More and more studies are linking nutrition to mental health disorders. There is also evidence that nutritional habits and micronutrient deficiencies can affect brain metabolism. By micronutrients, we are talking about vitamins, minerals, amino acids and omega-3 fats. All of these have been shown to be connected with anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and possibly even dementia. Even a great diet may not prevent a nutritional deficiency if you are genetically predisposed to abnormal cellular uptake of nutrients. As much as 70% of the population is unable to metabolize Folic Acid properly!
THIAMINE (Vitamin B-1) is essential for the nervous system. A deficiency can cause anemia, heart disease, fatigue and memory impairment
FOLIC ACID supplements have been given to pregnant women for years to help prevent congenital neurological defects in the newborn. It is also known that low folic acid is related to depression due to its adverse effects on neurotransmitters like serotonin. Activated Folic Acid may be necessary for those who cannot metabolize regular folic acid appropriately
VITAMIN B-12 deficiencies are very common and are associated with depression, memory loss and neuropathies (numbness and tingling) as well as anemia. It is very common, especially in patients taking METFORMIN and NEXIUM type drugs.
VITAMIN B-12 and FOLIC ACID deficiencies have been associated with both memory loss and dementia.
(Vitamin B-6, Folic Acid and Vitamin B-12 deficiencies may lead to an increase in a protein called HOMOCYSTEINE which may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.)
VITAMIN D deficiencies are very common and have been associated with a decrease in the neurotransmitter dopamine. It has been seen in people with fatigue and depression and has been associated with brain development, schizophrenia and autism
OMEGA-3 fats are thought to modulate serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which may have a beneficial effect on depression. Many people take Omega-3’s to prevent heart disease, but proof to date is suspect.
IRON is important in energy production, DNA synthesis and neurotransmitters. Most people associate iron deficiency with anemia but it is also a cause of Restless Legs Syndrome, which is very common. It is NEVER normal to be deficient in IRON unless you are a female with heavy periods. All patients with iron deficiency need to be evaluated for other underlying diseases, especially colon cancer!
ZINC is important for immunity, energy metabolism and insulin storage as well as neurotransmitters. Zinc deficiencies have been associated with fatigue and mood disorders.
COPPER is also necessary in regulating neurotransmitters and may also be associated with mood disorders, fatigue and possibly ADHD.
When we check for nutritional disorders in the office, we look for INTRCELLULAR deficiencies and not just BLOOD deficiencies, because even though nutrient levels may be normal in the blood stream, it doesn’t guarantee that the body can actually utilize them. This is called FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE and can be very helpful in treating many disorders in conjunction with proper medications.
Both the MAYO CLINIC and The CLEVELAND CLINIC now have departments of functional medicine.