Banishing Depression and Modulating Moods with Methyl-Folate
Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting almost 17 million individuals over the age of 18 every single year. If you suffer from depression, you already know that it can effect everything from your social life to your ability to work and can quite frankly cause an impact in every area of our lives. The good news is that depression responds well to changes in diet, lifestyle and supplementation, specifically in this case methyl-folate. (Keep reading to learn about foods and lifestyle techniques to banish depression.)
Studies done on the general population have reported that depressives tend to be low in the B vitamin folate (B9), however the majority of those people are never tested for nutritional imbalances and are usually written prescriptions for anti-depressants. A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology discovered that individuals with low folate levels actually exhibited a poor response to antidepressants and that when the individuals were given folate, in the active form methyl-folate, they started showing improvements in their response to those antidepressants.
There is something else to discuss about methyl-folate… Big pharma capitalized on the fact that methyl-folate has shown considerable improvements in depressives and so started marketing methyl-folate as a prescriptive agent called Deplin, often costing between $168 and $222 for a one month supply. Ironically, you can get the EXACT SAME supplement at your local grocery store for around $6, but they don’t tell you that.
One main reason why methyl-folate helps with depression and other neurological disorders is that methyl folate helps your body make something called S-adenosyl methionine, SAM for short, and this can help improve function of the nervous system due to its ability to act as a methyl donor. When we don’t have enough methyl donors in our bodies (think methyl-folate and the other B vitamins) something called homocysteine, an inflammatory marker of the brain and nerves goes up (also a marker for low folate and B12). Additionally, you can have a genetic issue, often a polymorphism in the MTHFR gene (C677T) where your body isn’t able to use and or make these methyl donors as well and more often than not, leads to low folate which leads to depression.
The truth is that our diet can significantly improve feelings of well being and can slowly start to chip away at depression and improve not only your mood, but also the rest of your entire body’s health. Foods high in B-vitamins, specifically folate (vitamin B9) can help! There are however some foods that rob you of your folate and other B-vitamins basically stealing these nutrients out of your body and leaving you worse for wear in terms of depression. These foods are the processed grains like fast food buns, Doritos, Cheetos, candy, white carbs like crackers, tortilla chips and most fast food as well as alcohol and smoking.
Food Sources of Folate and other B Vitamins
-Leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale etc…)
-Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli…
-Fruits: Mangoes, oranges, avocados
-Nuts/Beans and lentils
-Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds…
-Whole unprocessed grains (not bread, but the whole unadulterated grains before they are ground up. Think wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, teff etc…)
-Grass fed or pasture raised meats in small portions. Conventional or non-organic meats often contain far less nutrients, B vitamins included. Stick to organic or local meats from local farms and butchers that raise animals in healthy environments.
-Wild caught fish like salmon.
Lifestyle Tips to Reverse Depression
-Get sunshine or be outside for at least 15 minutes per day, everyday.
-Increasing movement, whether thats a daily 15 minute walk or participating in scheduled exercise or workouts. Just moving significantly helps.
-Drinking more water and less sugar. Your body is about 70% water, it needs water to think, digest, sleep, breathe, everything! More water, less sugary drinks.
-Social time or connection to others. When you’re depressed, being with others might be the last thing you want to do, but spending time with others you like is a great way to get us out of our head and into our heart where we feel love, happiness and joy.
-Meditation. Sitting in a comfortable position and simply focusing on breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds helps your body activate the para-sympathetic nervous system, the part of your nervous system responsible for relaxation, healing and healthy digestion. Start with 2 minutes per day and increase from there.
Overall, depression sucks. Anyone who has experienced it knows that it is miserable and makes you feel hopeless. The good news is its reversible through practicing good lifestyle techniques and incorporating more fresh, organic unprocessed foods into your diet like eating more fish like salmon on salads, having bean soups and eating nuts and seeds as snacks instead of processed snacks where these processed snacks will make you feel better in the moment due to a dopamine burst, but a few minutes later make you feel worse.
Most articles agree on dosing methyl-folate at 800 mcg daily for depression.
(This is not a substitute for medical advice given by your trusted healthcare professional. Please see your nearest naturopathic doctor or functional medicine physician to determine if supplementing with methyl-folate can help you reverse depression and get you off your meds.)
Coppen & Bolander-Gouaille. (2005) J Psychopharmacol. (1):59-65. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12.
Deplan. Goodrx.com. (2018).