Tuesday, 10 January 2017

HELPING PEOPLE Who are Suffering from Dementia, Alzheimer's, Depression, Drug Addiction and other Mental Health Illnesses. HEALING YOUR BRAIN and BODY with HEALTHY VITAMINS and SUPPLEMENTS

Please look at my website I made to ease the burden on the NHS who are trying to help people with dementia, alzheimer's, depression, drug addiction and other mental health illnesses. Patients can treat themselves, with natural and healthy supplements if they only use their brain to make responsible decisions to improve their mental and physical health. Stop pestering your doctor for psychotropic drugs because the NHS pays for them. People are poisoning their lives with psychotropic prescription drugs.  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgCpa1RlSdQ  
You need to eat a Low FodMap Diet to maintain optimum health and live a healthier life. 
http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/  
 
The abbreviation for FODMAPs stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. This group of short-chain, fermentable carbohydrates includes fructans, which are predominantly found in wheat. 

Depression

Depression is rated by the World Health Organisation as the leading cause of disease burden amongst high income countries. Depression is characterised by feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration, loss of energy, fatigue, thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death, loss or increase of appetite and weight, a disturbed sleep pattern, slowing down both physically and mentally, agitation restlessness or anxiety. 

WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
In Britain, 1 in 20, or around 3 million people, are diagnosed with depression. Unipolar Depression is rated by the World Health Organization as the leading cause of disease burden amongst high-income countries.
The classic symptoms of depression include feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration, loss of energy, fatigue, thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death, loss or increase of appetite and weight, a disturbed sleep pattern, slowing down (both physically and mentally), agitation (restlessness or anxiety).
There are 2 major classifications of depression: typical and atypical. Typical depression tends to feature loss of weight, appetite and difficulty sleeping whereas atypical depression tends to include weight gain, increased appetite and excessive sleepiness and/or sleeping. 

9 Steps to Reverse Dementia and Memory Loss as You Age



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The 10p-a-day vitamin supplement that tackles dementia: So why is the drug industry spending billions?


Brain Vitamins

Essential Vitamins for a Healthy Brain


Learn about the top brain supplements that can improve memory, mood, and productivity and protect against mental decline, depression, anxiety and dementia.

Top 15 Brain Supplements for a Mental Edge
Research has shown that taking the right supplements can help your brain health and fitness right now and protect against mental decline in the future.
But picking the best one(s) can be a challenge.
There are literally hundreds of individual nutrients to choose from — vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and phytonutrients — and thousands of combinations of ingredients.
Finding the best supplement to take largely depends on the results you are looking for.
Are you looking to increase your attention and concentration?
Is your biggest concern reversing memory loss or preventing age-related mental decline?
Or are you tired of feeling stressed out, depressed, or anxious?
In this guide, you’ll find what we feel are the best brain supplements — those that have been proven to be safe, effective, and cover a wide variety of needs.
Some of these are powerful enough that they are sometimes used as prescription medications!
We’ll examine the unique properties of each, including recommended dosages and side effects or interactions so you can make an informed decision.

How To Get the Most from This Guide

Keep in mind that almost all of the supplements in this guide have multiple brain health benefits, not just the one shown in the headline for each supplement.
So read the whole description for each supplement.
Also, when you look to buy, you will find a lot of choices. 
Finally, to get more in-depth information, read the related articles that follow each section.

Get started here.


#1. Citicoline

Potent Brain Protector

Citicoline is a naturally occurring compound found in every cell of your body.
It’s less widely known that many other brain supplements you’ll find on this list, yet it’s one of the best brain boosters available.
Citicoline helps build healthy brain cell membranes.
It improves blood flow to the brain and also brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to change throughout life.
It increases brain energy by firing up your mitochondria, the powerhouse of each cell. (1)
Citicoline reduces the harmful effects of free radical damage and inflammation, two major causes of brain aging. (2)
It raises levels of two important neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and dopamine. (3)
Acetylcholine is the primary brain chemical involved with memory and learning.
Low acetylcholine is implicated in serious neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and multiple sclerosis. (45)
Dopamine is linked to motivation, productivity, and your “pleasure-reward” system.
Citicoline supplements can significantly improve memory, concentration, focus, and attention. (678)
Doctors throughout Europe prescribe citicoline for serious neurological disorders such as age-related memory loss, stroke, brain injury, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. (910)
Citicoline is sometimes sold as a single-ingredient supplement, but is often included in nootropicbrain supplement formulas. (11)
One study comparing citicoline to several popular nootropics concluded that it improved memory and cognition as well as the study drug piracetam. (12)
Consider citicoline if you take any medications that are anticholinergic, those that work by blocking the action of acetylcholine.
A surprising number of drugs fall into this category, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC).
A good rule of thumb is that any medication that starts with “anti” is likely to affect your acetylcholine level.
This includes antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, antispasmodics, and antihypertensives.


Citicoline Dosage

A typical dose of citicoline is 250 to 1,000 mg doses taken twice a day for a total intake of 500 to 2,000 mg. (13)
A daily dose of 1,000 to 2,000 mg is recommended to support thinking skills. (14)
 
When looking for a citicoline supplement you are likely to come across CDP-choline (cytidine diphosphocholine).
This is simply another name for citicoline — they are the same compound.
You may also see the brand name Cognizin.
This is a highly bioavailable form of citicoline that’s got research to back up its claims as a cognitive enhancer. (15)

Citicoline Side Effects and Warnings

Side effects of citicoline include insomnia, headache, diarrhea, low or high blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, and chest pains. (16)
Do not mix citicoline with levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease, without talking to your doctor. (17)
Citicoline can amplify this drug’s effectiveness which may require a change in its dosage.

Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
Citicoline: An Impressive Brain Protector and Enhancer


#2. Curcumin

Nutritional “Gold” for Your Brain

Curcumin is the main bioactive compound in the Indian spice turmeric (Curcuma longa).
It’s responsible for turmeric’s brilliant gold color and most of its health benefits.
curcumin supplements and powderCurcumin protects your brain in an impressive number of ways.
Curcumin increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, the “happiness brain chemical.” (18)
In fact, curcumin is as effective for depression as the popular antidepressant Prozac. (19)
It’s like “exercise in a bottle” that increases blood flow to the brain as effectively as physical exercise. (20)
Curcumin reduces the compulsiveness and associated memory loss of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). (21)
Remarkably, curcumin was found to improve both memory and attention in healthy seniorswithin an hour after taking a single dose! (22)
These study participants additionally showed significant improvements in working memory, energy, mood, and stress after taking curcumin for one month.
Its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce brain inflammation and break up brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. (23)
Elderly villagers in India who consume turmeric as a regular part of their diet have the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s in the world. (24)


Curcumin and Turmeric Dosages

You can get your curcumin from either curcumin or turmeric supplements.
The University of Maryland’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide suggests these turmeric dosages:
  • Cut root: 1.5-3 grams per day
  • Dried, powdered root: 1-3 grams per day (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Fluid extract (1:1): 30-90 drops per day
  • Tincture (1:2): 15-30 drops, 4 times per day
The recommended curcumin dosage for a standardized powder supplement is 400 to 600 mg three times per day. (25)
Curcumin + Turmeric Supplements See Amazon.com for best selection and value
Curcumin supplements are poorly absorbed, but there are measures that overcome this problem. (26)
The addition of piperine, a compound found in black pepper, increases curcumin absorption by a remarkable 2,000%. (27)

Curcumin and Turmeric Side Effects and Warnings

Turmeric consumed as a spice in food is very safe.
Turmeric supplements can cause nausea and diarrhea, especially in high doses.
Both turmeric and curcumin supplements have quite a number of possible side effects, interactions, and warnings.
These supplements can interact with medicines like aspirin, NSAID painkillers, statins, diabetes drugs, blood pressure medicines, and blood thinners.
They may also interact with natural supplements with blood thinning properties including ginkgo, ginseng, and garlic. (28)
The piperine often added to turmeric and curcumin supplements unfortunately can also increase the side effects of a number of drugs. (29)
However, you can increase the bioavailability of curcumin and turmeric supplements by taking them with phosphatidylserine instead.
If you take any medications, check for possible interactions between them and turmeric or curcumin at RxList.com.
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
The Impressive Brain Benefits of Curcumin Supplements

#3. Acetyl-l-Carnitine

For More Mental Energy

Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) is an amino acid that increases both mental and physical energy. (30)
It acts a powerful antioxidant, protecting your brain from free radical damage. (31)
ALCAR is a precursor of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of memory and learning.
It also increases the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which play a role in depression. (32)
In fact, acetyl-l-carnitine is a fast-acting antidepressant that usually brings some relief within a week. (33)
It improves mental clarity, focus, mood, processing speed, and memory and has strong anti-aging effects on the brain. (34)
It can be helpful for chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. (3536)
One study found that acetyl-l-carnitine stabilizes tau proteins which produce the brain tangles believed to cause Alzheimer’s. (37)
It increases the insulin sensitivity of brain cells to help them utilize blood glucose, the brain’s main fuel source. (38)
There’s evidence that it may prevent brain damage from excess alcohol intake. (39)

