Vitamins and Supplements That May Boost Your Mood and Brain Health

Best Vitamins to Help With Depression

Vitamins and Supplements That May Boost Your Mood and Brain Health

Depression is a mood disorder, and it’s one of the most common mental health conditions that people experience. Different terms used to refer to depression include major depressive disorder and clinical depression.

While many people require clinical treatment and perhaps pharmaceutical medications to treat the symptoms of depression, there are also certain vitamins that can be helpful for depression.

Along with vitamins for depression, there are also natural supplements for anxiety and depression that can be helpful for treating symptoms of these co-occurring disorders.

Symptoms of depression include significant changes in feelings, thoughts and behaviors, including loss of interest in activities that a person previously enjoyed and an ongoing, persistent feeling of sadness. Depending on the severity of the depression, a person may experience different physical and emotional problems related to the disorder.

Article at a Glance:

  • In addition to antidepressants and therapy, medical professionals may recommend vitamin supplements for depression.
  • Vitamin B-3 and Vitamin B-9 can help people with depression because B vitamins help the brain manage moods.
  • Vitamin D, melatonin and St. John’s Wort are recommended for seasonal depression.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and vitamin C may also help with depression.
  • Vitamins are not a replacement for medical treatment but may improve its effectiveness.

Depression isn’t something that a person can snap , and it’s more than situational or temporary sadness.

Along with the sadness and loss of interest, other symptoms of depression can include:

• Feeling a sense of emptiness or unhappiness• Changes in appetite including eating more or less than is typical• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness• Anxiety• Restlessness• Changes in sleep patterns• Feelings of anger or irrational outbursts• Problems with concentration or decision-making• Thoughts of suicide or death

• Pain that isn’t explained or doesn’t seem to have an apparent cause

While the reasons for depression aren’t fully understood, certain factors may play a role in combination with one another. Some of the factors that could contribute to depression include:

• Changes in the brain• Imbalances of certain brain chemicals and neurotransmitters• Changes in hormones related to pregnancy, thyroid issues, menopause or other similar conditions.

• A family history of depression

When someone has untreated depression, it can lead to serious complications related to lifestyle as well as physical and mental health. Possible complications of depression may include:

• Excessive weight gain• Physical pain

• Development of a co-occurring substance use disorder involving alcohol, drugs or both

• Problems with relationships and family• Isolation• Self-harming behaviors, such as cutting

• Suicidal thoughts, attempts or suicide

There are different treatments for depression. Many people find that a combination of treatments works well, but they should always follow the advice of their doctor.

Some people may use antidepressants, which can alleviate some of the underlying issues that contribute to depression, such as chemical imbalances in the brain.

Counseling can help people with depression cope with stress and other triggers.

It may be beneficial to combine traditional treatments antidepressants and therapy with natural remedies as well.

A medical professional may recommend certain supplements, herbs and vitamins for someone with depression.

It is important to work with a doctor or therapist to determine which supplements and vitamins could be most helpful for the treatment of depression symptoms. So, what vitamins are good for depression?

Best Vitamins for Depression

B vitamins play an important role in helping the brain produce adequate levels of the chemicals required to manage mood and other functions, according to the Mayo Clinic. If someone has low levels of B-vitamins and in particular B-12, they may be more ly to experience symptoms of depression. B-vitamin deficiencies are often seen in people who have depression.

Even without a specific disorder, it can become increasingly difficult for a person’s body to absorb enough vitamin B-12 as they age. Depression can often include symptoms of fatigue, and B-vitamins can help combat that. B-12, in particular, is known for being important to reduce fatigue.

Some of the foods that contain high levels of B-12 include fish, lean meats, eggs, poultry and milk. Certain breakfast cereals may be fortified with B-12 as well. B-12 supplementation can help if someone is a vegan or vegetarian or may not be getting enough of the vitamin for any reason.

Other B vitamins for depression, or vitamins that play a role in brain health include:

  • Vitamin B-3. Also referred to as niacin, Vitamin B-3 is relevant to the production of serotonin, which is an important brain neurotransmitter that helps with the communication between brain cells. In people with depression, serotonin levels may be low. If someone has a deficiency of vitamin B3, they may see a negative effect on their mood. For people with depressive symptoms, a dose of 20 mg of B-3 each day can be helpful.
  • Vitamin B-9. Folate and folic acid are also called vitamin B-9. Vitamin B-9 is something pregnant women are advised to supplement with, and even women who aren’t actively trying to become pregnant but could are often told to take it as a supplement. During pregnancy, vitamin B-9 can help lower the risk of certain brain-related birth defects. This vitamin is also important for mood regulation because it helps with the synthesis of serotonin.

