It’s estimated that over 7 million adults in the United States live with depression, an overwhelming and potentially debilitating mental health condition. There are many ways to manage symptoms of depression, though. One treatment plan includes therapy for depression and medication, but there are also natural remedies for depression, including vitamins, that might help combat symptoms of depression.
While they won’t fully cure or treat depression, some vitamins can bolster mental health and be a critical part of your depression treatment plan. To start the process, your doctor will likely order a blood panel to check your levels. Then, pending the results, they might suggest trying certain vitamins for depression.
What vitamins are good for depression? Some of the best vitamins for depression include vitamin D, iron, B9 (folate), calcium, vitamin C, and vitamins B12 and B3. Keep reading to learn more about vitamins that help with depression so you can make informed decisions about how best to treat your symptoms of depression.
1. Vitamin D
Does Vitamin D help with depression? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in many bodily functions, including mood regulation. Studies have found that people with depression can have lower Vitamin D levels . More research is needed, but findings suggest that vitamin D supplementation might be beneficial in reducing symptoms of depression.
Vitamin D also has other health benefits. For example, it can:
- Help regulate calcium absorption, which can improve bone health
- Boost immunity by helping white blood cells fight off infection
- Reduce inflammation
“Vitamin D might help people with depression by reducing inflammation, enhancing mood regulation, and offering neurocognitive dysfunction protection. Studies have shown it can strengthen the immune system and alleviate the symptoms of depression.”Talkspace therapist Karmen Smith, LCSW, DD
How does vitamin D help depression?
Vitamin D doses are associated with inflammation, mood regulation, and neurocognitive function — all of which are associated with depression. One meta-analysis review found that taking vitamin D and other supplements when combined with antidepressants, can reduce depressive symptoms.
Where to get vitamin D
You can take a vitamin D supplement but be sure to find one from natural sources like fish or cod liver oil. Avoid synthetic forms like ergocalciferol or cholecalciferol, which are harder for the body to absorb.
Vitamin D can be found naturally in foods such as:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Fortified milk and cereals
- Cod liver oil
Vitamin D supplementation can also be obtained through exposure to sunlight. It’s important to note, though, that too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Research shows that low iron levels have been linked to multiple mental health conditions, including psychotic disorders, sleep and anxiety disorders, and depression symptoms. Iron is an essential mineral for the body. It helps regulate serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels — all neurotransmitters that affect mood. Low iron levels can lead to depression symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, and difficulty sleeping.
While more research is still needed, some studies show that supplementing with iron may help improve depressive symptoms. If you do decide to take iron supplements, per doctor’s directive, drinking orange juice can increase its effectiveness as the high vitamin c content helps the absorption of iron in the body.
How does iron help depression?
Iron is more concentrated in the basal ganglia than in other parts of the brain. Once thought only to affect movement, current research shows that the basal ganglia actually helps shape how emotional stimuli are processed. Thus, it’s assumed that the brain may not process emotions properly if iron levels aren’t optimal. Other research, including a 2018 study, found a link between self-reported depression and iron deficiency.
Where to get iron
Good sources of dietary iron include:
- Red meat
- Seafood (especially oysters)
- Beans/legumes (such as lentils)
- Dark leafy greens (like spinach)
- Fortified grains/cereals
3. Vitamin B9 (folate)
B vitamins that help with depression can be essential for a healthy body and mind. B9 (folate), for example, is an important nutrient in preventing depression. Studies have found that people with low folate levels are more likely to suffer from depression.
How does B9 (folate) help depression?
Folate helps the body produce serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are responsible for regulating mood and emotions, among other things.
Where to get B9
Folate can be found naturally in:
- Dark green vegetables
- Some fortified breakfast cereals
Recent research links low levels of calcium to self-rated depression. People with lower calcium levels are more likely to experience sadness or hopelessness. Other studies have linked low vitamin D levels and calcium intake to increased risk for suicide attempts among adolescents and young adults.
Still, despite evidence linking calcium to improved mental health outcomes, further research is needed.
How does calcium help depression?
The exact mechanism by which calcium affects mood is still unclear. Some experts believe it could be related to the ability to affect neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Neurotransmitters send messages between nerve cells and are produced and released by calcium.
Where to get calcium
Calcium-rich foods include dairy products like yogurt or cheese, but there are non-dairy options available as well, such as:
- Tofu made with calcium sulfate
- Sardines packed with bones intact
- Green leafy vegetables
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for our bodies. It’s been studied extensively for potential benefits in treating depression, with some promising results. Studies have found that people deficient in vitamin C may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression.
How does vitamin C help depression?
Research shows that vitamin C induces antidepressant-like effects in animals through its interaction with monoaminergic systems.
Where to get vitamin C
It’s always recommended to get enough vitamin C from food sources first. Vitamin C-rich foods include well-known citrus fruits like oranges & lemons, but some people are surprised to learn that bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than oranges per serving size. Additional dietary sources of vitamin C include:
- Kiwi fruit
6. Vitamins B12 and B3
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in brain health as it helps protect nerve cells from damage caused by oxidative stressors such as free radicals and toxins. B12 deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms.
Vitamin B3 (niacin) has also been studied for its potential benefits on mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. It can increase dopamine production to increase feelings of pleasure, thus alleviating some symptoms associated with major depressive disorder (MDD).
“Some vitamins such as B12/B3 and zinc have shown benefits for depressed clients. There is a need for more research to see the benefits of using these vitamins to improve mental health. Vitamins taken while engaging in therapy and taking psychiatric medication can have a positive impact.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC
How do vitamins B12 and B3 (niacin) help depression?
Research shows that mood and brain health is directly affected by B vitamins. For psychological and neurological function, B vitamin levels must be adequate.
Tryptophan is responsible for the production of serotonin, using niacin as a catalyst. Niacin deficiency can directly impact mood, so B3 might be one of the helpful natural supplements for depression worth trying.
Where to get B12 and B3 (niacin)
To get these vitamins naturally, focus on eating foods like the following:
- Whole grains
When to Seek Treatment
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect your life, relationships, and ability to function. While vitamins for depression might help alleviate some symptoms, they’re not always enough to provide long-term relief when you’re feeling the blues.
“Although some supplements may be beneficial, they do not take the place of talk therapy. Talking with your therapist and working through emotional issues can improve your well-being for the long term.”Talkspace therapist Karmen Smith, LCSW, DD
If your depression persists despite taking vitamins or supplements, it might be time to seek professional treatment.
Therapy and medication for depression are often the first lines of treatment for treating depression. Therapy can help you gain insight into your thoughts and behaviors, identify triggers, and learn coping strategies. A therapist can help you decide which natural supplements for depression should be considered.
It’s important to remember that seeking treatment doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable of managing your emotions. On the contrary, it shows strength. Several types of therapy are available to help you learn how to treat depression, including:
- Online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Online dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Online interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
Finding a therapist who understands your specific needs can make all the difference. They can create a full treatment plan and help you determine what vitamins help with depression. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your depression and it’s interfering with your daily life, help is available.
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