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Monday, May 22, 2017

How to Tell if a Vitamin B Deficiency is Responsible for Your Depression

photo credit: mrdonduck

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding depression is that people still believe it's synonymous with sadness, but did you know that low vitamin B intake is a major cause for depression as well?

40% of the population is severely deficient in vitamin B12, according to the USDA.

Vitamin B deficiencies share an undeniably strong connection to depression. There have been numerous cases where symptoms of depression significantly improved when the B's were put back into balance.  

If you have depression, you'll want to find out if your vitamin B levels are responsible.

However, before you take a vitamin supplement and expect to be cured, there's something you must know:

If your body doesn't have an abundant, regular supply of each B vitamin, you basically won't benefit much. This is because the B vitamins work in combination with each other, and when you don't get all of them, your body can't absorb the ones you are getting.

This article will discuss how the B vitamins affect your mental health, the signs of vitamin B deficiencies, and exactly what you need to do to reverse the problem.

  *Warning Note: There are many causes of depression, including but not limited to nutrition. Nutritional deficiencies are not the sole cause for everyone's depression. This article is only meant to shed light on one of the causes, and to give you a better understanding of the B vitamins and the role they play in depression.

Photo credit: Vitamina Verde

How Can Low Vitamin B Levels Affect Mental Health?
The impact that nutritional deficiencies have on our health is grossly underestimated, especially in regards to mood and mental health. 

Have you ever went to a psychologist with symptoms of depression and had them inquire about your intake of calcium, magnesium, or vitamins B and D? 
You can bet your sweet, vitamin-deficient behind that you'd be written a prescription for an "anti-depressant," while your psychologist never considers your nutritional levels. 

It doesn't matter that the side effects of the anti-depressant could destroy your entire well-beingYou'll still be given Prozac quicker than a recommendation to take your vitamins.

Since the quality of our health is based mostly on the nutrition we receive, it makes sense to first look at our current nutrition (or lack thereof), right? 
The B vitamins and their role in mental health is a perfect example of how nutritional deficiencies can cause serious health problems.

Let's look at some of the effects low vitamin B levels can have on our mental health alone.

  •   Deep depression
                               Photo credit: Aimanness Photography
  •   Paranoia
  •   Hallucinations
  •   Delusions
  •   Memory loss
  •   Cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty thinking or reasoning
  •   Severe neurological problems, if left untreated 
Other common signs of vitamin B deficiencies
Issues in the mental health department aren't the only signs that your body needs more B's. Other signs to look out for include:

Changes in appetite
Sugar cravings
Chronic fatigue, despite healthy sleeping patterns

Brain fog
Eye problems, including blurred vision, double vision, and light sensitivity.

  The 12  B Vitamins and Their Role in Mental Health
Photo credit: Carl Barks
Below you'll find a list of the B vitamins with a brief description about how they can affect the health of your brain and mental state.
B1 (Thiamin) is important for proper brain and nervous system function.  

 Insomnia, delirium, confusion, and some types of depression have been linked to a deficiency in B1. Poor mood in women has also been associated with a B1 deficiency.

 Low thiamin levels damages the brain's thalamus and hypothalamus, both of which contribute to depression when they can't function properly. Multiple types of neurological and psychological problems can result from not getting enough B1

Wernicke's encephalopothy, a degenerative brain disorder caused by a B1 deficiency that results in brain damage, is one example of how serious a B1 deficiency can be.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a similar condition, but it's more common in people with alcoholism or malabsorption issues.

  B2 (Riboflavin) Without sufficient levels of vitamin B2, your body can't utilize other B vitamins. Vitamin B2 must be present in order to activate B6 and to convert B9 into co-enzymes.

Stress, fatigue, and migraines are commonly seen in people with a deficiency in vitamin B2. 

 Inflammation in the nasal area, on the forehead, cheeks, elbows, backs of knees, genitalia, and behind the ears are also signs that your body has low B2 levels.

B3 (Niacin) is mostly known for its role in cellular energy production, but B3 also helps regulate your nervous and digestive systems. A niacin deficiency, called pellagra, can result in psychosis and dementia.  

Symptoms of pellagra most often show up on the skin. The symptoms of photosensitive inflammation (itching, pain, and redness, swelling, blistering, scaling, and hyperpigmentation) are commonly reported among people with pellagra.

B4 (Choline)  This B vitamin is an important component of neurotransmitters, which are vital for brain function and muscle movement. Anxiety, poor memory function, and even schizophrenia are just a few possible afflictions that come from a choline deficiency.

(Note: Conventional medicine and the FDA doesn't recognize vitamin B4 as a vitamin, so it's rarely mentioned. The holistic-based approach doesn't ignore its importance in the Vitamin B complex.)
 B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Deficiencies in vitamin B5 are said to be rare, but when your body's supply runs low, it can leave you with depression, irritability, and fatigue.