Acetyl-l-Carnitine Dosage

The generally recommended dose ranges from 630 to 2,500 mg per day and up to 4,000 mg for treating Alzheimer’s patients. (4041)

When buying a supplement, don’t confuse acetyl-l-carnitine with the less expensive l-carnitine.
ALCAR is a far more bioavailable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, something plain l-carnitine cannot do. (42)

Acetyl-l-Carnitine Side Effects and Warnings

Acetyl-l-carnitine is generally considered safe and there are few side effects, mainly digestive upset, restlessness, or a fishy body odor. (43)
If you take a blood thinner such as coumadin, avoid taking ALCAR as it can increase the drug’s blood-thinning effects.
There’s some concern that acetyl-l-carnitine interferes with thyroid hormone, so it’s best to avoid if you have low thyroid. (44)
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
Choosing Memory Supplements That Work

#4. Bacopa

For Balanced Brain Chemistry

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal remedy.
Its use as a nerve and brain tonic for improving memory, learning, and concentration dates back at least 3,000 years. (45)
bacopa monnieriAccording to legend, it was used by ancient scholars to help them memorize lengthy hymns and scriptures.
It increases cerebral blood flow, delivering more oxygen, nutrients, and glucose to the brain. (46)
When tested against two very different kinds of cognitive enhancers — the ancient herbal remedy ginseng and the popular smart drug Modafinil — bacopa came out on top.  (47)
Bacopa is among the handful of herbs considered adaptogenic.
Adaptogens have the ability to calm a stressed mind and increase energy without being either sedating or stimulating.
In many ways, adaptogens act like a thermostat that keeps you in an emotional comfort zone.
Bacopa works in part by balancing the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, while reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
It’s this ability to restore balance that makes bacopa an excellent choice if you are looking for a cognitive enhancer that also alleviates stress, anxiety, or depression. (48)

Bacopa Dosage

So far, about a dozen bioactive compounds have been found in bacopa, the most important of which are bacopaside A and bacopaside B. (49)
Look for a supplement with a standardized content of 55% bacopasides.

A typical dose is 50 to 100 mg of bacopa three times per day, one dose with each meal. (50)
One brand of bacopa that has studies to support its use as a cognitive enhancer is KeenMind.

Bacopa Side Effects and Warnings

Bacopa is considered very safe, safe enough to give to children. (51)
Side effects of bacopa are rare, but the most common ones are dry mouth and digestive upset.
But these can largely be avoided by taking it along with meals. (52)
Traditionally, bacopa was administered as a food that was cooked with ghee (clarified butter).
Bacopa should not be combined with antihistamines, antidepressants, glaucoma medications, drugs taken for Alzheimer’s, or thyroid hormones. (53)
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
How Bacopa Benefits Balanced Brain Chemistry

#5. American Ginseng

Best in Class Brain Booster

Ginseng may be a classical Asian herb, but American ginseng is now considered the best in the world.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) belongs to the same genus as Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), but is a unique species.
ginsengIn an ironic twist, the Chinese now prefer genuine American ginseng for its superior quality and ability to upgrade brain function. (5455)
American ginseng is mostly cultivated in Wisconsin and Canada, where harsh weather encourage higher concentration of ginseng’s active ingredients called ginsenosides. (56)
Cereboost is a patent-pending extract derived from American ginseng with clinical studies to support its effectiveness as a cognitive enhancer.
Study participants were given a mental aptitude test and performed significantly better after ingesting Cereboost.
OptiMind Brain Supplement For better thinking, memory, productivity, and mood
It worked quickly to improve memory, mental clarity, and sharpness within just a few hours after taking a single dose. (57)
Cereboost is neuroprotective and increases acetylcholine levels. (58)
American ginseng is a better choice than Asian ginseng if you tend towards anxiety since it is less stimulating. (59)
Like bacopa, American ginseng acts as an adaptogen, promoting physical strength and mental energy while dialing down the damaging effects of stress.
It also reduces postprandial hypoglycemia, a common underlying cause of anxiety. (60)

American Ginseng Dosage

Standard doses have not been established, but a typical dose of American ginseng is 100 to 200 mg daily. (61)
Brain supplements that contain Cereboost usually contain 200 mg.

American ginseng supplements are available as capsules, tablets, powders, and liquid extracts.
You can also buy tea bags, loose bulk tea, and dried roots that are used to make tea or are added to cooked foods.

American Ginseng Side Effects and Interactions

American ginseng can cause some side effects including diarrhea, itching, insomnia, headache, and nervousness. (62)
Since its ginsenosides can act like estrogen, do not take American ginseng if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a hormone-sensitive cancer.
Discuss taking American ginseng with your doctor if you take an MAOI antidepressant, diabetic medication, or immune suppressant since it can affect the effectiveness of these drugs.

#6. Alpha GPC

Top Memory Enhancer

Alpha GPC (alpha-glycerophosphocholine) is a synthetic form of choline.
Choline is an essential nutrient for brain development, healthy brain cells, and neurotransmitter formation.
It is a precursor of acetylcholine, the brain chemical of learning and memory.
Unfortunately, choline supplements do not effectively enter the brain.
However, the alpha GPC form of choline quickly and efficiently moves choline into the brain where it’s used to form brain cell membranes and stimulate the growth of new brain cells.
Alpha GPC also increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), the neurotransmitter associated with relaxation. (63)
Signs of low GABA include being easily overstimulated, overwhelmed, and stressed out.
Alpha GPC studies show it consistently improves memory and attention span in people of all ages, while warding off age-related mental decline. (64)
 
Alpha GPC is sold as a memory supplement throughout much of the world.
In Europe it is used as a prescription medication for Alzheimer’s that works by increasing acetylcholine levels. (65)
Alzheimer’s patients’ levels of acetylcholine often dip to 90% below normal. (66)
It can also help the brain recover after a stroke, injury, or transient ischemic attack. (67)


Alpha GPC Dosage

A typical dose of alpha GPC is 300 to 600 mg, but the ideal standard dose is yet to be determined. (68)
In almost all studies on mental decline, participants were given 400 mg, three times a day. (69)

Alpha GPC Side Effects and Warnings

Alpha GPC is generally considered safe, but possible side effects include headache, insomnia, dizziness, mental confusion, heartburn, and skin rash. (70)
Alpha GPC supplements are derived from either soy or eggs, two of the most common food allergens, so be mindful if you have a known food allergy.
The only known drug interaction is with scopolamine, a drug often used for motion sickness and nausea following surgery.

#7. Lion’s Mane

A “Smart” Mushroom

Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), also known as yamabushitake, is an edible mushroom native to parts of Asia, North America, and Europe.
It’s been used both medicinally and as a culinary delicacy for thousands of years.
lion's mane mushroomNow it’s sold as a brain supplement. (In its natural setting, it sometimes even looks like a human brain.)
It’s been said that lion’s mane can impart “nerves of steel” and the “memory of a lion.”
World-renowned fungi expert Paul Stamets calls it the “first smart mushroom.” (71)
It is a popular nootropic — a substance that improves mental functions such as memory, intelligence, motivation, attention, and concentration — while simultaneously making your brain healthier.
Lion’s mane excels at improving cognitive function and treating neurological disorders.
It’s been found to contain two unique groups of compounds, hericenones and erinacines, that stimulate the formation of nerve growth factor (NGF). (72)
NGF is a protein that is crucial to the growth and maintenance of certain types of neurons.
Lion’s mane can be helpful for anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. (73)

Lion’s Mane Dosage

Optimal dosages have not yet been established, but a typical dose of lion’s mane extract is 1,000 mg taken three times a day. (74)
Lion's Mane Supplements See Amazon.com for best selection and value
In one study, seniors with mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia, experienced significant cognitive improvement taking 3,000 mg of lion’s mane powder daily. (75)
Lion’s mane is available in capsules, powder, liquid tincture, or tea.

Lion’s Mane Side Effects and Interactions

Lion’s mane is extremely safe.
It’s regularly consumed as a food in Asia and is becoming increasingly available in gourmet food stores elsewhere.
The only known side effect is itchy skin which may be caused by the increase in nerve growth factor. (76)

#8. Magnesium Threonate

Patented Brain Mineral

Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral that is required in over 600 metabolic functions.
As important as it is, magnesium deficiency is the second most common nutritional deficiency in developed countries. (7778)
Signs of magnesium deficiency include brain fog, lack of focus, inability to handle stress, insomnia, caffeine addiction, and generally feeling tired but wired.
Magnesium supplementation has proven beneficial for numerous mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. (79808182)
There are many forms of magnesium to choose from, but only magnesium l-threonate crosses the blood-brain barrier. (83)
Its unique ability to permeate brain cell membranes and elevate magnesium concentrations in the brain makes it an excellent choice for improving memory, attention, depression, and anxiety. (8485)
Look for supplements that contain Magtein, a patented brand of magnesium l-threonate that’s a proven cognitive enhancer.

