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Depression – vitamins to keep in check

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 28.02.2023 | 3 min read

Life can feel rather gray at times, and your mood suffers. Sometimes you can work out why – you have stresses at work or in your relationship, or financial worries – but sometimes you feel low in mood for no particular reason. It may help to boost certain vitamins, which, when they run low, can have a negative impact on your mood. The following may be helpful for you to try for mild symptoms – for more severe symptoms that are impacting your everyday life, you should see your doctor.

Would a vitamin boost help?

Vitamin D: We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight, so the darker days of winter mean we risk becoming deficient. It's thought that vitamin D boosts serotonin levels, which work in the brain to elevate mood, so this may also play a role in the winter blues. It's recommended that everyone takes a supplement through the winter to benefit bones, teeth, muscles, and mood, and those spending lots of time indoors or of darker skin color should take one all year round.

Vitamin B family: Vitamin B6 is thought to boost serotonin levels, so without enough onboard, we run the risk of depression. In older people, vitamin B12 helps with cognitive function and runs low in those with Alzheimer's and dementia, which suggests boosting this may help. It also indicates the role vitamin B may play in brain function, but we haven't discovered everything yet.

Magnesium: It's known to help relax the blood vessels and reduce inflammation when used as a relaxing foot soak, but can it influence mood? Some studies suggest a link, but further research is needed to determine how strong this link is. Magnesium generally has limited bioavailability when taken orally, but topical treatments such as salts dissolved in baths can be a useful source of magnesium. If nothing else, a lovely relaxing bath may be just the ticket to help you unwind and get a good night's sleep.

Should I get a blood test first?

If you suspect that you have a vitamin deficiency, you can either buy products to replace it and seek out foods rich in certain vitamins, or you can consider a blood test. Your doctor will likely only order this if you have symptoms.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor if negative thoughts and depression are impacting on your everyday life. You may be finding it hard to function at work or in your family life, your colleagues, friends, and loved ones may have noticed, you may experience difficulty sleeping, have either lost or gained weight with appetite changes, and you may even be experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or suicide.

In this case, it’s worth booking an appointment with your doctor, who can assess you. Depending on any other symptoms, they may consider blood tests, but they may also talk things through with you, and together you can decide on the best course of action to get you feeling better.

Am I fit for work with mild depression?

With symptoms of mild depression that are not affecting your work, it may be beneficial to continue to keep a working routine. If not, you can discuss this with your doctor.

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