Depression is one of our most common mental health disorders. One in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime, which means that 2.83 million people are suffering from depression today.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors. One of the biological factors not often discussed is nutritional imbalance. Nutrition plays a major role in our psychological and emotional well-being, and deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals can compromise optimal brain functioning and increase levels of stress and anxiety.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a significant role in serotonin activity, and serotonin is the key neurotransmitter involved with mood, sleep, appetite, and digestion. It is also necessary to ensure the proper absorption of phosphorus into your bloodstream, which helps facilitate cell repair and tissue growth in your brain and body.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, just under one in four Australian adults (23%) has a Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D frequently needs to be taken as a supplement, as it can be hard to stay at sufficient levels with sun and food alone.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There’s a good reason why you hear health and nutrient experts advocate for increased consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential for healthy brain cell functioning and the reduction of inflammation, and work by preventing trans fats from entering your neural system.
While you’ve likely heard of folic acid, you might be less familiar with folate. Both are forms of vitamin B9. Folate is the natural form and easier for humans to use than the synthetic folic acid. Along with other B vitamins, folate helps to clear homocysteine–a by-product found in the bloodstream and associated with cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and other conditions. Folate also works to support serotonin production.
4. B Vitamins
Lack of B vitamins can have a significant influence on your overall psychological wellbeing. Vitamins B6 and B12 have been proven to boost skin and nail health, reduce stroke risk and support mental health function. According to one study, more than a quarter of severely depressed women were found to be deficient in B12.
Essential in over 600 metabolic functions, magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It is vital to brain functions such as stress response, recovery and repair. It is only second to iron as the most common nutritional deficiency in developed countries.
Unfortunately, much of our soil has been depleted of magnesium making it increasingly difficult to achieve a sufficient level through diet alone, and so supplements may be necessary to provide optimum levels to the brain.
Zinc is essential for regulating the brain and body’s response to stress. The highest concentration of zinc in our body is found in the brain, as it is central to healthy brain function. Not only is it responsible for activating your central and peripheral nervous system, but it is also required for neurotransmitter, enzymatic and hormonal processes. In addition to depression, zinc deficiency has been linked to anxiety, schizophrenia and eating disorders.
Iron is critical to all bodily functions as it carries oxygen throughout the bloodstream. It is also the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in developed countries, and is more common in women than men. Symptoms of iron deficiency can present as similar to those of depression, such as mental and physical fatigue, low mood and irritability. Low levels of iron may also trigger panic symptoms including panic attacks.
If you have fatigue or emotional symptoms it is important to get your blood checked for your blood counts, iron levels and ferritin levels.
8. Amino Acids
Known as the building blocks of protein, amino acids are necessary to help your body build muscles. They are also necessary for healthy brain function. Amino acid deficiencies have been linked to depression, brain fog, lack of focus and general sluggishness. There are a total of nine amino acids that our bodies cannot produce and must be obtained through a healthy, balanced diet.
The thyroid gland can have a strong effect on your mood, and nutritional deficiencies that can affect your thyroid and may cause depression include iodine and selenium.
For more information please visit our post on Natural Treatments for Depression.
If you are suffering from depression or think you may have nutrient deficiencies, please book in to see one of our expert naturopaths, who will be able to properly assess your condition. Or even better, book in for a free Comprehensive Assessment, where we can check what is going on in your body, what is causing any problems, and the best way to sort them out. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.) Be well!
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