In this website we take a holistic approach at depression that involves your mind, body and environment. As such we want to address the problems you may have in all of these spheres. You can’t beat depression if you’re body is unhealthy, period. Think of your body as the seat of your mind. If your body is not healthy, in particular if it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, you are going to feel bad no matter what. With today’s unhealthy diets and industrial farming, nutrient deficiency is commonplace. I will write a separate article on eating healthy but even with a healthy diet you may still be missing some nutrients due to soil depletion caused by industrial farming. In the following I will tell you about the foods as well as the supplements that you can get each nutrients from and will leave the choice to you. If you choose to supplement, always start from a small dose.
The list below is not complete. It is the list of the nutrients people are most likely to be deficient in plus those whose lack can cause fatigue or depression.
As always note that I’m not a doctor and what is mentioned here is not meant to be medical advice. Consult your physician before starting a new supplements. Note however that doctors are notorious for making light of some nutrient deficiencies, for example that of iodine.
Magnesium is important for various processes in your body including maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, supporting a healthy immune system, keeping your heart beat regularly, and helping your bones remain strong. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels and aid in the production of energy and protein. I personally have found magnesium to be better than any medicine or supplement for reducing anxiety. It relaxes your whole body and mind so it is used as a laxative as well.
Now take this: even though it is such an important nutrient, it is estimated that most people are deficient in magnesium. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include insomnia, muscle crams and pain, anxiety, fatigue, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Is this list enough to persuade you you need to get enough magnesium?
Food sources of magnesium include nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), beans (black beans, kidney beans), spinach, avocados and rice.
Given that deficiency in magnesium is commonplace (almost half of the US population consume less than the required amount of magnesium from food according to this study) taking a magnesium supplement can be a good idea. Like I said a magnesium supplement can work both as an anxiolytic, a sleep aid and also as laxative.
Magnesium is a volatile element and so it has to be compounded with another molecule for supplementation. Common examples include:
Magnesium oxide. It is not absorbed very well by your body and so is not recommended.
Magnesium glycinate. Magnesium bound to glycine is an important amino acid and has its own health benefits. Has a high absorption rate as well. I myself take this one by Doctor’s Best. Note that this type of magnesium is not as good for treating constipation.
Magesium L-Threonate. Newer, patented and expensive. It is believed to help people with depression. However you will need to take it forever otherwise its beneficial effects will diminish. Not just that, the withdrawal from it can be though as noted by some Reddit users. I don’t recommend it!
Folate or Vitamin B9 plays various roles in the body in particular it is involved in the production of new red blood cells. It is specially important for people who loose blood such as menstruating, pregnant or lactating women and people with special blood disorders such as thalassemia. Symptoms of folate deficiency include anemia, fatigue and irritability.
Food sources of folate include beef liver, green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, lettuce, Brussels sprouts), broccolis and avocados.
If you choose to supplement you should know the difference between folate and folic acid. Folate is what exists naturally in foods whereas folic acid is its synthetic form. Folic acid needs a special hormone in your body to be absorbed and if your body does not have enough of that hormone, it can cause side effects such as insomnia.
So it is better to avoid supplements with “folic acid” in them and instead take those with methylfolate which is a high absorption type of folate. Note that fortified cereals contain folic acid and therefore may not be suitable. (Not to mention who likes to each such a bland, starchy and cold meal in the morning!) I myself take this one by Dr’s Best.
B12 is needed for the normal function the nervous system. It is also involved in the formation of red blood cells. The metabolism of cells in the body depends on vitamin B-12, as it plays a part in the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production. B12 deficiency is a common cause of fatigue and shortness of breath.
Food sources of B12 include Liver, beef, dairy products, clams, salmon, tuna and chiken.
B12 supplements can be regarded as a natural and healthy energizer and indeed energy drinks usually include B12. Energy drinks contain caffeine and other stimulants that may tax your adrenal system and give you anxiety as well as the caffeine crash. However B12 supplements do not have such an effect unless taken in very high doses. I recommend this ones by Life Extension and SBR Nutrition.
Another very important nutrient. It is needed for bone growth and cognition among others.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, depression, bone or hair loss and muscle pain. Scary stuff! You are most likely deficient in vitamin D. If you don’t believe me have your levels checked. I was surprised when I saw mine.
Food sources of vitamin D include, fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), beef liver, eggs and raw milk. Mushroom are one of the few vegetarian sources of Vitamin D.
Note that the vitamin D you get from pharmacies is mostly vitamin D2 which is inferior to D3 used in most supplements! I personally take 2 to 4 thousand IUs of Vitamin D3 everyday.
A few notes about supplementing with Vitamin D: take it in the morning otherwise you may get insomnia, take it with some fatty food, preferably animal fats for better absorption. If you are deficient in Vitamin D and start supplementing you can get side effects such as fatigue and bone/muscle pain. The remedy is to take Vitamin K and magnesium and persist. Capsules may be better than softgels as the oil in the softgels is prone to oxidation. I take this one.
