoms zinc toxicity include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • poor appetite
  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea

The drugs that can interfere with zinc include:

  • antibiotics
  • diuretics
  • penicillamine (to treat rheumatoid arthritis)

Calcium

Calcium dysregulation plays a critical role in nervous system disorders like dementia and depression. A 2012 study found that low dietary calcium was linked to self-rated depression in women aged 41 to 57.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Milk
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • sardines
  • kale
  • broccoli

The drugs that can interact with calcium include:

The iron

Low iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, affecting more than 2 billion people. Iron deficiency can lead to:

  • anemia
  • tired
  • headache
  • impaired immune function

Research show that iron deficiency anemia (IDA) — a severe form of iron deficiency — is linked to a significantly higher incidence and risk of:

Additionally, people with IDA who take iron supplements seem to have a much lower risk psychiatric disorders than people with IDA who do not take a supplement.

Good sources of iron include:

  • fortified cereals
  • Oysters
  • Beans
  • spinach
  • beef and beef liver
  • Tofu
  • chicken

Iron supplements, especially when taken without food, can cause:

  • nausea
  • constipation
  • abdominal pain
  • faintness

In addition, excessive iron supplementation can reduce zinc absorption and blood zinc levels.

The drugs that can interact with iron include:

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