Vitamin B12 and folate are essential B vitamins that play a key role in methylation, one of the most important processes in your body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.
If you are depressed, you likely have lower levels of B12 and folate circulating in your blood, and people with low blood folate and B12 are at greater risk for developing depression.
Yet, instead of looking at folate and B12 levels in the blood, doctors often prescribe all sorts of psychiatric medications that have been shown to deplete folate and B12, including:
Antidepressants – Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron), Venlafaxine (Effexor), Amitriptyline (Elavil), Doxepin (Adapin), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Nortriptyline (Aventyl), Protriptyline (Vivactil)
Benzodiazepines – Diazepam (Valium), clorazepate (Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Alprazolam (Xanax)
Antipsychotics including Aripiprazole (Abilify), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal), Olanzapine (Zyrexa), Haloperidol (Haldol), Paliperidone (Invega), Ziprasidone (Geodon)
Anticonvulsants and Mood Stabilizers, including Lithium (Lithobid), Phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Primidone (Mysoline), Methsuxamide (Elontin), Valproic acid (Depakote), topiramate (Topomax) and Gabapentin (Neurontin)
B12 and folate deficiency can lead to an inability to methylate properly and increased homocysteine levels. This can worsen your depression, irritability, fatigue, confusion and forgetfulness.
If you decide to supplement with folate, avoid synthetic folic acid. Instead, you should take a biologically active form of folate (methylfolate).
I take methylfolate. It's the most effective supplemental form of folate. Many people, including myself, have genetic mutations in the enzyme that produces l-methylfolate in the body. Folic acid is a waste and can actually cause harm if you have this genetic mutation.
Methylfolate also helps produce SAM-e in the body, which can help fight depression and improve your mood.
If you decide to supplement with B12, you should avoid the semisynthetic version (cyanocobalamin) and take the methylated form (methyl-B12), which is better absorbed.
Good dietary sources of natural folate include leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries. B12 is found primarily in animal foods, and beef liver is a really good source.
Here are some more nutrients that have been shown to be depleted by psychiatric medication. Reduced levels do appear in the research - just not as consistently as the nutrients above - so supplementation should still be considered:
Vitamin D – Antidepressants, Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers
Vitamin B1 – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics
Biotin – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers
Essential Fatty Acids, including Omega-3s – Antidepressants
Sodium (add sea salt to meals) – Antidepressants
Glutathione – Antidepressants
Calcium – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Antidepressants, Mood Stabilizers
Vitamin K – Benzodiazepines, Antipsychotics, Mood Stabilizers
Vitamin C – Antidepressants, Stimulants (Adderall), Antipsychotics
Inositol – Mood Stabilizers, Antipsychotics
Vitamin B3 – Antidepressants
Potassium – Stimulants (Adderall)
Vitamin A – Antipsychotics
Carnitine – Antipsychotics
Various minerals (Zinc, Selenium and Manganese) – Antidepressants
The bottom line is that the medication you may be consuming to manage your mental health actually reduces nutrient absorption, and can rob your body and brain of essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to unwanted side effects and declining health.
On top of this, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are actually a huge underlying cause of mental health issues to begin with.
Luckily, you can avoid side effects, and even control and overcome chronic mental disease without medication, by restoring these missing nutrients:
If I had simply been prescribed these nutrients, I wouldn’t have needed medication. Instead, I was given a prescription that made my underlying deficiencies worse, and dug me into a deeper mental health hole.
If you have to take a prescribed drug, you can offset many of the side effects and experience much better health by supplementing with the above nutrients.
So why isn’t this information passed on to patients who are taking psychiatric drugs? Because unfortunately, almost all doctors are unaware that medications can deplete nutritional reserves.
So for now, you’ll just have to be aware of drug-nutrient depletions yourself.
If you’re interested in learning more, there are several handbooks and resources in the reference section of this article, including the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook and The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs.