Should You Take Vitamins for Depression?

A Good Vitamin Supplement Could Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

Vitamins
Vitamins. Darren McCollester / Staff / Getty Images

Did you ever wish that you could take a vitamin for depression? Well, for some of you it may be important that you do. There are a variety of vitamin deficiencies that can contribute to or lead to depression symptoms. That being said, if you're experiencing symptoms of depression, it's important to seek help -- from you doctor and/or a therapist before taking vitamins or other supplements. Here are vitamins that, when deficient, are linked to depression.

Remember, food is usually the best source for nutrients, including these vitamins. Eat a well-balanced diet to make sure you're getting a sufficient quantity of these important vitamins.

The B-Complex Vitamins

The B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They're water-soluble, meaning they can't be stored in your body. Instead, you need your daily diet to supply them. B vitamins may be depleted by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine so if any of these are a large part of your lifestyle, you could be deficient.

Here's a rundown of recent finding about the relationship of B-complex vitamins to depression:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): The brain uses this vitamin to help convert glucose, or blood sugar, into fuel, and without it the brain rapidly runs out of energy.  Thiamine deficiencies are rare, but can accompany alcohol use disorders and lead to a variety of psychiatric and neurologic symptoms.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): Niacin deficiency can cause pellagra, a disease which produces psychosis and dementia, among other symptoms. Many commercial food products now contain niacin, and pellagra has virtually disappeared. However, subclinical deficiencies of vitamin B3 can produce agitation and anxiety, as well as mental and physical slowness.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Deficiencies of this vitamin are rare, but may lead to symptoms of fatigue and depression.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): This vitamin helps your body process amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. It is needed to make serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Vitamin B6 deficiencies, although very rare, cause impaired immunity, skin lesions, and mental confusion. A marginal deficiency sometimes occurs in alcoholics, people with kidney failure, and women using oral contraceptives. MAOIs, ironically, may also lead to a shortage of this vitamin. Many nutritionally oriented doctors believe that most diets do not provide optimal amounts of this vitamin.
  • Vitamin B12: Because vitamin B12 is important to red blood cell formation, deficiency leads to anemia as well as a variety of neurologic and psychiatric symptoms. Deficiencies take a long time to develop, since the body stores a three- to five-year supply in the liver. When shortages do occur, they are often due to a lack of intrinsic factor, an enzyme that allows vitamin B12 to be absorbed in the intestinal tract. This condition is known as pernicious anemia.  Since intrinsic factor diminishes with age, older people are more prone to B12 deficiencies.
  • Folic acid: This B vitamin is needed for DNA synthesis. It is also necessary for the production of SAM (S-adenosyl methionine). Poor dietary habits contribute to folic acid deficiencies, as do illness, alcoholism, and various drugs. Pregnant women are often advised to take this vitamin to prevent neural tube defects in the developing fetus.

Vitamin C

Subclinical deficiencies can produce depression symptoms, which requires the use of supplements. Supplementation is particularly important if you have had surgery or an inflammatory disease. Stress, pregnancy, and lactation also increase the body's need for vitamin C, while aspirin, tetracycline, and birth control pills can deplete the body's supply.

Minerals

Deficiencies in a number of minerals have been associated with depressive symptoms along with a variety of physical problems.  Among theses minerals are magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, manganese and potassium.

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