Another very important nutrient whose deficiency is common. Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism.
The symptoms of iodine deficiency include fatigue and weakness, hair loss, weight gain, dry skin and impaired memory. Seafoods, eggs and dairy products are high in iodine.
For supplementation, kelp may be a tempting option however note that the amount of iodine in a kelp supplement may not be known for sure (even though claimed otherwise on the label). Also kelp supplements may contain high amounts of sodium which can increase your blood pressure. Not to mention that they can be contaminated with arsenic.
For this reasons I recommend Luggol’s solution. Note that it has a high concentration of iodine and so you should be careful with it. You can apply it to your skin as shown by this lady. However you may not need as much as she suggests. Always start small.
Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin in red blood cells which carries oxygen from your lunges to all the cells in your body. Not getting enough iron can cause iron deficiency anemia.
Food sources of iron include red meat and beef liver. Among vegetarian sources, pistachios are the best. Other vegetarian sources include lentils (and other beans and peas), spinach and other leafy greens.
Cooking in cast iron pots steals some of the iron from the pot and adds it to your food!
Don’t jump quickly into taking iron supplements if you have anemia, especially if you are a man. Your anemia may be caused by not getting enough folate and B12 or lack of exercise. Chlorophyll, which is found in all green plants, also aids in the production of red blood cells. Yes, you read that right. Good sources of chlorophyll include leafy green vegetables as well as alfalfa, wheatgrass and spirulina. I recommend taking these plant supplements instead of taking artificially produced chlorophyll.
However if you feel you cannot get enough iron from your food you can take a supplement. Ferrous sulphate can give you constipation so I recommend a chelated iron supplement such as this one.
There are some synergistic iron supplements available which also contain vitamin C (which helps with the absorption of iron) and folate and B12 which are necessary for the formation of red blood cell. I would recommend these two: Feroglobin and Floradix.
In your body zinc is involved in wound healing, learning and memory and regulating the immune system. It also decreases inflammation.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include depression, lethargy, irritability and not feeling the taste of foods, acne, loss of appetite. Vegans are specially at risk for zinc deficiency.
Food sources of zinc include meats, liver, beans, nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds.
Zinc is especially important for men at it is used in producing testosterone and is also found in high concentrations in semen. So if you are a man with a lot of sexual activity, taking a zinc supplement may be a good idea.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Your brain is about 60% fat and omega 3 fatty acids are an important part of it. Omega 3 fatty acids can also reduce inflammation in your body and it is believed that depression is correlated with inflammation. (I’ll write more on this later.) According to Examine fish oil has been shown to reduce major depression as well as an SSRI antidepressant however there is not enough evidence to support its effect on mild depression.
Food sources of such fatty acids include, fish (salmon, mackerel, and anchovies), walnuts, eggs and flaxseeds. You can also take a supplement. I take krill oil from Bulk Supplements.
It is essential fto the function of your adrenal glands which produce stress hormones. Vitamin B5 exists in almost every food and hence it is called Panthotenic Acid. Therefore it is unlikely that you are defficient in B5 however you can take therapeutic doses of it because its deficiency can cause depression..
Why not multivitamins?
Well if they work for you then great. However there are a number of reasons against multivitamins:
The inactive ingredients: they usually contain a lot of inactive ingredients.
They may contain amounts of nutrients which may be too much or or too little compared to what you need.
They may not contain a good bioavailable form of the nutrient (such as folic acid instead of methylfolate).
Some vitamins and minerals better be taken in the morning, some in the evening: minerals calm you down so it’s better to take them in the evening.
Some of the most nutritious foods
Eggs: An egg contains all the nutrients needed to produce a chicken. And they don’t increase your cholesterol levels unless you take too many of them everyday.
Liver (beef, chicken, etc)
Liver, especially beef liver, is one of the most nutrient rich foods around. Rich in Iron, zinc, B vitamins, Vitamin A, Magnesium and coenzime Q and it is very cheap too. If there exists one superfood, that would be beef liver. Now there are some people who eat meat but not organ meats. I find this somewhat childish and squeamish. Get over yourself! Doesn’t liver taste bad? No way. Stir fry sliced liver in coconut oil and add a little salt and pepper and you’ll be licking your fingers. You can also add pieces of it to your stews.
Just don’t eat liver every single day and don’t eat very large portions of it at once. This is because liver contains a lot of vitamin A and this vitamin is not good for you at large doses. However having it a few times a week should not cause any problems in most people.
Beef: You don’t have to buy expensive steak cuts. Get a crockpot or pressure cooker and you can cook tasty meals with the cheapest cuts.
Raw milk: A good source of protein, calcium, Omega 3, digestive enzymes and Vitamin D.
Lentils: Great source of iron, folate and vegetable protein.