Vitamins for Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression is something many people experience. Also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this mental health condition is linked to changes in seasons. Many people will start to experience symptoms of SAD in the fall, and these symptoms may continue through the winter. Someone with SAD may feel moody, fatigued or low in energy.

Some of the reasons a person may experience seasonal depression include low serotonin levels that may be related to reduced exposure to sunlight and changes in a person’s biological rhythms that can occur in the fall and winter. If someone has major depression or bipolar disorder, their symptoms may become worse in the fall and winter, and people who live further from the equator may be more ly to have this disorder.

Treatments for seasonal depression can include medication, exposure to light and therapy. Vitamins for seasonal depression can also help alleviate or reduce symptoms.

Vitamin D is one vitamin in particular that a doctor may recommend for someone experiencing seasonal depression. Vitamin D is produced by the body after sunlight exposure.

During fall and winter months when sunlight exposure may be minimal, supplementing vitamin D can improve mood and reduce the symptoms of SAD.

Along with vitamins, other supplements could be useful to treat symptoms of SAD. These supplements include 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. This nutritional supplement can help increase the brain’s production of serotonin, alleviating general symptoms of depression. Tyrosine is another supplement that may help the brain create chemicals called enkephalins that can boost mood.

Melatonin helps the body know when to sleep and when to be awake. Imbalanced melatonin levels can contribute to symptoms of seasonal depression and fatigue. While this hormone is created in the body naturally, it can also be taken in supplement form to reduce symptoms of SAD.

St. John’s Wort is another herbal supplement that has long been used to help with symptoms of depression and SAD. However, because St. John’s Wort may interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications, it’s important to consult with a medical professional before using it.

Other Natural Vitamins for Depression

Along with the vitamins and supplements listed above, other natural vitamins for depression may include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the function and health of the brain. Natural sources of Omega-3s include certain fatty fish such as salmon, as well as seeds and nuts.
  • Magnesium. According to the Nutrition Reviews journal, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. experience some level of magnesium deficiency. This deficiency can cause sleep problems insomnia, constipation and muscle tension. It can also cause symptoms of depression and other mood disorders because magnesium is important for the production of feel-good hormones in the brain.
  • Vitamin C. Supplementing with vitamin C can help improve both mood and cognitive function. Studies have also indicated vitamin C may help reduce symptoms of anxiety as well as depression.

While depression is a serious medical condition, it is fortunately treatable. Vitamins for depression shouldn’t be used as a replacement for medical treatment, but they can be used in conjunction with professional treatment to improve its effectiveness. Nutrition often plays a critical role not only in physical but also mental health.

Related: Finding Support for Depression & Addiction through Teletherapy

If you’re looking for healthy ways to manage depression, the Nobu app can help. It is free and for anyone that is looking to reduce anxiety, work through depression, build self-esteem, get aftercare following treatment, attend teletherapy sessions and so much more. Download the Nobu app today!

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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5 supplements for mental health

Vitamins and Supplements That May Boost Your Mood and Brain Health
People tend to think of supplements in terms of the physical boost they can provide, not necessarily their mental benefits. But according to holistic psychiatrist Meredith Bergman, MD, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can exacerbate (or even masquerade as) serious psychiatric problems, depression and anxiety, and they're so, so common.

Which is where supplements come in.

In her practice, Dr. Bergman—who relies on a mix of Eastern and Western medicine—routinely starts off by checking patients' nutrient levels, because even super healthy eaters can have serious deficiencies. (That's partly because «bioavailability,» i.e.

, the body's ability to absorb nutrients, is a surprisingly complex thing.)

Photo: Dr. Meredith Bergman

The good news? Once patients start supplementing strategically, most deficiencies can be corrected in a matter of months, Dr. Bergman says—even days. She's seen immediate improvement with issues fatigue, migraines, and general mental clarity.

Of course, you should always check with a doctor first—and know that sometimes there is simply no replacement for medication and therapy.

