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As covered in our previous article, it’s important to ensure those suffering from mental health conditions have proper and sufficient nutritional intake. For healthier brain functioning (often compromised in those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression), the correct dosage of vitamins and minerals can assist with symptom relief and improve the overall quality of life.
Often, those with mental illnesses have a depletion of tryptophan, an amino acid vital for serotonin production. For the body to create serotonin, we need an adequate supply of tryptophan. Research indicates that sufficient amounts of B-vitamins may work to increase serotonin in the brain, which in turn may help to manage some of the symptoms experienced by those with OCD.
(As always, it is imperative to discuss these dietary supplements with your primary physician.)
Vitamin B3 or Niacin function is to increase tryptophan, a precursor in the production or synthesis of serotonin (Mesripour et al. 2017). Some great sources of vitamin B3 (Niacin) include poultry, meat, salmon, vegetables, and fortified cereals. Although it is recommended that we consume whole foods from these vitamin sources rather than supplements, the supplement options for B3 include nicotinamide or nicotinic acid.
An additional point regarding the correlation between OCD and B-vitamin deficiency is that many individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions are already depleted in these vital nutrients, whether or not they were at baseline. This is because consistent anxiety and distress leach a person’s energy resources (these B-vitamins) (Zheng et al. 2017).
Vitamin B-6 or Pyridoxine helps to promote serotonin and norepinephrine synthesis which can have calming effects on individuals with OCD. Vitamin B-6 helps to regulate sleep cycles, which can help to maintain healthy cortisol levels. Furthermore, the supplementation of B-vitamins, specifically B-6 have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels, and thus, can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression symptoms, and brain fog and fatigue (Chen et al. 2017).
Vitamin B-6 also has an imperative function with regards to nervous system operations. This is vital for the communication receptors in our brain to relay messages to one another. Sources of Vitamin B-6 foods include; fish, poultry, potatoes, nuts, legumes, and bananas (Chen et al. 2017).
Research shows that implementing vitamin B-6 with Prozac (a common SSRI implemented for individuals with OCD) found a strong improvement in the treatment of their symptoms (as defined as reduced obsessions and compulsions). This data is suggestive that vitamin B-6, in addition to Prozac can have improvements upon existing medication for treatment for those with OCD (Mesripour, Hajhashemi, & Kuchak, 2017).
Vitamin B-12 helps to maintain healthy nerve cells, and also with promoting the production of the body’s genetic material; DNA and RNA. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may manifest in compromised digestion, and thus, can cause neurological disorders and inflammation.
Additionally, adequate levels of vitamin B-12, are essential for maintaining homeostatic homocysteine levels (which help to reduce depression and anxiety). Although the goal is to consume these vitamins through whole foods, some supplements of vitamin B-12 include Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin.
Research indicates that individuals with OCD have lower levels of vitamin B-12, and higher homocysteine levels (which have adverse effects in terms of anxiety and depression). Vitamin D levels were also indicated to be lower in individuals with OCD which can further contribute to depressive symptoms. Research, Esnafoglu & Yaman (2017) also demonstrates that vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D are indicated to lower levels of homocysteine.
Folate or B-9 also plays a significant role in serotonin neurotransmission and a vital role to Zinc and Magnesium (which are all critical to our well-being and mental health). Research suggests that there is a relationship amongst inadequate levels of folate and the manifestation of depression symptoms. Thus, it is important to consider folate status (B-9) when assessing and treating those with OCD.
Another unique fact about folate is that many people may be at greater risk for low folate due to a genetic mutation, such as the MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate) reductase. Individuals that have this polymorphism in their genetic coding are at greater risk for low folate, and this makes them more susceptible to symptoms of depression and anxiety (Esnafoglu & Yaman, 2017).
Vitamin C has been shown to have a calming and even a sedative effect in treating anxiety in OCD patients. In high dosages, vitamin C has a calming effect on the adrenal glands functioning, and thus, can help to reduce anxiety with regards to the stress response (Oliveira, 2015). Vitamin C also helps to protect the body against free radical damage, which may improve upon symptoms of OCD. This is because antioxidant properties counteract these free radicals that otherwise would result in oxidative damage. Sources of vitamin C are oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, and grapefruits.
Vitamin D supplementation research indicated it may help to improve depressive symptoms in OCD individuals. Additionally, vitamin D reduces chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation may adversely disrupt GI issues, digestion, absorption, and further compromise energy levels, resulting in fatigue, negatively impacting mood, and further promoting lethargy and the build-up of toxins in our brain and bodies.
The greatest forms of vitamin D are delivered from sunlight. You can also obtain vitamin D from milk, spirulina, wild mushrooms, cheese, and yogurt. Additionally, there are a number of Vitamin D supplements available. Vitamin D deficiency may lead to neuropsychiatric disorders. Research has shown that consistent vitamin D supplementation reduced OCD symptoms (Celik et al. 2016).
Minerals, in addition to the substantial effects of vitamins on our health, are also imperative. Calcium has been found to calm the central nervous system which is believed to further alleviate symptoms present in OCD. When taken together and in the correct dosing, magnesium and calcium work in tandem promoting restful sleep for those with OCD and promote physiological relaxation.
Without adequate amounts of restorative sleep, cortisol levels will rise, making it more difficult for the body to properly restore itself. Potassium is also significant in maintaining and regulating healthy adrenal functioning, which is combative against stress, fatigue, and emotional and mental/cognitive health (Camfield, 2016).
Selenium has been reported to have antioxidant properties that help in physiological responses to stress, often experienced by those individuals with OCD. Great food sources of selenium include seafood, organ meats, grains, brazil nuts, and seafood. Some supplements of selenium include sodium selenite and sodium selenite (Ozdemir E, 2014).
Magnesium is thought to alleviate OCD symptoms by reducing inflammation (Aust, 2017). Furthermore, the combination of probiotics with magnesium may greater contribute to improvement in those patients with mental health conditions, particularly OCD (Hall et al. 2017).
Zinc serves structural and regulatory functions in the body that are necessary for an array of catalytic functions (Shohag, Ullah, Qusar, et al. 2014). Zinc is imperative for numerous aspects of well-being, including mental health. Sources of zinc include meat, eggs, oysters, other types of seafood, beef, crab, and pork. Zinc supplements include Zinc Acetate, Zinc Gluconate, Zinc Picolinate, and Zinc Sulfate.
Copper is imperative for cellular energy, central nervous system function and neurotransmission relative to OCD. Copper sources include shellfish, organ meat, nuts, seeds, wheat bran cereals, as well as other whole-grain products (Gamble, 2013).
Emerging research is beginning to identify and assess the relationship between mental health and nutritional deficiencies in the body. The results from the findings suggest that incorporating vitamins and minerals with traditional remedies can make treatment more successful and improve mental health conditions. Although we cannot physically change our genetics, we can nourish our bodies in conducive ways for both our mind and our overall health.
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