I have always been curious about the relationship between nutritional deficiencies and health issues including depression and anxiety. There are a number of nutritional deficiencies that can be expressed as depression and anxiety.
Studies have shown Folate deficiency is common in patients with depression and anxiety. Recent studies through the Human Genome Project (which completed the first map of human genes in 2003) have shown some individuals have a mutated MTHFR gene which disables them from being able to activate Folate. (A blood test can determine whether a person has this mutated gene.) Individuals who discover they have this mutated gene can work with their doctors to supplement with the correct dosage of methylfolate (a supplement available over the counter as well as through a prescription).
Folate is necessary for manufacturing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which naturally lift our mood and alleviate depression. Folate is also necessary for the creation and repair of every cell in our bodies.
Stress and alcohol also interfere with methylation of Folate. So if you have been under stress for extended periods of time and/or consuming alcohol regularly, you may be susceptible to Folate deficiency and could greatly benefit from supplementing with methylfolate (rather than folic acid, which is not easily assimilated by the body).
Lastly, I've had clients and friends who proudly let me know they were "not salad eaters". It just wasn't who they were or how they were raised. Folate can be found in leafy greens (think foliage) and legumes. If leafy greens and legumes have not been a regular part of your diet, you may also be deficient in Folate.
The best food sources of Folate are: Arugula, Asparagus, Black Beans, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Garbanzo Beans, Kale, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, Romaine, Spinach, Swiss Chard and Turnip Greens.
To express how important Folate is, here is a list of ailments associated with a mutated MTHFR gene and Folate deficiency:
Several studies have shown a strong correlation between depression and Vitamin D deficiency. There are a number of reasons people may be deficient, especially this time of year.
Energy from the sun turns a chemical in your skin into vitamin D3, which is carried to your liver and kidneys where it is transformed into active vitamin D. It takes about 15 minutes of sun exposure for the average person to absorb the daily recommended value of Vitamin D. Pigmentation can interfere with absorption, so a person with darker skin would need longer exposure. With days being shorter this time of year along with colder temperatures inspiring us to stay indoors, people are not exposed to the sun as frequently and naturally absorb less Vitamin D, which can contribute to seasonal depression.
Sun screen blocks absorption, so people who have skin cancer in their history or their family history may want to consider supplementing with Vitamin D3, which is most easily assimilated by the body.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it requires fat to be absorbed. If you have been following a fat-free or low fat diet you may also be deficient.
To find out if you are deficient in Vitamin D you can request a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. Optimal levels of Vitamin D should be between 50ng/ml and 70ng/ml.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to support and increase the production of serotonin. (Many antidepressants are designed to increase levels of serotonin, but often have challenging side effects.) The human body cannot produce Omega-3 fatty acids on its own and must obtain them through food or supplementation.
The best food sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are: Beef, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Flaxseeds, Salmon, Sardines, Shrimp, Soybeans, Tofu, and Walnuts.
If you are not consuming regular amounts of food sources containing Omega 3s, you may want to consider supplementing. Supplementing with Omega 3s has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression by as much as 50%. I usually recommend 1000 IUs of fish oil; preferably a supplement that is purified and pharmaceutical grade to ensure mercury has been filtered out. You may want to talk with your doctor about the benefits of supplementing with fish oil.
Stress Relieving Breathing Technique
I recently saw Dr. Andrew Weil speak at a conference and at the end of his talk, he had everyone participate in a breathing technique he mentioned can ease anxiety, lower blood pressure and assist with insomnia. It was so calming I wanted to share it with you.
You will do this breathing technique four times in a row and you can do it up to three times a day.
- Exhale completely
- Take a deep breath to an internal count of four
- Hold for a count of seven
- Breath out to a count of eight
- Repeat four times
With love and gratitude,