9 Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Mood Imbalance


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I was curious if anxiety, depression, and mood disorders were linked to nutrient deficiencies.  I know so many people who take medication for anxiety, is there a common thread in necessary minerals or nutrients that we are missing? What if your depression or bipolar disorder could be improved by finding what you are lacking?

Launching a little investigation, here is what I found…



According to The Power of Positivity:

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.




Zinc might be just what the doctor ordered for reducing depressive symptoms.  A meta-analysis published in Biological Psychiatry in December 2013 analyzed 17 studies and found that depressed people had about 14 percent less zinc in their blood than the average person, and people with severe depression had the lowest levels of zinc. 

Researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia also reported findings of two longitudinal studies that showed a correlation between depression and low zinc levels. They found that for men and women with the highest zinc intake, they had a 30 to 50 percent lower chance of developing depression than those with the lowest zinc levels.

Recommended daily zinc intake is 9 mg for women and 11 mg for men, and good sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, and whole grains.


Omega-3’s help your immune system, endocrine system, lungs, heart, blood vessels, brain, and mood, according to the NIH.  Omega-3 fatty acids also have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the brain, which is important since mental illnesses are believed to stem from inflammation of the brain. Women should get 1.1 grams per day, and men should try for 1.6. Good sources are salmon, tuna, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.


As most of us know, Vitamin D plays a huge role in our moods, as deficiencies can lead to seasonal affective disorder and even full blown depression. A study from the Netherlands found adults with depression symptoms had low Vitamin D levels. The body absorbs Vitamin D from sunlight, according to the NIH, but you can also take supplements or eat fatty fish to get the recommended amount. For infants 12 months old and younger, experts recommend 400 IU, and adults 19-70 years old 600 IU.


According to an article on Psychology Today:

“Over the past several years, evidence has mounted that B vitamins—B12 and folate in particular—may ward off depression and other mental problems. A Finnish study is only the latest to link B vitamins to maintenance of good mood.

It found that high levels of vitamin B12 in the bloodstream were linked to more successful outcomes among people being treated for depression. The study tracked 115 outpatients who were seeing psychiatrists and therapists as treatment for major depression. Just over half of the patients were also taking antidepressant medications. When researchers followed up with patients six months after counseling sessions had ended, people whose B12 levels were highest had had the most success in halting depressive symptoms.”

Good sources of Vitamin B12 include beef liver, clams, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Recommended daily amounts vary by age: Infants six months and younger need .4 mcg, while adults need 2.4 mcg.


According to an Indian Journal of Psychiatry article, a folate deficiency could cause a mental health problem. Researchers cited that, according to their findings, patients had folate levels 25 percent lower than healthy individuals, on average. “Depressive symptoms are the most common neuropsychiatric manifestation of folate deficiency,” according to their findings.

Good sources of folate are asparagus, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy vegetables, oranges, peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, whole grains, and fortified cold cereals. Infants six months and younger should get 65 mcg a day, while adults aged 19-70 should try for 400.


Iodine plays an important role in the human body, helping the thyroid gland to function properly. According to the NCBI: “When iodine requirements are not met, the thyroid may no longer be able to synthesize sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. The resulting low-level of thyroid hormones in the blood is the principal factor responsible for the series of functional and developmental abnormalities,collectively referred to as IDD. Iodine deficiency is a significant cause of mental developmental problems in children, including implications on reproductive functions and lowering of IQ levels in school-aged children. Daily consumption of salt fortified with iodine is a proven effective strategy for prevention of IDD.”


The body requires protein to function properly, because the essential amino acids found in this macronutrient are crucial for brain health. Some research has indicated that amino acid therapy may be as effective as traditional drugs to treat depression, with phenylalanine and tyrosine being the top two amino acids found to alleviate depressive symptoms as effectively as pharmaceuticals. Protein-rich foods include poultry, beef, dairy, and nuts and seeds. 


Iron deficiency might play a role in ADHD in some children, according to the authors of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry article. Low iron levels have also been linked to depression symptoms. The best sources of iron include lean meats, poultry, seafood, and supplements. Men aged 19-50 need 8 mg of iron daily, and women aged 19-50 need 18 mg.


According to some studies, low levels of selenium might contribute to worse moods. Selenium is important for reproduction, thyroid health, DNA production, and helps to protect the body from free radicals. While selenium deficiency in the U.S. is rare, it can cause cognitive decline and poor mental function. Good sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, seafood, beef, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. The recommended daily amount for adults is 55 mcg (micrograms).


From Stillness in the Storm: 

“In a study published in 2001, researchers found that a 36-ingredient nutritional supplement was effective at reducing the symptoms of bipolar, including mania, depressed mood and psychosis.  The effect was noticed in patients who were taking medication, as well as those who were not. All told, 36 patients were featured in the research. As sources explain, the team believed the supplement worked ” by correcting inborn metabolic errors that result in bipolar-like symptoms in genetically predisposed individuals when certain micronutrients are deficient in the diet.”

A 2008 paper authored by a team from the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in California notes that there are a number of nutrient deficiencies commonly seen in people with mental illnesses: omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are antecedent to neurotransmitters.

In the case of bipolar disorder, there are a few nutrients that have shown promise in managing the symptoms of bipolar. Vitamin C, for example, can help reduce feelings of mania in bipolar patients. As the researchers explain, bipolar patients often have elevated levels of vanadium in their blood, which is known to case mania, depression and melancholy. In placebo-controlled studies, vitamin C was effective at controlling the effects of elevated vanadium.

Taurine, an amino acid, is another supplement shown to be helpful in managing bipolar. In fact, taurine is an amino-acid derivative of the same lithium drugs that get prescribed by doctors. “Studies have also shown that the amino acid-derivative, taurine, as an alternative to lithium, blocks the effects of excess acetylcholine that contributes to bipolar disorder,” the researchers write.


If you want to dive a little deeper into this topic, you can download a pdf from the Walsh Institute that explains a lot, view it here.  

I don’t completely understand the methylation process, but there is a link between methylation and bipolar/mood disorders. You can read about that by going to Dr. Mensah’s blog- he is an authority on the topic.  Here is the blog post, below are some quotes from the article:

The bipolar patients we treat fit into four distinct biochemical phenotypes, as discovered through research at the Walsh Research Institute where 1500 cases of bipolar disorder have been studied along with hundreds of thousands of blood and chemistry results are stored.

  1. Undermethylation– serotonin and dopamine

  2. Overmethylation– serotonin and dopamine

  3. Copper/ Zinc Imbalance– norepinephrine and dopamine

  4. Severe Oxidative Stress– detrimental effect NMDA receptor (N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor)

Other Clinical Factors that May Also Mimic Bipolar Disorder

The bipolar umbrella term can refer to any one of these clinical conditions:

  • Food Intolerance
  • Yeast Toxicity
  • Metal Toxic Exposure (lead, etc…)

Clinically, what is bipolar disorder appearance in terms of symptoms? Bipolar symptoms can fluctuate based on various environmental and physical biochemical variations in individuals.

It’s well worth your time to explore the articles on Dr. Mensah’s blog, he discusses autism, anxiety, and depression too.  There are blood tests you can order through DHA Labs to help with determining the blood-brain chemistry. 

If its possible to treat mental illness/ mood disorders with nutritional supplements, that is probably cheaper, healthier and easier than going to the doctor and relying on pharmaceuticals which typically have lists of side effects.

Read more:

The Simple Nutrient That Can Treat Depression

Here’s How to Heal Our Broken Brains with Nutrients

Have you found any supplements or foods that help your mood or mental health?

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