It's also important to be a discerning consumer: “Look for certified products that carry a seal from the United States Pharmacopeia, NSF International, Consumer Lab, or products that are made in a facility with Good Manufacturing Practices, which means [it] was made in accordance with FDA standards,” Dr. Bergman recommends. Then give it a shot! They just might be your happy pills.

1. Folate/vitamin B12

Since these two nutrients work synergistically, Dr. Bergman suggests taking a supplement with both. Folate (or folic acid, in synthetic form) is a must during pregnancy because it protects against neural tube defects, but it's vital beyond that—»for the health of our nervous system,» Dr. Bergman explains.

«It's necessary for the synthesis of our neurotransmitters,» she says—chemicals that facilitate communication between nerve cells, helping to regulate things mood and sleep. Oh, and if you're grappling with depression, definitely talk to your doctor about folate.

A significant number of depressed patients have folate deficiencies, Dr. Bergman says.

As for vitamin B12, up to 15 percent of people are deficient, Dr. Bergman says, and since it's generally found in food sources meat and eggs, supplementation can be critical for vegans and vegetarians.

It's also essential for producing and maintaining neurotransmitters, she explains, adding that «deficiency manifests as symptoms of depression, anemia, and fatigue—and it can also cause cardiovascular and neurological disease.” Dr.

Bergman recommends taking folate/vitamin B12 in the morning for a caffeine-free energy boost.

Photo: Amazon

2. Vitamin D

“Limited sun exposure and restrictive diets that exclude fatty fish or fortified dairy products have led to an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency…some estimates say 50 percent of the population is deficient,” Dr. Bergman warns.

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That's seriously bad news, because vitamin D is a key nutrient for the nervous and immune systems—and low levels have been linked to depression. For some people, a bit more sun can make a difference, but those with real deficiencies need something more intense.

Photo: Amazon

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

“I routinely prescribe omega-3 in the form of fish oil or krill oil,” says Dr. Bergman. “We cannot make these essential fatty acids, and they must be acquired from either diet or supplementation.

” She says to look for one that includes EPA and DHA, which help to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease (among other benefits).

And while studies on whether omega-3s can help with depression and ADHD have been mixed, it's clear they play a role in brain health.

Again, though: check with your doctor. “Fish oil can act as a blood thinner and interact with prescription medications,” Dr. Bergman notes.

Photo: Amazon

4. Magnesium

Dr. Bergman recommends taking magnesium at night to help with sleep problems and muscle relaxation. But even if sleep's not an issue for you, chances are you’re still deficient (80 percent of us are, after all). And that's alarming, because magnesium helps control hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. (Not to mention that little thing called PMS.)

Dr. Bergman recommends taking it with calcium (magnesium competes with calcium for absorption in the body, so calcium deficiency is a risk), though you can also apply it topically in sprays or oils.

Photo: Amazon

5. Probiotics

We all know by now that gut health affects everything, including our brains. “Several studies have found that by correcting imbalances in the relative levels of certain microorganisms in our intestinal tract, patients were able to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Bergman.

Plus, probiotics are great for someone who's under a lot of stress or eats the occasional processed food, which is pretty much everyone. So if you’re not already taking a probiotic, what are you waiting for?

Originally published August 10, 2016. Updated August 19, 2018.

Now that you've read about mental health-boosting supplements, here's how to make sure you're not just peeing them out. And if you want to make sure you're getting the real deal, think about shopping at this quality control-obsessed retailer. 



Can Vitamins Help Mental Health? These 7 Supplements May Have Mood-Boosting Properties

Vitamins and Supplements That May Boost Your Mood and Brain Health

There are hundreds of vitamins and supplements available for every ailment and condition you can think of, from melatonin tablets for sleep, to collagen powder for your joints.

According to Harvard Health, most people get their daily vitamins from their diets, but vitamin supplements can be extremely beneficial for people with chronic health issues — especially those who may not be eating (or producing) all the vitamins they need.

There is research that has shown vitamins and supplements may play a role in treating mental health issues, depression. However, the connection between vitamins and mood is still up for debate.

«Evidence does not suggest a consistent, clear relationship between vitamin or mineral supplementation and depression or mood,» Ali Webster, RD, PhD, Associate Director, Nutrition Communications at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, tells Bustle.

