5 Nutritional Deficiencies That Cause Anxiety/Depression

nutrient deficiencies

Did you know that there are several root causes of anxiety? Your anxiety and panic attacks are not in your head but a sign of inflammation in your brain. Nutritional deficiencies are the most common cause I see in my clinic. 

Here are a few of the nutritional deficiencies to look for:


The B vitamins help with nervous system functioning, and being under a lot of stress can deplete your levels. A deficiency can lead to anxiety, fatigue, and mood problems. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevalent in vegans and vegetarians who do not supplement with this critical vitamin.

  • B12 deficiency can cause macrocytic anemia, anxiety, depression, concentration and inattention disorders, chronic stress, and chronic fatigue.
  • Studies have found Vitamin B helpful in treating anxiety disorders, particularly agoraphobia and obsessive thoughts.
  • Many familiar sources are animal products, so supplementing with Vitamin B is even more important if you eat a primarily vegetarian or vegan diet. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, turkey, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, and legumes.


Magnesium is a nutrient that plays a part in more than 300 of the body’s biochemical reactions and regulates the release of stress hormones.

  • Studies on humans and mice have shown a strong connection between magnesium levels and depression and anxiety.
  • Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy vegetables like spinach, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and fruits like watermelon and figs.
  • Many herbs and spices are also good sources of magnesium. Cooking with parsley, fennel seed, paprika, cayenne pepper, and herbal tea are tasty ways to get more of the mineral.


Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because its primary source is sunlight. It is a fat-soluble vitamin. Those living in climates that experience cold, dark winters are at very high risk for a deficiency. 30 to 100 percent of us are deficient in Vitamin D.

  • Research has shown that individuals with depression and anxiety disorders also commonly have low levels of Vitamin D.
  • If you have darker skin, don’t spend much time outside, or are an older adult, Vitamin D supplementation is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough.
  • Adults deficient in vitamin D may experience muscle weakness, bone loss, and an increased risk of fractures. It may cause growth delays and soft bones (rickets) in children.
  • There are few food sources, including fatty fish, fortified products such as milk and juice, cheese, and egg yolks.


Iron is essential for oxygen delivery from the lungs to organs and tissues, energy, and thyroid hormone production. All three of these functions massively impact brain function.

  • Iron deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, exercise intolerance, hair loss, restless leg syndrome, heavy menstrual bleeding, anxiety, ADHD, and depression.
  • Iron is highest in foods like beef, lamb, chicken, and leafy greens.


Zinc is a mineral cofactor and antioxidant essential to healthy cellular, immune, thyroid, and cognitive function. It is necessary to make serotonin and dopamine. Often women with PCOS are low in zinc and have higher levels of depression and anxiety.

  • Zinc deficiency can cause an impaired sense of taste, pica, and infertility in men. Zinc deficiency is linked to anxiety, depression, and concentration because it is necessary for the function of GABA and NMDA receptors which balance the brain’s relaxing, inhibitory GABA pathway with the alert, excitatory glutamate pathway.

Other nutrient deficiencies not mentioned above are iodine and vitamin A.

Get Tested

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, it might be a good idea to visit your doctor or an integrative medicine practitioner and get tested. Remember that blood serum tests are not always good indicators of deficiencies. Some vitamins and minerals are hard to test, so seek care from a practitioner that can help you figure out what is the ROOT cause of your anxiety. 

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Hey, it's Dr. Jen.

I am so glad you are here! OB/GYN. Mamma of 4. Self-proclaimed foodie. Avid outdoor enthusiast. I am a hormone guru who healed my PCOS and hypothyroidism through diet and lifestyle shifts.

I help women identify and address the root causes of their hormone and digestive symptoms.

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Dr. Jennifer Roelands

I’m an Integrative Medicine trained OB/GYN and expert in PCOS who healed my own PCOS and hypothyroidism.

I partner with patients to uncover the underlying causes of their unexplained symptoms so they can feel like themselves again.

Using holistic medicine, functional testing, and mind-body tools I create personalized plans unique to your root cause(s) to remove obstacles to healing, correct imbalances, and allow the body to heal.

I’ve helped hundreds of patients transform their health and I welcome you to find out how this comprehensive approach to deep healing can do the same for you.

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