Feeling sad is a normal part of life sometimes, but constantly feeling miserable and hopeless could mean that you are depressed. Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, anger, and a general loss of interest in life that interferes with a person’s day-to-day activities. Several factors can be related to depression, but one of them is nutrient deficiencies.
Other signs and symptoms of depression include loss of appetite, significant weight loss or weight gain, changes in sleep pattern, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and unexplained pain. Some of the causes and risk factors for depression include social isolation, stress, family history of depression, relationship problems, financial stress, childhood trauma or abuse, alcohol or drug abuse, and certain health conditions.
Nutrient deficiencies are also many times what contributes to the problem. Researchers have found that people who suffer from depression and mood disorders are deficient in not one, but several nutrients.
10 nutrient deficiencies that can cause depression
Always remember that the foods you eat feed the brain as well as the body. Since the brain accounts for most of your metabolic demands, it needs constant nourishment.
Here are the top 10 nutrient deficiencies that can cause depression.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have numerous health benefits. They play a key role in the development and functioning of the central nervous system.
While Omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is essential for the structure of brain cells, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) helps with the function of neurons and even reduces inflammation.
In addition to this, omega-3 fatty acids can help lower bad cholesterol levels and contribute to overall heart health.
A 2007 study published in the Medical Hypotheses reports that omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in major depressive disorder is due to the interaction between diet and a genetically determined abnormality in phospholipid metabolism.
In a 2014 study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cell Longevity, researchers reported that adequate intake of omega-3 PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) and dietary interventions, including omega-3 PUFA supplements, can help prevent and treat depression.
To supply your body with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids, consume more flax seeds, fatty fish such as salmon, walnuts, and eggs enriched with Omega 3. You can also take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, after consult your doctor.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, as well as dementia and autism. This vitamin aids in the production of serotonin, the brain hormone associated with elevated mood and happiness.
An adequate level of serotonin helps prevent and treat mild depression. Additionally, vitamin D is important for the immune system and bone health.
A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing notes that vitamin D deficiency is common among older people, adolescents, obese people, and people with chronic illnesses. These people are also reported to be at increased risk for depression.
Additionally, in a 2014 study published in Medical Hypotheses, researchers found a relationship between seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and a lack of sunlight.
Researchers noted that vitamin D is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, the two chemicals that are linked to depression.
By spending time in the sun, you can help your body produce vitamin D. Get out with regular walks in the morning for 15 to 20 minutes a day. With nutrient deficiencies you can take supplements and vitamin D is no exception, do so after consulting your doctor
Zinc is another essential micronutrient that your body needs to help reduce the risk of depression. This nutrient plays a key role in neuronal functions. Increases the production of neurotransmitters and their function. It is even involved in more than 250 independent biochemical pathways that support the functions of different organs.
A 2011 study published in Advances in Neuro-psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, explained the role of zinc in neurodegenerative inflammatory pathways in depression. Additionally, a 2013 study published in Biological Psychiatry notes that depression is associated with a lower concentration of zinc in the peripheral blood.
Consuming foods rich in zinc can help correct this deficiency. Some good sources are red meat, eggs, shellfish, legumes, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and organic dairy products. You can also opt for supplements, after consulting your doctor.
Selenium is also essential for brain function and helps improve mood and depressive symptoms. On the other hand, selenium plays an important role in the proper functioning of the thyroid. A healthy thyroid is important for mental health.
A 2012 study published in “Complementary Therapies in Medicine” notes that low dietary selenium intake is associated with an increased risk of depressive disorder.
The role of selenium as an antioxidant and as a constituent of selenoproteins, helps in the prevention and treatment of depression.
Similarly, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that optimal serum selenium concentrations are associated with lower depressive symptoms and negative mood among young adults.
You can get selenium from dietary sources like Brazilian nuts, lean meats, fish, beans, peas, eggs, turkey, chicken, and shellfish.
Magnesium is another important nutrient, if there is not enough in the body it can lead to states of depression. Magnesium helps activate the enzymes necessary for the production of serotonin and dopamine.
It also influences various systems associated with the development of depression. Plus, it keeps bones healthy, reduces anxiety, and lowers blood pressure, to name a few.