Magnesium Dosage

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is generally 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women, but that can vary slightly depending on age. (86)
The maker’s of Magtein suggest 1,000 mg taken twice a day for optimal cognitive benefits. (87)

This isn’t as high a dose as it sounds since only a fraction of Magtein is elemental magnesium — 144 mg per 2,ooo mg of Magtein. (88)

Magnesium Side Effects and Interactions

Magnesium can cause digestive upsets and loose stools, particularly if you take too much or take inexpensive forms of magnesium such as oxide or sulfate.
You should not be taking these anyway since they are the least bioavaible forms of magnesium. (89)
Magnesium sulfate, the kind found in Epsom salts, can cause dramatic diarrhea and disrupt your electrolyte balance, leading to a potentially serious condition known as hypermagnesemia. (9091)
There are currently 32 official FDA reports of magnesium sulfate triggering brain fog, short-term memory loss, amnesia, blackouts, and other kinds of mental distress. (92)
The only reported side effects of magnesium threonate are headaches and drowsiness the first week or so. (93)
Discuss taking magnesium with your doctor if you take antibiotics, high blood pressure medications, osteoporosis medications, or muscle relaxants. (94)
Magnesium can affect these drugs’ effectiveness.
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
8 Ways Magnesium Relieves Anxiety and Stress

#9. Tryptophan

Proven Mood Booster

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that’s a precursor to serotonin.
Serotonin plays a large role in mood, sleep, learning, and appetite control.

tryptophan serotonin synthesis pathway

A low serotonin level is widely believed to be a major cause of depression.
The most popular antidepressant medications like Prozac and Zoloft are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are believed to work by making more serotonin available in the brain.
You can increase serotonin levels naturally by providing more of its building block in the form of tryptophan.
By increasing serotonin levels, tryptophan can improve the quality of life for those with a wide variety of brain-related and mental health issues.
Studies have found tryptophan to be as effective for depression as antidepressant drugs. (95)
Tryptophan has been found useful for reducing general anxiety, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. (9697)
Low levels of tryptophan are associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Children with ADHD have 50% lower than average blood levels of tryptophan. (98)
Low tryptophan can cause both long-term and short-term memory loss and impair other cognitive functions. (99)

Tryptophan Dosage

There is no official recommended dosage for tryptophan and suggested doses vary widely.
As little as 250 mg was found to increase the quality of sleep.

On the other hand, up to 12 grams per day has been suggested for depression. (100)
Most supplement manufacturers suggest a daily dose of 1,000 to 1,500 mg. (101)
We suggest starting with 500 mg a day and then working up to a higher dose.

Tryptophan Side Effects and Interactions

The most common tryptophan side effects are digestive upset, loss of appetite, headache, and drowsiness. (102)
Tryptophan should not be taken with SSRI antidepressants.
When taken together, they can cause a potentially serious condition known as serotonin syndrome.
Tryptophan should also not be taken with drugs with a sedating effect including Ambien, Ativan, Valium, and Ultram.

#10. Vinpocetine

A Natural “Smart Drug”

Vinpocetine is a relatively new brain booster that blurs the line between brain supplement and smart drug.
It’s based on vincamine, a chemical found in periwinkle (Vinca minor).
vinca minor vinpocetineThis flowering vine has been used since medieval times to treat headaches, memory loss, and vertigo. (103)
Vinpocetine supplements are usually taken to improve memory, overcome brain fog, increase mental clarity, protect the brain against aging, and promote overall mental well-being. (104)
It rapidly enters the brain to increase blood flow, decrease brain inflammation, protect against free radical damage, and balance neurotransmitter levels. (105106107)
Its ability to protect the brain from degeneration makes it a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s. (108)
Vinpocetine prevents the short-term memory loss that often accompanies benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs. (109)
OptiMind Brain Supplement For better thinking, memory, productivity, and mood
It improves the brain’s ability to use glucose, its main source of fuel, after a stroke. (110)
In some parts of the world vinpocetine is available by prescription only. (111)
Here in the US, it’s available as a brain supplement, at least for now. (112113)
The FDA has initiated proceedings to take vinpocetine off the shelves, not because there have been any safety issues, but because they believe it should be classified as a drug and not a supplement. (114)
While studies show that vinpocetine looks like a promising treatment for mental decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, there’s not a lot of research yet to back up claims that it makes healthy adults smarter.

Vinpocetine Dosage

Most clinical studies on vinpocetine used a dose of 10 mg, three times daily. (115)
A good place to start is to take 5 mg with each meal. (116)

Then you can work up to as high as 20 mg with each meal for maximum neuroprotective benefits.
Avoid taking vinpocetine on an empty stomach since it’s absorbed up to 100% better with food.

Vinpocetine Side Effects and Warnings

Vinpocetine is generally considered safe with few side effects.
Potential side effects include digestive upset, insomnia, headache, dizziness, nervousness, skin rash, and flushing. (117118)
However, it’s advised that you avoid vinpocetine if you take a blood thinner like warfarin (Coumadin) or take any over-the-counter medications that can interfere with clotting such as ibuprofen and naproxen.

#11. Huperzine A

Powerful Memory Remedy

Chinese club moss (Huperzia serrata) is a small plant native to parts of Asia that’s a traditional Chinese treatment for improving memory and circulation and reducing inflammation. (119120)
The main active compound in Chinese club moss is an alkaloid called huperzine A.
huperzine a chinese club mossHuperzine A works mainly by raising acetylcholine levels, a neurotransmitter involved with learning, memory, sleep cycle regulation, and other brain functions. (121122)
Huperzine A works by the same mechanism as the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept.
They both work by inhibiting an enzyme (acetylcholinesterase) that deactivates acetylcholine.
Huperzine A shows promise for delaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages. (123)

It protects the patient’s brain against free radical damage and environmental toxins while promoting new brain cell generation. (124125) 
Huperzine A is so powerful that it’s been given the status of an approved drug for treating vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s in China. (126)

Huperzine A Dosage

The general recommended dosage is 50 to 200 mcg twice daily and can be taken on an empty stomach. (127) 

Huperzine A Side Effects and Warnings

Although huperzine A is a naturally occurring compound, it’s not without side effects.
Reported side effects are significant and include insomnia, anxiety, nausea, diarrhea, blurred vision, slurred speech, restlessness, anorexia, muscle twitching, cramps, incontinence, high blood pressure, and slowed heart rate. (128)
Huperzine A does not mix well with antihistamines, antidepressants, the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept, or the motion sickness drug scopolamine. (129)
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
How Acetylcholine Deficiency Impacts Memory

#12. Ginkgo

Timeless Brain Tonic

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the most widely used natural remedies in the world. (130)
It has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine.
ginkgo supplementsGinkgo increases circulation to the brain, balances brain chemistry, and protects the brain from free radical damage. (131)
It’s considered so effective that it’s sometimes prescribed as a medication in Europe.
But not all of ginkgo’s reported benefits have held up to the latest scientific scrutiny.
Unexpectedly, two major studies concluded that ginkgo does not improve memory or other cognitive functions in healthyadults. (132133)
But this does not make ginkgo useless as a brain supplement.
And, of course, you may decide that its long history of use outweighs the latest scientific findings.
Ginkgo has been proven beneficial for treating stress and anxiety by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (134135)
It reliably improves short-term memory in seniors. (136)
Ginkgo reduces ADHD symptoms in children and teens, but not as effectively as the ADHD drug Ritalin. (137)

It can increase the turnover of both serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters linked to depression. (138)
And lastly, for those diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, ginkgo shows great promise for improving memory and day-to-day quality of life. (139)

Ginkgo Dosage

A typical ginkgo dose is 40 to 120 mg three times a day. (140)
Start with a low dose and take with meals to avoid gastrointestinal distress.

Ginkgo Side Effects and Warnings

Known ginkgo side effects include digestive upset, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, and restlessness. (141)
Ginkgo should not be taken with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft since together, they can cause serotonin syndrome. (142)
Ginkgo reacts badly with a slew of medications.
Drugs.com lists over 500 of them.
If you take any medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or visit Drugs.com to check forGinkgo biloba drug interactions before taking this supplement.
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits and Your Memory

#13. DHA

Critical Brain Cell Building Block

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that is not optional if you are seeking optimal brain performance.
Omega-3 deficiency is widespread and linked to over 50 diseases and contributes to 96,000 preventable deaths per year. (143144145)
fish oil capsulesOmega-3 fats are so important to health that more than 30,000 studies have been published on their health benefits! (146)
And of all the omega-3s, DHA is the most important one for your brain.
Omega-3 fats are harder to get from diet alone since few people regularly eat the main dietary sources — wild-caught, cold water oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines. (147)
DHA is a major building block of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain where higher level functioning occurs. (148)
It also plays an important role in brain cell communication.
Low DHA levels have been linked to depression, ADHD, serious psychiatric disorders, and a measurable decrease in brain volume. (149150)
Memory loss, depression, mood swings, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and attention deficit disorder have all been found to improve with DHA supplementation.
Seniors with high levels of DHA have a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. (151)

DHA and Fish Oil Dosages

DHA is sometimes sold as a single ingredient supplement, but most commonly as a major component in fish oil or krill oil supplements.
If you are taking fish oil, a good rule of thumb is to find a supplement that contains 700 to 1,000 mg of EPA and 200 to 500 mg of DHA. (152)

 
If you are taking DHA alone, you can take more — up to 1,000 mg per day. (153154)
If you plan to use fish oil or DHA therapeutically, check out Mayo Clinic’s omega-3 dosage information.
There you’ll find recommended dosages for specific mental health conditions including ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and dementia.

