Recently watching a show with characters suffering from depression, it weighed on me how important it is for people to know the ingredients to optimize mental health, to simply function properly. Two friends in the show struggle with depression and were lamenting that they have to take SSRIs to feel “normal” or “good enough”. The dilemma was they also felt “nothing” when they took them, leading some of them to go off their meds at times, to their detriment. Nobody should ever go off of medication without talking to a doctor about a taper schedule or what they recommend. It’s very important to work with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
However, people come to accept some symptoms as normal because they don’t want to go on drugs like these. Nutrition isn’t a main focus of psychiatric or medical curriculums. Unfortunately, some people may be suffering unnecessarily because they don’t understand that we all need foundational nutrients to make our brains function like they should.
This can lead some with suboptimal mental health to feel classified into a group with something simply “wrong” with them to the point they need a drug, even with mild symptoms (often for the rest of their life) because they feel there are no solutions. Then they might develop actual dependency issues to where they really have to keep taking it to avoid some symptoms, such as “brain zaps” or disassociation.
Some people may need medication, especially in dire situations, and there’s nothing wrong with that ever.
Even better, they can perhaps learn to repair the holes foundationally while they patch the area.
If you’re trying to get across the sea in a boat lacking the basic materials to stay afloat, the first step isn’t to make it look better by painting it or just taping the holes.
Basic Nutrients for mental health include:
- Protein- Actual building blocks to tissue in your brain and feel- good chemicals
- Fat- brain runs on fat and largely made from fat
- Carbs- keep you out of fight/flight state, enable the body to use feel- good chemicals
- Energy- Calories are most vital vet most dismissed, villainized by society. Eating in general is the most important things, not discrimating what it is
- The Minnesota Starvation Experiment demonstrated this.
- Only limits of around 1600 calories for men caused psychological issues noted by Ancel Keys, which couldn’t be remedied by modifying macro/ micronutrients alone
- Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals needed for function. I use an app called cronometer to track my nutrient intake.
Minerals of Note:
- Magnesium: A calming mineral needed for 800+ enzymatic reactions. Has been found low in serveral mental disorders, particularly depression
- Lithium Orotate: helpful against depression, stabilizes mood, found in natural springs that are known for making people feel better. (Totally different than carbonate form that has to be given in toxic, huge amounts causing damage and toxicity). Less suicide where it’s found in water in higher amounts like Japan. May be contraindicated with hypothyroid
- Calcium required for nervous system regulation, relaxation, and sleep
- Zinc: Helpful for anxiety, often deficient. A segment of the population prone to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can have more propensity to be low on zinc and other nutrients like B6 due to a condition called pyroluria, unbeknownst to them oftentimes.
- Boron: Deprivation leads to poorer attention
- Iodine: Supports thyroid health and body temperature that’s known to help work against things like depression and anxiety. Kelp and seafood are good sources. Those with Hashimoto’s should speak to a doctor before introducing new sources.
- Potassium: Lowers stress, commonly deficient yet most are unaware
- Sodium: Important for mental stamina. Necessary for energy via adrenal function.
- Vitamin C: Needed coenzyme to convert tyrosine (dopamine precursor). Someone may be prescribed a stimulant like adderall or self- medicate when this could potentially be a limiting factor
- B Vitamins: Needed to handle stress, process neurotransmitters. Helpful with anxiety , depression, fatigue
- Niacin has been shown to combat mental illness as serious as schizophrenia and alcoholism
- Needs to be taken in balance with all B vitamins
- B6: A needed cofactor for feel- good chemicals. Someone might be using antidepressants when in fact they’re simply short in B6 which they need to convert their food to serotonin
- Methylated B vitamins can make the difference in making or breaking mental health for some
- Best to get methylation tested
- Vitamin D: Helpful against depression, anxiety for some
- Vitamin E: prevents excitotoxicity that can lead to depression, anxiety, brain cell death leading to imbalance
- L Tyrosine: Precursor to Dopamine that helps with motivation, happiness
- 5 HTP/ L Tryptophan: Serotonin (serene brain hormone) that helps with anxiety, depression, OCD
- GABA: Relaxing brain chemical. This is what alcoholics are seeking out. Debate as to whether the supplement crosses the blood brain barrier. Amino acid taurine increases GABA in the brain, as do some herbs like magnolia bark without the addicting side effects of benzodiazepines which are prescribed for anxiety and panic
- L theanine: Calms nervous system, balances neurotransmitters, reduces anxiety, increases positive feelings
- ! None of these should be taken if on psychoactive medication!
- Talk to your Dr first
- Curcuminoids in turmeric have been shown to help with depression, act like an anti- inflammatory in the brain, preventing excitotoxicity
- Has shown significant effect in depressive symptoms
- Improves effects of anti- depressants
- Apegenin in chamomile has similar effect to Valium in the brain, but with non- addictive effects but rather beneficial side- effects involving anti- oxidation
- Chrysin found in passion flower, honey and propolis mushrooms, and a variety of fruits and vegetables has been shown in animal models to have neuro- protective effects, ameliorating dangerous inflammation and excitotoxicity in the brain which can be a risk factor for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS and more
- Fisetin has shown to protect against neuron cell death and also protect against neurological diseases in turn like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s . It enhances memory
Fats for Mental Health:
- A study found that switching participants from a diet of 41% to 25% of calories from fat led them to be significantly more angry/ hostile, depressed and dejected
- Omega 3s, Particularly DHA: Protects brain from excitotoxicity, leading to cell death and neuro chemical imbalance, which may lead to mood symptoms
- Cholesterol: People on choesterol- deprived or lowering diets were found to have higher risk of suicide, accidents, and violence
- Saturated Fat: Short and medium chain fatty acids in saturated fat are supportive to the metabolism which support optimized mental health
- Polyunsaturated Fat and Monounsaturated Fat (particularly those less refined like avocado, olive oil rather than highly processed canola (rapeseed) oil) have been shown time and again to have anti- inflammatory effects on the brain and body and ehance mental health.
NAC: N Acetyl Cysteine
- Can even help play a role in healing moderate to severe OCD
- Can help reduce withdrawal symptoms of cocaine addiction and help prevent relapse
- Animal studies have shown it to minimize negative
- Helps reduce glutamate in the brain, an excitatory chemical that can cause brain cell death and has been linked to almost every nervous system- related ailment you can think of, like Parkinson’s, depression, Alzheimer’s and even autism (R).