Over the last few years, depression has become one of the most prevalent mental health disorders globally. Research shows that around 17 million adults in the United States alone suffer from some kind of depressive disorder.
Depression impacts a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, and leaves them unable to carry out their normal day-to-day tasks effectively.
What are the main symptoms of depression?
Symptoms of depression include significant changes in one’s thoughts, mood, and behavior, loss of interest or pleasure in relationships, friendships, and activities, fatigue, and feelings of extreme sadness and hopelessness.
Depending upon its severity, every person experiences depression differently.
Depression can manifest itself as major depressive disorder (also known as MDD), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and persistent depressive disorder.
All of these forms of depression have the common symptoms of feelings of emptiness, sadness, irritability, and loss of energy.
What causes depression?
Studies suggest that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Research in neuropsychology has linked depression to imbalances of certain chemicals in our brain known as neurotransmitters.
The neurotransmitters responsible for the regulation of our mood include dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, commonly known as GABA.
How can depression be treated?
Depression can be treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Medications such as antidepressants can help to regulate brain chemicals and relieve symptoms. Therapy can help to identify and address underlying issues.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy are two types of therapy that can help to relieve symptoms of depression. Developing a support system of friends and family can also be beneficial. Exercise, a healthy diet, and a regular sleep schedule can also help to improve mood.
It is essential to find effective ways that will help you manage your symptoms, and one promising option is to use vitamins and supplements to help manage symptoms.
In recent years, there has been increasing evidence that suggests certain vitamins may be beneficial in treating depression.
While vitamins and supplements can be beneficial in treating depression, it is important to note that they are not a substitute for traditional treatments such as psychotherapy and medications.
It is important to talk to a doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements to ensure they are safe and effective for treating depression.
In addition, it is important to remember that vitamins and supplements should only be used as part of an overall treatment plan for depression, and not as the sole treatment.
Best Vitamins for Energy and Depression
The vitamins that appear to be most effective are B vitamins, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids. B vitamins, including folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6, are essential for proper brain function and can play an important role in preventing and treating depression.
The benefits of these vitamins are explored in detail below.
1. Vitamin D
People suffering from depression or other mental disorders tend to have low levels of vitamin D. Research has found that those over the age of 65 with depression have 14% less vitamin D than those without depression.
Exposure to sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most people, yet for those living further from the equator, supplements may be necessary.
Studies have shown that people with low levels of Vitamin D in their blood are more likely to suffer from depression. This may be because Vitamin D plays a role in regulating the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is thought to be responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.
Vitamin D can be obtained from multiple sources such as cod liver oil, fish like salmon, trout, or tuna, mushrooms, fortified milk, cereals, and egg yolk.
However, taking vitamin D in excessive amounts may be toxic since it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Consuming it excessively may cause irregular heartbeat and in extreme cases, it may also lead to kidney failure.
Moreover, medicines like steroids, thiazide diuretics, statins, and weight loss medications like orlistat may also interfere with vitamin D, so you should preferably consult with a physician before taking it.
2. Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is a key nutrient found in many foods, including fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It plays a vital role in the body, helping to produce red blood cells, DNA, and other important molecules.
Studies have also shown that B-12 may have a beneficial effect on depression.
Research has found that people with depression often have lower levels of vitamin B-12 in their blood. One study found that people with depression who took a daily oral supplement of B-12 for 12 weeks saw an improvement in their symptoms.
Other studies have also linked B-12 supplementation to improved mood and reduced depression symptoms.
The exact mechanism by which B-12 helps depression is not yet known. However, some studies suggest that B-12 helps regulate the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation.
Other research indicates that B-12 helps reduce levels of homocysteine, a chemical associated with an increased risk of depression.
People can develop a vitamin B-12 deficiency due to poor diet, difficulty absorbing vitamins, or unknown reasons. Older adults, vegetarians, and those with digestive disorders are particularly at risk. If a deficiency is suspected, a doctor can order a blood test to check levels of B-12 and other vitamins.
Eating a balanced diet with sources of essential nutrients, including animal products like fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and low-fat and fat-free milk, as well as fortified breakfast cereals, is the best way to ensure adequate B-12 and other vitamin intakes.
Taking a B-12 supplement may also be beneficial in helping with depressive symptoms. However, B-12 should not be used as a substitute for traditional treatments, such as medication and psychotherapy. Talk to your doctor to find out if B-12 supplementation is right for you.
3. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B1, also called thiamine, is an essential micronutrient that plays an important role in the body’s mental and physical health.
