Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – It All Starts In The Cell.

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – It All Starts In The Cell.

In the last decade, there’s been an orchestrated effort to change the culture around mental health issues; But, while public service announcements may intend to remove the stigma, if we are honest with ourselves, that stigma remains.  Why is that?


One potential reason is this:  The ability to quantify emotional health is inherently challenging.  Consider how “easy” it is to quantify heart health – we have blood tests that monitor our risk of heart disease.  The health of important organs like the kidney and liver and easily monitored using common blood tests.   Even the immune system, which is notoriously dynamic and uniquely personal, can be measured (quantified) to a degree.   But mental and emotional health are different – we don’t have the same level of objective diagnostics for these “systems” so perhaps that is one factor of why the mental health stigma remains.   We cannot monitor what we cannot measure.  Or so we think.


All too often, mental health issues are dismissed and blamed on emotional trauma or poor coping skills.  But emotions are largely affected by hormones and neurotransmitters. And these ‘brain molecules’ (which are, ironically, systemic and exist all throughout the body and not just in the brain) are dependent on micronutrients.   Brain chemistry or body chemistry – both depend on the availability of micronutrients to optimize function, and by extension health, which includes mental and emotional health.  


Regardless of the approach, micronutrients affect all ‘levels’ of health:


  • Physical health – the organs and tissues that work together
  • Physiological health – the biochemical pathways and cellular function
  • Psychological health – the mental and emotional state


The health of our cells – whether a brain cell, bone cell or muscle cell – determines everything about the health of our entire body, mind included.  If our cells struggle, it will manifest differently for each person depending on his or her personal chemistry.  Quite literally, the foundation of vitality starts at the cellular level. If a person nourishes their cells with precisely the micronutrients their cells need, true wellness and balance occurs. 


That said, let’s take a look at some specific mental health issues and how nutrients affect them:


Anxiety – this is probably the most ‘accepted’ mental health condition.  Having anxiety is considered normal to some degree, but levels that compromise our daily activities should be addressed and not considered normal.  The anxiety of a big presentation, job interview or first date is expected.  But if the anxiety does not match the novelty of a situation, it can be debilitating when it occurs on a daily basis or at an extreme level.  


            Most people don’t think about correcting nutrient levels as a way to alleviate excess and debilitating anxiety.   But there is an incredible amount of evidence that suggests nutrient deficiencies absolutely impact anxiety levels.


Zinc:  In animal trials, zinc supplementation reduced anxiety possibly due to its interactions with the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor which regulates mood.  Zinc plays a big role in neurotransmitter function, specifically the glutamatergic system, which is a pathway that helps memory and information processing in the brain.  Zinc’s role in immunity is well-established and our ‘second brain’ (the gut) where much of our immunity and neurotransmitter synthesis occurs, is very dependent on zinc status.1,2,3


Choline:  This vitamin is a precursor to acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine which are neurotransmitters that affect mental focus and mood.  In the one study of 6000 people (Hordaland Health Study), low levels of choline were linked to anxiety.4,5


Vitamin B3:  Also known as niacin, this nutrient converts tryptophan, an amino acid we ingest from certain foods, to serotonin, the feel-good hormone that gives us a sense of well-being and clarity.  Its anti-anxiety effects have been well documented yet many people are deficient.6,7


Plenty of other micronutrients affect our neurochemistry, and consequently, levels of anxiety.  For more information on the link between specific micronutrients and Anxiety, click here.

While anxiety is an ‘acceptable’ mental health condition, let’s consider a less ‘acceptable’ condition – addiction.  The chemistry behind addiction and withdrawal is absolutely affected by nutrients, yet the link is dismissed routinely:


Lipoic acid:  In animal studies, this micronutrient actually reduced morphine withdrawal symptoms.  In addition, it favorably affects antioxidant status during withdrawal which is both psychologically and physiologically stressful.8


Carnitine:  In a study on methadone withdrawal, this nutrient was associated with reduced pain.  Carnitine also regulates ethanol (alcohol) metabolism, and when compared to placebo, is associated with reduced alcohol cravings.  This may be due to its antioxidant properties (ability to fight physiological stress) in brain tissue.9


Vitamin C:  In guinea pig studies, vitamin C mitigates opiate withdrawal symptoms. It also protects the liver from morphine-induced damage.  In fact, the decreased expression of a gene that affects vitamin C levels is linked to the development of tolerance to morphine.10,11,12


Spectracell is not saying that nutrient repletion can kick an addition, although it can certainly help in restoring physiological balance. Nutrient repletion may lower susceptibility to mental health conditions or improve cellular damage caused by imbalance, or both.  But it is an approach that is novel and potentially life-changing.


SpectraCell Laboratories MicroNutrient Test (MNT), identifies deficiencies for 35 vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other metabolites.  Since every physiological process needs micronutrients – to detoxify, produce energy, alter emotions, repair cellular damage, synthesis neurotransmitters – even a single deficiency can compromise mental health profoundly. 


Using information from the MicroNutrient Test, you can develop a truly personal supplementation regimen for both prevention and non-invasive, natural treatment of disease.  Unlike the pharmacologic model which tends to interrupt, or completely halt a necessary metabolic pathway in order to achieve a clinical change, targeted repletion heals the body by aiming to achieve natural physiologic balance.


It is the very paradigm of personalized medicine.



1Joshi, Akhtar M, Najmi A et al. Effect of zinc in animal models of anxiety, depression and psychosis. Hum Exp Toxicol 2012;31:1237-1243.

2Cope E, Levenson C. Role of zinc in the development and treatment of mood disorders.  Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2010;13:685-689.

3Partyka A, Jastrzębska-Więsek M, Szewczyk B et al.  Anioxyltic-like activity of zinc in rodent tests. Pharmacol Re. 2011;63:1050-5.

4Jjelland I, Tell G, Vollset S et al. Choline in anxiety and depression: the Hordaland Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90:1056-1060.

5Martinowich K, Schloesser RJ, Lu Y et al. Roles of p75(NTR), long-term depression, and cholinergic transmission in anxiety and acute stress coping. Biol Pyschiatry 2012;71:75-83.

6Prousky J. Niacinamide’s potent role in alleviating anxiety with its benzodiazepine-like properties: a case report. J Orthomolec  Med 2004;19:104-110.

7Prakash R, Gandotra S, Singh L et al. Rapid resolution of delusional parasitosis in pellagra with niacin augmentation therapy. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2008;30:581-584.

8Abdel-Zahar A et al. Role of oxidative stress and inducible nitric oxide synthase in morphine-induced tolerance and dependence in mice. Effect of alpha-lipoic acid. Behav Brain Res 2013:247:17-26.

9Janiri, Martinotti, Tonioni et al.  Acetyl-L-carnitine in the management of pain during methadone withdrawal syndrome.  Clin Neuropharmacol 2009;32:35-40.

10Zhang, Sheng, Pan et al. Oxidative damage of biomolecules in mouse liver induced by morphine and protected by antioxidants.  Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 2004;95:53-58.

11Johnston, Chahl. Chronic treatment with ascorbic acid inhibits the morphine withdrawal response in guinea-pigs. Neurosci Letter 1992;135:23-27.

12Zarebkohan, Javan, Satarian et al.  Effect of chronic administration of morphine on the gene expression level of sodium-dependent vitamin C transporters in rat hippocampus and lumbar spinal cord.  J Mol Neuroci 2009;38:236-242. 


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