Correct your vitamins

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Whether you get your vitamins exclusively from the foods you eat, or whether you supplement, it is crucial to absorb the right quantity of vitamins for mental health, as vitamins are building blocks for hormones and neurotransmitters.

Below is a list of the most important vitamins for mental health and the function they play, as well as the foods in which they can be found and the benefits of supplementation.

For more information on each vitamin and its role in mental health, click here.

Supplementation

If your diet, digestion and absorption are optimal, ideally you should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from the foods you consume. However, not only due to poor diet and poor digestion, but also due to poor food quality there is often a need to take supplements in order to make sure that you are getting the correct balance of vitamins for good mental health.

For alertness and memory.

Food sources

  • Mint
  • Orange vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots
  • Cheese
  • Organic liver and liver products, such as pâté
  • Cod liver oil Hyman, M. (2008). The Ultramind Solution. New York: Scribner, p. 89, p. 236.
  • Eggs
  • Milk and yogurt

Scott, T. and Amen, D. (May 2015). The Brain Warrior’s Way to Attacking Anxiety, Depression and Ageing. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.(2017). Vitamin A. [online] NHS Choices. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-A.aspx [accessed 31 Aug. 2017].

B vitamins are essential for the nervous system and mental health, as they are important building blocks for neurotransmitters and neurons, as well as hormones Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 160, p. 162..

B vitamins can help with depression, anxiety, cognitive function, sleep, energy, mood, concentration and can protect the brain from oxidative damage, as well as from elevated levels of homocysteine, which can be detrimental to mental health.

B vitamins are water soluble, and not stored in the body, so regular intake is necessary to ensure optimal brain function, and a daily B complex is advisable Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 62..

Food sources

  • Brown rice
  • Pearl barley
  • Rye
  • Buckwheat
  • Lentils
  • Meat, especially red meat

Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 74.

Supplementing

B complex (B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9 – folic acid, 12 and biotin)

  • 25-50mg of each of the six B vitamins
  • 400mg of folic acid (B9)
  • 150mg biotin Gluck, M. and Edgson, V. (2010). It Must Be My Hormones. London: Penguin, p. 76.

B1 is particularly important for a healthy nervous system, cognitive function and memory Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 188..

Food sources

  • Seafood and fish
  • Beef
  • Liver
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Legumes, peas and beans
  • Whole grains and vegetables
  • Dairy, especially yogurt
  • Soya products

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 188., Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 68.

SUPPLEMENTING?

B1 deficiency is uncommon, therefore supplementing with extra B1 is usually not needed. B1 is included in almost all B complex supplements

B2 is essential for energy production and the nervous system, and deficiency can contribute to depression and hypomania Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 189.Kaur, J., Bhatia, M. S. and Gautam, P. (2014). Role of dietary factors in Psychiatry. [online] Diet and Psychiatry, 17 (2), pp. 452-7. Available at: http://medind.nic.in/daa/t14/i2/daat14i2p452.pdf [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]..

Food sources

  • Whole grains
  • Quinoa
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Mushrooms
  • Liver
  • Dairy products, especially milk and yogurt
  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans, peas, legumes
  • Soya products

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 189.Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 68.

SUPPLEMENTING?

Almost all B complex supplements contain sufficient amounts of B2, however, women on the contraceptive pill, those who are elderly or chronically ill as well as alcoholics may benefit from taking a B2 supplement.

  • Up to 40mg per day

B3 is important for memory and cognition, as well as depression and psychosis Fattahi, M. J. and Mirshafiey. A. (2014). Positive and negative effects of prostaglandins in Alzheimer’s disease. [online] Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 68 (1), pp. 50-60. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pcn.12092/abstract [accessed 29 Aug. 2017]., Luca, M., Luca, A., Celia, A. and Calandra, C. (2013). Prostaglandins pathway as a possible biological link between cancer and major depression. [online] Current Angiogenesis, 2 (2), pp. 143-8. Available at: http://www.eurekaselect.com/110213/article [accessed 29 Aug. 2017]., Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 63, p. 67..

