Do you know the #1 cause of acquired insanity? It’s nutrient deficiency! People tend to separate emotions from the physical world. When in effect, they’re intricately linked. There’s a chemical basis for every emotion.
Commonly, B vitamins are cited as affecting mood. This is widely accepted. But there are 12 nutrients that have been scientifically proven to impact our mood.
Sadly, we’ve forgotten about the fact that nutrition can impact the lens through which we experience the world. In part, thanks to the discovery of pharmaceuticals in the 1950s. Relegating previously held nutritional knowledge to folklore.
In this article, we’ll explore the science behind these 12 main nutrients that have been exposed (so far) that affect our mood. Thus altering how we experience life. It’s my hope that people will take this information seriously and begin to use nutrition to live a happier and healthier life.
Although there is substantial evidence of the effects of essential fatty acids, inositol and botanicals (eg. St. John’s Wort) on mood, today we’ll be focusing solely on micronutrients, vitamins and minerals and their impact on mood.
Connecting Nutrients and Mood (The 4 Scientific Models)
In 400 BCE, Hippocrates famously stated:
“Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.”
Thanks to scientific advancements, we’re now beginning to piece together the mechanisms behind this lost art.
There are currently four scientifically accepted mechanisms (or models) that explain how our mood is intricately linked to our vitamin and mineral status. These are:
- Errors of metabolism (damaged body systems)
- Deficient methylation reactions (lack of detoxification)
- Alterations of gene expression (by nutrient deficiency)
- Long-latency deficiency diseases (chronic illness)
Errors of Metabolism (Damaged Body Systems)
Our metabolism is a broad term for the myriad of systems that must all function in harmony for us to live a healthy life.
These twelve systems of the body require sufficient detoxification to function effectively.
Psychiatric disorders, even in children, often occur in conjunction with a co-occuring metabolic disorder. Metabolic disorders arise from the build up of toxins, enzymatic defects and protein dysfunction.
Again, primary research begins to point toward detoxification as a method to correct errors of metabolism.
Deficient Methylation Reactions (Lack of Detoxification)
Toxins build up in the body in part due to exposure, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and also because of insufficient methylation. Methylation is a process that helps the body detoxify toxins.
A good example of methylation detoxifying toxins is when the toxic amino acid (homocysteine) is converted into a beneficial amino acid (methionine). Interestingly, a 2000 research study found that 52% of depressed patients had high levels of homocysteine in their blood. Suggesting that they had insufficient methylation processes. Put simply, they couldn’t detox toxins.
The methylation process can be altered via lifestyle factors such as obesity. Even in pregnancy, if the mother is obese, this can alter the gene expression of their offspring, resulting in altered dopamine and opioid related genes.
This means that healthy lifestyle choices can alter how well our bodies can detoxify and thrive, even in a toxic world.
Alterations of Gene Expression (By Nutrient Deficiency)
Various vitamin deficiencies alter gene expression. Especially vitamin D deficiency which downregulates a liver gene called Cyp7a1. This is the gene that’s responsible for the metabolism of cholesterol. Making it clear that nutrient deficiencies impact overall health and wellbeing.
Zinc deficiency can alter gene expression, especially in the brain. The main reason is because zinc is involved in DNA repair.
Magnesium is another essential nutrient that is responsible for over 600 reactions in the body. A deficiency in magnesium can be due to your genetics. There’s a bidirectional relationship between gene expression and nutrients. Whereby you must fill up your nutrient reserves to ensure that healthy genes are switched on.
Long-Latency Deficiency Diseases (Chronic Illness)
Nutrient deficiencies don’t just affect short-latency diseases, with a short incubation period. They also affect long latency disease. Which are illnesses that take a longer time to manifest.
The recommended daily intake of nutrition, if depleted over a long period of time, can result in severe deficiencies, which require higher doses if and when a deficiency is established.
It’s important to ensure that you are getting sufficient nourishment from your diet so as to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Over time, these deficiencies can lead to chronic illness, that could have been prevented with adequate nutrition, and clear detoxification pathways.
