A deficiency or sub-optimal intake of one or more nutrients can compromise your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. As can excessive exposure to heavy metals and other environmental toxins, which is one of the reasons exercise, sweating, and sauna therapy is so good for you.
There are a lot of potential causes for depression including: lack of exercise, lack of sunlight (ie. vitamin D), nutritional deficiencies, low cholesterol, low fat diets, too much refined sugar/carbohydrates, underactive thyroid, lack of restful sleep, a recent breakup, consumption of artificial sweeteners, accumulation of heavy metals such as mercury from too much tuna (or other seafood; dental amalgams), gluten sensitivity, other food allergies, or simply not eating enough fresh whole foods and too many overly processed foods.
In this day and age — vitamin and mineral deficiencies are one of the most common drivers, along with an excessive accumulation of toxins.
Below are the most common nutrient deficiencies, which are known to be strongly correlated with depression, low mood, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, and a general feeling of yuckiness.
Beginning with the most common nutrient deficiency that nearly 3/4 of the population is likely running low on — due to a wide variety of factors, including excess calcium intake and supplementation, nutrient-depleted soils, poor diet, overtraning if you’re athlete, and prolonged excess stress — is MAGNESIUM — the body’s first line anti-stress nutrient.
1. Magnesium – powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient that calms the nervous system, relieves anxiety, and boosts mood; also possesses cardioprotective and cancer preventative effects. The recommended dose range for magnesium is between 200-800 mg per day. Glycinate, malate, or threonate are the best absorbed forms. Citrate and oxide are absorbed at a rate of less than 30% (i.e. < 30% bioavailable), and act as osmotic laxatives, attracting water into your intestines, which causes a laxative effect. In contrast, the glycinate form, which is very small and stable, readily crosses cell membranes and has an estimated bioavailability > 70%.
2. Vitamin D3 (K2) – increases the production of the body’s primary antioxidant molecule, glutathione. Promotes heavy metal excretion via its glutathione-boosting activity, and as a hormone, vitamin D regulates thousands of genes responsibility for energy production, immune regulation, protection against bacteria, fungus, and viruses, and is needed for healthy brain function. Vitamin D is another powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient that many are deficient in. Vitamin K2 works with vitamin A and D3 to promote strong teeth and bones, and healthy tissue and organ function. Recommended dose: 2,000-5,000 iu per day of D3, and 100-200 mcg of K2 (Mk-7 per day) is sufficient.
Make sure to get your vitamin D level checked, so you know if you're deficient or not, and how much you need to supplement with, if you are.
Most functional medicine specialists recommend a level between 50-90 ng/mL for optimal health.
For men, a daily maintenance dose of 3-5,000 iu per day will keep your level in that range, assuming you're not very deficient. Otherwise, you might need to use a higher dose, short-term to bring your level up. For women, a daily maintenance dose of 2-4,000 iu per day is normally sufficient for most women.
Just remember, dosing is based largely on body weight, so a smaller person will require a smaller dose, and vice versa. If your level is between 20-30 ng/mL or lower, it's recommended that you work with your doctor or health professional to get your level up and then retested every 3 months or so to make sure you're in a healthy range.
Short term higher dose supplementation (10,000 iu per day) for a month or so may be required to bring your to bring your vitamin D level to a more optimal level rapidly. When supplementing with vitamin D, make sure you're also taking some extra magnesium (400 mg per day) and vitamin K2 (100-200 mcg per day) to make sure you're keeping all of your nutrients in balance.
3. Vitamin B12 and folate – promote healing processes, energy production, and neurotransmitter biosynthesis through their support of a number of enzymatic reactions, including the formation of SAM (S-adenosylmethionine). Reduces homocysteine levels in the blood. Recommended supplemental dose range for B12 is from 50-200 mcg per day for daily maintenance and 1,000-5,000 mcg per day short-term to correct a deficiency. The supplemental dose range for folate is from 100-800 mcg per day.
There are currently 3 forms of folate currently on the market: folic acid, methyl-folate (e.g. 5-MTHF), and folinic acid (e.g. calcium folinate).
The synthetic form, folic acid has to be converted by an enzyme called methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) to the active form to be used by the body. Due to genetic mututation, some people have difficulty utilizing folic acid because they have one or two altered copies of the gene that codes for this enzyme, reducing the enzyme's activity in the body. This results in a MTHFR deficiency. As such, too much supplemental folic acid (this amount varies with the individual) can accumulate in the body due to its inability to be properly metabolized, and can interfere with folate receptor function. This can result in a variety of symptoms for such individuals such as: depression, anxiety, learning difficulty, sleep disturbances.