DHA and Fish Oil Side Effects and Warnings

DHA is considered generally safe.
It may increase blood sugar in diabetics and lower blood pressure in those with hypertension which can alter your need for medication.
Fish oil can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with aspirin or blood thinners, but DHA alone does not seem to affect blood clotting. (155156)

Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
DHA Supplements: Why They’re Critical for Your Brain

#14. Phosphatidylserine

Versatile Brain Enhancer

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid naturally found in high concentrations in the brain. (157)
It is also a popular brain supplement for boosting memory, cognition, concentration, and learning.
Phosphatidylserine is a major component of human brain cell membranes.
By supporting brain cell membrane integrity, PS helps to keep toxins, pathogens, and other unwanted invaders out of your brain.
It normalizes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to reduce the effects of stress. (158)
Phosphatidylserine is safe and effective for brains of all ages.
It can significantly improve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children. (159160)
It is the primary ingredient in Vayarin, a medical food prescribed for children with ADHD.
It is a favorite memory supplement used by students to perform better on their exams.
Phosphatidylserine is protective against mental decline, can improve mood, and help with depression, especially in seniors. (161162)
Large studies have found that phosphatidylserine may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. (163)
Notably, phosphatidylserine is the only brain supplement that’s received a qualified stamp of approval from the FDA for age-related cognitive decline and dementia in seniors.

Phosphatidylserine Dosage

The general recommended dose is 100 mg taken three times a day. (164)
But doses of twice that, 600 mg per day, are considered safe. (165)
 
Phosphatidylserine is one of the few brain supplements with dosages determined for children.
A typical dose for children and young teens is 200 mg per day.

Phosphatidylserine Side Effects and Warnings

The most common side effects experienced with phosphatidylserine supplements are digestive upset and insomnia, particularly with high dosages.
Phosphatidylserine should be avoided if you take blood thinning or anti-inflammatory drugs. (166)
It can decrease the effectiveness of antihistamines and antidepressants.
Do not take phosphatidylserine with drugs prescribed for Alzheimer’s such as Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne without talking to your doctor. (167)
Phosphatidylserine can alter these drugs’ effectiveness and magnify their side effects.
Phosphatidylserine supplements are almost always derived from soy.
If soy is a food you avoid, look for one extracted from sunflower oil instead.
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
Phosphatidylserine: Why It’s a Top Brain Supplement

#15. L-Theanine

Meditation in a Cup or Capsule

L-theanine is an amino acid found in black and green teas (Camellia sinensis) that offers a truly unique set of brain benefits.
One of the ways it works is by altering your brain wave patterns. (168)
pot of green tea, source of l-theanineIt puts you into a desirable state of “relaxed attentiveness” similar to that achieved during meditation. (169170)
It sharpens focus, reduces stress, and imparts a sense of overall well-being.
L-theanine raises levels of several key neurotransmitters — serotonin, dopamine, and GABA — to promote recall, learning, motivation, and positive mood. (171172)
It makes you more resilient to stress and helps ward off anxiety. (173174)
It won’t make you drowsy, but can improve your quality of sleep. (175)
L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine.
Green Tea See Amazon.com for best selection and value
The combination of caffeine and l-theanine can help you perform mentally demanding tasks better than caffeine alone. (176)
And since l-theanine is relaxing, it won’t leave you edgy.
This unique caffeine-enhancing property makes l-theanine a popular supplement with those seeking optimal mental performance.
Some college students and biohackers use this caffeine-theanine combination in place of smart drugs.
L-theanine improves memory and cognition in seniors, even those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). (177178)
It is neuroprotective against stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. (179180)

L-Theanine Dosage

The general recommended dosage for l-theanine is 200 to 400 mg once or twice daily. (181)
Some people experience noticeable benefits with as little as 50 mg and almost everyone experiences some degree of relaxation with a 400 mg dose. (182)
A mix of  l-theanine and caffeine is a popular nootropic “stack” for boosting mood, focus, concentration, and alertness. (183184)
L-Theanine Supplements See Amazon.com for best selection and value
Typical ratios of l-theanine to caffeine range from 1:1 (2oo mg each) to 4:1 (200 gm theanine for every 50 mg of caffeine). (185186,  187)
One popular name brand of l-theanine is Suntheanine.
This is a patented brand of pure theanine often used in studies when a standardized formula is required.

L-Theanine Side Effects and Interactions

L-theanine supplements are considered very safe. (188)
The few reported adverse reactions include headache, dizziness, and gastrointestinal distress.
Use l-theanine with caution if you’re on a high blood pressure medication since it can decrease your blood pressure. (189)

BONUS

The Core Brain Supplement

All essential vitamins and minerals play a vital role in brain function.
Some act as natural antidepressants or combat the effects of stress, while some are essential cofactors in neurotransmitter formation.
Many are antioxidants that protect the brain from the damaging effects of free radicals, inflammation, neurotoxins, and aging.
So before you start taking the brain supplements we’ve discussed here, make sure you’ve got your basic nutritional needs met.
It’s generally thought that vitamin deficiencies are a thing of the past, but that’s not true.
Up to 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin B12, 77% in vitamin D, and 75% in the mineral magnesium. (190191192)
Deficiencies in any of these can have a profound impact on your brain.
The Harvard School of Public Health advises all adults to take a multivitamin supplement as insurance to fill any nutritional gaps. (193)
We think this is sound advice.
Pound for pound, your brain requires more nutrients than any other organ.
But processed food, factory farming practices, and the nutrient-draining stresses of modern life are just some of the factors that have created a perfect storm of suboptimal nutrition.
Many studies confirm that taking a multivitamin alone can improve memory and overall brain function while increasing longevity and reducing the risk of degenerative brain disease. (194195196197198)

Trying to boost brain power when basic nutrients are missing is like trying to build a house on a faulty foundation.
Taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement is an easy way to supply the core nutrients your brain needs.
Related articles on Be Brain Fit: 
How to Choose Nutritional Supplements That Work

Brain Supplements: The Bottom Line

There are many reasons to take a brain supplement: to improve mood, memory, and concentration as well as to protect the brain against aging or to prevent or halt cognitive decline.
But there are endless substances and combinations to choose from.
Stick with supplements that are proven to work, like the ones in this guide.
Then make note of which are a good match for your particular set of symptoms.
Try either a single-ingredient supplement or one that contains a blend of the ingredients you need.
Also keep in mind that just because supplements are natural doesn’t mean they always 100% safe.
This is especially true if you take any medications.
Talk to your doctor before adding any brain supplements to your regimen.
Meanwhile, you can check for interactions with Drugs.com interaction checker.
Lastly, to learn more about any particular supplement, check out our related articles following each supplement section.

Best B vitamins to boost mood, brain power and happiness

Vitamin B tabletsCan popping a vitamin pill help cure mental health problems? For people who lack vitamin B and show symptoms of mental illness as a result, this may be the case.
All of the B group vitamins affect brain function, mental sharpness and mood. Research shows that folate and vitamins B6 and B12 might be particularly vital. Some studies show a link between memory problems and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly and low levels of B12, for example.
Mild deficiencies of B vitamins can badly affect mental health. Severe deficiencies are linked to serious mental illnesses such as severe depression.
This article discusses vitamins B6, B12 and folate.

What are the B vitamins?

Below is a list of the B vitamins with other names they are called.
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin and nicotinamide)
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine)
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin and vitamin H)
  • Vitamin B9 (often called folic acid (a synthetic version of vitamin B9), folate (naturally occurring vitamin B9) and, sometimes, vitamin M)
  • Vitamin B12 (various cobalamins, often called cyanocobalamin in vitamin supplements)

Increase serotonin with vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is needed to make most of the brain’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin. These chemicals are vital for happiness.
What are some symptoms of lack of vitamin B6?
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Acne
  • Abnormal brain wave pattern and conduction of nerve impulses
  • Convulsive seizures (fits)
  • Dermatitis
  • Flaky skin
  • Immune system problems – problems forming antibodies
  • Poor dream recall
  • Insomnia (sleeplessness)
  • Lack of energy
  • Muscle tremors, cramps and/or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling hands
  • Water retention
Who is most at risk of having low levels of vitamin B6?
  • People who often drink high levels of alcohol
  • Women on the birth control pill, especially the pill with estrogen
  • People with diabetes
  • Elderly people
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • People with a malabsorption problem, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease
  • People with vitamin B6 dependent syndromes
  • People with kidney failure
  • People with thyroid disease (overactive thyroid gland)
  • People taking medications that inactivate vitamin B6
What foods are good sources of vitamin B6?
Good sources of vitamin B6 include:
  • Vegemite
  • walnuts
  • bananas
  • lamb’s liver
  • chicken
  • egg yolks
  • potatoes