Food sources

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Enriched breads and cereals
  • Rice
  • Fish
  • Lean meats
  • Legumes
  • Peanuts
  • Poultry

SUPPLEMENTING?

Taking a niacin supplement may cause a “niacin flush” a sensation of warmth often accompanied with a blushing or tingling of the skin caused by a sudden dilation of the blood vessels. Although somewhat uncomfortable it is completely harmless.

  • Not all people experience a niacin flush
  • People may experience it at different doses
  • no-flush niacin supplements are available

Supplement dose

  • Niacin has been used in therapeutic doses up to 9000mg in those with mental disorders such psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders although lower doses of up to 3000mg can provide relief from anxiety and depressive feelings and is unlikely to cause any harm

Hoffer, A, et al. (2012). Niacin: The real story. California: Basic Health Publications

B5 is important for regulating stress hormones and supporting adrenal function, as well as aiding memory Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 190., Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 63..

Food sources

  • Liver
  • Egg yolk
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Yeast
  • Whole grains

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 190., Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 68.

You should be able to get all the B5 you need from your daily diet, however since B5 cannot be stored in the body, you need it in your diet every day.

Supplementing

Taking 200mg or less a day of pantothenic acid in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

B6 is important for the production of serotonin, dopamine and GABA, and can help modulate the stress hormone cortisol. Therefore it can help with mood, energy, motivation, focus and stress Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 191.Scott, T. and Amen, D. (May 2015). The Brain Warrior’s Way to Attacking Anxiety, Depression and Ageing. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/..

Food sources

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Whole grains
  • Bananas
  • Lentils
  • Pulses

Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 68, p. 73., Scott, T. and Amen, D. (May 2015). The Brain Warrior’s Way to Attacking Anxiety, Depression and Ageing. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.

Supplementing

  • If you take B6, make sure you use the active form: pyridoxal 5-phosphate
  • High doses may be needed for those who are deficient Walsh, W. (2004). Nutrient Power. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub., p. 21.
    • 50-100mg a day Hyman, M. (2008). The Ultramind Solution. New York: Scribner, p. 310.
    • For anxiety, 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 has been taken by mouth daily with magnesium The Natural Standard Research Collaboration. (2013, 1 Nov.) Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). [online] Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-b6/dosing/hrb-20058788 [accessed 8 Aug. 2017].
  • Too much B-6 can cause loss of sensation in areas of the skin, troubling dreams and nerve toxicity Gottfried, S. (2013). The Hormone Cure. New York, NY: Scribner, p. 147.
    • These symptoms can be reversed by reducing B-6 intake

B8 aids in creating healthy cell membranes and maintaining electrical energy and nutrient transfer between cells, and it also helps to regulate serotonin Schellack, G., Harirari, P. and Schellack, N. (2015). B-complex vitamin deficiency and supplementation. [online] SA Pharmaceutical Journal, 82 (4), pp. 28–32. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283556727_B-complex_vitamin_deficiency_and_supplementation [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]..

B8 deficiency is rarely caused by poor diet as it is found in many food types and only a small amount is needed by the body. Furthermore, the body can produce it through the breakdown of glucose. However, B8 deficiency can be caused by poor digestion and absorption.

Food sources

  • Organ meats
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Sprouts
  • Soya
  • Bananas
  • Whole grains

https://nootriment.com/vitamin-b8-foods/

SUPPLEMENTING?

If you’re taking vitamin B8 on its own, 500 mg to 2 grams per day is a good starting point (2016, 9 May). Supplementing with Vitamin B8 for Enhanced Brain Power. [online] The Environmental Illness Resource. Available at: http://www.ei-resource.org/articles/general-environmental-health-articles/supplementing-with-vitamin-b8-for-enhanced-brain-power/ [accessed 11 Sept. 2017]..

Folate is a general term for a group of water soluble vitamins known as B9, naturally found in foods. Folic acid refers to the oxidized synthetic compound used in dietary supplements and food fortification. Chris Kresser

Low folate levels have been associated with depression, manic depression, and schizophrenia Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 64..

Folate levels are important for methylation, and also have an impact on the synthesis of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 103, p. 159.Walsh, W. (2004). Nutrient Power. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub., p. 78..

