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B-Vitamins for Mood Support

Mar 04, 2021

 by, Henry Emmons MD

Benefits of Activated B-Complex Vitamins**

Supplementing with a high-quality, moderate dose, activated B-complex vitamin can be one of the simplest, safest, and surprisingly helpful things to start with for almost anyone dealing with depression. Of course, there are exceptions, which I’ll note below and you should always check with your doctor before beginning any new vitamin or supplement.

In my practice, there are three main conditions that prompt me to add a B-complex, like Resilient Remedies' Activate: 

  • Anyone whose depression started early in life and/or has a strong family history of depression.
  • Whenever energy, motivation, and focus are a struggle. This is common in most people with winter depression, for example.
  • During times of unusually severe or prolonged stress. 

I also consider adding it when antidepressant medications are insufficiently effective, or when the medication dose has to be kept low due to side effects. I find that an activated b-complex (like Activatecan boost the effectiveness of the medications.

B Vitamins and Depression: What makes the B vitamins so important for mood? 

Biochemically, there are two crucial jobs for the B vitamins that impact mood:

  1. They are a central part of the “Krebs cycle,” which you may recall from science class as the energy production cycle within each cell. It’s a process that involves oxidation, releasing the energy stored in food and making it available to run the body. For the brain, the only source of energy is glucose, but the B vitamins are necessary for that conversion to happen.
  2. B vitamins also serve as anti-oxidants, giving a layer of protection to the cells from the byproducts of oxidation.

As you can see, B vitamins not only help to make energy, but to protect brain cells from the impact of making energy. The perfect combo! Likewise, B vitamins serve as essential partners (i.e., “cofactors”) in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Many people with depression feel better when these neurotransmitters are boosted or when they become better balanced with one another. The B vitamins are important in making that boost or balance possible.  

Often, there is a genetic component to depression, and B vitamins play a central role in that genetic error. For example, about 10-15% of people have a mutation in the gene that regulates folic acid (called the “MTHFR mutation”). They might eat a perfectly healthy diet with lots of green vegetables high in folate, but they lack the enzyme that converts dietary folate into a form that the body can use. I believe that explains some of the reason why depression runs in families, or why it might start at such a young age even without a traumatic childhood. There are now products like Activate which contain the activated form of folate and other B vitamins, essentially bypassing this genetic error. That may be why some people feel so much better by just adding an activated B vitamin.

Activate Dosage and Use*

The recommended starting dose for Activate is 1 capsule daily in the morning. In the winter months, under periods of intense stress, or when energy remains sluggish, it can be increased up to 2 or 3 capsules daily. It may be taken with or without food, but in general there are fewer side effects if taken with a meal. It may affect sleep, so avoid taking it too close to bedtime. 

Activate Side Effects*

B vitamins are found in food and are often very safe and well-tolerated. Since the B-vitamins in Activate are so easy for the body to absorb and to use, the dose is relatively low and even better tolerated. 

Most anything one takes can cause mild headaches or stomach upset, but if taken with food I rarely see these with Activate. There are a small percentage of people who may become over-activated by B vitamins, however. If that happens, the dose should be kept low (1 capsule), taken with food, and should be avoided later in the day so as not to affect sleep. If it still seems agitating, it should be discontinued.

 

 

*Note: Some of the supplements discussed in this article can cause side effects, but many people tolerate them much better than prescription medications. They are generally considered safe, however, they should not be started without your doctor’s knowledge and supervision. If you are taking medication already, be sure to talk with your doctor before adding any of these items. If you are considering going off medication, remember never to stop your medication suddenly—always consult with your doctor about how to safely taper off any psychiatric medication. See terms.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

 


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SOURCES

Folate: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, June 2020. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/

Benton, D., Griffiths, R., & Haller, J. (1997). Thiamine supplementation mood and cognitive functioning. Psychopharmacology129(1), 66–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s0021300501639528.

G. Douaud, et al., “Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, no. 23 (June 2013): 9523-9528.

J. Walker, et al., “Oral folic acid and vitamin B-12 supplementation to prevent cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults with depressive symptoms--the Beyond Ageing Project: a randomized controlled trial, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95, no. 1 (January 2012): 194-203.

Godfrey P, Toone B, Carney M, et al., “Enhancement of recovery from psychiatric illness by methylfolate,” Lancet, 1990; 336: 392-395.

Bell I., Edman J, Morrow F, et al., “B complex vitamin patterns in geriatric and young adult inpatients with major depression.” J Am Ger So. 1991; 39:252-257. 

Penninx BW, Guralnik JM, et al.  “Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Depression in Physically Disabled Older Women: Epidemiologic Evidence from the Women’s Health and Aging Study,”  Am J Psychiatry. 2000; 157 (May): 715-721.



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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Consult your doctor or other qualified health professional regarding specific health questions. Individuals providing content to this website take no responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. It is also essential to consult your physician or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program.