You will no doubt have seen and possibly tried one of the many vitamin and nutrient supplements that have been advertised all over the internet. For most people, a healthy and balanced diet will provide them with all the nutrients needed to keep their body performing at its optimal health. However, many people find that their body doesn’t metabolise nutrients effectively. This can lead to a range of health issues, including nutrient deficiencies, anxiety and other mental health problems.
Psychiatrist Dr Jennifer Kraker, who specialises in nutrition and mental health, states that
“Optimal mental health requires adequate availability and absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino and fatty acids as essential building blocks for our brain cells and neurotransmitters. When our nutritional biochemistry is imbalanced, our mental health is affected.”
In this article, we take a look at how some of the most common nutritional deficiencies can impact anxiety and mental health. We also explain how you can better understand your body and help provide it with the nutrients it needs.
How Nutrient Deficiency Can Impact Your Mental Health
Although it is not always clear how nutrient deficiency will impact a person, there is evidence that nutrient deficiencies can contribute to anxiety and depression.
If you are deficient in nutrients or unable to metabolise them, this can have a negative impact on your emotional well-being and have the following effects:
- Mental health disorders can be exacerbated
- Reduced ability to cope with stress
- Lowered mood
- Reduced concentration levels
- Reduced focus
Common Nutrient Deficiencies
Although you can be deficient in a range of nutrients, there are a few in which people commonly find themselves deficient that are also linked with depression and other mental health issues.
B vitamins play a vital role in regulating your mood and energy levels. Low levels of B vitamins have been linked to irritability, depression and fatigue, which means that it is important to understand if your body is deficient in these vitamins. The most important B vitamins for mental health are B12, B9 (folate) and B6.
Not only are B vitamins essential for regulating our hormone levels and detoxifying our bodies, but they are also vital for the production of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the key chemicals that controls your mood and brain functions, so you can easily understand why it is important that your body metabolises this efficiently.
Having the right iron levels is key to avoiding anxiety and a range of other mental health issues. As well as regulating oxygen transport throughout the brain and body, iron helps create “feel-good” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Iron deficiency can produce similar symptoms to depression (fatigue and irritability). Therefore, it is important to try and keep your iron levels elevated. The best way to control your iron levels is by eating more iron-rich foods. It is generally recommended that an adult consumes anywhere between eight and 18 mg of iron each day.
Calcium is not just a vital nutrient for your bones, teeth and muscles but also has a major impact on your mental health. First of all, when your calcium levels are low, this can lead to extreme fatigue or even insomnia. Major issues such as these can make getting on with your life difficult.
Another issue linked to calcium deficiency is depression. Although this hypothesis requires further testing, the evidence suggests that calcium plays a major role in your emotional well-being and is, therefore, a common cause of nutrient deficiency-related anxiety.
Vitamin D deficiency is often labelled as an epidemic that doctors are only just beginning to understand. This important vitamin influences the expression of more than 1 thousand genes that control and regulate the synthesis of neurons, sleep and our mood. Even more worrying is that a deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to autism, dementia and even depression, which means that keeping your vitamin D levels in check is an important task.
Although supplements are available, our greatest source of vitamin D is sunlight. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that adults get an average of 400 IUs each day.
Although slightly less common, a magnesium deficiency can significantly impact your general mood. Magnesium is generally considered a natural mood stabiliser, which means a magnesium deficiency can lead to mood fluctuations, fatigue, nausea and even loss of appetite.
It is important for those who struggle with a magnesium deficiency to steer clear of foods like coffee, alcohol, processed foods and sugar, as they can all lead to a decrease in your magnesium levels.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Another important nutrient that you will no doubt have encountered when trying to consume a balanced diet is omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation and are also vital for aiding brain function, including mood and memory.
If you aren’t getting enough omega-3 in your diet, you could find yourself suffering from nutrient deficiency-related anxiety as your body will struggle to make high-quality nerve cell membranes.
Zinc is another mineral that is imperative if you want your brain to function at its peak. It is vital for the function of a range of enzymes, activating your peripheral and central nervous system and a range of hormonal processes.
Anxiety and low levels of zinc are often seen together. Low levels of zinc can also lead to learning difficulties and depression, so it is important to keep track of it.
How to Test for a Nutrient Deficiency
If you have been struggling with nutrient deficiency-related anxiety or you have been experiencing unnatural levels of fatigue or depression, then it is important to try to understand what is going on inside your body. Although not all mental health issues are treatable, nutritional deficiencies are certainly something that can be managed.
There is no need to take multiple time-consuming tests or organise appointments at your local nutritionist. Here at Vitall, you can order one of our at-home nutritional assessment tests and find out more about your body’s deficiencies and how you can optimise your diet to suit your needs and start seeing positive results.
Find out more about how Vitall can help you understand your body. Our health tests offer reliable results and are processed in 24 hours, meaning you won’t have to wait long to start improving your overall health.
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