If you are feeling depressed, and you’re not sure why, there is a possibility you may be deficient in B vitamins. According to this article, a significant number of people who end up in hospital for depression are actually deficient in either vitamin B6 or B12.

Other possibilities include a lack of omega 3 essential fatty acids or the amino acid Tryptophan.

How does this work? Well, it is all to do with the brain’s natural “happy chemical” serotonin. In order for us to make serotonin, we need Tryptophan from food. Our body converts Tryptophan into serotonin, but it’s not quite as simple as that.

The process goes something like this:

  1. We eat food (hopefully nutritious food containing many essential nutrients).
  2. Tryptophan gets converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan and then serotonin (the “happy chemical”).
  3. In order for this conversion to happen, B vitamins are required, in particular B6.
  4. For the serotonin to function properly, we need omega 3 fatty acids to keep our brain’s serotonin receptors healthy

Of course, there is more to it than that, but that is a basic overview of the brain’s biochemistry behind happiness or depression.

So, what can you do to boost these nutrients? Let’s take a look at them each in turn.

Boosting Your Tryptophan

Foods rich in Tryptophan:

  • Meat –Chicken,Turkey, Lamb, Venison
  • Legumes – Soybeans, Split peas, Lentils
  • Fish – Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, Shrimp, Cod
  • Nuts & Seeds – Sunflower seeds, Cashews, Almonds, Walnuts

You can also by 5-HTP as a supplement. This is the amino acid that Tryptophan gets converted into just before it turns into Serotonin.

Boosting Your B Vitamins

Foods containing B vitamins:

  • Wholegrains (B1, B3, B5, B6)
  • Vegetables (B1, B3, B5)
  • Blueberries (B6)
  • Bananas (B6)
  • Green leafy vegetables (B9, AKA Folic Acid)
  • Meat, Fish, Eggs, Dairy Products (B12)

Boosting Your Omega 3

Foods rich in omega 3:

  • Seeds & Nuts – Flaxseed (linseed), Hemp seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Walnuts
  • Fish – Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, Sardines, Anchovies, Tuna
  • Marine algae
  • Eggs

Why You May Need Supplements Too

Don’t assume that just because you eat what you consider a “healthy balanced diet” that you are meeting your body’s needs for all nutrients. Everybody is different, and so everybody’s nutritional needs are different.

Some people have deficiencies in certain nutrients despite eating a healthy diet. There can be all kinds of complex reasons for this. Our bodies are complex natural machines. Here are several broad reasons why your body may not be getting enough of certain nutrients:

  • The food may not actually be quite as nutritious as you think. Modern farming and transportation methods mean that many fruits and vegetables are not quite as nutritious as they were in the past.
  • Your digestive system may not be functioning at 100%. Just because you are putting healthy foods in your mouth, it doesn’t necessarily mean all the nutrients from those foods are being absorbed by your body.
  • You may have an abnormal requirementfor one or more nutrients due to a specific health problem. For example:
    • Histadelics (people with natural high levels of histamine in the blood) need extra Calcium, Methionine, Zinc, Vitamin C and B6. Symptoms can include compulsiveness, impulsiveness and suicidal depression.
    • Histepenics (people with a low level of histamine in their blood) need extra B3, B12 and Folic Acid (B9). Symptoms can include tiredness, low motivation, irritability and paranoia.
    • Pyroluria & Porphyria – these people need extra Zinc.
    • Underactive Thyroid – these people may need additional Iodine, Tyrosine, Zinc and Selenium. Symptoms can include depression, irritability, lethargy and fatigue.

Anyway, those are just a few examples of why a “healthy balanced diet” may not be enough for some people.

Of course, mental health is a complex issue, and real life situations and issues can indeed cause or contribute to depression. However, life is naturally a bumpy ride, so we need to make sure our brains are in the best condition they can be in, by supplying it with the fuel it needs to function well. That way, we stand a better chance of being about to bounce back from the setbacks that inevitably happen along life’s winding road.

For a more detailed explanation of the role that food and nutrients play in mental health, I highly recommend you read Optimum Nutrition for the Mind by Patrick Holford. It’s by far the most helpful book I have ever bought.

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