Depression often results from a chemical imbalance in the brain, environmental factors and heredity. While rare, nutritional deficiencies, especially deficiencies of B-complex vitamins, can contribute to worsening depression, advises Dr. Luisito Dingcong, a psychiatrist at Bright Horizons in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Consult your physician prior to taking a B-complex vitamin or drastically increasing your intake of vitamin B from food sources.
B-complex vitamins, especially vitamins B-1, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-9 and B-12, play a role in your emotional well-being and mental health because they work directly with your nervous system. Diets that contain a balance of lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats help prevent B-complex deficiencies. However, if your diet contains mostly processed foods and refined carbohydrates, or you suffer from alcoholism or kidney failure, you might need a B-complex vitamin to help with depression. B-complex vitamin supplements are available as capsules, tablets and liquid.
Some doctors prescribe a B-complex vitamin to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants and eliminate any vitamin B deficiencies, Dingcong explains. He emphasizes, however, that research has not shown a positive connection between B-complex vitamins and the improvement of depression symptoms. The lack of evidence might result from the fact that all B vitamins are water-soluble and your body excretes any excess. Despite this fact, some patients report feeling better when prescribed a concentrated B-vitamin complex, Dingcong reports.
Your body gets rid of excess B-complex vitamins through the urine, making side effects from excessive vitamin levels rare; however, people often experience discomforts such as nausea, gas and diarrhea when taking a B-complex vitamin supplement, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you show signs of an allergic reaction to the supplement, such as hives, itchy skin, tightness of the chest, trouble breathing or swelling of the face, mouth, hands or throat, contact your doctor. Dingcong advises talking to your doctor about any symptom you begin feeling within a week or two of starting any new medication, including supplements such as B-complex vitamins. Also talk to your doctor if you take any other supplements or medications, because large doses of B-complex vitamins might interact with them.
People do not often need B-complex vitamins because manufacturers often fortify foods with B vitamins and so many foods contain B vitamins. Foods such as whole grains, bananas, chili peppers, beans, potatoes, tempeh, molasses and yeast provide you with B-complex vitamins naturally. Manufactures fortify foods such as breads and cereals with B-complex vitamins and provide you with the same benefits.
- Dr. Luisito Dingcong, MD; Bright Horizons; Clearfield, Pennsylvania
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Vitamin B Complex; January 2010