Thought Leader Interview: Micronutrient Deficiency and Depression
Interview with James S. Gordon, MD
James S. Gordon, MD, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, is a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. He is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression. He is the founder and director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM), a clinical professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School, and former chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. Dr. Gordon is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. He is the author or editor of ten books, including Manifesto for a New Medicine.
Rainbow Light: Thank you for joining us Dr. Gordon.
In your book Unstuck, you detail a number of dietary influences that may contribute to low energy and mood. In your research, which vitamin deficiencies are most often associated with low mood or depression?
- • B vitamins are essential to cellular metabolism and particularly the cells of the nervous system. They also work with vitamin C to regulate adrenal response to stress.
- • Magnesium helps to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood, appetite, digestion and sleep among other things.
- • Zinc and chromium regulate sugar metabolism and consequently nervous system functioning. And selenium is a powerful antioxidant that may also play a vital role in the function of nerve cells.
Rainbow Light: How pervasive is vitamin deficiency in the United States?
Dr. Gordon: The majority of us are below minimum USDA guidelines in at least one micronutrient and it’s not unique to the United States. When we’re deficient in zinc or selenium, or any vitamin it creates a systemic imbalance that can compromise brain health and impact mood. When we’re under stress or depressed, our nutrient requirements may increase as well.
Rainbow Light: What vitamin protocols do your recommend for your patients who are experiencing depression?
Dr. Gordon: I recommend those patients who are depressed or are experiencing stress or low energy take a high dose multivitamin and mineral supplement and a therapeutic amount of essential omega-3 fatty acids with at least one half coming from EPA and DHA. Omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA are particularly important for mood.
Rainbow Light: What about vegetarians who don’t eat fish?
Dr. Gordon: Most vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acid come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies can convert ALA from plant sources into EPA and DHA— it just requires more metabolic work. Flax, chia, hemp and sesame seeds are all good sources of ALA. There are also vegetarian sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s derived directly from algae.
Rainbow Light: What is a therapeutic amount of omega-3 fatty acids?
Dr. Gordon: 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams.
Rainbow Light: What other recommendations do you have for people experiencing a low mood?
Dr. Gordon: It’s important to note that supplements are not meant to replace a healthy diet. I recommend reducing intake of saturated fatty acids in red meat and lard and eliminating trans-fats altogether.
Adequate water and plant fiber are also vitally important to our diet. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are generally deficient in the American diet. Soluble fiber, found in oat bran for instance, helps to slow sugar absorption into the gut, and insoluble plant cellulose fiber promotes regularity and helps remove toxins.
In addition to a high fiber diet, I recommend drinking two full glasses of water when we wake. When you drink water on an empty stomach it activates the gastrocolic reflex. This helps improve regularity which will help overcome feelings of sluggishness or low energy. Women should consume close to three quarts of water daily.
Inactivity can also lead to depression. Our genetic programming is to move around.
Finally, depression signals imbalance—it’s a prompt to take a look at your life. Prolonged low mood is often associated with loss. Something simple to ask yourself is—what have I lost—what am I missing. Look for the causes rather than treating the symptoms.
-End-Legal Disclaimer – This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.