Read the page Nutrients / Supplements for Vegetarians before this page.
Nutrients / Supplements for Mental Health
Remember our gut is our second brain, we need to take a good care of it. Lot of us with mental health issues don't have a perfectly functioning gut. We may not be aware of it.
Even if a person with mental health issue seems to have a perfectly functioning gut, s/he should take Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes regularly for some months and occasionally thereafter. To avoid constipation, a person should take Prebiotics (fibers) alongwith Probiotics. There is a new term for such supplements called psycho-biotics.
We should take Omega-3 fatty acids, specially EPA and DHA. These are very important for growing kids and teens in avoiding mental health issues later in life. Take this seriously and start giving/advising these supplements to kids and teens around you by consulting with a friendly health care provider. If you have doubt ask another health care provider, latest researches point in this direction. If you can take fish oil (containing EPA, DHA, ...) in capsules, please do that. High doses of Omega-3 FA might increase chances of bleeding if you are taking blood thinners. So avoid high doses and start with a light dose; twice a week. Increase it to four times a week.... High doses of Omega-3 FA might also reduce the immune system's activity! Some times immune system may be overactive in some people so taking Omega-3 FA regularly may be helpful for them. Ask your physician following question - "I read online that taking Omega-3 FA supplements can help people like me, can I start taking fish oil capsules?" If his/her answer is negative then ask another physician!
People with mental health issues need to take fish oil capsules (EPA and DHA) daily for more than a year. Some people may be allergic to fish oil, in that case they may take spirulina, flax seeds, chia seeds, astaxanthin regularly. Vegetarian supplements containing EPA and DHA may be costly, so consider non-vegetarian sources. People who have recovered from mental health issues will need fish oil capsules or its substitutes occasionally. Vegetarian substitutes for 'Fatty Acids' are almonds, walnuts, ghee, chia seeds, flax seeds but they lack EPA and DHA.
If you are a vegetarian you should seriously consider starting consuming unfertilized eggs. Rarely a person may be allergic to eggs, so before starting eating eggs you should do allergy test. Simple test is to put a drop of egg white and a drop of egg yolk on your palm in the night before going to bed. After the drops dry up, wrap a handkerchief or any cloth on your palm. In the morning, check if there is any redness or reaction in that area of your palm, if there is none, probably you are not allergic to egg. To make sure that you can tolerate eggs, start eating only a portion of an egg yolk at a time. If you can tolerate it than increase it slowly. Do the same with egg white.
An egg without rooster is an unfertilized egg. An unfertilized eggs is not live. It can be eaten without harming any life. Its difficult for most people to afford lots of almonds, walnuts, ghee, chia seeds... daily along with Vitamin B complex capsules or tablets. An occasional boiled egg can help us avoid lots of deficiencies. As flax seeds are generally cheap, so it is very wise to chew lightly roasted flax seeds regularly even if you enjoy all kinds of non vegetarian products.
If you have problem with digestion / absorption you may occasionally need to take quantities (doses) of supplements more than the reference (recommended) daily values. Consult / inform your health care providers before doing that.
For mental health benefits we can take Sarcosine, Omega 3 Fatty Acids (particularly DHA & EPA), D-Serine, Zinc, Magnesium, B vitamins (particularly forms of B9, B12, B6 and B3 mentioned earlier), N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), Inositol (B8), Choline, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3 with some calcium, Biotin (B7), Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Glycine & Selenium...
Taking 'Beta Alanine' and 'Coenzyme Q10' supplements may help us with energy!
If we have extra fat, 'L-Carnitine L-Tartrate' can help us by burning fat to produce energy. Avoid it before siesta or going to bed.
Coffee has more caffeine than tea, so tea may be better for us. If you can't take tea you may consider 'Theanine' in the morning.
If you overdose on a supplement you need frequent testing to determine when to stop taking or reduce the dose of that supplement.
