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Blues-Busting B Vitamins
How B Vitamins Affect Mood
We’ve all experienced it before: feeling blue, jittery, irritable, unmotivated, or any one of a number of mood-related complaints. For some of us, these feelings come and go. For others, however, they can become more persistent, preventing us from living our lives to the fullest. There are many reasons we may feel this way; the list of mood-affecting contributors is long. From a biochemical perspective, one of these contributors is our nutrient status, especially that of our B vitamins.
Feeling Blah? Might be your B Vitamins
Neurotransmitters are natural chemical messengers that transmit signals to regulate our nervous systems and influence many of our daily emotions. You may have heard of some of these mood modulators: serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline to name a few. Eating a healthy diet, getting a safe amount of sunlight exposure, regular exercise, genetic factors, and how we manage the stressful life events all affect the production of these all important neurotransmitters, and in turn, whether we feel balanced or not.
It turns out that the formation of these messengers is especially reliant upon the B vitamins as co-factors or assistants. For example, serotonin — one of our main “feel good” substances — is the end product of a reaction that relies on vitamin B6 to move it along. Without ample B6, the reaction is stopped up like a logjam on a river, resulting in less than optimal levels of serotonin and other mood messengers. With low serotonin, one is likely to walk through life with a dark cloud hanging over their head and may suffer from sleep problems, PMS, irritability, compulsiveness, sugar cravings, and low self-esteem.
Turning the Feel Good Switch On
Optimal and balanced neurotransmitter production also depends upon a very important and natural body process called methylation, which not surprisingly requires plenty of B vitamins! Put simply, methylation is like a switch that turns a substance or gene on or off, rendering it active or inactive. Along with helping your body to detoxify and recycle disease-fighting antioxidants, methylation regulates neurotransmitter production. Keeping this switch turned on requires a hearty supply of B vitamins, especially B12, folic acid, and B6. When B vitamins are dwindling and methylation is dragging, you may be at much greater risk of developing depression and other mood deficits.
Don’t Leave Yourself Empty-Handed
Although science is just beginning to skim the surface when it comes to understanding the relationship between mood and nutrition, what we do know is that B vitamins are definitely involved! Making sure our B vitamins are optimally stocked — through both diet and supplementation — seems like a wise move, helping us on our way to a balanced, positive outlook.
Deijen JB, van der Beek EJ, Orlebeke JF, and van den BH. “Vitamin B6 supplementation in elderly men: Effects on mood, memory, performance and mental effort.” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 1992;109;489-96.
Levitt AJ and Joffe RT. “Folate, B12 and life course of depressive illness.” Biol Psychiatry 1989;25:867-72.
Reynolds EH, Carney MW, and Toone BK. “Methylation and mood.” Lancet 1984;2:196-98.