Companies developing and selling a wide range of supplements containing vitamins and minerals often warn that nutritional deficiencies could cause health issues, including mental health issues.
Well, they are right, which is why we often tend to take a daily vitamin supplement to meet our needs. In fact, we need essential nutrients in order to keep our body to function optimally. Any deficiency of essential vitamins could affect our physical as well as mental health.
Psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Kraker, who specializes in nutrition and mental health, said, “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,” she added.
A healthy diet will take care of meeting the daily requirements of nutrients for most people, but for others, a medical provider may prescribe a supplement.
“Because we’re all unique, one person may tolerate lower levels of a certain nutrient (such as vitamin D) very well, and another might not,” explained Dr. Kraker. “Rinse and repeat for most all micronutrients.”
Studies have found that nutritional deficiencies tinker with your physical as well as mental health, causing mild to moderate disruptive symptoms. Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause depression and anxiety. Some people may even experience bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Some vitamins play a key role in the optimal secretion of certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which are associated with mental health. Vitamin deficiency could affect the secretion of the neurotransmitter, causing psychological symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, fatigue, and brain fog.
Psychologist and nutrition specialist Nicole Neurkens said, “More commonly, nutrition-related issues are experienced as symptoms like reduced ability to manage stress, increased anxiety or edginess, lower mood, and poorer concentration or focus.”
Dr. Kraker noted, “Look at nutrition as an important adjunctive treatment to maintain health and prevent relapse, or use lower doses of pharmaceutical interventions.”
“There are several physical signs that can clue you into whether there’s a potential deficiency brewing,” said Beurkens, which include frequent headaches, GI symptoms, weak nails, dry skin, hair loss, and others.
“High-stress levels also often accompany … symptoms and can negatively impact nutrient levels,” added Beurkens.
“Physical and mental health are interconnected, so nutrition should always be a part of the discussion when mental health symptoms are raised as a concern,” continued Beurkens. “Unfortunately, this rarely happens.”
It is important to see your doctor if you experience any physical or mental health symptoms. Simple blood work could help determine which vitamins or minerals your body has been lacking.
“You know your body and your life best, so if something feels off, it probably is,” said Dr. Kraker. You will hopefully find the best solution with the right treatment plan.