Is your depression caused by a nutritional deficiency?

June 29, 2017

PROBLEM: Depression is often treated with anti-depressant medications. But did you know that depression can be caused by a nutritional deficiency? But do most doctors test nutrient levels before prescribing medication? Most likely no.


B-complex vitamins

A simple lack of nutrients is one of the most frequent, but least recognized, causes of depression. The most common deficiency in people with depression is a lack of one of the B vitamins, which are powerful regulators of mood. Of all vitamin deficiencies, insufficient folic acid (folate, vitamin B9) tends to be the most frequently seen. Folic-acid deficiency lowers brain 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine; the brain hormone serotonin), and we know that low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.

Another common deficiency seen in depression is of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). As this nutrient is essential for converting tryptophan to serotonin, it’s no surprise that there’s a strong correlation between not enough B6 and depression. Other B-vitamin deficiencies linked to depression include riboflavin (vitamin B2) and thiamine (vitamin B1). In the early stages of thiamine deficiency, normally healthy people become depressed, irritable and fearful. It’s also commonly seen in hospitalized mental patients.

Vitamin B12 is yet another B-vitamin deficiency often linked to psychiatric problems. Important for the formation of red blood cells, an inadequate supply can lead to pernicious anemia, characterized by mood swings, paranoia, irritability, confusion, dementia, hallucinations or mania-symptoms that can easily be mistaken for mental illness.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C also appears to have a role in maintaining mood. One of the first symptoms of mild scurvy, the vitamin C-deficiency disease, is depression, along with tiredness and irritability.


Besides vitamins, a number of mineral deficiencies may also bring on depression. Both too much and too little calcium in the blood may be associated with depression.

People with iron-deficiency anemia often feel tired and depressed even after supplementing with iron has cured the anemia. Furthermore, the depression may not be resolved for months. The exact nature of the relationship is as yet unknown, although what we do know is that some areas of the brain have high iron concentrations, leading some experts to speculate that a reduced level of iron in the brain may bring on depression.

Magnesium deficiency often goes hand-in-hand with calcium deficiency, and is frequently seen in depressed patients. Interestingly, the levels of magnesium in cerebrospinal fluid are especially low in patients who are suicidal.

Another potential culprit in depression is low levels of potassium, a particularly common side-effect of diuretics.


Other vitamin deficiencies linked to depression: Vitamin D.


-Test your nutrient levels.
-If deficient, research food sources of the nutrient online. Then eat plant-foods rich in these vitamins and minerals. And take a vitamin B12 supplement. (Also take a vitamin D supplement if your levels are low or if you do not regularly get at least 20 minutes of sun daily with at least 25% of your body uncovered.)
-Still talk with your doctor or therapist. The underlying cause of your depression may not be nutritional but I think you should test your nutrient levels to be sure.

Some sources of B Vitamins:

Some studies show fruit and vegetable consumption may be inversely associated with the risk of depression. (source).
And some foods like blueberries promote positive mood and may be a possible way to prevent depression. (source)

Also, some studies point to depression as a symptom of inflammation in the body:
“Instead of being a discrete disease entity, depression is a symptom, like nausea, tremors, sweating, or a cough. The evidence points to an inflammatory cytokine model of depression, whereby inflammatory intercellular signaling molecules like interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, interferon (IFN) gamma, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, produced by the innate immune system, penetrate the blood brain barrier and create mood disorders including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression—which are symptomatic of systemic inflammatory processes (Dantzer, 2008).”

“There is an increasing risk of depression as a consequence of an increasing inflammatory load” (source)

What can help inflammation? Rest and getting the right nutrients through diet.
(1) Turmeric may be the most touted and revered herb (spice) for fighting inflammation. It’s active ingredient is curcumin. It seems curcumin is not as bio-available as one would expect. …You can add a little pepper for its piperine content to enhance bio-availability.
(2) Bromelain is a mixture of digestive and proteolytic enzymes from pineapple cores. It’s the proteolytic enzymes that help relieve inflamed tissues. This is true for proteolytic enzymes, but bromelain is the least expensive and most accessible.”
3) Anti-inflammatory foods like blackberries.