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B in the Know About Your Mental Health: Vitamin B

"B vitamins are crucial to effective brain functioning and optimum emotional health."

You probably can tell by the title that today's article is going to feel like one of those lectures from your high school health class. You may even be prompted to click off this one. Boring. I get it. I really do. Doing the research for today's article was tedious at times. But do not leave before you understand this point.

The issues arising from a poor diet cannot be resolved by a doctor. Neither medication nor surgery can effectively address the distressing mental and physical health conditions that stem from an inadequate diet.

If you still decide not to read on, I get it. We are only ready when we are ready. There is not much anyone else can say or do until we are ready. If you are not ready, then please, I ask you to bookmark this page until the day comes when you can be open, receptive, and non-defensive when reading about how the foods you eat are destroying both your physical and mental health. And the day will come. It most definitely came for me; my familial genetic predisposition not only made sure of it, but also speeded it all up. If you are just a little bit curious and able to stomach a brief science lesson today in nutrition, take a breath, clear your thoughts, and read on.

Mental health and wellbeing is not typically what people think of first when they think about diseases that are due to poor diet. In the quest for improved mental health and well-being, we often overlook the essential role that proper nutrition plays. However, without proper nutrition, the brain cannot function. As discussed in our article, Dimensions of Wellness: Physical Wellness, "The body doesn't too much discriminate between a good nutritious calorie food from a not so good calorie food. It is going to process and expend the energy." Our brains need a steady supply of nutrients to work properly. When those nutrients are out of balance, it causes symptoms.

Among the various nutrients that support our mental well-being, the B vitamins stand out as key players. These water-soluble vitamins play critical roles in brain function and are closely linked to our mental health. In this blog, we will delve into the significance of Vitamin B and its impact on our mental well-being. As you read this article, please note that the information contained is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be used to attempt self-diagnosis or as a substitute for evaluation by a qualified medical professional. In other words, don't go it alone and stop avoiding your physician.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine):

Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1, is vital for the proper functioning of our nervous system. It facilitates the conversion of glucose into energy, which is essential for the brain to function optimally. Thiamine deficiency can lead to neurological symptoms, including memory problems, mood disturbances, and even confusion. Ensuring an adequate intake of thiamine-rich foods such as whole grains, legumes, and nuts can support healthy brain function.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin):

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2, is vital for energy production. It also supports our eyes, cardiovascular health, and metabolic function. This vitamin also helps promote a positive mood by participating in the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are crucial for mood regulation and overall mental well-being. Food sources for riboflavin include: dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; eggs including yolk, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli; whole grains; nuts and seeds; legumes; and certain mushrooms (shiitake and cremini).

Vitamin B3 (Niacin):

Niacin, or Vitamin B3, is involved in energy production within brain cells and helps maintain the integrity of the nervous system. Severe niacin deficiency can lead to pellagra, a condition characterized by dementia, depression, and other mental health symptoms (i.e. depression or even psychosis). Foods like poultry, fish, whole grains, and legumes can provide an adequate supply of niacin.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid):

Pantothenic Acid, or Vitamin B5, helps with energy production and helps manage hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and estrogen which play essential roles in regulating metabolism, managing stress, and maintaining reproductive health. Deficiency of Vitamin B5 can lead to fatigue, poor memory, stress, depression, and irritability. Individuals with inadequate diets or specific medical conditions may have an increased risk of deficiency. Vitamin B5 can be found in a variety of foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine):

Vitamin B6 plays a crucial role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which are involved in regulating mood and emotions. Adequate levels of Vitamin B6 are necessary for maintaining a balanced mental state. Research suggests that low levels of B6 have been associated with symptoms of stress, irritability, depression, and cognitive impairment. Including foods like poultry, fish, beans, and bananas in your diet can help meet your Vitamin B6 needs.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin):

More than just that hair vitamin. Biotin, or Vitamin B7, is essential for assisting neurotransmitters that are critical for mood regulation, cognitive function, and emotional well-being. Vitamin B7 is also critical in aiding adequate energy production which is crucial for optimal brain function and mental clarity. Vitamin B7 also exhibits neuroprotective properties by helping to combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain which contribute to the development or progression of mental health disorders. Imbalances in gut bacteria may be associated with mental health conditions; biotin supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can positively impact brain health. Biotin-rich foods include organ meats, eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, and legumes.

Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid):

Folate, or Vitamin B9, is essential for the synthesis of DNA and RNA, as well as the metabolism of neurotransmitters. Inadequate levels of folate have been linked to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline. Folate-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and fortified grains should be a part of a well-balanced diet to support mental well-being.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):

Vitamin B12 is crucial for the formation of myelin, a protective coating around nerve cells. It also plays a role in neurotransmitter synthesis and regulation of mood. Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including depression, memory problems, and mood disturbances. Animal-based foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products are good sources of Vitamin B12. For those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, supplementation or fortified foods may be necessary.

​I didn't know. Maybe you didn't either:

​Stress can deplete B vitamins. During periods of stress, the body may utilize B vitamins at a faster rate, potentially depleting their levels. In other words: Higher stress increases demand for B-vitamins.

Our adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones and other signals to regulate body and brain functions in order to maintain homeostasis, and B-vitamins are necessary to produce many of those signals. If we have an inadequate supply of B-vitamins our ability to cope with stress will be compromised which can lead to us being unbalanced overall.

Stressful situations can increase the body's energy demands and metabolic processes, requiring additional B vitamins for energy production and nervous system function. Believe it or not, the same person will need more B-vitamins to feel their best during high-stress times versus lower-stress times. With people being different, some people require more B-vitamins than others to cope with the same level of stress. The combination of high stress lifestyles and poor eating overall puts Americans at particularly high risk of B-vitamin deficiency which can have a negative effect on both physical and mental health.

Obtaining B vitamins from a balanced diet that includes foods rich in B vitamins can help support the body's needs during times of stress. Good dietary sources of B vitamins include whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and seeds. However, if an individual is experiencing chronic stress or has specific dietary restrictions, they may benefit from consulting with a healthcare professional to assess their nutrient needs and consider targeted supplementation. In other words, talk with your primary care physician and don't skip out on any bloodwork that will help you get a full understanding of your metabolic profile. If further assistance is required, get referral to a qualified nutritionist or dietician.

WTohile stress can increase the body's demand for B vitamins, it is important to approach stress management holistically, incorporating healthy lifestyle practices and a balanced diet. Adequate intake of B vitamins, along with other essential nutrients, can support the body's stress response and promote overall mental and physical well-being. Incorporating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, including whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can provide the necessary B vitamins along with other vital nutrients. By nurturing our bodies with proper nutrition, we can positively impact our mental health, enhance cognitive function, and promote overall well-being.

While mental health issues are complex and multifaceted, proper nutrition forms a crucial component of overall well-being. The B vitamins play essential roles in supporting brain function and mental health. Ensuring an adequate intake of these vitamins through a balanced diet can contribute to optimal mental well-being. It's also worth noting that individual nutrient requirements may vary based on factors such as age, gender, health conditions, and medication use. If you have specific concerns about your mental health or dietary needs, it is thoroughly recommended that you consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can provide personalized guidance before making any changes or using nutritional supplements.

We'd love to hear from you. What was the most surprising thing you learned today? Is it possible for you to coordinate with you physician to get an assessment on your vitamin levels in the next few months? What do you need to do to "b" in the know about your mental health? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. While B vitamins are essential for managing stress, they should not be considered a standalone solution. A holistic, comprehensive approach to stress management should include: lifestyle modifications, relaxation techniques, exercise, and adequate sleep. To wrap things up here remember, nourishing your body with the right nutrients is a powerful step towards promoting a healthier mind. As you begin this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!

"If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control." ~Elizabeth Gilbert


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