Micronutrients & Mental Health: Something to Think About


Mental Illness Awareness 

When someone has a broken leg, skin rash, or cancer, no one talks about stigma. When its mental health there seems to be this ‘hush hush’ attitude. No one talks about it – it used to be that way with cancer, until many women started speaking out. There are breast cancer fundraising events and runs. It seems, unfortunately, that everyone knows someone with cancer. For mental illness the rates are also climbing and 30% of adults suffer some form of mental illness. If it’s a child, it isn’t discussed, if it’s an adult child it’s not mentioned for fear of someone thinking that they had ‘bad’ parents. If it’s a sibling or parent, it’s worrisome and often people try their best to hide it. Those misguided attitudes are starting to change, but just starting – even with all the advertising about ‘stigma’ and mental illness for the past number of years.

If someone had a vitamin or mineral deficiency, they wouldn’t be stigmatized. A lack of vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin D, zinc, or essential fatty acids doesn’t seem to strike terror in the hearts of most people – good thing. For in fact a large portion of those with schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety or dementia have just that – nutrient deficiencies.

According to a September, 2010 Whitehall-Robins Report, (a pharmaceutical company’s Journal), entitled Micronutrients and Mental Disorders, “several micronutrient deficiencies adversely affect the brain and hence could aggravate mental disorders like schizophrenia, depression and anorexia nervosa. It is plausible that proper attention to diet, and when indicated, appropriate supplementation with Vitamin C, folic acid niacin, thiamine, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin E could lower the dosage requirement for antipsychotic drugs and reduce their adverse side effects and toxicity.”

For psychopharmacologic treatment of depression, the standard measure of treatment response is about 50% who will experience improvement of the primary symptoms of depression. Two thirds of patients treated for depression continue to have residual symptoms; 20 – 40% do not show substantial clinical improvement – not such a great record. However, with the addition of a better diet and some added nutrients as needed, those medications could be more effective and perhaps the dosage could eventually be lowered.

The Whitehall-Robins Report goes on to say that: “the diet of people with serious mental disorders is often inadequate, so there is obvious interest in exploring the possibility that metabolic, brain diseases like schizophrenia and depression are aggravated by concurrent nutritional deficiencies. Indeed, a brain that is disordered by serious mental illness could be especially vulnerable to the pathological effects of micronutrient deficiencies.”

This micronutrient therapy is practiced by many integrative doctors or other health professionals and is known as orthomolecular medicine (a term coined by Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling). Some psychiatrists also use nutrients in their practices to affect better outcomes. More information can be found at www.ionhealth.ca, or at www.healthinharmony.com