Vitamins and minerals are essential for the body and mind to function correctly, but many people have low levels of these crucial nutrients in the body. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause a wide range of physical problems, but they can also affect mental health and may even be the cause of depression, anxiety and low mood in some people. Here are five vitamin and mineral deficiencies that could be causing your distress.
Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression and some chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and autoimmune disease. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium, but many people are not getting enough. Modern lifestyles are thought to be at least partly responsible for low levels of vitamin D, which is produced in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. Working long hours in offices with artificial lighting, sedentary lifestyles, and even excessive use of sunscreen are all thought to contribute to vitamin D deficiency. Supplements may be the only solution for people, as it’s difficult to obtain vitamin D from food.
Low levels of B vitamins are known to cause depression, irritability, and fatigue. In particular, vitamins B6, B12, and folate have been linked to a wide range of mental and physical health problems. Increasing intake of foods containing these essential nutrients can bring significant improvements for some people. Vitamin B6 is found in chicken, leafy green vegetables, bananas and some kinds of seafood, while people usually can get their B12 from animal products such as poultry, meat, and dairy products. Liver, citrus fruits, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, and yeast extract contain folate. Vegetarians, vegans, and people on restrictive diets may need to take a vitamin B complex supplement.
Iron deficiency can cause a range of symptoms similar to those of depression, including mental and physical fatigue, low mood and irritability. Deficiency is more common in women than in men. Up to half of all pregnant women thought to have low levels of iron. Liver, red meat, poultry, and fish are the best sources of iron. However, pregnant women should avoid liver, as it contains high amounts of vitamin A, which can be harmful to unborn children. Vegetarian sources of iron include beans, pulses, and fortified cereals.
Selenium is a mineral with potent antioxidant properties. It is essential for mental health, a healthy metabolism and healthy thyroid function. Insufficient levels of selenium might contribute to depression, persistent low mood, and negative thoughts. Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium, but it also is in walnuts, chicken, beef, fish, and whole grains. Supplements are available, but they can interact with some prescription medications, including birth control pills, corticosteroids, and medicines used to reduce cholesterol levels, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking selenium supplements.
Magnesium is often known as the relaxation mineral, as it has a powerful impact on mood and the nervous system. It is necessary for the proper functioning of almost every process in the body. However, up to half of all adults are thought to be deficient in this essential mineral, the shortage of which can lead to depression, anxiety, migraine, high blood pressure and several chronic health conditions. Spinach, dark chocolate, oily fish, bananas, and almonds are all rich in magnesium. Supplements are safe for most people, but high doses (above 500 mg) can interact with some medications.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, sometimes associated with depression, anxiety, and mood disorders, also can lead to many chronic health conditions. Vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, selenium, and magnesium are all needed for mental health. While most people can get enough of these nutrients through diet or supplements, serious deficiencies may require medical treatment.