How B-Vitamins Can Support Our Mental Health
Good physical health has been a topic of research and conversation for decades, even centuries, but good mental health has only recently become a point of focus. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and is all about how we think, feel, and act. It includes many factors such as how we handle stress, having a sense of meaning, and feeling confident in who we are.
Good mental health does not necessarily mean we never feel sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, but rather that we are able to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner and bounce back from life’s adversities. Like good physical health, good mental health means taking care of ourselves and investing in wellness on a regular basis. Our mental wellness can be improved by moving our bodies, connecting with our loved ones, eating nourishing food, engaging in meaningful activities, being out in nature, enjoying a good laugh, and more. We can also improve our mental health with supplements that impact our brain function. In this series we are looking at different supplements that can support mental wellness.
B-Vitamins and Mental Health
The B vitamin family is made up of 8 different nutrients, which play a part in hundreds of different activities in the body. Let’s consider some of their individual roles.
- B1 (thiamine) helps stabilize mood, and boosts concentration.
- B2 (riboflavin) calms the nervous system and regulates mood and energy.
- B3 (niacin) reduces irritability and controls blood sugar levels.
- B5 (pantothenic acid) improves sleep and chemical communication in the nervous system.
- B6 (pyrodixine) is necessary for building hormones like seratonin, dopamine, and melatonin.
- B7 (biotin) supports a healthy nervous system by improving nerve signals.
- B9 (folate) improves mood and supports proper brain function.
- B12 also helps build serotonin and melatonin, improving mood and sleep.
Though just the tip of the iceberg, it is clear that B vitamins are essential to healthy brain function and therefore improved mental functioning. Nutrition is an often overlooked part of mental health, but getting sufficient nutrients will always help our brains to perform at an optimal level.
A study in Australia examined the effects of a B-complex supplement and observed the patients response to stress. "Eighty male participants were supplemented over 28 days. They demonstrated significant reductions in anxiety and perceived stress in the multivitamin group in comparison to the placebo group. These participants also reported being less tired and having greater concentration compared to the placebo group." (1)
This is just a small glimpse into the effects of nutrients on the body. Because B vitamins are water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body, they must be consumed daily, either through the diet or supplements. Levels are also depleted by alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and stress, which means we need to pay extra close attention to taking in sufficient amounts.
Several studies have also linked high doses of B vitamins with reduced symptoms of stress, which may occur because the B vitamins work to lower serum homocysteine levels.(2)
With this in mind we can use this information to properly supply our body with the nutrients it needs. Foods that are high in some or all B vitamins include nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, beans, and dark leafy greens. A high quality B complex supplement can also be taken to ensure adequate support to brain function and improved mental health.
(1) Stough, Con, et al. “Reducing Occupational Stress with a B-Vitamin Focussed Intervention: a Randomized Clinical Trial: Study Protocol.” Nutrition Journal, BioMed Central, 22 Dec. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/.
(2) “5 Stress-Relieving Vitamins and Supplements to Fight Physician Burnout.” MDLinx, www.mdlinx.com/article/5-stress-relieving-vitamins-and-supplements-to-fight-physician-burnout/5tf97Vuc0glH43IONV9XrE.