Supporting Mental Wellness by Correcting Nutritional Deficiencies
"If your nutrient levels aren’t in balance, you’ll see both physical and mental signs of that deficiency."
As a nation, it’s been reported that the state of our mental health is at an all-time low. People are really struggling, looking for ways to feel better.
In today’s live show, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, presents the latest research on how nutritional deficiencies might affect our mental wellbeing, as well as scientifically supported steps we can take to help improve mental health naturally.
- 02:14: Nutrition and Mental Health
- 04:50: The Food-Mood Connection
- 06:07: But First, a Disclaimer
- 07:24: The Effects of Nutritional Deficiencies
- 10:16: Vitamins and Minerals That Are Important for Mood
- 15:38: How Stress Affects Nutrient Absorption
- 17:25: How to Correct Nutritional Deficiencies
Nutrition and Mental Health
Did you know that there is a really strong connection between nutrition and your mental health? If you have kids, just watch how they act after eating sugar and you’ll know what we mean. But we now know that there is a deeper, more involved connection than we previously understood. And that’s what we are going to focus on during today’s article, because it is something that you can directly control, which is not always the case with other factors that affect mental health.
Simply put, there is a connection between specific nutrients you take in from diet or supplements and the health and performance of your brain. Of course there’s obvious contributors like caffeine and other stimulants, but everyday deficiencies in common nutrients can have a profound effect as well.
Today we’re going to show you some important information that you can use to improve the health of your brain, and share some recommendations for people struggling with mental wellbeing and stress challenges.
Once you start to learn about the connection between nutrition and mental health, especially when it comes to nutrient deficiencies and gut health, you’ll learn some amazing things. We’ll talk more in the future about the gut-brain connection and how a severely unhealthy gut might even be behind some mental illness, or at least a contributing factor. But today we’re going to focus on how specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have a major impact on your mental wellness.
The Food-Mood Connection
In fact, it can have such an effect that there is even a growing trend that involves a field of healthcare called “nutritional psychiatry”. These nutritional psychiatrists counsel patients on how they can ease anxiety and depression by making better food choices, and which specific foods have been shown to improve mental health.
It even has its own term: it’s called the “food-mood connection”. The food-mood connection is about getting the right nutrients to improve mental wellbeing. We’ll discuss exactly which vitamins and minerals are most directly linked to mental health, as well as talk about some things you can do to prevent all vitamin and mineral deficiencies, so your mind stays sharp and healthy.
But First, a Disclaimer
It’s very important to note that we are in no way saying that taking vitamins and mineral supplements will cure mental illness — not by any means! If you, or someone you know, has, or thinks they have, a mental health issue, please make sure you talk it over with your healthcare provider. There are several options, like therapy, and in even some cases, certain prescription medications that are effective interventions required to help those people who may be dealing with a serious mental health issue.
What we are saying here is that new research is showing us that getting adequate amounts of specific vitamins and minerals can significantly contribute to improved mental health and wellness.
The Effects of Nutritional Deficiencies
Your brain needs the right amount of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids in order for it to function properly. These nutrients are the foundation upon which brain cells and neurotransmitters build brain power. If your nutrient levels aren’t in balance, you’ll see both physical and mental signs of that deficiency.
Studies are now showing that mental signs of a vitamin deficiency can range from mild to severe. They can make existing symptoms much worse, especially for those dealing with mental health issues like obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. Less severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies may affect your overall emotional wellbeing, making you feel foggy, dazed, blue, or just a little off.
It’s very common for those deficient in certain nutrients to experience things like an inability to manage stress, and increased anxiety. You might feel more on edge, down or sad, or experience severe brain fog, confusion, or an inability to concentrate.
Or even physical symptoms, like:
- Numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet.
- Difficulty walking
- Problems maintaining balance
- Muscle weakness and fatigue
We recently discussed how important magnesium is for managing stress and anxiety. That conversation was specifically about magnesium, put that’s just one of several important vitamins and minerals you need every day to support mental health and healthy brain function.
Vitamins and Minerals That Are Important for Mood
Here are a few the vitamins and minerals that have the most significant impact on the health of your brain as well as your mental and emotional well-being:
Recently, Dr. Nancy dedicated an entire episode to the benefits of vitamin D. We talked about its role in supporting immune health, as well as bone health and good lung and cardiovascular function. It turns out that this vitamin also has significant benefits for your mental health.
You see, your body is loaded with vitamin D receptors and many of them are located in parts of the body that deal with pleasure, mood, motivation, memory, and attentiveness. Vitamin D also has an impact on the expression of more than 1,000 genes that help regulate sleep and mood, in addition to regulating the brain chemicals serotonin and oxytocin: two chemicals responsible for putting you in your happy place.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can range from increased depression and anxiety to unexplained irritability and fatigue.
