Functional Medicine Nutritionist, Kristen Vollaro shared advice with us on targeted nutrition as a supplement to managing your mental health…
Here’s what she had to say:
Many people suffer from anxiety and depression and have seen a tremendous increase in clients looking for solutions in my practice. Both may be caused by a wide range of biochemical issues ranging from altered neurotransmitter production to nutrient deficiencies. As a functional medicine nutritionist, I look for the root issues of symptoms and agree with pharmacological intervention when necessary. Medication is sometimes not the only solution but it can be the best intervention depending on the individual. When exploring nutrients that can contribute to anxiety and depression, consider possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies, neurotransmitter production, and co-factors that help create those neurotransmitters.
Some of these include:
• Vitamin D: low vitamin D levels can cause both anxiety and depression, and is linked to most chronic health conditions. Sunshine is the best source but most of us on the East Coast can’t make enough most of the year. Most doctors can check
your vitamin D levels as part of your annual blood work and will often recommend supplementation with D3, as D2 is not as well absorbed and converted by the body.
• Magnesium: Magnesium is known as the “relaxation mineral” and can help reduce anxiety and promote sleep. I prefer magnesium glycinate in supplemental form. Nuts and seeds, such as cashews, almonds and pepitas are good sources of
magnesium as well as avocados, leafy greens and chocolate.
• Omega-3 fatty acids: There is evidence that omega-3 supplements containing both DHA and EPA has been shown to reduce depression. Alternatively, you can eat cold water fatty fish, such as salmon, 3 times a week. Walnuts and chia seeds are also excellent sources.
• B vitamins, especially B12, B6 as well as B2, B3 and folate (B9) are required for neurotransmitter production. Low levels of one or more of these B vitamins can contribute to both anxiety and depression. The B-complex spectrum is found
widely in foods such as salmon, tuna, chicken, pork, beef, eggs and dairy, but can also be found in whole grains and legumes. B12 is mostly limited to animal products so vegetarians and vegans should consider taking a B12 supplement.
Stress will increase your body’s B-vitamin uptake, so consider increasing your intake in times of additional stress.
• Co-factors: Vitamins and minerals including zinc, copper, iron, vitamin C are required to help produce neurotransmitters such as gaba, dopamine and serotonin, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Eating foods such as
grass-fed organic beef, poultry, organ meats, oysters and other shellfish provide Iron, zinc and copper. Citrus fruits such as strawberries, oranges contain vitamin C. Consider your own intake of these important foods and also remember that movement, sleep quality, stress-reducing activities such as hobbies and time with good friends and loved ones is also part of the equation when taking care of your mental health. As always, please check with your heath care provider before taking any supplements. If you are struggling with anxiety of depression, one of the best things you can do is reach out to your health care provider.
Kristen Vollaro, MS, PTA, CNS, CDN holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and has completed 1,000 hours of post-graduate supervised practice to earn the advanced credential of Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS).She is licensed in the State of Connecticut as a Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist (CDN). In addition, she is an experienced and licensed Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), and certified in Craniosacral therapy, Graston Technique, and LSVT.
Learn more about Kristen’s practice here: www.kvollaronutrition.com