Food sources

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Citrus fruits
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Avocados
  • Okra
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cauliflower
  • Beets
  • Corn
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Dairy products
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Organ meats
  • Eggs
  • Seafood
  • Grains

National Institutes of Health, U.S. (2016, 20 Apr.). Folate: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. [online] Office of Dietary Supplements. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/#en3 [accessed 11 Sept. 2017].

Supplementing

  • As is the case with antioxidants, the value of folate administration in helping to treat depression is only seen in natural sources of folate. Folate tablets do not help Greger, M. and Stone, G. (2016). How Not to Die. London: MacMillan, p. 209.
  • If your depressive symptoms are due to low folate then in addition to supplementing folic acid, you can also supplement with DMAE Walsh, W. (2004). Nutrient Power. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub., p. 78.
  • However if you have low folate depression it is important to avoid 5-HTP, tryptophan, phenylalanine, tyrosine, copper and inositol Walsh, W. (2004). Nutrient Power. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub., p. 78.
  • Combined with conventional antipsychotics, high doses of folic acid (up to 15 mg/day) reduce psychotic symptoms and improve treatment effectiveness Lake, J. (2009). Integrative Mental Health Care. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 218.
  • Do not take folic acid if you have under-methylated depression as it can make symptoms worse Walsh, W. (2004). Nutrient Power. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub., p. 74.
  • If you have under-methylated depression you should also avoid tryptophan and 5-HTP – WHY HERE AND NOT IN CORRECT YOUR PROTEINS AND AMINO ACIDS? Agreed. It is out of place. Have moved it to proteins and amino acids, it can bedeleted here Walsh, W. (2004). Nutrient Power. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub., p. 74.

An essential nutrient for the nervous system and the brain, as well as in energy metabolism Greenblatt, J. (2011). The Breakthrough Depression Solution. North Branch, MN: Sunrise River Press, pp. 159-173., Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 65..

Food sources

Vitamin B12 is found only in animal foods. Spirulina, chlorella and tempeh contain an analogue from of B12 that blocks the absorption of the form of B12 the body needs, however these analogues can cause as false positive for blood serum testing of B12 Pacholok, S. M. and Stuart, J. J. (2005). Could It Be B12? Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books/Word Dancer Press, p. 162..

Good dietary sources include:

  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy products
  • Organ meats, particularly liver and kidney
  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Pork

Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 73.

Supplementing

If your diet includes meat, fish or shellfish, milk, and other dairy products, you should be able to meet the recommended daily requirements without taking a vitamin B12 supplement. However due to gut issues, vegetarian diets etc. you may need to supplement.

Elderly people may need larger amounts of vitamin B12 than younger people because the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from the diet declines with age, therefore people over 50 should meet their daily requirement through either foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement containing B12.

  • Intrinsic factor is a protein produced by the parietal cells in the stomach and is necessary for the absorption of B12
  • People who take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Omeprazole or other forms of anti-acids are at risk of B12 deficiency (pernicious anemia) due to lowered levels of intrinsic factor
  • Vitamin B12 is available in intranasal forms (administered through the nose), as well as oral tablets, capsules, soft gels, sprays and lozenges
  • In the case of B12 deficiency due to PPIs usage sublingual supplementation is preferred
  • Vitamin B12 is also sold under the names cobalamin, cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin
  • Methylcobalamin is the best absorbed form
  • Take B12 preferably with or after food

Choline is a member of the B complex family Elsawy, G., Abdelrahman, O. and Hamza, A. (2014). Effect of Choline Supplementation on Rapid Weight Loss and Biochemical Variables Among Female Taekwondo and Judo Athletes. [online] Journal of Human Kinetics, 40, pp. 77-82. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4096089/ [accessed 11 Sept. 2017]..

Food sources

  • Eggs

Supplement sources

  • Lecithin powder or granules, up to 1 – 3 teaspoons daily

Vitamin C is important for mental health, especially for depression and anxiety Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 149.. It helps to balance hormones and neurotransmitters.

