Brain & Body Care: B Vitamin’s Relationship to Mental Health and Substance Use
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B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play a critical role in various bodily functions, including supporting a healthy nervous system, promoting cellular energy production, and maintaining healthy skin, hair, and eyes. Some of the B vitamins have been found to have a relationship with mental health and substance use.
For example, studies have shown that low levels of cobalamin (vitamin B12) and folate (vitamin B9) may be linked to depression, as these vitamins play a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. On the other hand, research has found that supplementing with these vitamins may help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
Another B vitamin, thiamine (vitamin B1), has been shown to be important in helping body’s cells change carbohydrates into energy, which is the primary source of energy for the brain. Chronic alcohol use has been found to deplete thiamine levels, which can lead to a range of neurological and psychiatric problems, including memory loss, confusion, and depression. Research has also found that up to 80% of individuals with an alcohol use disorder develop thiamine deficiency, which can be treated by stopping alcohol consumption, eating a nutritious diet and taking thiamine (vitamin b1) supplements. However, if heavy alcohol use continues, this treatment alone is ineffective because alcohol will block absorption.
Additionally, niacin (vitamin B3) has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and has a potential therapeutic effect on substance use disorders. Niacin has cleansing properties that help to quickly remove toxins introduced during drug use. A study found that niacin supplementation reduced drug cravings in individuals with cocaine and cannabis use disorder.
While further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between B vitamins and mental health or substance use, these vitamins play an important role in overall health and well-being. It is always important to talk to a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements or making significant changes to your diet. By ensuring that you are getting enough of these essential vitamins, you may be able to reduce your risk of mental health problems and substance use disorders.
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Disclaimer: When considering a major change to your diet or supplements you take, consult with your integrative healthcare provider first.