Stress, anxiety and depression are among the most common types of mental illness. They also happen to be the most mystifying. What causes depression? How can people reduce stress? What does anxiety really do to a person?
Among all the unanswered questions, a few glimmers of hope have emerged onto the treatment horizon. One such revelation is the role of vitamins and minerals in maintaining sound mental health. Is your stress and depression simply caused by a vitamin deficiency?
The Role of B Vitamins
Together, the B vitamins form a complex group of nutrients that are extremely important to various levels of cell development in the body. One of the most noteworthy B vitamins is vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 plays an active role in the production of various brain chemicals – chemicals that affect our mood and other brain functions. It is also responsible for maintaining the overall health of our brain and nervous system in general. In addition to aiding the healthy development of nerve cells, vitamin B12 also has a hand in regulating things like our metabolism, sleep patterns, and energy levels.
What Happens When there is a Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are very prevalent – but severely underdiagnosed. With levels that are just slightly below normal, a person will experience symptoms like fatigue, lightheadedness, weight loss and diarrhea.
As the deficiency worsens, individuals will experience an increase in depressive feelings, stress, anxiety, forgetfulness, and more. Stress will even manifest itself as physical evidence in the form of cold sores.
A group of researchers gathered 60 adults who had been diagnosed with major depression or other depressive disorders. During the course of the study, participants took high doses of a vitamin B12 supplement. The results were encouraging.
Compared to the placebo group, the patients taking a vitamin B12 supplement showed significant and continuous improvement regarding depression, anxiety and overall mental health. Therefore, researchers concluded a simple vitamin B12 supplement is effective in improving the mood, symptoms, mental health, and quality of life for adults with depression.
If you don’t want to hear about technical medical jargon, listen to my personal experience with depression and vitamin B12.
After the birth of my second son, I was (understandably) feeling rundown. No matter how much I slept, I was always tired. I felt sluggish, moody, and anxious all the time. After suffering for quite a while, I made an appointment with my doctor. I figured he was just going to tell me I was experiencing life with two young children – deal with it! However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear there was a medical reason for my symptoms.
I was experiencing a vitamin B12 deficiency. I was overjoyed to learn my lack of energy was caused by this deficiency – and by restoring B12 levels, I would feel like myself again.
I didn’t bargain for the extra perks that came with the increased energy. I was sleeping better – experiencing more restful, rejuvenating sleep. I felt my stress levels drop as a result of this new-found restfulness. Things that were once a major issue in my life no longer seemed as troubling – all because I was more rested!
And I had no idea how depressed, sullen, moody, and anxious I had become until I started to feel better. It was like a like a cloud had been lifted.
My family saw the change too. My husband repeatedly commented on how much happier I seemed, how much more I was enjoying the time with my kids. My oldest son no longer shied away from me when I was in one of my visibly bad moods.
Life was good again – and all it took was a few vitamin B12 injections.
Getting the Vitamin B12 You Need
Most people get enough vitamin B12 from their diet. However, busy parents who don’t eat healthy enough, older adults, and vegetarians often find themselves lacking in the B12 department. Additionally, many people have a medical condition that prohibits their body from absorbing the necessary B12 – no matter how much they consume.
A doctor will usually recommend increasing vitamin B12 consumption through an improved diet as a first course of action. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products – meat, fish, poultry, milk, eggs, etc. If you aren’t eating enough of these foods, simply adding more servings to your diet might do the trick.
If you are a vegetarian or have trouble absorbing the nutrient, vitamin B12 supplements may be required. These come in many forms (pills, patches, injections, etc.), but most doctors recommend injections.
If you’ve been suffering from depression, stress or anxiety, talk to your doctor about the possibility of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Many people – including me – feel alternative methods are preferable to standard medical treatments. Maybe your melancholy attitude will melt away after eating a juicy steak!
What do you think? Could a vitamin deficiency be causing your emotional distress? Do you think a healthier diet and/or vitamin supplements would help combat your depression, stress or anxiety? Sound off in the comment section below!
Lindsey Dahlberg is a mom and health writer. She loves sharing her personal experiences, tips and suggestions. For example, she gets her B12 injections from this company. Since becoming a proponent of B12 injections (and supplementation in general), Lindsey has helped many women realize the true source of their emotional distress.