B6 (Pyridoxine) Studies have found low levels of B6 are significantly associated with depression. B6 is necessary in order for your brain to produce the important chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin) that affect your mood and sleep.

Your nervous system also needs B6 to function properly. B6 is also necessary for the production of B3 (niacin.)
B7 (Biotin) In an experiment where biotin was deliberately produced in the volunteers, the first symptom was depression. Over time volunteers began having suicidal tendencies and for some, the depression worsened to the extent that they described it as "panic." Once biotin was added back into their diets, "all symptoms disappeared within three to five days."

B8 (Inositol) is an essential nutrient for brain and mental health as well as nerve transmission. Depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and panic disorders are all common signs that your body doesn't have enough of this B vitamin.

 (Note: Like Vitamin B4, B8 is also considered unnecessary by conventional medicine.The holistic-based approach doesn't ignore its importance in the Vitamin B complex.)
 B9 (Folic Acid) DNA synthesis relies on vitamin B9 and low levels of this B vitamin is known to cause depression. When patients in a randomized controlled trial were treated daily with 0.8 mg of folic acid or 0.4 mg of vitamin B12, their symptoms of depression decreased.

B12 (Cobalamin) is important for blood cell formation. Overtime, a shortage of B12 can lead to neurological and psychiatric conditions, including depression.

 A B12 deficiency that isn't corrected can lead to damage to your optic nerves and retinas.

Photo credit: Health Gauge

How Much of Each B Vitamin Do You Need Daily?
(Based on typical daily dosages)

B1: 100 - 200 milligrams

B2: 50 - 400 milligrams

B3: up to 100 milligrams

B4: 300 - 3,500 milligrams

B5:  50 - 100 milligrams

B6: 50 - 100 milligrams

B7: Between 50 milligrams - 5,000 micrograms have been reported as useful for depression.

B8: 100 - 1,000 milligrams. Dosages ranging from 1,000 - 3,000 milligrams taken twice daily have reportedly been useful in the treatment of depression.

B9: 400 milligrams

0.4 milligrams

Who's At Risk for Vitamin B Deficiencies?

"3.2% of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level and up to 20% may have a borderline deficiency," - According to a survey by The National Health and Nutrition Examination
  • People over 50. Your body's ability to absorb B vitamins decreases as you get older.
  • People with health conditions (like celiac and Crohn's  disease) that interfere with food absorption
  • People who've undergone weight-loss surgery such as stomach stapling
  • Those who don't produce enough stomach acid (from taking antacids, for example) to absorb B12.
  •  Those taking proton pump-inhibitors
  •   Those taking diabetic drugs like Metformin put you at higher risk
  • People taking oral contraceptives may be at risk for deficiencies in B6 and B12. Oral contraceptives can deplete your body of vitamins B6 and B12 (as well as vitamin C.)
  •  People who consume a lot of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine.
  •  Those who consume a lot of refined carbohydrates and sugars as these foods deplete your body of B vitamins.

How to Get Plenty of the 12 B-Vitamins 
 With such a long list of things working against your vitamin B levels, it almost seems impossible to make sure your body is getting plenty of the B vitamins each day. 
Taking a B-complex supplement can help immensely, but you'll want to make sure you choose on that's absorbable Adding more vitamin B's into your everyday diet can also help you achieve your goal

 The following are some examples of foods that you can incorporate into your daily diet in order to obtain more B vitamins: 

Photo credit: Olearys

A few guidelines to follow when it comes to supplemental sources of vitamin B

If it isn't possible to consume all the B vitamins through nutrition alone (I admit, my own diet doesn't cut it), you'll probably want to opt for with a supplemental version.

  • Don't rely on your multi-vitamin. Your average multi-vitamin might contain some of your B's, but it probably doesn't contain enough of the 12 essential B vitamins to meet your daily needs. This is another reason why you might want to consider including a B-complex supplement into your daily regimen.
  • Choose a supplement that contains all 12 B-vitamins. Don't waste your money on a supplement that doesn't contain all the B vitamins (called "B-Complex") unless you're sure that you're getting an abundance of the other important B's.  
  •   Look at the label and make sure the supplement contains the right amount of each B-vitamin. (Scroll up to find the section in this post that gives the recommended daily amounts for each B-vitamin.)

If you still aren't sure what supplement to trust, here are a few personal favorites: 

Liquid Vitamin B-Complex with Energy Herbs, 16 oz, Tropical Oasis - $21.08

Retail Price: $24.99
You Save: $3.91

Vitamin Code, Raw B-Complex, 60 Veggie Caps, Garden of Life - $15.70

Retail Price: $21.99
You Save: $6.29
 Coupon Code VITASPRINGS1OFF to Get $1 off of any order

Rao TSS, Asha MR, Ramesh BN, Rao KSJ. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2008;50(2):77-82. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.42391.
Adelle Davis, Lets Eat Right To Keep Fit

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.

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