Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are often the root cause for symptoms such as anxiety, depression, irritability, PMS, and even pain. While such deficiencies are very common, they are often overlooked and thus undertreated. In these situations, people are frequently put on medications such as antidepressants or birth control with suboptimal results. This is an unfortunate situation because it is simple to screen for nutrient status and correcting imbalances can have drastic results. Magnesium, iron, vitamin D, and Vitamin B12 are all equally important contributors to our emotional wellbeing and are good starting points for assessing levels.
Magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies in the United States. One reason for this is because our soil tends to be depleted of such natural substances, making our food less rich in this mineral. Magnesium is needed so that our physical body can relax. When our levels are low we can get symptoms such as muscle tension, cramping, high blood pressure, and headaches. This physical tension often manifests inwards and commonly contributes to anxiety and restless sleep. Magnesium supplementation can help with all of these manifestations and is sometimes the only thing needed to restore balance within the body. It is important to make sure you are taking the correct dose and form in order to get the desired effects and to avoid digestive side effects.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for a magnitude of functions and its importance cannot be underestimated when it comes to our emotional and physical wellbeing. We get the majority of B12 from eating meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, therefore people who eat little or no animal products have a propensity towards being deficient. Early signs of inadequate levels include fatigue, anxiety, and depression. If the progression worsens people can develop cognitive and neurological symptoms such as confusion, dizziness, numbness and tingling. B12 is also needed for red blood cell production therefore deficiencies can lead to anemia. Treatment for correction depends on the level of severity and either includes dietary modifications, supplementation, or injections.
Vitamin D is probably the most familiar deficiency, especially if you live in New England. While we get small amounts from consuming fish or eggs, we get the vast majority from sunlight. Therefore, if not supplementing throughout the winter months, a person is bound to have low levels. Vitamin D is necessary for energy, mood stability, the immune system, and bone health. As many people know, low vitamin D is a very common cause of depression and a huge contributor to seasonal affective disorder. Additionally, decreased stores contribute to chronic pain, particularly chronic low back pain. While it may seem too simple of a cause for major health disturbances, its importance cannot be overstated.
Iron may be one of the most frequently overlooked nutrients. Many people are told their levels are normal based off of a CBC, or complete blood count. A CBC assesses the body’s red blood cells to see if there are any abnormalities suggestive of a deficiency. Because iron is needed to produce red blood cells, normal CBC results often lead to people being told their levels are normal. However, what isn’t looked at as often are specific markers of iron status such as total levels or ferritin. These numbers are commonly low despite normal CBC results. If we do not have enough of this mineral it can contribute to fatigue, depression, anxiety and even hair loss. Many people have a hard time tolerating iron supplements, however taking small amounts, eating it with meals, and making sure you have the correct form are all things that can help tolerate it more easily. As with the other nutrients, replenishing your stores will make a huge difference in the way you feel. With that said, iron can be toxic if levels get too high, so do not supplement with this unless being monitored by a physician.
Many of us suffer from issues with our wellbeing whether it is symptoms on the emotional or physical level. When people go to their physicians for these problems the answer is often medication. This is usually the suggestion regardless of any workup, especially workup for nutrient deficiencies. While magnesium, B12, Vitamin D, and iron are common elements to be low, these are only a few. Not only is it important to see if your levels are low, but it is equally important for your physician to determine the reason. This information will help to treat the underlying cause and prevent further complications.
Dr. Tonya Pasternak has a family practice in Manchester, CT at Connecticut Natural Health Specialists. All of the physicians at the clinic are in network providers for most insurance companies and are accepting new patients. For more information or questions, please call (860)533-0179 or visit: ctnaturalhealth.com.