Originally published in the Kingston Whig-Standard If I'm having a rough day, I always feel more optimistic after a cup of coffee. I think it's because coffee gives me the energy to take on the sky-high to-do list that sometimes bogs me down. Similarly, I've noticed that increasing a patient's energy can have a major impact on the severity of their depression. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to increase someone's energy is to make sure they have the right levels of B vitamins. The B vitamins are a group of different vitamins that come from different dietary sources. B vitamins are involved in the chemical processes that produce the energy that fuels our cells. If the B vitamins are low, the amount of energy we can produce is reduced and may not be enough to meet our needs. You can read more it about in the free ebook I offer through my website www.natural-route.com. B12 is a vitamin that vegetarians and vegans should be particularly conscious of because it is found in animal products: meat, eggs and dairy. Two of the B vitamins are commonly tested in the blood: folate and B12. Low levels of both of these vitamins can cause fatigue. Another test, homocysteine, can detect deficiencies in these vitamins as well. Interestingly, rates of deficiency in folate and B12 are more common among people suffering from depression. In China, where the diet is traditionally rich in folate, rates of depression are lower compared to North America. If you are being treated with an antidepressant, it is more likely to work if you have adequate levels of folate and B12. In a past article, (www.natural-route.com/all-about-b-vitamins), I talked about an enzyme deficiency that affects how efficiently an individual can use the B vitamins it takes in. Vitamins B12 and folate need to be in a certain form in order to be used. If they aren't in that form, the body uses an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or MTHFR for short (even though it sounds like a dirty word). Some estimates say that as much as 25% of the population have a crummy form of the MTHFR enzyme that doesn't work very well. For that reason, when I recommend B vitamins, I always make sure to select a brand that includes the forms that do not need any further modification. On the ingredient label, these will begin with the suffix 'methyl-'. I believe there is enough evidence now that we should be checking for vitamin B status in anyone complaining of depression. Medical doctors who prescribe antidepressants should prescribe B12 and folate right along with them. Maybe you're wondering why I don't just tell people who need an energy boost to start drinking coffee. Anyone who has ever been addicted to the deliciously bitter drink (including myself) knows that you develop a tolerance to the caffeine it contains and require an ever-increasing amount to get the same effect you initially got. Also, I'd rather treat the root cause of the problem than treat it with a temporary fix. If you are suffering from depression, you can probably benefit from something to increase your energy. I encourage you to get blood tests that will tell you if you have plentiful folate and vitamin B12, while keeping in mind that there are many other reasons to have low energy as well. To learn more about depression, check out my free ebook at www.natural-route.com
Andrea Hilborn is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine with a special interest in Women's Health., including the treatment of depression, anxiety and osteoporosis. She can be reached by phone at 613-767-6982, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more health information, check her website at www.natural-route.com, or find her on facebook at www.facebook.com/naturalroute.