Nutrient Deficiencies And Mental Health (Part 1)

Nutritional deficiency happens if the body does not absorb the amount of nutrients necessary. Deficiencies can lead to multiple health problems, such as digestion, skin, stunted, defective bone growth, or even dementia.

Mental health is a person’s condition pertaining to their psychological and emotional well-being.

Vitamins and minerals that can affect mental health

The B-Complex Vitamins

These are essential to mental and emotional well-being. These can't be stored in our bodies, so we depend entirely on our daily diet to supply them.

B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine so it is no surprise that many people may be deficient in these.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine): The brain uses this vitamin to help convert glucose, or blood sugar, into fuel, and without it the brain rapidly runs out of energy. This can lead to fatigue, depression, irritability, anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide. Deficiencies can also cause memory problems, loss of appetite, insomnia, and gastrointestinal disorders. The consumption of refined carbohydrates, such as simple sugars, drains the body's B1 supply.

Vitamin B3 (niacin): Pellagra - which produces psychosis and dementia, among other symptoms-was eventually found to be caused by niacin deficiency. Many commercial food products now contain niacin, and pellagra has virtually disappeared. However, subclinical deficiencies of vitamin B3 can produce agitation and anxiety, as well as mental and physical slowness.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Symptoms of deficiency are fatigue, chronic stress, and depression. Vitamin B5 is needed for hormone formation and the uptake of amino acids and the brain chemical acetylcholine, which combine to prevent certain types of depression.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): This vitamin aids in the processing of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It is needed in the manufacture of serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Vitamin B6 deficiencies, although very rare, cause impaired immunity, skin lesions, and mental confusion. A marginal deficiency sometimes occurs in alcoholics, patients with kidney failure, and women using oral contraceptives. MAOIs, ironically, may also lead to a shortage of this vitamin. Many nutritionally oriented doctors believe that most diets do not provide optimal amounts of this vitamin.

Vitamin B12: Because vitamin B12 is important to red blood cell formation, deficiency leads to an oxygen-transport problem known as pernicious anemia. This disorder can cause mood swings, paranoia, irritability, confusion, dementia, hallucinations, or mania, eventually followed by appetite loss, dizziness, weakness, shortage of breath, heart palpitations, diarrhea, and tingling sensations in the extremities. Deficiencies take a long time to develop, since the body stores a three- to five-year supply in the liver. When shortages do occur, they are often due to a lack of intrinsic factor, an enzyme that allows vitamin B12 to be absorbed in the intestinal tract. Since intrinsic factor diminishes with age, older people are more prone to B12 deficiencies.

Those who have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food due to celiac disease, Crohn's disease, intestinal surgery where part of the intestine was removed and other malabsorption problems may suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. This vitamin deficiency can cause severe symptoms of mental illness including:

  • Moodiness
  • Mania
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Learning Difficulties

An untreated deficiency in vitamin B12 may also result in pernicious anemia, a condition that occurs when the body cannot absorb enough vitamin B12 to make an adequate amount of red blood cells. Those who have a very severe vitamin B12 deficiency may be required to receive monthly injections for relief of symptoms and stabilization of condition. Contact a trusted healthcare provider if you or your loved one believes a vitamin B12 deficiency could be the cause of symptoms of mental or physical illness.

Anyone suffering from mental illness should continue the therapy and medication they are on and inform their psychiatrist or therapist that they are interested in nutritional treatments. Suddenly stopping psychiatric medication may result in damaging side effects. Tapering off medication should be done gradually and under a doctor's supervision.

Mental illness can make everyday life difficult. Treating these symptoms using nutritional therapy may be just what you need to get back on track to wellness.

If you find the doctor currently treating your mental illness not open to nutritional therapy, continue with your treatment and make an appointment with a more open-minded physician or naturopath who can help make any transition a bit easier.

Folic acid: This B vitamin is needed for DNA synthesis. It is also necessary for the production of SAM (S-adenosyl methionine). Poor dietary habits contribute to folic acid deficiencies, as do illness, alcoholism, and various drugs, including aspirin, birth control pills, barbiturates, and anticonvulsants. It is usually administered along with vitamin B12, since a B12 deficiency can mask a folic acid deficiency. Pregnant women are often advised to take this vitamin to prevent neural tube defects in the developing fetus.

Vitamin C Deficiency

Subclinical deficiencies can produce depression symptoms, which requires the use of supplements. Supplementation is particularly important if you have had surgery or an inflammatory disease. Stress, pregnancy, and lactation also increase the body's need for vitamin C, while aspirin, tetracycline, and birth control pills can deplete the body's supply.

Though most people associate vitamin C with helping stave off colds and flu, those with a severe deficiency of this vitamin may experience symptoms of mental illness including:

According to Dr. Leonard John Hoffer, author of "Vitamin Therapy in Schizophrenia", schizophrenic patients have a tendency to be deficient in this critical vitamin, perhaps in part due to poor diet. It is recommended that up to 6 grams of vitamin C can be taken to reduce schizophrenic symptoms.

Vitamin D Deficiency

This vitamin is called 'the sunshine vitamin' because we absorb this vitamin directly through our skin when we step outside. Unfortunately, because of increasing incidents of skin cancer, spending any time in the sun without slathering on copious amounts of sunscreen is no longer common and because of this, vitamin D deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency on record. It can cause mental illness symptoms such as:

Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression, Irritability, Psychosis

According to a New York study done on teenagers admitted to the emergency room for psychotic symptoms, over 40 percent with symptoms of psychosis were deficient in vitamin D.

It is important to have blood levels checked by a trusted healthcare provider to make the diagnosis of this deficiency and learn how much of the supplement may be needed to improve symptoms.

Omega 3 Deficiency

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid, meaning the body cannot produce it on its own and it must be obtained from food or supplemental sources. Omega 3 is critical to good neurological health and a deficiency in it has been linked to mental illness symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Mood Disorders
  • ADHD
  • Behavioral Problems in Children
Magnesium Deficiency

This trace mineral is responsible for the regulation of over three hundred different functions in the body and a deficiency in it can cause a host of troubling mental symptoms such as:

Magnesium deficiency is also noted to cause physical symptoms such as twitching, trembling, muscle cramping, muscle weakness and allergies. Those who feel they do not get enough of the magnesium they need from food may benefit from supplementing the diet with bioavailable chelated magnesium to calm symptoms and help the nervous system heal and repair.

Potassium deficiency

Potassium: Depletion is frequently associated with depression, tearfulness, weakness, and fatigue.


Blood Test SignYou should have a blood test to more accurately diagnose your nutritional needs.


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