New Medical Directions


By Andy Pierron BSPharm R.Ph., Compass Community Health Care Center Director of Pharmacy Services

According to 2015 American dietary guidelines, diet can affect mental health. This is the first time the annually researched guidelines have made this statement. Actually, it has been hinted at for years. Some studies have questioned whether some severe mental illness is caused by diet. Research outcomes show a correlation.

Serotonin is one of the mood regulatory neurotransmitters, which is affected by our diet. Many antidepressant medications work by altering the reuptake of this neurotransmitter from the synapse back into the neuron. Prozac ®, Zoloft, and Paxil®, have been the most commonly prescribed.

For years, researchers have recognized that the food we eat affects our mood. Researchers knew that tryptophan, an amino acid essential in the formation of serotonin, is found in fish, poultry, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, plays a critical role in the conversion of serotonin. Pyridoxine also is required for the creation of gamma aminobutyric acid, another neurotransmitter, which calms us. Dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that energize us, also require pyridoxine for their generation. Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to reduce depression. Zinc and Vitamin B12, known as cyanocobalamin, both support brain health.

So, the next time we are feeling down, stressed, or anxious, we may want to think about eating turkey or tuna, grilling some salmon, eating a banana, some spinach, or avocados. Also, talk to your primary care practitioner about monitoring your vitamin D and magnesium levels.