Just like other organs and tissues in the body, your brain needs nutrients and oxygen to stay healthy. All vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients needed for optimal health.
When it comes to brain health, there is a link between depression and vitamin deficiency. Correcting these deficiencies can help improve depression and its symptoms.
You can obtain these nutrients from food, sunlight (Vitamin D), and supplements. In this article, you’ll learn about which vitamins to add to your depression treatment.
Depression and B Vitamins
B vitamins are essential for brain function. They contribute to DNA synthesis, repair and maintenance of brain cells, and neurotransmitter production. These vitamins help maintain optimal cognition and prevent memory problems.
In particular, vitamins B1, B3, B6, B9, and B12 are important for neuron health. Deficiencies of these B vitamins can contribute to depression. Vitamins C and D may also play a part in managing depression.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B deficiency may cause irritability and symptoms of depression and brain degeneration. These supplements help improve depression symptoms. When you use supplements with medication, it can increase the efficacy of antidepressants.
Vitamin B1-rich foods include whole grains, meat, eggs, and fish. Supplements are available in thiamine or the highly bioavailable form benfotiamine.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Studies found when you use Vitamin B12 supplements early enough, it can delay the onset of depression. Furthermore, B12 supplements help improve the effects of antidepressants when used together.
You can find B12 in foods such as:
- Animal organ meat
- Dairy products
When it comes to B12 supplements, methylcobalamin is superior to the common cyanocobalamin found in most supplements.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine, p5p)
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine supplements also help alleviate depression. It is particularly useful in cases of depression associated with premenstrual syndrome.
Vitamin B6-rich foods include:
- Sweet potatoes
B6 supplements are available as pyridoxine or pyridoxal-5-phosphate (p5p), which is the active form.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin, Nicotinamide)
Vitamin B3 has a few different forms including niacin, nicotinamide, and nicotinamide riboside. Deficiency in B3 directly impacts mood because it affects serotonin production. Serotonin has strong antidepressant effects.
Vitamin B3-rich foods include:
- Animal meat
- Bell peppers
Even low doses of nicotinamide help improve depression. Although, some studies use high and very high doses of Vitamin B3 as an antidepressant supplement.
Many people choose nicotinamide over niacin because niacin supplements cause niacin flush. It is not a dangerous condition, but rather uncomfortable. The skin turns red and feels warm to the touch. When buying B3 supplements, look for no-flush formulas.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Researchers found that people with depression have lower blood levels. They have about 25% lower levels of Vitamin B9 compared to those without depression.
Folate deficiency also seems to correlate with a lower response from antidepressant drugs. However, supplementation with B9 helps enhance antidepressant effectiveness. A combination of Vitamins B9 and B12 could improve depression treatment outcomes.
Folate-rich foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
- Brussel sprouts
Many people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. The reason for this is because foods do not provide enough of this nutrient. The major source of Vitamin D is exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. However, many people avoid spending time in the sun due to an increased risk of skin cancer. Therefore, people need to take Vitamin D supplements.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or also known as the winter blues, is a type of depression. It relates to changes in the seasons and a decrease in Vitamin D levels. Clinical depression occurs year-round but is also associated with Vitamin D deficiency.
According to numerous studies, Vitamin D supplements to correct deficiency help improve depression symptoms.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C is well-known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. However, a shortage of this nutrient can cause anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue. People with low levels of Vitamin C are more likely to experience depression.
Physical and emotional stress increases the body’s need for B and C vitamins. Digestive problems can also interfere with the absorption of these nutrients.
Vitamin C-rich foods include:
- Bell peppers
- Citrus fruits
When purchasing supplements, choose buffered Vitamin C. It is gentler on the stomach than Vitamin C as ascorbic acid.
It is worth optimizing the levels of these vitamins to prevent or better manage depression. Other important nutrients that help promote brain health and improve depression include:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Amino acids
Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to learn more about how vitamin deficiencies affect depression.