Most of us try to keep healthy, but even the healthiest of people develop circumstances that reduce their vitamin levels, which can lead to feeling blue. It is well known that deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals can affect your mental health. Three of the most important are vitamin D, vitamin B and vitamin C.

Vitamin D

The role of vitamin D in mood improvement is under research. Studies to date have shown that having adequate to higher-than-normal levels aids in recovery from depression symptoms, and it helps in the overall feeling of well-being. A lack of vitamin D is also shown to exist in patients who have schizophrenia, and a study at the University of Australia in Queensland concluded that a vitamin D deficiency in the first year of life increases the risk of schizophrenia in males.

Every part of our bodies utilizes vitamin D, which is actually a hormone, not a vitamin. When sunlight hits our skin, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is produced. It is absorbed in the liver and later converted to the active form, calcitriol, in our kidneys. In this active form, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.

How does this impact mental health?

Increasing your vitamin D from 2,000 IU to 10,000 IU per day is shown to lessen the symptoms of depression. Regions of the brain that control mood and release dopamine and serotonin have large clusters of the vitamin D receptors.

During the winter, when the light is less abundant, we tend to become deficient in vitamin D. Many doctors now treat patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) with doses of vitamin D — sometimes prescribing doses as high as 30,000 to 50,000 IU, for two to three days and then maintaining a 10,000 IU level for the darker months.

However, too much vitamin D in your system can cause problems. Hypercalcemia occurs when levels of calcium in the blood rise too much. Vitamin D assists the blood in absorbing calcium, so too much Vitamin D can lead to too much calcium.

The symptoms of hypercalcemia are vomiting and nausea, general fatigue and confusion, and frequent urination and kidney problems. It is rare, but a blood test every few months to check levels is advised if taking high levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin B

The vitamin B complex is a group or class of eight water-soluble vitamins that are important to the health of cell metabolism.

Vitamin B10 plays a crucial role in the production of folic acid or folate (B9). B9 is extremely important for metabolic pathways in the brain. Patients suffering from depression often show on average about 25 percent lower-than-normal levels of folate.

Studies show that adding a supplement of B9 increases the effectiveness of anti-depressants. Many researchers believe the most common symptom of folate deficiency is depression.

B6 and B12 aid in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, and like B9, this affects the brain's ability to regulate mood. Doctors observe a correlation of deficiencies of B6 and B12 and depression in about a quarter of depressed patients. The numbers could be higher, but no significant research proves that claim.

B12 is vital to the human body. Vitamin B12 wards off early symptoms of dementia, and healthy levels improve cognitive function. Severe B12 deficiency can lead to depression, paranoia, delusions, memory loss, incontinence and the loss of taste and smell.

Vegetarians and people who suffer from celiac disease and Crohn's disease or any digestive disorder are most likely to be deficient in B12. It was believed that vitamin B12 could only come from meat products, but now there is new research that B12 is actually from macrobiotic bacteria in our soil. However, the levels of B12 in our soils are not high enough, and that is why many vegetarians are advised to supplement.

Vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin) assist cells in the metabolism of sugars from carbohydrates, regulating energy levels. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) aids in the production of hormones.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is also found to affect mood. Studies have found that a vitamin C deficiency can cause depression, submissive behavior and an increasing appetite for sugar. Another interesting study found that vitamin C supplements help reduce anxiety just as well as Prozac. And it was found that vitamin C helps boost the efficiency of Prozac in the treatment of depression in children.

Researchers at McGill University in Canada studied a group of patients, supplementing their diets with high doses of vitamin C. Interestingly, the group taking the vitamin C showed improvement in mood by 71 percent in little over a week.


Minerals come from soil and water, and many of play important roles in our health — calcium, iron, zinc, to name a few. Adequate levels of vitamins aid in the absorption of minerals, so if you have a depletion of certain vitamins, you are likely to a deficiency in certain minerals. Vitamin C works with iron. Vitamin D aids calcium absorption.

Besides vitamins, there are several minerals that affect our mental health as well.

  • Iodine: Produced by the thyroid hormone, iodine affects the metabolism in brain cells.
  • Chromium: This trace mineral found in mushrooms, brown rice, romaine, lettuce, corn, black pepper, broccoli, onions and many other foods, has an improving effect on people's depression symptoms.
  • Iron: Research is showing that iron deficiencies exist in children with ADHD. When you are deficient in iron or have iron-deficient anemia, one of the common symptoms of fatigue and depression.
  • Selenium: Another obscure mineral is selenium, and low selenium levels have been observed in patients with decreased mood levels. Doctors have observed that taking a supplement of selenium can help decrease anxiety and improve your mood.
  • Calcium: This mineral does not affect our mood directly, but it is influenced by the intake of the antidepressant class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are known to rob the body of calcium, and those on it have an increased risk for fractures due to the lack of calcium in their bones. So, if you are on anti-depressants and not supplementing vitamin D, the chances are that your body is being robbed of its calcium.
  • Zinc: Levels of zinc have been found to be lower in clinically depressed patients and adding an oral zinc supplement has been shown to improve mood levels and aid an antidepressant therapy.

So, when you are feeling off and your mood is not the best it can be, consider boosting your intake of the vitamins B, C and D, and of the minerals listed above for a few days and see if you feel any difference. And with any advice on health, see your doctor and discuss what you're feeling and inform him/her what you are taking.