For U.K.-based nutritionist Rob Hobson, good nutrition is vital for building up mental resilience, especially in trying times.
“Our minds have a lot to deal with; be it overscheduled lives, the need to succeed running us into the ground both, or the rise of burnout in the workplace. That’s even before we get into the uncertainty of the current COVID-19 health crisis,” Hobson wrote in beauty and health website Get The Gloss.
Mental health is just as vital as physical health even in our days under home quarantine. One way of boosting it is through nutrition, which helps build up not just our physical immunity, but what psychologist Dr. Meg Arrol called “psychological immunity.”
“A strong mind is just the same as a strong immune system in that it means being able to cope well with life’s demands,” Arrol said. She added that there are many strategies we can use to help build our “psychological immunity,” including checking reputable sources of information, openly expressing our feelings and being physically healthy. In addition, she also advised taking supplements that have been shown to support mental health since “chronic stress and traumatic experiences can deplete important vitamins and minerals.”
Though healthy eating and food choices are ideal for your overall health, low mood and poor mental health make these difficult to do. Fortunately, the following mental-health-boosting supplements should help you fill in the gaps during the coronavirus crisis:
B vitamins such as vitamins B6 and B12 both support your nervous system and strengthen your mental health. These vitamins help you feel less tired, boost memory and make you feel more clear-headed. They are also essential for cell energy production — including those of brain cells, where they help make neurotransmitters that are responsible for the brain’s communication with the rest of the body — and help with nerve conduction, which ensures that the messages from the brain are passed on.
When you are stressed or anxious, your B vitamin levels get depleted, exacerbating your stress symptoms.
A good night’s sleep helps promote good mental health and mood throughout the day. This requires ample amounts of the sleep-triggering hormone melatonin, the production of which is supported by magnesium. Essential for energy production, this mineral helps reduce tiredness and fatigue and is vital for normal nervous system function and psychological health.
Like in the case of B vitamins, magnesium gets depleted due to stress and anxiety.
Known for their beneficial effects on digestion and immunity, probiotics have been suggested by recent research to also influence psychological health through the gut-brain axis.
Although the research is still in its initial stages, these beneficial live bacteria are now believed to have indirect effects on brain health by regulating production of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin within the gut wall. As much as 95 percent of our serotonin is made within the lining of the digestive tract.
Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is found naturally in the body and can be converted into mood-improving serotonin as well as the sleep-regulating melatonin. This amino acid appears to improve your sleep structure by extending the amount of time you spend in REM sleep, in which memories are processed by your brain. Getting enough REM sleep is important to feel rejuvenated during the day, positively impacting both your mental state and your ability to perform daily tasks.
5-HTP supplements are shown by several studies to have a positive effect on mood and are more effective than placebo in treating depression, with benefits usually occurring within two weeks.
Omega-3 And Vitamin D
Fish oil-based omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D work together to optimize serotonin levels in your brain. That is because the “good mood” hormone needs the amino acid tryptophan (which functions almost like 5-HTP) to convert it into a usable form in the brain. This conversion is triggered by vitamin D.
Once serotonin is made, EPA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) helps brain cells release it into the communication gaps (synapses) to stimulate surrounding brain cells. Once serotonin arrives at a new brain cell, DHA (another omega-3 type) then helps the serotonin’s message to be received by increasing cell membrane fluidity. In other words, good levels of vitamin D and both omega-3s are needed for optimal brain function.
Researchers suggested that lack of vitamin D, EPA or DHA is linked to various psychiatric disorders and depression. Omega-3 fish oils
are suggested by clinical trials to improve depression, prolong periods of remission from depressive episodes and improve the short-term course of the illness in those affected.
To get a beneficial anti-depressive effect out of omega-3, take 650 milligrams of total EPA and DHA daily. Compared to placebo, adding fish oils to usual drug treatment to depression has been shown to significantly improve symptoms within two weeks.