Feel good with folate

Folate is important to stay alert, be happy, focus well and have a good memory. It helps the body lower blood levels of homocysteine. This is important because too much of this chemical can damage brain cells.
What are some symptoms of lack of folate?
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor memory
  • Cracked lips
  • Eczema
  • Lack of energy
  • Weakness
  • Poor appetite
  • Prematurely greying hair
  • Stomach pains
  • A red and inflamed tongue
  • Very pale skin
Who is most at risk of having low levels of folate?
  • Women on the birth control pill
  • People who often drink a lot of alcohol
  • Pregnant women
  • Young people whose diet is mainly junk food
  • Elderly people in institutions
  • People with malabsorption syndromes
  • People with gastrointestinal (gut) diseases
  • People on certain medications, such as the antitumor drug methotrexate, antimalarial drug pyrimethamine, antibiotic trimethoprim, sedatives and barbituates
What foods are good sources of folate?
Foods high in folate include:
  • cabbage
  • lamb’s liver
  • spinach and other green leafy vegetables
  • breakfast cereals with folate added
  • peanuts
  • peas
  • egg yolks

Boost B12 for brain health

Vitamin B12 has a number of roles including helping form the fatty covering, called the myelin sheath, around nerve cells. The myelin sheath must remain intact for the nerves to work properly. Low levels of B12 in the body can badly affect this sheath, which can become undone. This means nerve impulses won’t be sent properly, so we can’t think as well as we should.
Some senior citizens absorb little vitamin B12 from their food, so are deficient in this nutrient. A lack of vitamin B12 can present similar signs to Alzheimer’s disease, so what is thought to be to aging or mild strokes can sometimes be caused by a lack of this key vitamin. In such cases supplements of vitamin B12 have reversed the symptoms.

What are some symptoms of lack of vitamin B12?
  • Anxiety
  • Depression/low mood
  • Tension
  • Irritability
  • Mental slowness
  • Memory loss
  • Dementia
  • Nerve damage
  • Feeling too tired
  • Weakness
  • Tender or sore muscles
  • Tingling and/or stiff arms and legs
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Eczema or dermatitis
  • Mouth over sensitive to hot or cold
  • Sore tongue
  • Poor hair condition
  • A tendency to bleed
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Pale skin
  • Lemon yellow skin color (a sign of severe lack of vitamin B12)
Who is most at risk of having low levels of vitamin B12?
  • Strict vegetarians (vegans) because vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods
  • Women who are pregnant or breast feeding
  • Newborn infants of vegan mothers
  • People who often drink high amounts of alcohol
  • Elderly people
  • People with methylmalonic acidaemia, which is an inherited defect in vitamin B12 metabolism

 What foods are good sources of vitamin B12?
Only animal products contain vitamin B12. The following foods are good sources of vitamin B12:
  • lamb’s liver
  • sardines
  • oysters
  • egg yolks
  • fish

12 Patient-Approved Natural Supplements for Depression


I confess that it takes me a half hour each week to fill up my mammoth-sized pill container with the supplements and vitamins I take each week to give my brain every lift I can. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, it’s a pain in my arse, but I would rather spend my time organizing fish oil capsules than in front of a therapist explaining why I can’t shut off the negative intrusive thoughts. I’m doing much better today than I was seven months ago, the afternoon I first met with a holistic doctor to determine which supplements could help my depression. I was hoping that they would be able to replace my meds. Not at this point. But adding them to my meds has helped stabilize my mood since the beginning of the year.
There are so many brands out there. It’s hard to know if you’re paying big bucks for a sugar pill or if you’re getting the real stuff. My doctor insisted that anything I take be third-party tested, such as the ones listed by ConsumerLab.com. She recommended the following manufacturers: ProtheraKlaire LabsPure EncapsulationsDouglas LabsNature MadeOrthomolecular Products,MetagenicsVital Nutrients, and Carlson Labs.

Here are the 12 natural supplements I take every day for depression:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. If I had to choose two supplements that make the most difference, I would vote my omega-3 capsules and the probiotic that I take. Don’t skimp on those. I spend the big bucks on a quality brand of fish oil, OmegaBrite, because their capsules contain 70 percent EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) in a 7:1 ratio of EPA to DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). New research has confirmed the positive effects of EPA on mood, even more so than DHA, as it provides a natural balance to omega-6 arachidonic acid. I noticed a definite difference in switching from a brand of mostly DHA to mostly EPA. Nordic Naturals is also a reliable brand.

2. Probiotics. As I’ve mentioned in places, I mix a very expensive powder, Probiotic 22 (by Orthomolecular Products) with either water or a green smoothie before I eat anything in the morning. It is crucial to keep your intestines in good shape because your brain is only as healthy as your gut. The nerve cells in our gut manufacture 80 to 90 percent of our body’s serotonin, the neurotransmitter we need to stay sane. That’s more than our brain makes. And the gut is in constant communication with the brain, sending it information that most definitely affects your mood, even as the messages never come to consciousness. Other good brands are Align and Bio-Kult.

3. Vitamin B-12. Bestselling author Mark Hyman, MD, calls Folate, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 the “mighty methylators for mental health.” He mentions a remarkable study in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found that 27 percent of severely depressed women over the age of 65 were deficient in B-12.
“If you think about it,” writes Dr. Hyman, “this suggests that more than one-quarter of all severe depression can be cured with B-12 shots.” For this reason — to make sure it gets into my system as easily as possible — I take a form of liquid B-12, a dropperful from Pure Encapsulations.

4. SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine). We actually make SAM-e when the amino acid methionine combines with adenosyl-triphosphate (ATP), which is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. The supplement we take is a stabilized form of that substance. It has only become available in the U.S. since 1999. A 2002 review by theU.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that SAM-e was more effective than a placebo and equally as effective as antidepressantsOther studiessuggested that adding SAM-e to an antidepressant may improve results in people who haven’t responded to medication. I get my SAM-e from Prothera.

5. Turmeric (Curcuma longa). I got turned on to turmeric after I read David Perlmutter’s bestseller, “Grain Brain.” It’s actually the seasoning used in curry dishes, and has been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Indian medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Perlmutter claims that it is your brain’s best friend because of its ability to activate genes to produce antioxidants, which then protect “our precious mitochondria,” the tiny organelles in our cells that generate chemical energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). I get mine from Prothera.

6. Vitamin D. As I said in my post, “6 Conditions That Feel Like Depression But Aren’t,” a deficiency in vitamin D will feel very much like depression. Lots of studieshave found a close association between depression (or increased odds for depression) and vitamin D deficiencies. And as many as three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient, according to a 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This one is so important that, again, I take the liquid form, a few drops from Pure Encapsulations.

7. Vitamin C. I took vitamin C every day as a kid. My mom always said it fought off colds and was a helping hand to your immune system. Then I forgot about it for about 20 years. But after reading Norman Cousin’s book, “Anatomy of an Illness” — how his life-threatening illness was cured by megadoses of vitamin C and laughter — I am taking it again. Lots of it. I get mine from Prothera.

8. Amino Acids. Amino acids are the special building blocks of protein, some of which gets transformed in our bodies into neurotransmitters. As Hyman explains, “ALL of the thousands of molecules in your body are built from only eight essential amino acids that we must get from our diet.” Without adequate amino acids, your brain can’t work and you get sluggish, foggy, unfocused, and depressed. I get mine from Prothera.
9. Magnesium. Up to half of Americans today don’t get enough of magnesium because stress, caffeine, sugar and alcohol all deplete it. Unless you eat lots of seaweed and green beans, it’s wise to bulk up on magnesium, because it is considered by some doctors to be the stress antidote and the most powerful relaxation mineral that exists. I get mine from Prothera.
10. GABA. Most of the anti-anxiety medications today (Valium, Xanax, Ativan) act on the GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) pathways to calm and relax the nervous system. GABA is known as the “anti-anxiety” neurotransmitter. However, these types of drugs (benzodiazepines, and benzodiazepine-like drugs such as Ambien and Lunesta) are bad news for me. I get addicted fast, and the anxiety hangover is awful. So I take GABA itself in supplements. I get mine from Prothera.

11. Calcium. Calcium doesn’t reduce depression itself; however, eliminating dairy from your diet CAN reduce depression, especially if you have food intolerances that cause inflammation in the brain. Therefore you need to take calcium supplements because you aren’t getting enough in your diet. Women over the age of 40 need to be especially careful to get enough calcium to ensure strong bones. I get mine from Prothera.

12. Melatonin. Anyone who has ever experienced insomnia knows about melatonin. It helps us get to sleep and regulates the sleep-wake cycle. When I went through a period of extreme insomnia, the combination of melatonin with calcium and magnesium seemed to help. I still have a lot of sleep anxiety at night, so I continue to take melatonin before bed. 


Vitamin deficiencies and mental health: How are they linked?





Drew Ramsey, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY
Philip R. Muskin, MD
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Chief, Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, NY-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Campus, New York, NY
Identifying and correcting deficiencies can improve brain metabolism and psychopathology









Discuss this article at www.facebook.com/CurrentPsychiatry
Patients today often are overfed but undernourished. A growing body of literature links dietary choices to brain health and the risk of psychiatric illness. Vitamin deficiencies can affect psychiatric patients in several ways:
  • deficiencies may play a causative role in mental illness and exacerbate symptoms
  • psychiatric symptoms can result in poor nutrition
  • vitamin insufficiency—defined as subclinical deficiency—may compromise patient recovery.
Additionally, genetic differences may compromise vitamin and essential nutrient pathways.
Vitamins are dietary components other than carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and proteins that are necessary for life. B vitamins are required for proper functioning of the methylation cycle, monoamine production, DNA synthesis, and maintenance of phospholipids such as myelin (Figure). Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E play important roles in genetic transcription, antioxidant recycling, and inflammatory regulation in the brain.

