How Can Vitamins Benefit My Mental Health?
Vitamins are often portrayed as a quasi-medicinal afterthought. Vitamins, however, are crucial pieces of equipment for our body’s natural processes. Vitamin deficiency can cause everything from Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome to malaise and depression. Those suffering from alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders are at a higher risk for nutritional issues. It is important to note that these deficiencies can be both a correlative and causative effect of various mental health issues.
A deficiency in B-vitamins, for instance, particularly thiamine, folate, B6, and B12 is both resultant from and a contributor to alcoholism. Low thiamin levels in the bloodstream correlate to higher alcohol cravings. Chronic alcoholics struggle—due to the excessive consumption of ethanol–to absorb B-vitamins through their stomach linings. Coupled with the disrupted eating patterns many individuals with alcoholism face, this factor can severely diminish the amount of B-vitamins present in an individual’s system. Deficiencies in B-vitamins are the cause of Wernicke-Korsakoff, or “wet brain,” syndrome. That being said, patients suffering from depression see increases in mood with an additional dose of 50mg/thiamin per day.
It is not, however, just the family of B Vitamins that are an issue. Vitamins A, D, and E also play a critical role in brain and body health. These aid in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative actions: this means that, essentially, without these vitamins, the brain is not functioning optimally.
You’ve certainly heard of Omega-3 fatty acids, the substance found in the ubiquitous “fish oil” pills that line the shelves of your local pharmacy. These fatty acids are lipids, the type of organic substance that makes up 33% of the human brain. Moreover, studies show that the effectiveness of antidepressant therapy is improved through the addition of zinc supplements to the patient’s diet, as depressed patients are often low in the mineral.
Carbohydrate-rich diets improve patients’ moods and ensure that the body is maximizing its own recovery potential. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can inhibit a patient’s recovery.
That’s why our integrative medicine program at Chicago Rehab Center emphasizes the need for not just a healthy diet but provides personally tailored regimens of vitamins and supplements to the patients depending on their needs.
With the correct spread of nutrients present in one’s system, the body is in the best-equipped position to heal itself naturally. In short, vitamins are not an afterthought or a palliative, but a crucial part of any holistic recovery regimen.
Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap
Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, is the medical director at CRC Institute, where she is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at the Institute. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.