Because the connection between the body and brain is so strong, maintaining a healthy diet full of vitamins and nutrients is important for your physical and emotional wellbeing. However, there are two in particular that I want to outline in this blog — Vitamin B and Vitamin D. Ideally you want to get all your nutrients and vitamins naturally, but a supplement can be useful in some cases, so if you feel a supplement might be beneficial to you after reading this, make sure to get guidance from your doctor to confirm that it’s appropriate for you.
There is growing evidence that Vitamin D plays a significant role in emotional wellbeing. It is linked to the production of serotonin (known as the happy chemical), dopamine (the “motivation molecule” that helps you get clarity and focus) and melatonin (rest and sleep hormone). In one study it was found that a review of 7,534 people experiencing negative mood who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in symptoms. These findings are fairly consistent across the board. Now here’s the stinger — you could be deficient. The Endocrine Society recommends that most adults, including pregnant and lactating women, should get 1,500 to 2,000 international units of vitamin D each day, but some people don’t get anywhere near that, and as a result could experience negative symptoms without realizing it’s a vitamin D deficiency. Such symptoms include fatigue, poor sleep, low mood (feeling depressed or anxious), loss of appetite, bone pain, muscle weakness and even hair loss. It’s not to say that you are deficient if you experience these symptoms (there could be other reasons), but it would be worth confirming either way with your doctor. Again, if you are deficient, you can do something about it to enhance your emotional and physical wellbeing easily. Here are some ways you can ensure you are getting adequate vitamin D:
Vitamin D supplements. Your doctor will advise if you need a supplement and what one is best for you.
Vitamin D-rich foods. The list of foods naturally rich in vitamin D includes wild-caught salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, cod liver oil and egg yolk.
Vitamin D-fortified foods. Examples include orange juice, milk and cereal.
UV-exposed foods. Mushrooms contain no vitamin D, but they make vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light or sunlight exposure and can be a good dietary source of vitamin D.
B Vitamins contribute to optimal brain health and neurological function. They have a direct effect on your mood, energy level, DNA/RNA synthesis and cell repair. While some people get enough vitamin B in their diet, many do not. I have included a list of the different types of B vitamins below, with some good natural sources.
The most common B vitamin deficiencies include folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. If a deficiency goes untreated and worsens it can cause serious harm to the body and brain. In the case of a B12 deficiency, for example, people could experience significant physical, neurological, and mental health complications. Vitamin B deficiency can also affect memory, focus and attention span, low energy, mood changes, and tingling in the extremities.
A doctor can do a simple blood test to determine if you are getting enough B vitamins and if changes are need, you can make them quite easily. It really is worth paying attention to, as B vitamins play such an important role in how you feel. They enhance energy (B vitamins help convert food into energy), support healthy brain function, reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia (Vitamin B6, B9, and B12 contribute to homocysteine metabolism, which is influential), balance mood (vitamin B6, in particular, is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood) and alleviates stress. The following is an outline of the B vitamins you need, with some good natural sources of each:
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Sources: Peas, some fresh fruits (such as bananas and oranges), nuts, wholegrain breads, some fortified breakfast cereals and liver (avoid liver if pregnant).
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Sources: Milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, mushrooms, plain yoghurt
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Sources: Meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs
Sources: Chicken, beef, eggs, mushrooms, avocado
Sources: Poultry, such as chicken or turkey, some fish, peanuts, soya beans, wheatgerm, oats, bananas, milk, some fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
Biotin is needed in very small amounts to help the body make fatty acids. The bacteria that live naturally in your bowel are able to make biotin, so it’s not clear if you need any additional biotin from the diet.
Vitamin B9 (Folate and folic acid)
Sources: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy green vegetables (cabbage, kale, spring greens and spinach), peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.
Sources: Meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, some fortified breakfast cereals.
The key here, as with everything I speak about, is self-care and taking ownership of your health and wellbeing. This week, I’d like you to do a little vitamin check-in to see if your intake is adequate, and to ensure your body is doing what it is meant to. You are here to be your best self and to live fully. Sometimes a simple dietary adjustment can make a big difference!
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