Food sources

  • Broccoli
  • Citrus fruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Berries
  • Red meat
  • Mint
  • Cauliflower
  • Chili peppers

Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 68.Scott, T. and Amen, D. (May 2015). The Brain Warrior’s Way to Attacking Anxiety, Depression and Ageing. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.

Supplementing

  • 1000-3000mg of vitamin C per day Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 149.
  • Take in several 500 mg doses spread over the day

Vitamin D is necessary for the production of important neurotransmitters for mental health and for hormonal balance Holick, M. F. (2010). The Vitamin D Solution. New York: Hudson Street Press, p. 129., Gezen-Ak, D., Yılmazer, S. and Dursun, E. (2014). Why vitamin D in Alzheimer’s disease? The hypothesis. [online] Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 40 (2), pp. 257-69. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/articles/24413618/ [accessed 7 Sept. 2017]..

Sources

  • Sunlight
    • If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can get enough sun exposure, get 3 sessions of sun exposure per week
    • The amount of time you should spend per session depends on how much sun exposure it takes for your skin to become pink the next day. Divide this time by 4. This is how long you should spend in the sun, 3 times a week Holick, M. F. (2010). The Vitamin D Solution. New York: Hudson Street Press, p. 153. without protection such as sun block
  • Eggs
  • Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines
  • Lard from pork (free range only) Scott, T. and Keith, L. (May 2015). Anxiety, Depression and the Vegetarian Diet. [online] The Anxiety Summit, Season 3. Available at: http://season3.theanxietysummit.com/.

Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 150., Greenblatt, J. (2011). The Breakthrough Depression Solution. North Branch, MN: Sunrise River Press, pp. 180-5.

Supplementing

  • 2000 IU of vitamin D3 a day long-term should be enough for most people Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 150.
    • Depending on your individual needs, you may need to supplement more (up to 5000 IU per day)
    • It is important to do this in consultation with a physician and check blood levels of vitamin D, as levels of vitamin D which are too high can be toxic Talbott, S. (2007). The Cortisol Connection. Alameda, CA: Hunter House, p. 151.
  • Magnesium is an important co-factor for the body to utilise vitamin D
  • Only take vitamin D3 in the active form, cholecaliferol Hyman, M. (2008). The Ultramind Solution. New York: Scribner, p. 309.

An antioxidant for the brain which can help with anxiety and memory Holford, P. (2004). Patrick Holford’s New Optimum Nutrition Bible. London: Piatkus, p. 79, pp. 81-2..

Food sources

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetable oils
  • Green leafy vegetables

Co-Q10 is a natural antioxidant, made by every cell in the body, and is very important for the brain, helping with energy, cognition and memory.  It can help deal with fatigue Greenblatt, J. (2011). The Breakthrough Depression Solution. North Branch, MN: Sunrise River Press, p. 169..

It is one of the few antioxidants that is fat soluble, which means that it can access the brain and protect it against free radical attack Greger, M. and Stone, G. (2016). How Not to Die. London: MacMillan, pp. 313-5..

Food sources

  • Greens Greger, M. and Stone, G. (2016). How Not to Die. London: MacMillan, pp. 313-5.
    • Spinach
    • Broccoli
    • Black kale
  • Organ meats
    • Liver
    • Kidney
    • Heart
  • Beef
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel

Evans, A. (2014, 18 Feb.) All About CoQ10 (And How to Get it in Your Plant-Based Diet). [online] One Green Planet. Available at: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/all-about-coq10-and-how-to-get-it-in-your-plant-based-diet/ [accessed 8 Sept. 2017].

Supplementing

  • Production declines with age, so everyone can benefit from taking Co-Q10 Perlmutter, D. and Colman, C. (2004). The Better Brain Book. New York: Riverhead Books, p. 108..
  • CoQ10 levels are reduced in those taking statins, in which case supplementation of 100mg daily is highly recommended
  • The reduced form of CoQ10 is called Ubiquinol and is also available in supplement form, this form may be better absorbed by the elderly Evans M, Baisley J, Barss S, Guthrie N. A randomized, double-blind trial on the bioavailability of two CoQ10 formulations. Journal of Functional Foods. 2009. 1: 65-73.