According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a healthy diet consists of a mix of proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. A balanced diet provides the essential vitamins and minerals you need to nourish the brain, which relies on a constant supply of fuel for proper functioning. Similar to a car running on premium fuel, your brain requires high-quality foods and recovery supplements to protect against stress and positively impact your mood. Alternately, feeding your brain low-quality foods, or highly processed foods and refined sugar, promotes inflammation and heightened stress. This article explores the relationship between nutrition and mental health and offers insight into the best supplements for recovery.
Introduction to Recovery and Supplement Options
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States lives with a mental illness. Unfortunately, research shows only half of those individuals undergo treatment. For those who do seek treatment, the path to recovery can be a lifelong process, as some mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, lack a definitive cure.
Recovering from a mental illness can improve many conditions and help an individual achieve a full and satisfying life. According to SAMHSA, there are four major dimensions to a successful recovery.
- Health: Includes good nutrition and vitamin and mineral support for healing
- Home: Having a stable and supportive place to live
- Purpose: Engaging in meaningful daily activities, including a career, family dynamics and volunteering
- Community: Maintaining social relationships and friendships outside the home
Choosing the right supplements helps the body function at optimal health. Identifying those that enhance your mood makes it easier to reap the full benefits of recovery.
Key Supplements for Supporting the Recovery Process
Research suggests that certain nutritional supplements have a profound effect on mental health treatments. While some of the research is inconclusive, there’s evidence of vitamin and mineral support for healing, including the following mood and brain micronutrients.
Vitamin B12 is a key component in the production of serotonin, which helps control moods. Also referred to as pernicious anemia, a B12 deficiency can cause irritability, confusion, mood swings and paranoia. Foods such as liver, shellfish, eggs and tofu all contain B12.
Also known as folate, vitamin B9 is important for healthy cell growth and is often used for depression in patients who can’t tolerate lithium or SSRIs. Folate is required by the brain to effectively synthesize serotonin and dopamine.
When taken in conjunction with treatments, magnesium reduces stress and anxiety in patients. Magnesium affects the hypothalamus, which regulates the pituitary and adrenal glands. These glands control your response to stress. This vitamin is often combined with other substances to make it easier for the body to metabolize. Magnesium oxide treats migraine headaches, while magnesium chloride is metabolized in the body much faster than straight magnesium. Sources of magnesium include leafy greens, avocado, dark chocolate and seeds.
Individuals with a vitamin C deficiency often feel fatigued and depressed. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Mega doses of vitamin C are effective at preventing colds and relieving symptoms of gout, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.
Vitamin D is essential for both physical and mental health. Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, sleep disorders, hair loss, muscle weakness, loss of appetite and bone pain. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to increased anxiety and depressive episodes. Therapeutic doses are around 2,800 IU for around 8 weeks. However, it’s recommended to have vitamin D levels checked to ensure appropriate dosage.
Zinc is an effective mood stabilizer that acts on GABA in the brain. It’s also used to support a healthy immune system as an additive in cold medications and throat lozenges. Healthy men should take 11 milligrams of zinc daily, while women should take 8 milligrams daily. Zinc-rich foods include red meat, nuts and seeds, eggs, whole grains and chickpeas.
Potassium is a type of electrolyte essential for the normal function of the kidneys, heart and other organs. Low levels of potassium are linked to mental fatigue and sudden mood changes. Sources of potassium include bananas, apricots, lentils, raisins and milk.
Research and Evidence Supporting Recovery Supplements
Serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, plays a crucial role in regulating moods, sleep patterns, digestion and healing. The gastrointestinal tract produces approximately 95% of the serotonin in your body, which is influenced by the amount of good bacteria lining your intestines. Diets rich in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains and fish serve as probiotics, which enhance gut health and consequently promote serotonin production. The link between dietary choices and moods is gaining attention among researchers studying mental health conditions and potential treatments.
Researchers conducted several clinical trials to find the benefits of nutrients on mental health and well-being. One trial was conducted to test the effectiveness of omega-3 on psychotic disorders in 304 patients aged 13 to 40. Over a period of 6 months, those who received omega-3 supplements had fewer occurrences of symptoms of the condition than those who received a placebo.
In another study assessing the effectiveness of vitamin B6 and magnesium on stress in a sample of 264 adults aged 18 to 50, participants were given either a magnesium/B6 combination vitamin or magnesium alone. No significant differences in symptoms were observed between the two control groups. In another stress-related study, subjects were given a multivitamin, which resulted in reduced inflammation in the body. It had no effect on the psychological state of the control group.
Nutritional deficiencies can occur from specific mental health conditions, genetic factors and diseases. These deficiencies can increase the symptoms in certain conditions, so finding which deficiencies are related to each illness is essential for discovering natural remedies for recovery.
Guidelines for Choosing and Using Supplements for Optimal Recovery
Speak to your physician or mental health provider before adding any herbal supplements for recovery. Your physician will assess your condition, check your blood levels and determine the correct recovery supplements.
For more information on recovery supplements, contact us at FHE Health to speak to one of our counselors. We can help ensure you’re on the correct path to healing.