A 2006 study published in the “Medical Hypotheses” reports that magnesium deficiency is the cause, in its majority, of depression and related mental health problems, including IQ loss.
A 2013 study published in Pharmacological Reports also sheds light on the beneficial effect of magnesium in treating depression.
To avoid magnesium deficiency, eat foods rich in magnesium, such as algae, almonds, avocados, bananas, beans, pumpkin seeds, organic whole grains, bran, and green leafy vegetables.
Also, avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, salt, coffee, sugar, and soda, all of which can lower your magnesium level.
6. Vitamin B12
Vitamins of group B are important for the body in general, as well as mental health. In particular, vitamin B12 helps in the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency may be the key reason behind depression. Additionally, Vitamin B12 helps lower homocysteine levels, a by-product of protein metabolism. Elevated homocysteine levels increase the risk of depression.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, illustrates the importance of considering the possibility of vitamin B12 deficiency, especially among the elderly with depression.
Another study published in 2013 in the Open Journal of Neurology, highlights the importance of vitamin B12 supplementation in the treatment of major depressive disorder.
Patients treated with vitamin B12 supplementation with antidepressants showed a significant improvement in depressive symptoms.
To avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, eat foods like lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, organic dairy products, nutritional yeasts, and organic fortified cereals. You can also consider taking a vitamin B supplement every day, after consulting your doctor.
Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, is necessary for the proper biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter’s serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. Not having enough folic acid in your diet can affect your mental health and even lead to depression.
Also, a low level of folate in the body can delay the effect of many antidepressant medications. Folate can even help prevent birth defects, blood diseases, and cancer.
In a 2008 study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, researchers demonstrated the connection between folic acid deficiency and depression. The study also placed emphasis on folate supplements for significantly better antidepressant response.
An earlier 2005 study published in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology,” suggests that oral doses of both folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) and vitamin B12 should be tried to improve depression treatment outcomes.
Include foods rich in folate, such as dark and leafy green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, and legumes in your diet to avoid its deficiency.
8. Vitamin B6
A deficiency in vitamin B6 can also lead to depression and other cognitive disorders. This nutrient is required for the creation of neurotransmitters and brain chemicals that influence your mood.
It even helps maintain the health of the nervous system. On the other hand, vitamin B6 helps the body absorb vitamin B12, a deficiency of which is also linked to depression.
A 2004 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggests that a low level of vitamin B6 is associated with symptoms of depression. However, this study says nothing about whether treatment with vitamin B6 will improve symptoms.
Some excellent food sources of vitamin B6 include meat, poultry, fish, beans, cheese, potatoes, bananas, watermelon, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
Iron deficiency, a common problem in women, can also cause depression. This nutrient is an important component in cognitive, sensorimotor, and social-emotional development and functioning.
On the other hand, iron deficiency leads to insufficient numbers of red blood cells, which can cause symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, mental confusion, loss of appetite and irritability.
A 2013 study published in BMC Psychiatry, notes that iron deficiency anemia is significantly associated with an increased risk of unipolar depressive disorder, as well as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), delay in development and mental retardation in children and adolescents.
To increase your iron intake, eat foods like red meat, beets, fish, oatmeal, peanut butter, spinach, beans, pomegranates, and eggs. However, to increase the absorption of iron in the body, make sure to eat foods rich in vitamin C as well.
10. Amino acids
Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are the precursors to neurotransmitters. The brain uses them to make neurotransmitters necessary for optimal function.
A deficiency in amino acids can cause a variety of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.
There are nine necessary amino acids and they have different functions. For example, the amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) helps increase serotonin levels in the body.
Another amino acid, glutamine, promotes protein synthesis and improves nitrogen balance. A 1993 study published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition notes that patients who received glutamine supplements showed an improvement in mood.
Since the nine amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body, it is necessary to include good sources of amino acids such as eggs, fish, beans, seeds and nuts in your diet.
As you have already seen, nutrient deficiencies are important to consider when looking at what may be the causes of depression. Before going for medication, consult your doctor and ask him to order tests to find out if there is any nutritional deficiency in your body and that perhaps that could be the only cause that you are presenting that depressive picture