According to Dr. Ben Lynch who is one of the foremost experts on this topic, "Those who have MTHFR mutations (especially the C677T MTHFR mutation) learn that methylfolate is critical to take. The issue is methylfolate can cause more harm than good if not started at the right time or tapered up slowly in amount."
So, the take home message with folate and MTHFR is, if you suspect you might be affected by this, have your primary care physician order a test, and if you decide to begin supplementation, start at a low dose (100 mcg) for several days and slowly increase the dose.
4. Zinc – another powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient that reduces stress and anxiety, and has mood-boosting effects; needed for thyroid hormone and energy production; also possesses cardioprotective and cancer preventative effects. Zinc is necessary for the activity of one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzyme systems, Zinc-copper superoxide dismutase (Zn-Cu SOD). Adequate levels of both zinc and copper are needed for the optimal activity of this important enzyme system. Recommended dose: 15-30 mg per day. Citrate, glycinate, or monomethionine are the best forms.
5. Iodine – an often overlooked nutrient that is under-consumed in our population. The RDA for iodine is 150 mcg (0.15 mg) per day, which is the amount that was determined to prevent severe iodine deficiency or goiter (swelling of the thyroid). This is far from the amount we all need for optimal health. We live in an environment saturated with iodine antagonists and depleting agents such as the halogens: chloride, bromide, and fluoride, and one of the most common chemicals, caffeine, which promotes the loss of iodine, and all water soluble nutrients. Iodine is needed by every cell in the human body, and promotes healthy energy production, a strong immune system, and the excretion of toxins and heavy metals. Recommended dose: min of 150-3,000 mcg (3 mg) per day. Iodine is highly water soluble, and Kelp is an excellent source. 4-10 kelp tablets per day is recommended for all of iodine’s many beneficial effects.
6. Selenium – another powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient that reduces stress and anxiety, and has mood-boosting effects; is essential for healthy thyroid function; also possesses cardioprotective and cancer preventative effects. See a common theme here? All of these mood-boosting, natural anti-depressants reduce oxidative stress – a primary driver for all chronic disease, and are powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients. Recommended dose: 50-200 mcg per day. If you eat a lot of seafood, brazil nuts, or eggs you're likely getting enough selenium. Glycinate, selenomethionine, selenocysteine, or high selenium yeast are the best forms.
7. Boron – a newly recognized antioxidant, anti-inflammatory trace mineral that boosts mood and alertness (has a very mild “caffeine-like” effect on mood and alertness with no side-effects (ie. overstimulation), especially when paired with the aforementioned nutrients); can boost testosterone; also possesses powerful anti-cancer activity. Recommended dose: 1-3 mg per day. Glycinate, citrate, or amino acid chelate is the best form.
8. Lithium – a newly recognized antioxidant, anti-inflammatory trace mineral that promotes a healthy mood and like boron, has cognitive boosting effects. As an “antioxidant”, lithium is an anti-aging nutrient that has been shown to promote a longer and healthier life. Lithium is required for the transport of B12 and folate into the brain, and increases neural growth hormones such as BDNF, which are neuroprotective and protect against environmental toxins. Lithium works with magnesium to balance (modulate) the activity of the body’s primary excitatory receptor system, called the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R). Overactivity of the NMDA receptor can cause widespread neurological dysfunction and is often found in those with anxiety, depression, restlessness, sensitivity to stress, sleep problems, ADD/ADHD. It is also a common feature in those with autism spectrum disorders. Recommended dose: 5-20 mg per day. Orotate is the best form.
9. Copper – another powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient; needed for thyroid hormone and energy production; also possesses cardioprotective and cancer preventative effects. Zinc is necessary for the activity of one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant enzyme systems, Zinc-copper superoxide dismutase (Zn-Cu SOD). Adequate levels of both zinc and copper are needed for the optimal activity of this important enzyme system. Recommended dose: 0.5-2 mg per day. Citrate or glycinate are the best forms.
Just like any finely-engineered machine, your body is ULTRA-RECEPTIVE when it receives the proper nutrients and fuel it was designed to run on (or better yet THRIVE on!).
It’s often miraculous the kind of positive changes and amazing healing that can take place!
Your energy and mental clarity will INCREASE. Your mood will be UPLIFTED, and you’ll just start to feel better from head to toe. Things like our energy level and stamina – and our thoughts, feelings, and emotions are all a function of what we put into our bodies. Just as important as the foods we eat that nourish our mind, body, and soul is surrounding ourselves with people we love, who love and appreciate us to the highest heaven in return, and following our passions — the things we love and make us come ALIVE — and bring us higher!
Good things in EQUALS good things out.