It is believed to help with depression by aiding in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is involved in regulating mood. Vitamin B1 also helps convert carbohydrates into energy, which can help increase energy levels and improve mental clarity.
The best sources of vitamin B1 are whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Brown rice, oats, wheat germ, and quinoa are all good sources of thiamine. Legumes such as lentils, split peas, and black beans are also good sources. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are a great source of thiamine.
Seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, and flaxseed are also good sources. Meat and fish are other good sources of thiamine, with pork and tuna being particularly rich in vitamins.
Other good sources include fortified cereals, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables such as oranges, tomatoes, and spinach.
It is important to make sure you are getting enough vitamin B1 in your diet as deficiencies in this essential nutrient can lead to fatigue, depression, and confusion.
If you are looking to increase your intake of thiamine, it is best to incorporate a variety of these sources into your diet. Additionally, you can also take a vitamin B1 supplement if you think you are not getting enough from your diet.
4. Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in energy production and metabolism. It is known to affect mood and cognitive functioning.
Studies have shown that people with depression often have lower levels of vitamin B2. Supplementation with this vitamin has been found to have positive effects on mental health and can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
Vitamin B2 is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and is thought to be involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are known to affect mood.
Additionally, this vitamin helps the body to produce energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. As a result, a deficiency of B2 can contribute to fatigue and low energy levels, which are associated with depression.
The best sources of vitamin B2 are dairy products, eggs, meat, legumes, nuts, leafy greens, and fortified grains. Additionally, supplements are available. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting any supplementation, as too much vitamin B2 can cause side effects.
5. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is an essential nutrient involved in numerous processes in the body, including energy production, the metabolism of fats and proteins, the synthesis of hormones, and the maintenance of healthy skin and nerves.
It is also believed to have a role in the prevention and treatment of depression.
Vitamin B3 is necessary for the proper functioning of over 200 enzyme reactions in the body and plays an important role in the conversion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy.
Additionally, it is used for the creation of fat molecules such as cell membranes and hormones. If you are lacking in B3, you might experience fatigue, which is a major symptom of depression, as the body is unable to make use of the consumed food.
The best sources of vitamin B3 include fish, poultry, beef, mushrooms, pumpkin, peanuts, and fortified cereals. Other good sources are brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast.
Niacin can also be taken as a supplement, although it is important to speak to a doctor before taking any supplements, as there are potential side effects, such as nausea and skin flushing.
6. Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Vitamin B9, also known as folate or folic acid, is a crucial nutrient that plays a role in many bodily functions. One of the main ways that vitamin B9 can help with depression is by supporting the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Folate is necessary for the production of these neurotransmitters, and a deficiency in folate can lead to a decrease in their levels. By ensuring that the body has an adequate supply of folate, it can support the production of neurotransmitters and potentially improve mood.
In addition to its role in neurotransmitter production, folate has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain. Inflammation in the brain has been linked to a range of mental health conditions, including depression.
By reducing inflammation, folate may be able to improve symptoms of depression.
There is also some evidence to suggest that folate may have a direct effect on the brain.
In a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, researchers found that people with depression who took a daily dose of folate had a significantly greater improvement in their symptoms compared to those who did not take the supplement.
is found in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, fruits and fruit juices, nuts, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, black-eyed peas, and lentils. Some fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, bread, and pasta, also contain folate.
Some medicines can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and use folate, including:
· Antacids that contain aluminum
· Cholestyramine, a medication used to lower cholesterol
· Metformin, a medication used to treat diabetes
· Methotrexate, a medication used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases
It is important to talk to your doctor if you are taking any of these medications and have concerns about your folate levels. Your doctor may recommend taking a folate supplement to ensure that you are getting enough of this nutrient.
7. Omega 3s
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for good health and have been linked to a number of positive benefits, including improved mood and better cognitive function.
Studies have shown that these fatty acids may also be beneficial for depression, cognitive functioning, and overall mood.
Studies have shown that they can help improve concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills, which can be beneficial for those with depression.
They are found in a variety of food sources, including fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, and plant oils. Fish and seafood, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines, are some of the best sources of omega-3s. Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, also contain omega 3s.
Plant oils, such as canola oil, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil, are also rich in omega-3s. You can also find omega-3s in some fortified foods, such as eggs, milk, and yogurt. Taking a daily supplement can also help you meet your daily omega-3 needs.
8. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, has been studied for its potential in helping to reduce symptoms of depression. It plays an important role in our immune system and neurotransmitters and may have a major impact on our mood.
It also helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and can help protect against oxidative stress, which has been linked to depression.
Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and spinach.
Vitamins for Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that occurs at the same time each year, usually during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight.
Symptoms of SAD include low energy, depression, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite and sleep, and feelings of hopelessness.
Neuropsychological reasons for seasonal depression can include reduced exposure to sunlight, changes in the levels of serotonin and melatonin, an increase in stress hormones, changes in the body’s circadian rhythm, and disruption of the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Additionally, seasonal depression may be a result of social factors such as increased social isolation and stress due to the holidays.
Those suffering from major depression or bipolar disorder may experience an increase in symptoms during the fall and winter months, particularly those who live further away from the equator.
Treatment for SAD often involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, light therapy, and lifestyle modifications. Light therapy involves exposure to bright lights in order to improve mood and energy levels. The lights simulate natural sunlight, which can help to reduce symptoms of SAD.
Recent research has suggested that vitamin D may be beneficial in the treatment of SAD. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium and is found naturally in some foods and can also be taken in supplement form.
Vitamin D has been found to play a role in regulating mood and can be beneficial in treating depression.
In addition to taking Vitamin D supplements, people with SAD may also benefit from increasing their exposure to natural or artificial light, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet. Following are some other supplements that may also help with SAD.
· 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
This nutritional supplement can help to enhance the brain’s manufacture of serotonin, which can reduce the effects of depression. Another supplement, Tyrosine, may be beneficial for the brain as it can generate chemicals called enkephalins that may improve one’s mood.
· Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces to regulate when it should be asleep and when it should be awake. An imbalance in melatonin levels can lead to symptoms of seasonal depression and tiredness.
Although this hormone is made by the body, it can also be taken as a supplement to reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder.
· St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort is an herbal remedy that has been traditionally used for treating depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
It is essential to discuss taking it with a healthcare provider due to its potential to interact with other medications.
The above-mentioned vitamins may all help with alleviating different physical and mental problems that lead to depression, but research on the effectiveness of depression is still inconclusive. More research is needed to draw stronger conclusions.
What antidepressants can be taken for depression?
There are many different types of antidepressants available to treat depression. The type of antidepressant that works best for each person depends on the severity of their symptoms and their individual response to the medication.
· Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant for depression. Common SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa).
SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to help improve mood. These medications are generally well tolerated and have few side effects.
· Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another type of antidepressant that is often prescribed. These medications, such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta), work by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. SNRIs are generally well-tolerated, but they can cause more side effects than SSRIs.
· Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are the third type of antidepressant. They work by blocking the reabsorption of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Common TCAs include amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Pamelor).
These medications can be effective for treating depression, but they can have more serious side effects than SSRIs or SNRIs.
· Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the oldest type of antidepressant. They work by blocking the activity of an enzyme that breaks down certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
Common MAOIs include isocarboxazid (Marplan) and phenelzine (Nardil). MAOIs are generally reserved for people who have not responded to other types of antidepressants. They can have serious side effects, including increased blood pressure.
What are some other treatment options for depression?
Some people may prefer other treatment options available for depression and anxiety. They should consider:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): It is a type of therapy that identifies behaviors that have effects on dealing with anxiety and depression. The therapist helps to change our unhelpful thoughts and behavior. It may be helpful in providing individuals with the skills to react more productively in certain conditions.
- Exposure therapy: This type of therapy encourages a person to move toward those
- situations that they normally avoid because they cause anxiety for them. It helps them to learn how to deal with anxiety and reduce anxiety-related symptoms.
- Arts and creative therapy: This involves creative stuff like using music, painting, or drama. It helps a person to express their feelings which helps to reduce their symptoms by distracting them using their creativity.
- Talk therapy: Also known as psychotherapy. This involves speaking to a professional about your experiences and feelings and it may help find new methods to deal with anxiety-causing
- situations. You can go for in-person or online therapy. There are many platforms, like BetterHelp, that have made it easier for people to obtain therapy online.
- Support groups: This provides a safe space for people where they can discuss their symptoms without feeling of being judged by others. These provide a setting for people to meet others with the same anxiety or depression symptoms, with whom they can share their feelings.
- Stress management techniques: Several techniques such as exercise, mindfulness, and meditation may prove to be effective in dealing with depression and anxiety symptoms.
In conclusion, vitamins and supplements may be beneficial in treating depression. B vitamins, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids may all help improve symptoms of depression.
However, it is important to remember that these vitamins and supplements should not replace traditional treatments such as psychotherapy and medications.
Before taking any vitamins or supplements, it is important to talk to a doctor to ensure they are safe and effective.