Occasionally take Ashwagan'đhā, Spirulina, Astaxanthin, Quercetin, Curcumin (if you don't regularly eat turmeric), Saffron, Brāhmī and Shilājīŧ. Some persons need Arachidonic Acid (an Omega 6 fatty acid) supplements. Some persons require 'Evening Primrose Oil'.
If you want to take Ashwagan'đhā regularly for reducing OCD, anxiety, stress, depression; and/or Brāhmī for improving cognitive performance, memory, attention; start with a light dose of one of these and experiment by avoiding it on holidays. Then switch to another and try to figure out if there is any effect. These are not thoroughly researched. Most of the commercial supplements source these herbs from different sources. Never overdose on any herb. Inform about the effects of taking it to your primary health professional. Read about - taking 'Activated Charcoal' occasionally to get rid of some toxins in your digestive system.
It is better to start your day with natural proteins (pulses etc.) than lots of carbohydrates. Some people may need to supplement 'Betaine HCL and Pepsin' to help in digestion.
You need to learn the system(s) used in your country and by various products to decide the doses of those dietary supplements / nutrients that you require. Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is the daily intake level of food and dietary supplement products; RDI values are used in North America. Dietary Reference Values (DRV) are used for nutritional requirements in some European countries.
Important Blood Test/s
You may consider following blood tests, and discuss the results with your primary health care provider. Keep a record of all the tests.
- Complete Blood Count (called CBC, Hemogram, etc.) - Important to find the overall health of white and red cells. Oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells and numbers (counts) of various types of cells, etc. Immunity also depends on WBC. But sometimes immune system may be overactive; if that is the case consult with a physician.
- Liver Function Test (LFT) - Important to find the effects of psychiatric medicine you may be taking. Do not stop your psychiatric medicine without approval of a qualified psychiatrist, just because the test shows some abnormality. Discuss with your health care providers.
- Take copper in supplements only if your blood test indicates its deficiency. Copper overload may worsen mental health issues in some cases!
- Taking a small dose of zinc and magnesium 2-3 times a week helps. Occasionally taking iron and selenium may also help. So once in a while blood tests for these nutrients may be helpful in increasing or lowering doses
- Levels of all the B vitamins particularly (B3, B6, B9 and B12) need to be maintained on the upper side. Maintenance of Vitamin C level is also important. So a occasional blood test may help you in adjusting their doses.
- Levels of other vitamins like A (retinol), D3 and E should be maintained.
- Lipid Profile Test - HDL levels of less than 60 mg/dL is problematic. High level of LDL and Triglycerides are problematic.
- Diabetes is more common among patients with mental health issues (like schizophrenia); if that is the case, blood sugar level must be monitored frequently.
- ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) and CRP (C-Reactive Protein). NAC is more effective when CRP is high!
- Thyroid Function Test.
- Manganese & Chromium should only be taken in trace amounts only if their deficiencies is found in blood tests. Avoid taking manganese or chromium without consulting your physician. Read about effect of these on our physiology.
- Food Allergy tests.
- Some other tests may be ordered by yor physician based on regular usage of drugs (eg. test for prolactin while takin 'Risperidone' regularly).
Do not panic if your blood test results are not within range. We need to prefer natural molecules than foreign (synthetic) molecules for correcting abnormalities. Consult with your physician and very well qualified nutritionists before starting overdosing on any nutrient.
In winter, eat your brunch/lunch outside. During winter you may like to stroll in sunlight when it is warm outside. Do it for at least 15 minutes. Use shades for your eyes as reflecting sun rays from snow or light coloured surroundings can create problems in short to long term. If strolling or eating in sunlight is not possible in your area, find ways to get benefits of sunlight, like light therapy.
Nutrients and physical work-outs are important not only for the physical health but also for the mental health. A lot of things that are good for our heart are also good for our brain!
If a kid / teen is having problem coping with stress; do not try to motivate him / her to take various competitive exams etc.
Published On: 22 May 2021; Regularly Updated; Recently Revised on: 23 Apr 2022;