Figure: The methylation cycle
Vitamins B2, B6, B9, and B12 directly impact the functioning of the methylation cycle. Deficiencies pertain to brain function, as neurotransmitters, myelin, and active glutathione are dependent on one-carbon metabolism
Illustration: Mala Nimalasuriya with permission from DrewRamseyMD.com
To help clinicians recognize and treat vitamin deficiencies among psychiatric patients, this article reviews the role of the 6 essential water-soluble vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B9, B12, and C; Table 1,1) and 3 fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, and E; Table 2,1) in brain metabolism and psychiatric pathology. Because numerous sources address using supplements to treat vitamin deficiencies, this article emphasizes food sources, which for many patients are adequate to sustain nutrient status.
Table 1
Water-soluble vitamins: Deficiency, insufficiency, symptoms, and dietary sources
Expand table
DeficiencyInsufficiencySymptomsAt-risk patientsDietary sources
B1 (thiamine): Glycolysis, tricarboxylic acid cycle
Rare; 7% in heart failure patients5% total, 12% of older womenWernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, memory impairment, confusion, lack of coordination, paralysisOlder adults, malabsorptive conditions, heavy alcohol use. Those with diabetes are at risk because of increased clearancePork, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, rice, and wheat germ. Raw fish, tea, and betel nuts impair absorption
B2 (riboflavin): FMN, FAD cofactors in glycolysis and oxidative pathways. B6, folate, and glutathione synthesis
10% to 27% of older adults<3%; 95% of adolescent girls (measured by EGRAC)Fatigue, cracked lips, sore throat, bloodshot eyesOlder adults, low intake of animal and dairy products, heavy alcohol useDairy, meat and fish, eggs, mushrooms, almonds, leafy greens, and legumes
B6 (pyridoxal): Methylation cycle
11% to 24% (<5 ng/mL); 38% of heart failure patients14% total, 26% of adultsDermatitis, glossitis, convulsions, migraine, chronic pain, depressionOlder adults, women who use oral contraceptives, alcoholism. 33% to 49% of women age >51 have inadequate intakeBananas, beans, potatoes, navy beans, salmon, steak, and whole grains
B9 (folate): Methylation cycle
0.5% total; up to 50% of depressed patients16% of adults, 19% of adolescent girlsLoss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, heart palpitations, behavioral disordersDepression, pregnancy and lactation, alcoholism, dialysis, liver disease. Deficiency during pregnancy is linked to neural tube defectsLeafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, and peas
B12 (cobalamin): Methylation cycle (cofactor methionine synthase)
10% to 15% of older adults<3% to 9%Depression, irritability, anemia, fatigue, shortness of breath, high blood pressureVegetarian or vegan diet, achlorhydria, older adults. Deficiency more often due to poor absorption than low consumptionMeat, seafood, eggs, and dairy
C (ascorbic acid): Antioxidant
7.1%31%Scurvy, fatigue, anemia, joint pain, petechia. Symptoms develop after 1 to 3 months of no dietary intakeSmokers, infants fed boiled or evaporated milk, limited dietary variation, patients with malabsorption, chronic illnessesCitrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes
EGRAC: erythrocyte glutathione reductase activation coefficient; FAD: flavin adenine dinucleotide; FMN: flavin mononucleotide 
Source: Reference 1
Table 2
Fat-soluble vitamins: Deficiency, insufficiency, symptoms, and dietary sources
Expand table
DeficiencyInsufficiencySymptomsAt-risk patientsDietary sources
A (retinol): Transcription regulation, vision
<5% of U.S. population44%Blindness, decreased immunity, corneal and retinal damagePregnant women, individuals with strict dietary restrictions, heavy alcohol use, chronic diarrhea, fat malabsorptive conditionsBeef liver, dairy products. Convertible beta-carotene sources: sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, butternut squash, greens, broccoli, cantaloupe
D (cholecalciferol): Hormone, transcriptional regulation
≥50%, 90% of adults age >5069%Rickets, osteoporosis, muscle twitchingBreast-fed infants, older adults, limited sun exposure, pigmented skin, fat malabsorption, obesity. Older adults have an impaired ability to make vitamin D from the sun. SPF 15 reduces production by 99%Fatty fish and fish liver oils, sun-dried mushrooms
E (tocopherols and tocotrienols): Antioxidant, PUFA protectant, gene regulation
Rare93%Anemia, neuropathy, myopathy, abnormal eye movements, weakness, retinal damageMalabsorptive conditions, HIV, depressionSunflower, wheat germ, and safflower oils; meats; fish; dairy; green vegetables
HIV: human immunodeficiency virus; PUFA: polyunsaturated fatty acids; SPF: sun protection factor 
Source: Reference 1
Water-soluble vitamins
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential for glucose metabolism. Pregnancy, lactation, and fever increase the need for thiamine, and tea, coffee, and shellfish can impair its absorption. Although rare, severe B1 deficiency can lead to beriberi, Wernicke’s encephalopathy (confusion, ataxia, nystagmus), and Korsakoff’s psychosis (confabulation, lack of insight, retrograde and anterograde amnesia, and apathy). Confusion and disorientation stem from the brain’s inability to oxidize glucose for energy because B1 is a critical cofactor in glycolysis and the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Deficiency leads to an increase in reactive oxygen species, proinflammatory cytokines, and blood-brain barrier dysfunction.2 Wernicke’s encephalopathy is most frequently encountered in patients with chronic alcoholism, diabetes, or eating disorders, and after bariatric surgery.3 Iatrogenic Wernicke’s encephalopathy may occur when depleted patients receive IV saline with dextrose without receiving thiamine. Top dietary sources of B1 include pork, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, rice, and wheat germ.

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Vitamins and Supplements Boost Effectiveness of Antidepressants

Considering the fact that antidepressants have the clinical effectiveness of a placebo, is it any wonder that nutritional supplements can "boost" their effectiveness? That's exactly what a recent study found.
The meta-analysis, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, looked at 40 clinical trials in which supplements were added to the drug regimen.5,6,7  
The following four supplements were found to improve the impact of the medication — which included serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants — compared to medication only:
  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin D
  • Methylfolate (an effective form of folic acid)
  • S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe)
Fish oil — specifically the fat EPA — produced the most significant improvement, which isn't so surprising if you understand the importance of animal-based omega-3 for brain health.
In fact, it would have been far more interesting to see how these supplements might have fared without the use of medication, as the supplements could very well have been the true benefit.
After all, studies have shown that both omega-3 and vitamin D can help improve mental health all on their own, and if the medication doesn't add anything of real value, why risk your health and wellbeing by taking it?

Lowering Inflammation Is Important for Mental Health

Studies have linked depression to chronic inflammation and dysfunction of the gut-brain axis.8 Depression is often found alongside gastrointestinal inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
One likely theory as to why certain nutrients work so well for depression is because they are potent anti-inflammatories. Indeed, many studies have confirmed that treating gastrointestinal inflammation helps improve symptoms of depression.9 The gut-brain connection is well-recognized as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine, so this isn't all that surprising, even though it's often overlooked.
A previous article10 titled "Are Probiotics the New Prozac?" reviews some of the supporting evidence. For example, animal research has linked changes in gut flora to changes in affective behaviors, and in humans, probiotics (beneficial bacteria) have been shown to alter brain function.11 According to lead author Dr. Kirsten Tillisch:12
"Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut. Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street ...  When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings 'you are what you eat' and 'gut feelings' take on new meaning."
Previous research has also shown that certain probiotics can help alleviate anxiety. For example, the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility13 reported the probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 normalized anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis by modulating the vagal pathways within the gut-brain.
Other research14 found that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA levels — an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes — in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior. (It is likely other lactobacillus species also provide this benefit, but this was the only one that was tested.)

Important Brain Nutrients

Part of the reason why depression is so rampant may well be linked to the fact that vitamin D and omega-3 deficiencies are rampant as well, and both of these nutrients are really important for optimal brain function and mental health. Consider this: your brain is made up of about 60 percent fat,15 and vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, suggesting vitamin D has an important role to play in your brain.
Omega-3 fats are important for mental clarity and focus. The 2001 book, "The Omega-3 Connection," written by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll, was among the first works to bring attention to and support the use of omega-3 fats for depression. Omega-3s have also been shown to improve more serious mental disorders, including schizophrenia, psychosis, and bipolar disorder.16
There is no set recommended standard dose of omega-3 fats, but some health organizations recommend a daily dose of 250 to 500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA for healthy adults. If you suffer from depression, higher doses may be called for. In one study,17 an omega-3 supplement with a dose range of 200 to 2,200 mg of EPA per day was effective against primary depression.
As for vitamin D, researchers have suggested vitamin D may play a role in depression by regulating brain chemicals called monoamines, which include serotonin.18 As a general rule, depressed individuals have lower vitamin D levels than non-depressed people.19
Having a vitamin D level below 20 ng/ml can raise your risk of depression by 85 percent compared to having a level greater than 30 ng/ml.20 Among seniors, low vitamin D levels have been shown to raise the risk of depression by as much as 1,100 percent!
A double-blind randomized trial21 published in 2008 also concluded that: "It appears to be a relation between serum levels of 25(OH)D and symptoms of depression. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D seems to ameliorate these symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship."Vitamin B12 deficiency can also contribute to depression, and affects about 1 in 4 people.

