Nutrition in Early Recovery: Nutrient Deficiencies and Mental Health

Brain Function in Recovery
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."Ralph Waldo Emerson

Step 4 - Decrease Mental Health Problems Due to Nutrient Deficiencies

Vitamin D

Vitamin D regulates the production of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine, and plays a vital role in hormonal balance. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with the presence of an active mood disorder. Mild Alzheimer’s, altered sleep patterns and mood issues, and fatigue are common disorders.

To make one’s diet rich in vitamin D natural sources such as eggs, fatty fish, and mushrooms.  Or get in the sun!

Vitamin B (B1, B6, B7, B12, B complex)

People with B vitamin deficiencies experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Folate is at the forefront of mood management. People fighting depression have lower levels of folate in the blood. Folate is present in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, and other legumes, and citrus fruits.


Magnesium levels have a negative correlation with the occurrence of depression. The deficiency of magnesium is known to increase the occurrence of many mental syndromes like agitation, anxiety, irritability, confusion, asthenia, sleeplessness, headache, delirium, hallucinations, and hyperexcitability. Therefore, you really have to supplement with magnesium as it is extremely difficult to get what you need in todays farmed foods.  But if you do have access to swim in the ocean or take Epson salt baths at least a few times per week, that would also take care of this deficiency. 


Iron Aids in the making of red blood cells, that carry oxygen around the body, and iron deficiency can lead to poor concentration, decrease in cognition (attention span, intelligence, and sensory perception functions), anxiety, irritability, and depression. The prolonging lack of iron can lead to headaches and breathlessness too. That is why choosing the right combination of food choices is the key. For instance, if one consumes a palak paneer and thinks that it will give enough iron, then they are mistaken. The calcium present in paneer limits the absorption of iron in spinach when consumed in combination. Instead, pair iron-rich sources with vitamin C. For example, food pairing to increase nutrient absorption includes Spinach with lemon juice. Iron capsule to be consumed with lemon water to increase nutrient absorption.


The lower the level of selenium in the diet the more reports of anxiety, depression, and tiredness. Higher selenium levels are directly associated with lower depressive symptoms. The best food source of selenium is Brazil nuts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain function, especially memory and mood. If your diet is low in good quality fats, like omega-3s, then your body can only make low-quality nerve cell membranes. Oily fish like salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as are fish like cod and cod liver oil. These healthy fats can also be found in flaxseeds and walnuts. Extra Omega 3 Fish Oil supplements are recommended.


Zinc, another essential mineral that regulates the brain and body’s response to stress. It is the brain where zinc is found in the highest concentration in our body, making it central to healthy brain function. It isn’t just responsible for activating your central and peripheral nervous system but is also required for neurotransmitter, enzymatic and hormonal processes. Zinc deficiency does result in anxiety, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. Rich sources of zinc include meat, poultry, oysters, spinach, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dark chocolate.

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