Specific vitamins and minerals can contribute to mood, energy and immune health.
I don’t know about you, but I am ready to have a relaxed and fun summer! The stress of the past two years has certainly been difficult for many of us, and chronic stress takes its toll on the body’s systems, changing our energy, mood and immune function. If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed, fatigued or chronically under the weather, chronic stress may be playing a role.
Specific vitamins and minerals can contribute to mood, energy and immune health. Sub-optimal levels of these nutrients can make proper hormone production difficult, cause an imbalance in neurotransmitter function and make cellular function sluggish, resulting in fatigue, anxiety, depression and poor immune function.
Vitamin C Regulates immune function, increases macrophage function and helps B and T cells, also called lymphocytes, proliferate. It’s a necessary nutrient for healthy mitochondrial function, where we produce a lot of cellular energy. Vitamin C also is in high demand by the adrenal glands, which make the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol provides energy and is an important hormone in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Magnesium has a great number of roles in immune function, including antibody creation and cell-mediated immune function. It’s a very important cofactor for Vitamin D utilization, too. As far as energy in concerned, magnesium plays a predominant role in ATP metabolism. ATP provides energy for many, many cellular functions. Magnesium can help some people sleep and, of course, better sleep plays a huge role in both energy and immune function.
Zinc plays a central role in the immune system, playing a role in developing macrophages, T cells and antibodies. A deficiency of zinc has been found to produce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Where energy production is concerned, adequate zinc is crucial for mitochondrial function and the mitochondrial power the cells in our bodies.
Selenium is involved in both the non-specific and specific immune responses, impacting neutrophil production, antibody response, and other aspects of immune response. Selenium is also a mineral that is vital to the optimal function of your thyroid, which, of course, plays a huge role in our energy and metabolism.
Vitamin B5 (dexpanthenol) enhances macrophage function and helps regulate both innate and adaptive immunity. When under stress, the body, particularly the adrenal glands, uses a lot of B5. Chronic stress can deplete dexpanthenol, lower energy and lower mood. Vitamin B5 also helps us generate energy from our dietary fats and carbohydrates.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) impacts both innate and adaptive immunity, as well as helping lymphocytes (a white blood cell) develop and mature. Pyridoxine is a power player in the production of our important neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin and dopamine. When paired with magnesium, this vitamin and mineral are a neurotransmitter power couple.
Vitamin B12 helps to modulate the immune system, promoting a healthy immune response and balancing lymphocyte and natural killer cell activity. Deficiencies in B12 can be seen directly in our red blood cells, creating anemia. Anemia is a condition that can cause significant fatigue and make you feel less than your best.
Glutathione is our master antioxidant that regulates T cell and antibody production, as well as assisting our detoxification processes. As an antioxidant, glutathione protects our mitochondria from oxidative damage. If glutathione is deficient and the mitochondria cannot overcome this damage, our energy production will be decreased. I have also noticed that having enough glutathione present decreases my patients’ anxiety and lifts their mood.
Now that we know some of the nutrients that can help us recover from stress and help us feel well, where do we get these nutrients? Of course, eating a variety of foods is important. A vibrant array of vegetables, fruits, meats and other whole foods can provide us with the nutrients we need for optimal function. White flour, sugar and processed foods tend to deplete important nutrients, so avoiding these dietary pitfalls will help meet the body’s nutrient needs. We must keep in mind that our soils are quite nutrient deficient from monocropping, which means that the food we ate 70 years ago had a much more robust nutrient profile than today’s food. Thus, in some cases, we rely on nutritional supplements to fill in the gaps.
Nutritional supplements can be used strategically to fill in gaps and provide essential nutrients so that the body can heal from chronic stress. However, if your diet is full of junk, supplying supplemental nutrients to feel better is like trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose. It’s also worth doing some research or visiting a knowledgeable healthcare provider to make sure you’re getting the most absorbable form of nutrients. Additionally, it’s been shown that supplements from big box stores rarely contain what they claim on the label. Making sure your supplements are from a reputable company is crucial if you want to achieve the results you want with supplements.
Intravenous nutrients can also be used to replace deficient vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. One of the benefits of IV therapy is that the nutrients are delivered directly to the bloodstream. This means that we aren’t relying on the gut to absorb adequate amounts of nutrients. Many of us have poor nutrient absorption because of medications we take, poor gut health or for other reasons. Intravenous therapy is also useful because we can achieve higher levels of nutrients in the bloodstream than we can through oral intake of nutrients, which can result in a more rapid healing process.
Now that you’re armed with some information about nutrients that suffer when we’re chronically stressed, I hope that you get out there and have your best summer ever! FBN
By Amber Belt, ND
Amber Belt, ND is a naturopathic physician and co-owner of Aspen Integrative Medical Center where she helps patients get healthy from the inside out. She is also co-owner of Sage Sirona, which focuses on natural first aid and education. Dr. Belt has been practicing naturopathic medicine for more than 15 years and can be contacted via aspenmedcenter.com or sagesirona.com. You can also call her office at 928-213-5828.