We are learning that it’s not practical — in fact, it’s nearly impossible for many — to get the vitamin D we need just from food. Plus, the colder months make it difficult for our bodies to produce it naturally.
We just mentioned Magnesium, but we should mention it again; it’s a really important natural mood stabilizer that helps reduce stress by helping to regulate the stress response within the body and specifically by helping to regulate neurotransmitters in the brain. It’s not called the calming mineral for nothing — take a walk down any supplement isle these days and you’ll notice that any supplement claiming to help promote calmness or relaxation contains magnesium — and for good reason. It has been proven to help lower anxiety, reduce levels of stress, and improve sleep.
And like vitamin D, we are learning that most of us — nearly 70% of us — are deficient in magnesium.
Vitamin B12 regulates serotonin and dopamine, two important mood-boosting chemicals in the brain.
When your serotonin and dopamine levels are normal, you tend to feel:
- More focused
- Less anxious, and
- More emotionally stable
Vitamin B12 also plays a key role in helping manage depression. It does this by helping to detox the brain and get rid of homocysteine, a neurotoxin found in the brain that is strongly linked to depression.
In addition to depression, commonly reported symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency also include fatigue, brain fog, numbness and tingling, shortness of breath and more.
Vitamin B12 isn’t typically found in traditional fruit and vegetable sources, but is readily available in animal products, including milk, eggs, and other dairy foods — things we recommend only in moderation or not at all. So, if you are eating a primarily plant-based diet, like Dr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory eating plan, then you are going to want to make sure your multivitamin contains the right amount of vitamin B12.
How Stress Affects Nutrient Absorption
So being deficient in any of these vitamins and minerals can significantly impact how your brain functions and your overall mental health, but what you should also be aware that stress and anxiety make it more difficult for your body, and your brain, to absorb, process, and use the essential vitamins and minerals we just talked about.
In fact, your body responds to stress by literally redirecting essential nutrients to organs vital for survival — it’s all part of the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress! When stressed (and it doesn’t have to be physical stress, this occurs with mental stress too) your body actually redirects blood and essential nutrients to your muscles, heart, and lungs. At the same time, your adrenal glands start pumping out increased amounts of hormones associated with stress, like adrenaline and cortisol. As this process happens, and is repeated over and over, your body starts to absorb less nutrients and it also excretes unused nutrients. This menas these vitamins and minerals are not re-absorbed, they’re just eliminated when you pee — which is why chronic stress and anxiety often eventually results in serious deficiencies that can affect your mental health.
How to Correct Nutritional Deficiencies
So, what do you do if you think you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency that’s affecting your mental health?
If you’re concerned, there are a few things you can do. To start with, you could schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or with a nutritionist in your area. They’ll be able to order blood work to get a more specific look at what vitamins you might be missing.
Or, you can take a more functional approach by treating your potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies in a therapeutic manner. Here’s what we mean: since 92% of people in the United States are deficient in at least one of the vitamins or minerals we just talked about, it’s a safe bet that you are too; even more so if you are experiencing at least one or more of the signs or symptoms we just shared with you.
So our first recommendation is to take a high-quality food-based multivitamin with multi-mineral to ensure that you are covered. Specifically, we recommend our Smarter Multivitamin. It’s plant-based, all natural, and most importantly, it’s formulated based on the results of The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s landmark 10-year, 100,000 person study that exposed the hidden dangers of America’s popular multivitamin tablets. This study also provided the blueprint for the perfect multivitamin: Smarter Multi is the only multi on the market that follows this blueprint to make sure you get the essential nutrients that your brain requires.
But we didn’t stop there: we know that minerals and vitamins from natural, plant-based sources are better received and utilized by your body and by your brain. That’s what makes Smarter Multi so effective — we ensure that all essential minerals and vitamins are sourced from organic, whole food sources wherever possible — not created in a lab. Our vitamins and minerals are sourced primarily from things like almonds, sesame and sunflower seeds, dill, spinach, banana, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, pear, and even the super food red-green algae.
Smarter Multi is sourced from real plant-based food that can be more fully absorbed by your body and effectively used by your brain!
It is also designed to ensure you get the exact right amount of each vitamin and mineral daily, by delivering all your daily essential nutrients in the most bioavailable form possible — not a rock-hard compressed tablet like what you find in the supplement aisle. The vitamins come in a veggie softgel with a digestive-friendly ginger oil base to encourage absorption and the minerals come in an easy-to-digest and fine, loose-packed powder.
Dr. Nancy has made Smarter Multi an important part of her own daily health routine and encourages all her clients to make it a key tool of their efforts to support their mental health.
We hope you found this information helpful, and that you feel the lift in your own mental wellbeing as you start to ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs.