The brain and body need nutrients. Without them all sorts of health problems may arise, including unhappiness, stress, anxiety, and depression. It's not so simple as taking a pill or eating healthfully though, some foods need to be combined with others to have the nutrients absorb properly. Even when foods or supplements with the right nutrients are consumed, genetic conditions can prevent these nutrients from being processed and used in the body.
Nutrient Deficiencies Related to Mood
In one study, most subjects diagnosed with bipolar or severe depression were found to lack one or more of the following: fiber, α-linolenic (omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid), the B vitamins including thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate (vitamin B9), and vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc (Davison K Michelle). Nearly all of these vitamins and minerals are well established in maintaining healthy brain function. Other nutrients that play a role in mood and depression include vitamin D and selenium. The B vitamins and vitamin C are water soluble, while vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble (Corbett). Water soluble vitamins need to be regularly replenished while fat soluble vitamins store in the body and slowly release. Fat soluble vitamins also are better absorbed when consumed with fat.
Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA)
In the United States most people base their nutrient intake on recommended daily allowances (RDAs). The RDAs seen on food packaging are the recommended minimum nutrient intake of vitamins and minerals to be healthy, which means you can take more of most nutrients without negative side effects. It is rare to get too much of a nutrient eating whole foods, but if you begin taking supplements, follow the serving sizes and directions to prevent overdosing.
Any nutrient deficiency can cause problems, so consider having a medical professional test your nutrient levels. They may instruct you to supplement with a multivitamin or eat more of certain foods. A wholesome diet with lots of variety will get you most of the nutrients you need to be healthy, but food and how each individual’s body processes it is complex, so deficiencies may still arise. Furthermore, nutrients from fruit and vegetables are dependent upon the soil they are grown in. A deficiency in the soil means a deficiency in the food grown. If possible, get to know your local farmer and ask them how they grow your food. It’s for your health!
Genetics and Nutrient Malabsorption
Note that fortifying nutrients you are deficient in after a nutrient test may not be enough. Several genetic conditions and diseases cause malabsorption and prevent your body from optimal mental and physical health. Therefore a second nutrient test or genetic testing is necessary to know if these nutrients are being absorbed properly. Genetic testing is sometimes necessary because a nutrient test will show the body having plenty of a nutrient, but it won't be using the nutrient at all. For instance, folate, or vitamin B9, may not be processed into its usable form, L-methylfolate, due to a genetic abnormality, and in turn heightens the potential for experiencing depression (Nelson). Once diagnosed by a medical professional, individuals may be given a L-methylfolate supplement.
Search The World's Healthiest Foods website for foods rich in the nutrients listed above.
My name is Sage Liskey. I am an author, poet, fine artist, designer, and activist. Born and raised in Oregon, I now travel while I write and self-publish empowering books, zines, and booklets. I founded the Rad Cat Press in 2010 to help distribute my materials with a mission devoted to creating life-changing and accessible publications for the modern world. My informational guidebooks (many of which are available for free) cover topics such as alternative and radical mental health, depression, community, sustainability, art, and activism. I offer talks on these subjects as well.
My Books and Zines
July 15th, 2018
How To Effectively Change the World workshop at OCF
Oregon Country Fair, Community Village, Yurt