The Importance of Exercise

Besides nutrition, exercise is one of the most potent anti-depressants at your disposal. Research has confirmed it actually outperforms drug treatment. It's also a key treatment strategy for anxiety disorders. Exercise combats depression in a number of different ways, including by:
  • Helping to normalize your insulin levels, which reduces inflammation
  • Boosting "feel-good" hormones in your brain
  • Eliminating kynurenine, a harmful protein associated with depression.22 (Confirming the link between inflammation and depression, your body metabolizes kynurenine primarily via a process activated by stress and inflammatory factors)
  • Increasing brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which tends to be critically low in depressed individuals
  • Activating mitochondrial biogenesis

Putting Treatment Options for Depression Into Proper Perspective

If you suffer from mental health problems, be it depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or any other mental or emotional disturbance, it's really important to reassess your diet and general lifestyle. Your body and mind are closely interrelated, and physical dysfunction can easily take a toll on your mental health. Your gut health, especially, can play a significant role.
One thing's for sure. Antidepressants fail miserably in addressing the cause of people's mental health problems. The booming market of "booster" drugs or "antidepressant add-ons" like ABILIFY (originally developed to treat schizophrenia and mania23) is just another sign that antidepressants really don't work as advertised.
While adding one or more supplements to the treatment protocol would be a step in the right direction, it still falls short, as the side effects of these drugs can be worse than the original complaint. For these reasons, I recommend avoiding drug treatment unless absolutely necessary.
There are instances where they can be useful and lifesaving, especially when dealing with more serious psychological disorders like schizophrenia and psychotic episodes, but for run of the mill depression, the long-term answer is more likely to be found in your kitchen than in your medicine cabinet.
Remember, studies show antidepressants are on par with placebo in terms of effectiveness, so by forgoing them you're not turning your back to a science-based cure.
It's really unfortunate that psychiatry has been so resistant to changing its treatment recommendations based on the scientific evidence, because if it did, antidepressants would no longer be among the top selling drugs in the U.S. (ABILIFY nabbed second place among the top 10 best-selling brand name drugs in 2015, with a total of 8.3 million total prescriptions written that year.24)

Overcoming Depression Without Drugs

Research tells us that the composition of your gut flora not only affects your physical health, but also has a significant impact on your brain function and mental state, and your gut microbiome can be quickly impacted by dietary changes — for better or worse.
Research has also revealed there are a number of other safe, effective ways to address depression that do not involve hazardous drugs. So if you suffer from an anxiety- or depression-related disorder, please consider addressing the following diet and lifestyle factors before you resort to drugs:


Eat real food, and avoid all processed foods, sugar (particularly fructose), grains, and GMOs
High sugar and starchy non-fiber carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can result in falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia.
In turn, hypoglycemia causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks. Sugar also fans the flames of inflammation in your body.
In addition to being high in sugar and grains, processed foods also contain a variety of additives that can affect your brain function and mental state, especially MSG, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
Gluten sensitivity is also a common, hidden cause of depression, so going on a gluten-free diet can be part of the answer.
Recent research also shows that glyphosate, used in large quantities on genetically engineered crops like corn, soy, and sugar beets, limits your body's ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds.
As a result, the damaging effects of those toxins are magnified, potentially resulting in a wide variety of diseases, including brain disorders that have both psychological and behavioral effects.
Increase consumption of traditionally fermented and cultured foods
Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues,25 so optimizing your gut flora is a critical piece.
To promote healthy gut flora, increase your consumption of probiotic foods, such as fermented vegetables, kimchee, natto, kefir, and others.
Get adequate vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to depression and affects one in four people.
Optimize your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is very important for your mood. Remember, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to sunshine deficiency, so it would make sense that the perfect way to optimize your vitamin D is through UV exposure.
Be sure to check your levels (via blood test) at least once or twice a year. You'll want to be within the therapeutic range of 40 to 60 ng/ml year-round.
If you cannot get sufficient sun exposure to maintain this level, taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement would be advisable. Just remember to also increase your vitamin K2 when taking oral vitamin D.
Get plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats
Your brain is 60 percent fat, and DHA, an animal-based omega-3 fat, along with EPA, is crucial for good brain function and mental health.26,27
Unfortunately, most people don't get enough from diet alone, so make sure you take a high-quality omega-3 fat. I recommend krill oil, which has a number of benefits over fish oil, including better absorption.28 
Beneficial herbs and  supplements: SAMe, 5-HTP and St. John's Wort
SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines.
Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants. When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement may raise serotonin levels.
The evidence suggests 5-HTP outperforms a placebo when it comes to alleviating depression29 — more than can be said about antidepressants.
One caveat: anxiety and social phobias can worsen with higher levels of serotonin, so it may be contraindicated if your anxiety is already high. St. John's Wort has also been shown to provide relief from mild depressive symptoms.
Evaluate your salt intake
Sodium deficiency actually creates symptoms that are very much like those of depression. Make sure you do NOT use processed salt (regular table salt), however.
You'll want to use an all natural, unprocessed salt like Himalayan salt, which contains more than 80 different micronutrients.
Get adequate daily exercise
Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity.
There's also a growing acceptance that the mind-body connection is very real, and that maintaining good physical health can significantly lower your risk of developing depression in the first place.
Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. It also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress.
Get enough sleep
You can have the best diet and exercise program possible but if you aren't sleeping well you can easily become depressed.
Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression.
Energy psychology
Energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), can also be very effective for reducing symptoms of depression or anxiety by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that causes your body's reactions — without adverse effects.
Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states.
EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.30,31
For serious or complex issues, seek out a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT32 to help guide you through the process.


Mental health supplements vitamins minerals and nutrients.

The right nutrients for improved mental wellbeing








We are all constantly told that the shape and state of our bodies is directly affected by what we feed it.  It is no secret that a lifetime of eating fatty foods and an absence of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet can lead to obesity, heart disease and lack of energy, but what we often fail to acknowledge is the effect that different nutrients have on our mood. 

Nutrients and mood

“Our brain is a hugely complex vital organ” says Simon Bandy from nutritional supplements company, Veganicity.  “It dictates how we feel, how we act and fundamentally decides who we are.  It makes sense that if we provide it with the nutrients it needs to function, it will perform better than if we starve it of the fuel it needs to keep us mentally healthy and alert.  If we continually fail to feed ourselves with good brain nutrients then we risk putting our psychological health and mental abilities in jeopardy.”
Of course depression, anxiety and mood swings are about more than vitamins and minerals – life experience, genetics and physical wellbeing all play a part – but as Simon explains, taking control of your nutrients intake can have a very positive impact, “Some things about our lives we can’t unfortunately control which is why when it comes to something like food and nutrients that we can control, it is important for us as individuals to make sure we benefit from our choices as much as possible.  Simply popping a vitamin C tablet once a day realistically isn’t going to do much to significantly improve your mental wellbeing, but taking twenty minutes to consider your weekly vitamin intake and making the appropriate changes, probably will make a big difference to your life and mental health.

Know your nutrients

But with a seemingly ever-growing array of nutritional supplements available, how do we make sense of it all and know which ones to choose?  Simon gives his expert advice on which supplements can enhance mental health and aims to make the selection a little easier: 

5-HTP (Hydroxytryptophan)

Popular in many countries as a herbal anti-depressant, 5-HTP is a natural precursor to serotonin which is believed to help maintain a calm mood and promote good sleeping patterns.  Sleep deprivation can make it almost impossible for the sufferer to cope calmly and effectively with life the following day, making a good night’s sleep a basic essential for good mental health.
“Try and find a 5-HTP supplement which is combined with additional nutrients such as magnesium and zinc” says Simon.  “Magnesium is known to help quell feelings of anxiety and zinc keeps you feeling motivated and energetic.”

Gotu Kola

This exotic-sounding herb is actually a member of the parsley family.  It has been used for hundreds of years in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as a natural remedy for depression, stress and fatigue.  Gotu Kola is believed to be a ‘neurotransmitter’ meaning that it supports the production of brain messenger molecules, helping the brain to function.
For people who need to avoid caffeine, Gotu Kola is a good choice as it is caffeine-free.  In Thailand tea made from Gotu Kola is consumed as a natural pick-me-up as it is believed to rejuvenate the mind and rebuild physical energy. 
Gotu Kola is thought to be an efficient nootropic (memory and intelligence enhancer) and has a large following of people living with depression who benefit daily from its mind and mood-enhancing properties. 