She explains that, «It’s difficult to aggregate the results of randomized trials on this topic, because studies differ in the dose of supplements they provide to participants, different study populations make it difficult to generalize results to everyone, [and] different tools are used to measure depression and mental health.»

Though the role vitamins play in improving your mental health is still undecided in the scientific community, there is emerging research that certain vitamins — B vitamins or Vitamin D — can have mood boosting effects more generally.

It's important to note, of course, that vitamins and supplements are not a replacement for prescribed mental health medications — including antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medication.

Instead, incorporating vitamins to your care routine is just another way to improve your quality of life, and boost your mood. Here are seven vitamins that may help boost your mood.

B9 and B12

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

According to MedlinePlus, there are eight B vitamins, but B9 and B12 supplements may specifically help with your mood. «B vitamins can play a role in depression.

In particular, folate (which is also called vitamin B9) deficiency is related to symptoms of depression. When taking folate, look for the active form, because it is more ly to cross the blood-brain barrier and be effective,» Dr.

Elizabeth Bradley, the medical director for Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, tells Bustle.

Dr. Bradley adds that, «When using folate supplements, it’s important to be careful so as not to mask a vitamin B12 deficiency,» which Healthline reported can also be linked to mood changes and fatigue.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

Dr. Bradley explains S-adenosylmethionine (or more commonly referred to as SAMe) is a chemical «found in the body and is most concentrated in the brain and liver,» and «it’s involved in the process of synthesizing neurotransmitters [aka, how your brain communicates] that are involved in depression.»

Though research from 2010 suggested that SAMe supplements taken in combination with an antidepressant showed promise of alleviating depressive symptoms, another study from 2016 determined that the use of SAMe supplements in treatment of depression needs to be further researched.

Furthermore, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reported that while there's mounting evidence SAMe supplements may have a positive impact on those with depression, it could cause a hypomanic or manic episodes in people diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

TBH, what are omega-3 fatty acids not good for? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports omega-3 supplements ( fish oil) can help with cardiovascular health, neurodevelopment in children, cognitive functioning, cancer prevention, and, not to mention, it makes your skin look amazing.

But, did you know omega-3 supplements may also have mood boosting qualities? Dr. Bradley says that two particular kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are «essential components of cell membranes, which helps with cell membrane fluidity and influences neurotransmitter function,» adding that, «research has been done where the EPA portion of fish oil tends to improve depression scores.»


«Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor for serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential in depression. So a deficiency of this, since it needs to be supplied through the diet, can lead to insufficient production of neurotransmitters,» says Dr. Bradley.

According to Healthline, foods rich in tryptophan include eggs, salmon, tofu, cheese, and nuts.

Or, you can opt to take a L-Tryptophan supplement, which MedlinePlus reported has shown to be largely effective for mood swings related to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and shows promise for other mental health issues depression and anxiety.


Magnesium is a nutrient that plays an important role in many bodily functions, including nerve function, blood sugar level regulation, and bone development. However, it may also impact your mood.

«Magnesium is a mineral that acts as cofactors in many enzyme reactions. It effects the neuronal cell membrane fluidity, and there are studies to support its use in mild to moderate depression,» says Dr.



The NCCIH explains that probiotics are live cultures (aka, living microorganisms and bacteria) that can be ingested via supplement or through your diet.

They may help with digestive disorders, and other health problems — including mental health issues. «There is a bidirectional relationship between the gut and the brain,» explains Dr. Bradley.

«There is research to suggest that probiotics can influence neurotransmitters and depression.»


Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

«Zinc is an element that helps to regulate many synaptic processes,» says Dr. Bradley. A 2017 study showed that zinc dysregulation and deficiency were common in people with mental illnesses, and found using zinc supplements as a adjunct treatment for depression and even psychosis was effective.

Though taking vitamins can be beneficial for those with mental health issues, Dr. Webster says, «Rather than advocating for supplementing single vitamins or minerals, I recommend focusing on whole foods, eating an overall healthy diet, and appreciating how the social aspects of meals can positively impact mood.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that dietary patterns emphasizing vegetables, fruits, seafood, legumes, and nuts are consistent with maintaining neurocognitive health and a balanced mood.

» Of course, consulting with your primary physician, psychiatrist, and the rest of your healthcare team is the best way to move forward, and to figure out supplements are right for you.

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