VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS AND MENTAL HEALTH

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS AND MENTAL HEALTH

 

Should you or shouldn’t you take vitamin supplements?

 

I have never taken supplements with a view to avoiding some long-term illness or chronic condition so the current media discourse is not relevant in my case. However, I do believe that some supplements can be beneficial for people with certain conditions.  I do hope that the scare mongering going on in the press does not deter people from seeking a boost to their immune or nervous systems.

 

When I was first ill in 1989 I was on a concoction of prescription drugs but failed to progress out of the dreadful pit of depression. Eventually, desperate for knowledge about my condition, I began to read books on depression, food additives, vitamins and minerals. I studied the labels on tins and frozen foods with great care. In fact, I was a sponge soaking up anything and everything that might point me in the direction of recovery.

 

One homeopathic remedy I came across on my journey was Kali Phos, one of the New Era range of complementary medicines. After about a week, I began to feel better and in the following years I used it on several occasions when I became anxious and depressed. This year I discovered the product is no longer available.  However, I had also used Bach Rescue Remedy – a few drops on the tongue when stressed seemed to help. Whether it was the placebo effect, I cannot tell.

 

My search means I have dipped in and out of books over the years. About two years ago when looking for books on food and mood I came across The Feel Good Factor: 10 proven ways to boost your mood and motivate yourself (Paperback)

by Patrick Holford.  By completing the short questionnaires at the start of each section within Holford’s book and identifying my own individual difficulties I settled first on the idea of Magnesium. People suffering from depression have reduced levels of this. Stress and anxiety, common with those with mental health problems, drain the magnesium from the body. Other vitamins that boost mental health are, according to Holford, Vitamin B, long since known to strengthen the nervous system.

So how many should we take? Holford’s view is that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) is far lower than is necessary and his book encourages readers to try to take more than the 10mg. The day that I took a higher dose than the RDA for magnesium I felt the difference within hours.  This is not something I would recommend to others but it proved to me that this supplement must be worth taking if the results were so quickly observed.

Another supplement I favour is Omega 3. My work with dyslexic students has familiarised me with the effects of fish oils, both on the brain and for improving eye/hand co-ordination. Studies have repeatedly shown that children given a dose of this supplement at the beginning of the school day behave more appropriately, are calmer and learn more effectively. But, the supplement is also considered to help those with depression. Anything which puts strain on the brain connections will reduce the fatty acids necessary to sustain a good level of mood and the ability to learn. Dyslexia and Depression are both disorders in the brain and, as such, the symptoms are alleviated if EPA is taken on a daily basis. In 2011 FAB (Food and Behaviour Research) noted a link between reduced DHA levels and the prediction of suicide.

 http://www.fabresearch.org/view_item.aspx?item_id=1934&list_id=search1-search_page&list_index=2&is_search_result=true

The danger of the present furore about vitamins and other supplements is that some may panic and discontinue something which has been beneficial to their well-being. There is bound to be much talk about the supplements taken to alleviate joint pain in the older generation but I suspect not much will be written about supplements which can help our mental health and maintain our equilibrium.

My view on the current ‘should you or shouldn’t you take vitamins’ debate is purely anecdotal although supported in part by authors who write on how to sustain good mental health and mood levels. The views are my own but where possible I have linked these to research findings.

More information can be found on the FAB website http://www.fabresearch.org. A report in early November noted that families are spending less on fresh food as the recession bites. This is a worrying trend.

Likewise, those with depression should not compromise with their diet.

As for vitamins, eventually, of course, we must make our own decisions.

I know what mine will be.

 

Further reading:

500 of the most important Health Tips You’ll Ever Need – An A-Z of alternative health hints to help over 200 conditions by award-winning health writer Hazel Courtney with Stephen Langley and Gareth Zeal

 

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