Valerian

The Valerian root has been used since the Middle Ages as a natural remedy for nervous tension, helping to suppress the feeling of rising panic and calm irritability.   Many people find that valerian has a gentle sedative effect which leaves them feeling refreshed rather than drowsy and unlike the similarly named prescription drug, ‘valium’ valerian is natural and non-narcotic.  Many people report that valerian helps them achieve a natural, healthy sleep pattern and helps to combat hyper activity and over excitement.

Ginkgo Biloba

If you have researched herbal remedies for mental health you may well have come across this supplement which is gaining ever more attention due to its memory and concentration enhancing properties.  As with most natural remedies, Ginkgo Biloba has been used in the East for centuries (as early as 3000BC) but only relatively recently has it become known to us in the Western World. 
A favourite among post menopausal women, Ginkgo Biloba is reported to improve general mental wellbeing and give people a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in their everyday lives.
Ginkgo is also used as a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s, arthritis, peptic ulcers and erectile dysfunction so although there may be little documented proof that it can change your mood, it could help to improve deep rooted health problems which may be causing you concern and discomfort.








Nutritional Approaches to Mental Health


by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFMPublished on , Last Updated on 
Table full of healthy foods that can be consumed as nutritional options to maintain mental health.
Food nourishes both the body and mind, offering the nutrition required for keeping the whole self energized and functioning at its best. You might, or might not, be surprised to learn that the brain is actually the first site that receives incoming nutrients. It makes sense, it is the organ that directs the other organs, cells, and metabolic processes. So what happens if we’re nutritionally deficient, can it affect our brain?
While nutritional deficiencies do not always exhibit grand mental or psychological symptoms, lesser subclinical indications can pop up. Minor deficiencies of certain nutrients are sufficient enough to change mood and brain chemistry, especially in sensitive individuals. Antidepressants, including natural anti-anxiety herbs like St. John’s wort, may not be enough to alleviate depressive-like symptoms in people who are also suffering from underlying nutritional deficiencies.

Holistic Approaches to Mental Health

Holistic medicine is an approach that addresses the whole self by incorporating nutritional, biological, genetic, emotional, and mental aspects. When dealing with mood disorders, a sometimes serious and debilitating disorder, all of these aspects must be taken into account. One angle often taken is the use of herbs like kava kava and St. John’s wort. Some herbs are seeing a great deal of research from reputable scientific organizations, all demonstrating positive results in promoting a positive mood and mental agility. Some herbs include:
  • B vitamins – May provide protection against brain atrophy and cognitive impairment, especially in older adults. [1]
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Fatty acids, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, play a large role in brain health and may be helpful for improving mood. [2]
  • St. John’s wort – A popular herb shown to promote a pleasant mood. [3]
  • Kava kava – Herb from the South Pacific used to relieve stress. [4]
Psychotherapy and conventional medical therapies are often more successful when the patient is thinking clearly and is in a positive mindset (or “mood set”). By increasing certain nutrients and utilizing natural approaches, like St. John’s wort and kava kava, mental health may be improved dramatically when combined with conventional therapeutic approaches.

A Closer Look at Nutrition and Depression

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is typically low in many of the nutrients our brain (and the rest of our body) needs to stay healthy. A diet high in processed carbohydrates and low in essential fatty acids is common among many people today, and this nutritional factor may be impairing the quality of the mind and body in adults, teens, and children. Individuals do not often understand or even think about the importance nutrition plays in mental health. With many people currently overfed and undernourished, it’s no wonder why we are seeing a constant bombardment of disease and mental disorders plaguing our Western world.
Here’s a quick overview at the nutrients that are crucial for mental health.

Amino Acids

Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are necessary for transmitting electrical impulses and messages between brain cells. These essential electrical conductors are also important for keeping mood elevated, and a decreased amount in the brain can result in depression or depressive-like symptoms. Many conventional antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitter levels, an action that is also attributed to St. John’s wort.
Amino acids are the precursors for neurotransmitter production, and the majority of us receive all the amino acids we need from dietary protein. The three amino acids that are directly linked to mood and depression include phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. Phenylalanine and tyrosine produce norepinephrine and tryptophan, two neurotransmitters necessary for maintaining a stable mood.
Some research has indicated that amino acid therapy may be as effective as traditional drug approaches to depression, with phenylalanine and tyrosine being two of the amino acids demonstrating similar antidepressive results compared with a popular pharmaceutical. [5] Amino acids have also been shown to reduce pain levels in the body by maintaining healthy levels of endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

Thiamine is necessary for converting glucose (blood sugar) into fuel for cells in the brain and body. Without this conversion, the brain can’t access its preferred energy source, and symptoms like fatigue, depression, impaired thinking, irritability, and anxiety can manifest. Memory loss, anorexia, and insomnia are also symptoms related to a vitamin B1 deficiency. [6]

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

There is a strong correlation between B6 deficiency and depression, as this nutrient is also necessary for creating neurotransmitters. [7]

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 has seen a lot of attention in recent years, often heralded by many as a powerful energy enhancer and mood booster. This vitamin, which is derived primarily from animal sources, is important for red blood cell formation. Without it, pernicious anemia can result, [8] a condition that can lead to mood swings, irritability, paranoia, confusion, anorexia, and depression. To learn more about the best sources of this vitamin visit my article about the top 10 foods for vitamin B12.

Folate

Another B vitamin, folate also assists in the production of neurotransmitters. Deficiencies of this vitamin can lead to anemia, resulting in the same mental symptoms related to B12 deficiency. Orthomolecular psychiatrists have used folic acid (folate) supplements for years to reduce the frequency of memory lapses in dementia patients, and some research suggests that the vitamin may be helpful for fighting depression. [9] Eating foods rich in folate is a way to maintain healthy folate levels.

Vitamin C

The benefits of vitamin C are often related to its antioxidant capabilities, one of the leading contributors to brain protection. Some research has shown that vitamin C may reduce mania and depression symptoms, with one study showing that a single 3-gram dose of vitamin C was all that was needed to accomplish these benefits. Vitamin C is water soluble and must be consumed every day in order to receive benefit.

Vitamin D

People with depression often show lower levels of vitamin D compared with individuals displaying little to no symptoms. [10] While this is a mere correlation, other studies have consistently replicated this relationship. Sunlight, the main avenue through which natural vitamin D is produced in the body, has been associated with regulating serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain, and one study indicated sunlight as a potent mood and cognitive enhancer for depressed individuals. [11]

Minerals

There are around 15 minerals that are essential for human health, with 5 of them being crucial for maintaining mental agility. While all nutrients work synergistically to create a dynamic state of health, the following nutrients have seen the most research in relation to mental and emotional stabilization.


Sodium and Potassium

Both sodium and potassium work together to maintain electrolyte balance in the body, and too much or too little of these nutrients disrupt this balance. When nutrient balance is disrupted, neurotransmitters are directly affected, producing symptoms related to depression. Long-term use of diuretics can lead to a deficiency of potassium, an issue that can also manifest depression symptoms.


Iron

A deficiency of iron can result in anemia, a condition that can produce symptoms such as depression, attention and focus disorders, fatigue, and irritability. Iron produces energy in the cerebral parenchyma in the brain and is essential for neurotransmitter production. Children with ADD/ADHD are often deficient in iron, making it a possible nutrient helpful for promoting proper focus and concentration. [12] A deficiency of iron has been known to cause mental fatigue and depression in some individuals. [13] You can combat iron deficiency with this 16 foods rich in iron.


Magnesium

Most diets today are deficient in magnesium, a mineral largely found in vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Magnesium plays a role in hundreds of different workings in the body, including chemical mechanisms within the brain. A deficiency may result in depression, anxiety, and confusion, not to mention an array of physical issues. Kidney disease, high blood pressure, and malabsorption issues may increase magnesium deficiency risk. [14]


Calcium

Studies have indicated that hypercalcaemia, or high calcium levels in the blood, is associated with mental health disorders. [15] Hypercalcaemia has also been shown to increase the levels of magnesium excretion in the urine, further enhancing the risk of developing depression and other mental-health issues. [16]


Zinc

A deficiency in zinc frequently leads to depressive thoughts, emotions, and actions, as zinc is critical for improving cell signaling in the brain. Zinc is found in high amounts in the brain, and studies have shown significant improvement in depressive symptoms with individuals supplementing with the mineral. [17] Zinc is more bioavailable in meat compared with vegetable sources, as meat lacks the phytates that impede the nutrient’s absorption. Supplementation with zinc is often recommended for vegetarians and vegans for this reason.


Other Nutrients for Brain Health

Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics may be helpful for some people suffering from depression, concentration issues, and anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish, seeds (flaxseed and chia seeds being the prime examples), and some oils, has been shown to regulate brain function. Also, considering that the majority of our serotonin is found in the gut, it’s no wonder why so many studies have explored probiotics’ role in promoting healthy mood and mental performance. [18]

What You Can Do

Mental health is influenced by a multitude of factors, including diet, lifestyle, and genetics. Nutritional deficiencies related to depression and concentration issues contribute to many of the psychological diagnoses being attributed to people today, yet very little is being done to look into these root causes. Prescribing a pill to cover up symptoms seems to be the most popular route; however, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you or someone you know is suffering from some type of mental disorder, it is best to undergo a complete nutritional analysis to determine and remedy any possible underlying factors.

Please watch the video at the bottom of this link