You’d be hard-pressed not to stumble on a social media #ad for vitamin packs. Trendy supplement brands like Ritual or Care/Of promise their products will help alleviate a series of vitamin deficiencies, which companies warn can cause health issues ― including problems with your mental health.
We know we need proper nutrients in order to function properly. But just how much of an impact do they really have on our minds?
“Optimal mental health requires adequate availability and absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino and fatty acids as essential building blocks for our brain cells and neurotransmitters,” said Dr. Jennifer Kraker, a New York-based psychiatrist who specializes in nutrition and mental health. “When our nutritional biochemistry is imbalanced, our mental health is affected.”
For most people, a healthy diet will take care of that. For others, a doctor may need to prescribe a vitamin supplement if the body doesn’t metabolize nutrients properly. (And they don’t have to come in an aesthetically pleasing glass bottle or Instagram-worthy capsule. Drug store brands will do just fine.)
“Because we’re all unique, one person may tolerate lower levels of a certain nutrient (such as vitamin D) very well, and another might not,” Kraker said. “Rinse and repeat for most all micronutrients.”
Nutritional deficiencies can tinker with your mental health on a sliding scale ― everything from mild to disruptive symptoms, depending on the person. Research has found certain deficiencies can contribute to anxiety and depression, as well as exacerbate symptoms in people with specific mental health disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. A deficiency can also just slightly impact your emotional well-being.
“More commonly, nutrition-related issues are experienced as symptoms like reduced ability to manage stress, increased anxiety or edginess, lower mood, and poorer concentration or focus,” said Nicole Beurkens,...