Food and Mood Part 3: Mood Disorders and Nutritional Deficiencies

Dr. Aaron Hartman

October 25, 2022


Are Nutrient Deficiencies Affecting the Way you Feel?

There are several key nutrients we know that directly impact our mental health. These nutrients are necessary for a general sense of well-being, promoting positive mood, diminishing anxiety, controlling depression, allowing us to react well to environmental events, as well as for clarity of thought and focus.
Unfortunately, most Americans are deficient in these critical nutrients, which is impacting our mental health.



B Vitamins
Take for example various B vitamins. Since there are 12 B vitamins and 40 to 60% of Americans are deficient in any single B vitamin, the odds are that all of us are deficient in several of these.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is critical for brain function and emotional balance. However, about 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. In people with skin of color, that number gets closer to 82%.
Vitamin C
How about vitamin C? We are one of the few mammals that do not produce our own vitamin C; we actually have to consume it. Vitamin C comes from fruits and vegetables, yet these are greatly lacking in our modern diet. About 20 to 30% of Americans have an insufficient level of vitamin C.
Magnesium is another super mineral that’s required for brain function. We actually use intravenous magnesium to treat seizure disorders, headaches, migraines, and traumatic brain injury. The average American has insufficient levels of magnesium for optimal brain function.
Trace Minerals
Zinc, iron, selenium, and other trace minerals are required for producing neurotransmitters. In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the roles of some neurotransmitters and how they affect our brain function.
Phytonutrients are the naturally-occurring colors in foods. They’re the reds in cranberries and apple peels, the white in onions and garlic, the yellow carotenoids that are in squash, the greens that are in green leafy vegetables, and the purples that are in your blueberries and blackberries. We’re learning more and more about how these phytonutrients are so important for your body’s production of neurotransmitters, fatty acids, immune function, cancer prevention, and much more.




How Can You Address Nutrient Deficiencies for Better Mental Health?

How can you, individually, begin to tackle these common nutrient deficiencies in order to improve your mental health?
By supplementing common nutrients that we know affect mental health, you can begin to help your body build mental resilience. You can start with folate, iron, omega-3s, magnesium, potassium, selenium, thymine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc.
Adding in more real food and focusing on color can greatly improve the nutrient density of your diet. Over half of what you eat should be some kind of plant life in various colors: greens, yellows, blues, purples, oranges, and reds. A good rule of thumb is to cover half of your plate with plants. A quarter of it should be clean protein, and maybe a quarter can be some kind of starch – be it a starchy vegetable, fruit, or whole grain.
Giving your digestive system a break by not eating between dinner and breakfast (for at least 12 hours) can promote a healthier gut microbiome and allow your body to better absorb nutrients.
Finally, make sure you drink plenty of water. Detoxification is also very important for your mental health. Many Americans are chronically dehydrated. So, drinking plenty of clean, filtered water throughout the day is a great place to start in supporting your body in detoxification.

Ready to Take Charge of Your Mental Health?

I hope this series on the functional medicine approach to mental health has been helpful to you. If you’d like to learn more about diet and health and what you can do to improve your mental health, check out our website. We continue to make more free educational resources available for you to download
Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.


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