Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

The Role of Vitamin B in Mental Health

April 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While many people are aware that nutrients such as healthy fats and DHA are important for brain health, it is less known that other vitamins are critical for one’s cognition and for the prevention of mental diseases.

Modern medicine is heavily relied on when the symptoms of mental illness begin to present themselves in people, however, nutritional interventions can actually have a huge impact on psychiatric problems.

Niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3, is one nutritional deficiency that can wreak havoc on one’s mental health. One mental condition that can be caused by a deficiency in niacin is pellagra1, which can lead to both delirium and dementia. Schizophrenia also has some of the same features that pellagra presents.

Additionally, other vitamin B deficiencies such as B1, B2, B6, B8 and B12 can also produce symptoms of mental disorders, meaning that supplementing the diet with these vitamins can be a valuable treatment.

B Vitamins and Psychiatric Conditions

When used alongside modern medicine, B vitamin supplements have been found to be effective for improving the symptoms of schizophrenia. Once these vitamins in the body are restored and oxidative stress is minimalized, the neurological pathways are able to function better.

B vitamin deficiencies also play a role in the development of mental illness and can make psychiatric symptoms worse, which then may even cause a patient to create an even larger deficiency of vitamin B in their system, due to a poor diet.

Vitamin B for Schizophrenia

Studies have shown that using high doses of vitamin B in combination with other medications is very effective in improving the symptoms of schizophrenia. However, low dose supplements seem to have no effect. It is also important to note that the earlier a patient is treated with vitamin B, the more benefit they are able to get from it.

One of the reasons that B vitamins have such a profound effect on many mental conditions is due to the fact that B vitamins effect one’s methylation cycle, and they are required for the body to be able to produce neurotransmitters and maintain the health of nerve cells.

Without proper amounts of vitamin B, nerve signals can become slow and even stop at times, which may lead to problems with motor function, cognition, and impact one’s mood. B vitamins help cells communicate and allow the messages that are sent and received through neurotransmitters to do so properly.

Vitamins B6, folate and B12 work to regulate the brain chemicals that are directly involved in controlling one’s mood, such as serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin. Having a deficiency in these B vitamins can therefore play a huge role in the development of depression.

Vitamin B3 and Schizophrenia

Studies linking nutrition with psychiatry date all the way back to the 1950s. This is when researchers were able to note that the symptoms of schizophrenia were similar to the symptoms of pellagra.

While pellagra is related to complete niacin deficiency and results in skin problems, it also causes symptoms of mental illness. Once vitamin B3 was added to the foods that people were eating in mental institutions, many were able to show such a decrease in their symptoms that they were sent home. This creates a link between malnourishment and psychiatric disorders.

This led to studies on the treatment of schizophrenia with high doses of niacin, which were shown to be successful.

Niacin and Other Mental Disorders

Studies have shown that some people need much more niacin than others to stay mentally healthy. This has led researchers to find that niacin is also helpful in the treatment of other mental disorders, such as ADD, anxiety, general psychosis, OCD, and depression.

Another B vitamin deficiency that can trigger mental disorders is B12, whose deficiency can trigger mania, paranoid delusions, and psychosis. The mental symptoms of B12 deficiency are variable and can include anything from mild mood disorders to severe violent maniacal behavior and conditions such as epilepsy.

B12 Deficiency Is Common

Vitamin B12 is commonly found in most diets, however, advancing age can hinder your body’s ability to absorb B12 from food. The body needs adequate pepsin, a stomach enzyme, to absorb vitamin B12. With age, this stomach acid diminishes, which can lower one’s levels of B12.

Because B12 is most commonly found in animal products, people who eat a vegan or strict vegetarian diet are also at risk for having a B12 deficiency. This is why it is important to supplement with a high quality product. With age and depending on one’s diet, supplementation of B12 can be a crucial factor when it comes to one’s mental health.

B Vitamins Protect Against Dementia and Slow Alzheimer’s

Mental fogginess and memory issues are two of the first warning signs of a deficiency in vitamin B12, which easily indicates its importance for brain health. Studies have shown that high doses of B vitamins help to control homocysteine levels, which then prevents brain shrinkage, which will slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Get B Vitamins From Food

It is important to address your diet first when you are looking at your overall health. Any nutritional deficiencies can impact your brain function, as well as harm your gut health. It is best to get most of your nutrition from real food rather than supplements, but if necessary, supplementation may be beneficial.

It is best for your health to limit sugar and consume fermented foods. B-complex is produced within the gut if you have healthy gut flora. Real, organic, food, along with fermented foods, help your gut with fiber and beneficial bacteria to optimize your body’s ability to produce vitamin B.

B vitamins are very present in foods such as chicken, eggs, turkey, sweet potatoes, spinach, bananas, nuts, broccoli, beans, lentils, salmon, scallops, and dairy products. Try to balance your diet as much as possible with these foods in order to maintain proper mental health.

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Frank Salvatore