Folate, folic acid (vitamin B9)
Folate protects brain tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain. Altering eating behaviours, passivity, violence, addiction, and depression.
Folate also plays a role in the methionine cycle (Met). Which in turn helps the body detoxify and build healthy tissue.
Foods high in folate include: legumes, asparagus, leafy greens, beets, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, nuts and seeds, papaya and bananas.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Severe niacin deficiencies can lead to dementia, pellagra and nervous system damage.
Foods high in niacin include: peanuts, avocado, rice, mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes and white potatoes.
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
Vitamin B12 is one of the more commonly known brain nutrients. A deficiency in B12 can result in folate deficiency, making matters worse. B12 also helps to create neurotransmitters in the brain.
Foods high in cobalamin include: Fermented beans and vegetables, wild mushrooms, edible algae and nutritional yeast.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Vitamin B1 and B6 helps produce GABA – the brainwave most associated with peace and calm.
Foods high in thiamine include: flax seeds, navy beans, green peas, firm tofu, brown rice, acorn squash, and asparagus
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
Vitamin B6 is another widely known and researched micronutrient that helps in the creation of brain healthy hormones dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. B6 is essential in the production of serotonin.
Foods high in Pyridoxine include: peas, fresh and dried fruit, nutritional yeast, pistachio nuts, quinoa, and avocado.
Vitamin E protects cells from damage from free radicals. Free radicals are damaged cells that cause accelerated aging and illness. Vitamin E offers protection for the cells throughout your body – especially your brain.
Foods high in vitamin E include: sunflower seeds, almonds, avocado, spinach, butternut squash, kiwi fruit, and broccoli.
Choline plays a role in methylation reactions and cell signalling.
Foods high in choline include: peanuts, shiitake mushrooms, soy, kidney beans, quinoa, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Calcium is required for enzymes to work properly in the body. Calcium is essential for the brain to function effectively. It plays a role in long-term memory, excitability and many other brain functions.
Foods high in calcium include: firm tofu, spinach, kale, collard greens, black-eyed peas, okra and acorn squash.
Chromium is required for learning, recall, and recognition memory tasks. It plays an important role in fat glucose metabolism.
Foods high in chromium include: broccoli, brewers yeast, grape juice, apples, green beans and whole grains.
Iron helps in the production of ATP energy in the brain. ATP is the energy currency of our body. As well as ensuring that there is enough oxygen in the blood. Iron is also involved in the production of the hormones serotonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Foods high in iron include: legumes, quinoa, brown rice, nuts and seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 reactions in the body. When it comes to the brain, magnesium is required for memory, brain development and learning.
Foods high in magnesium include: spinach, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, brown rice, almonds, avocados, and bananas
Zinc plays an important role in brain development in children and the maintenance of the brain in adults. It’s essential for over 200 enzyme reactions in the body.
A deficiency of zinc can lead to oxidative stress. Interestingly, zinc plays a role in the sense of smell, learning and also protein synthesis.
Foods high in zinc include: tofu, chlorella, hemp seeds, lentils, oatmeal, and shiitake mushrooms.
Selenium is essential for the brain, and is used for many brain functions. Such as motor performance, coordination, memory and cognition.
Foods high in selenium include: brazil nuts, tofu, oatmeal, brown rice, button mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms
Vitamin D is required for a healthy brain due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight. During autumn and winter, it is advisable to take a vitamin D supplement.
There is considerable scientific evidence supporting the view that nutrients play a huge role in brain development and function.
Nutrients such as folic acid are widely prescribed, especially by doctors, due to the role it plays in the development of a healthy brain and central nervous system.
To ward off disease and stabilise mood, a wide range of nutritious foods should be consumed.
Written by best-selling author and integrative nutrition health coach Rowanna Watson, who has a passion for natural health. Rowanna is an expert in all areas of holistic health, plant-based nutrition, detoxification and personal development.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
“Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.” – Hippocrates. #FoodIsMedicine #PreventiveNutrition