There is no escaping the fact that mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. What you do with and put into your body will play a major role in your mental health, both preventing issues from arising, and helping to address issues that exist already.
This blog will focus on how different vitamins can affect our mental health, who is at risk, and how to incorporate them into your diet.
B1, also known as thiamine, helps your body turn carbs into energy, metabolise glucose, and helps keep hearts, muscles, and nerves healthy. The people most at-risk of B1 deficiency include diabetics, older patients, and heavy drinkers.
The problems that can arise from a B1 deficiency range from mild to severe. Beriberi disease is one of the most common problems associated with B1 deficiency, which can lead to heart failure or damage to the central nervous system. Another is Korsakoff syndrome, which includes symptoms such as confusion and short-term memory loss. Wernicke’s Disease on the other hand can lead to confusion, as well as visual and stability problems. These two often come hand in hand as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can lead to psychosis (impairments of thoughts and emotions). Pork, fish, beans, nuts, tea, and rice are all great sources of B1.
B2, also known as riboflavin, helps our body build new cells, such as red blood cells. Older patients, heavy drinkers, and those with a low intake of animal products, such as vegans, are considered the most at-risk of a B2 deficiency.
The problems associated with a B2 deficiency are generally less serious than those associated with B1. They include sore eyes, throat, cracked lips, and feelings of fatigue. B2 also helps us to regulate our mood, so a B2 deficiency can often lead to depression, particularly in men. As stated above, animal products such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are all good sources of B2, as are mushrooms, almonds, and big, leafy, green vegetables.
B6, also known as Methylation, helps your heart, digestion, immune system, muscles, and nerves. A lack of B6 can lead to a number of physical problems such as migraines, chronic pain, and eczema. In terms of mental health, mood will be most affected by a B6 deficiency, with patients reporting feelings of irritability, anxiety, confusion, fatigue, and depression. Older patients, particularly women, are most at risk, as are those who take oral contraceptives. Bananas, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and steak are all good sources of B6.
B9, also known as folate, is crucial for our nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as well as cell production. Those who are deficient will experience symptoms that are in many ways similar to ageing. Folate helps us to regulate our social interactions, cognitive ability, and mood, which can all be affected by a deficiency. Other symptoms include appetite and weight loss, heart problems, and behavioural issues, such as irritability and sluggishness.
Pregnant and nursing women are among the most at-risk, along with heavy drinkers and people on dialysis. Fruit, peas, and leafy-green vegetables are all good sources of B9.
B12, also known as cobalamin, helps keep your nervous and circulatory system healthy, as well as give you energy. A B12 deficiency can lead to many problems, such as breathing issues, high-blood pressure, and anaemia (low red blood cell count). A deficiency can also cause patients to develop certain mental health issues, including depression, irritability, and fatigue. In some cases, a B12 deficiency can even lead to symptoms of psychosis.
As cobalamin is found primarily in all kinds of animal products, the most at-risk people are vegetarians and vegans, as well as older patients. A big risk with a B12 deficiency is that it will not be diagnosed, so be extra aware if you are in either of these groups. As vegans cannot eat animal products, they must take foods that have been fortified with B12, or supplements. There are few, if any, natural alternatives that will provide sufficient B12 to vegans.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an anti-oxidant that keeps our skin, blood, tissue, and bones healthy. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, anaemia, joint pain, and scurvy. In terms of mental health, a deficiency can lead to depression, stress, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
As symptoms can show up within 3 months of a low-intake, anyone can develop a vitamin C deficiency, although smokers are particularly at-risk. Vitamin C has been shown to have notable benefits in people with depression, while a lack of it can cause people to get sugar cravings, which will only exacerbate most mental health issues. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, potatoes, and tomatoes.