Holistic Care for Mental Health: Key Nutrients you may be missing

As an integrated, holistic medical clinic, our approach to mental health issues takes many shapes.

One of the areas we focus on in the care & support of mental health issues, commonly overlooked in more traditional clinics, is the role of nutrition & diet.

The role of nutrients, key elements our body needs and gets from food, are important in how our brain functions. Increasing research is affirming what we know about this relationship, suggesting that nutritional interventions may help reduce the risk (or stop the progression) of certain mental health illnesses.

As the medical world is researching and studying these issues more and more, increasing amounts of clinical evidence is showing the relationship between the following nutrients and brain health.

We at Nature Cures Clinic support a “Food as Medicine” approach, with our preference for individuals to incorporate a whole food diet over supplementation. As always, before you add or modify supplements please contact a knowledgeable medical provider for evaluation and support. Your health situation is unique and you deserve to have a trained medical provider working with you that you know, who knows you, and who is familiar with holistic health.

Key Nutrients you may be missing

1.Omega-3 fatty acids.

These polyunsaturated fats have many functions throughout the body. You must consume these as your body can’t make them. They are critical elements in the body’s response to inflammation, ongoing heart health, & brain structure & function.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish (anchovies, bluefish, salmon, sardines, carp, sea bas, lake trout, herring, halibut) and krill. Larger predatory fish such as mackerel & white/albacore tuna may contain higher mercury. Eat in moderation.Vegetarian forms of Omega 3 fatty acids are found in algae (algal oil), flaxseed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, soybean oil & chia seed oil. Chia and flax seeds themselves have much less omega 3.

2.Complete B Vitamins (specifically B12 and B9)

There are 8 B vitamins that make up the ”Complete B” vitamins group. B vitamins must be consumed (through food or supplements), as your body is unable to make them. They are essential for many functions, including the production of brain chemicals. Subtle B12 deficiency, even without anemia, is associated with dementia and low cognitive function. In depressed individuals and those that don’t respond well to antidepressants, Folate (B9) deficiency may be a contributing factor.

B vitamins are found in eggs, dairy, unprocessed meats, whole grains & nuts.

Folate is found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, brewer’s yeast and nuts. Taken together as a “Complete B” is an optimal way to ensure support of the synergistic effect of all 8 B vitamins.

3.Amino acids

Proteins, are made from ˜building blocks” called amino acids. Amino acids are essential for brain function, the making of brain chemicals (like tryptophan which is needed to make serotonin) and cysteine that can be converted to glutathione (the body’s most powerful antioxidant). Amino Acids are found in protein from animal sources (meat,eggs, dairy), seafood, nuts and legumes.

4.  Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace element. It plays a role in the metabolic activity of many proteins, is a key supporter of immune function & is involved in the function of brain chemistry. It is found in lean meats, oysters, whole grains, pumpkin seeds & nuts.


Magnesium plays many roles in the system including brain chemistry reactions & neuromuscular function. According to some clinical research magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression and anxiety symptoms. Magnesium can be found in nuts, legumes, whole grains, leafy greens and soy.

6. Iron

Iron has important roles in neurological function. Too much or too little iron can impact neurological activities including oxygen transport to the brain. Iron is found in unprocessed meats, grains, leafy greens & nuts.

7. Vitamin D

Vitamin D research is changing what we know about the many functional roles it plays so fast it can feel hard to keep up. However, we know it is essential for brain development, bone health, & immune support. Vitamin D is made within us when we have exposure to certain types of the sun’s rays. That can be difficult (and/or it may not be safe for you- consult a health care provider) depending on how far north you live. Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, oily fish and UVB-exposed mushrooms.

8. Antioxidants: Vitamin A, C , E

The antioxidant vitamins include total vitamin A, consisting of preformed vitamin A (retinol) and the carotenoids such as β-carotene, as well as vitamins C and E. Diets high in antioxidants are associated with a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Increased oxidative stress and damage has been implicated in many mental health disorders. Clinical studies suggest antioxidants may “mop up” free radicals to reduce oxidative stress. The body’s antioxidant system is delicate and complex. Ideally antioxidants, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, should be obtained from food sources. Sources: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and goji berries; grapes; mangoes and mangosteen; onions; garlic; kale; as well as green and black tea; various herbal teas; and coffee.

Incorporating these nutrients isn’t intended to function as a “cure” for mental illness, but it can be a starting point for improved physical and mental health.

In our goal of supporting whole people in their unique health journey, we recommend a discussion about diet and nutrition as the starting point in conversations about mental health, just as it is for physical health.

To schedule a visit with one of our providers, please contact us at 503-287-4970



Omega-3 fatty acids in psychiatry. Mischoulon D., Freeman, M. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013 Mar;36(1):15-23. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2012.12.002.,

Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. Jerome Sarris, PHD. Lancet. 2015. Mar:2(3), p271–274. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00051-0

Broad-spectrum micronutrient formulas for the treatment of psychiatric symptoms: a systematic review. Rucklidge, JJ, Kaplan BJ. Expert Rev Neurother. 2013 Jan;13(1):49-73. doi: 10.1586/ern.12.143.

The Seven Nutrients Important for Mental Health. Jerome Sarris, PhD. MPR. October 15, 2015.