Depression is a condition marked by low mood, low energy and decreased interest in things that normally provide pleasure. The causes of depression are complex, but are linked to biochemical pathways in the brain. Vitamin deficiencies are one possible cause of depression in some patients. Vitamins and other natural remedies can be used in the treatment of depression.
Vitamin D, the vitamin obtained from exposing the skin to sunlight, is linked to depression. A study of 1,282 adults aged 65-95 revealed that low levels of Vitamin D in the blood and increased parathyroid hormone can lead to depression among older adults.
Depression symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Signs of depression include an increase or decrease in weight, changes in sleeping habits (too much or too little or sleeping at different times), loss of pleasure and interest in friends and activities, tiredness and fatigue, nervousness, sense of being disliked, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of guilt, blue or sad mood most of the day, poor concentration, thoughts of death and suicide. If these conditions last for over two weeks, treatment should be sought.
Depression and deficiencies in Vitamin B12 are linked. It is not clear if the lack of vitamin B12 is a cause of depression or the result of poor nutrition associated with depression.
Depressed individuals often show low folate levels. Taking folic acid increases these levels and is associated with improved depression treatment outcomes. Studies suggest that an oral dose of folic acid (800 micrograms daily) should be taken daily to improve depression treatment.
A study conducted on 299 men aged 75 and over for two years showed that vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid did not reduce the incidence (frequency) or severity (mild, moderate, severe) of depression. Rather, these vitamins should be used as an adjunctive treatment to other depression treatments.
Another possible treatment is SAMe, the more familiar name of S-adenosyl-methionine. SAMe is known to increased the action of neurotransmitters responsible for dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, just as other antidepressants do.
Other supplements for depression include St. Johns Wort and Kava Kava.