Nutrition and Mental Health: What’s the correlation?

Treating your mental health is important. Unfortunately, mental health treatment options are more limited when compared to the options for physical ailments. Mental health is often addressed through counseling and medications.

However, in addition to seeking professional help, patients may also improve their mental health is through nutrition. Health care providers are discovering that there are many correlations between what you eat and how you feel.

The field of nutritional psychiatry involves the study of how diet affects mental health. Recent reports show that by eating specific foods or taking supplements, you can begin to improve your mental state. Talk to your doctor about changing your diet to include nutrients that could help reduce your symptoms. If you are interested in getting help with your mental health, you can benefit from learning which foods, minerals, vitamins and supplements can help.

Mental Health Conditions Can Be Helped by Nutritional Psychiatry

Although nutritionists have long been aware of the correlation between nutrition and mental health, psychiatrists have only recently started using nutrition in their treatments. Nutritional psychiatry is a growing discipline that aims to explore this correlation further. It focuses on the use of foods and supplements containing essential nutrients to help treat patients with:

  • Depression.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Anxiety.
  • ADHD.
  • Schizophrenia.
  • Dementia.

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Everyone requires essential nutrients for their bodies to operate at optimum function. By eating the right foods or taking the right supplements, you can begin to improve some of your symptoms. Similarly, adjusting your nutrition can also help you reduce the risk of developing a mental health condition in the first place. The most important nutrients to include in your diet are omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, probiotics and zinc.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for the development and function of your central nervous system. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids is often associated with cognitive decline, low moods and poor comprehension. These fatty acids are found in a variety of healthy fish dishes, as well as fish oil supplements. Over-the-counter supplements are created from fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon and anchovies.

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid and eicosatetraenoic acid. Both of these have powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body. These fatty acids are crucial for maintaining normal brain function, because they help to facilitate communication between brain cells and preserve cell membrane health. Omega-3 fatty acids can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve mood and even increase the mental capacity of people with dementia.

B Vitamins

Vitamin B complex is fantastic for gaining energy, but it is also great for reducing stress. A recent study showed patients who took a supplement of vitamin B complex had a reduction in workplace stress, confusion and personal strain. The participants in the study had lower depressive moods as well. Additionally, a deficiency in B vitamins can cause mental health issues such as:

  • Anxiety.
  • Dementia.
  • Psychosis.

Different kinds of B vitamins exist, and each can have its own effect on your health. For example, vitamin B12 helps iron to produce hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen into your blood. B12 can also be great for cognitive impairment. It is often recommended for seniors who have impaired cognition. B12 is found in animal products such as fish, eggs, beef and pork, but it is also available in supplements.

Vitamin B3, also called niacin, is important for the general health of your body. In addition, studies have shown it is effective at treating schizophrenia. Several controlled studies reported that large doses of niacin reduces the severity of schizophrenia symptoms. The dosage used in the studies were up to eight grams per day.

Studies also show that combining high doses of niacin with antipsychotic medicine reduces hallucinations and delusions more effectively than antipsychotic medication alone. In general, strong evidence for the benefits of niacin in the treatment of schizophrenia is still lacking. However, high dosages of niacin has become a standard treatment for this illness within the field of orthomolecular psychiatry.

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Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, enables your body to use carbohydrates as energy. It also plays a key role in heart, muscle and nerve function. Less commonly known, it can help patients suffering from depression as well. In multiple studies, patients showed an improved mood with a daily intake of 50 milligrams of thiamin. In addition, studies suggest that thiamin can lessen the severity of symptoms in patients with chronic schizophrenia when taken with a conventional antipsychotic medicine.

Studies of Magnesium, Probiotics and Zinc

Another nutrient patients are often lacking in is magnesium, despite it being an optimal mineral for good health. Although the amount of research on the correlation of magnesium and mental health is small, it is promising. One study showed a daily supplement of magnesium citrate led to a major improvement in patients with anxiety and depression, regardless of their gender, age and severity of symptoms.

When the patients stopped taking the magnesium supplement, their improvement did not continue. Other studies have demonstrated that magnesium can:

  • Rapidly induce recovery from depression.
  • Reduce hyperactivity in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Improve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Probiotics play another important part in your diet. They are produced in live bacteria and yeasts, and you can find them in supplements and some foods, such as yogurt. It is known probiotics are good for your digestive system, but new research has shown they are also good for mental health.

The connection between gut microbes and mental health is an increasing area of study. Recent evidence suggests probiotics can boost your mood, reduce stress and help depression. In addition, the probiotic strain called Lactobacillus rhamnoses is thought to reduce anxiety significantly.

Zinc has long been known as an essential mineral for good physical health, but it is also now thought to affect depression. It helps to regulate the body’s response to stress, and plays an important role in cell signaling. Studies have shown that zinc deficiency can cause many issues, including depression, ADHD, aggressive behavior and even seizures. You can find zinc in food sources such as meat, oysters and poultry.

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