Nutritional Deficiencies That Cause Stress

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

When people think of stress, they usually think of things like work, being upset with their spouse, loss of a loved one, or some other stressful situation. But did you know that there can also be nutritional deficiencies that cause stress and keep you stuck in a stressed-out mode?

Sometimes, your body might be in an elevated state of stress simply because you don't have enough of certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Word cloud for stress, with Stress highlighted in red, words like change, work, tension, headache.

In this article, I'll share with you the top nutrients for stress, so that you can help to better support your mood.

I will cover:

We will start by covering 7 of the best nutrients that could help you to correct imbalances and start feeling more like yourself. They include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and more.


Top nutrients for combating stress

We must have plenty of the nutrients our bodies need to promote well-being and avoid common health problems. A deficiency in any of the important nutrients can lead to certain symptoms and conditions.

And that is true for stress and anxiety. Our brains and nervous systems require certain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids to run smoothly. And a deficiency can actually put your brain and body into a stressed-out state, which can ultimately affect your mood.

Here are some of the most common deficiencies that are linked to symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Spoonful of colorful dietary supplements, nutrients like zinc, magnesium, iron, and more.

1. Vitamins

Vitamin B1

When your body is deficient in vitamin B1, it cannot relax. This creates high levels of tension and irritability, and it can even contribute to symptoms like restless leg syndrome. B1 is a B vitamin that helps to counter the high levels of cortisol that are present when you are stressed. So it is a great option to use when feeling stressed, nervous, or anxious. You can even feel the results in just a few minutes after taking it.

Nutritional yeast contains a natural form of vitamin B1 (along with other B vitamins like vitamin B6), and it is a great option. Here are some tips for using nutritional yeast in your diet.

Vitamin D3

A deficiency in vitamin D3 can cause depressive symptoms, but it can also cause symptoms of anxiety and stress. This vitamin is really a hormone-like compound that helps to regulate cortisol levels. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, then that could be making your stress worse and impacting your mental health.

Vitamin D is hard to get from dietary sources. We can get it from safe sun exposure, but that might be difficult during the winter months. So look for a supplement and make sure it is the D3 form. Vitamin D has a wide range of other benefits and many people have low levels. So it is often of great benefit to many people.

2. Minerals


Magnesium is at the top of the list when it comes to minerals for stress and mental health. If you have a magnesium deficiency, it will keep your central nervous system in a state of stress. Magnesium has very calming effects; when you take it, you will likely notice that you feel much calmer. A lot of people will take it before bed, because it helps ease their stress and gets them ready for rest.

Food sources high in magnesium include leafy greens. When you consume a lot of these, it can help increase feelings of calm. Some people also like to take Epsom salt baths, which may help boost magnesium levels (Epsom salts are a form of magnesium).

Box of fresh green and purple kale, healthy leafy greens.

3. Trace minerals


Zinc is the #1 trace mineral to help counter stress. It works on all sorts of systems in the body, and it is involved in many reactions that the body carries out every single day. It is very important for the function of the central nervous system. So when you have a deficiency in this trace mineral, your mood can be affected. Along with being important for stress, zinc can also help combat depression and may even boost your longevity.

Zinc is found in foods like shellfish, beef, and pumpkin seeds. It can also be taken as a supplement.

4. Amino acids

L-theanine and L-tyrosine

These are my two favorite amino acids. They can really help to balance the fight or flight mechanism. There are two branches of our autonomic nervous system – the sympathetic (which puts us into the high-stress "fight or flight" mode) and the parasympathetic (which puts us into "rest and digest" mode). These two amino acids can help bring up parasympathetic activity and bring down sympathetic. That allows our nervous system to calm down and reduce stress.

Protein-packed food sources like eggs will help you avoid amino acid deficiencies. Nutritional yeast is another great choice. It is high in amino acids and B vitamins, so it is a great stress-busting supplement. You can also take an amino acid supplement to support your brain and body to function at their best.

Wooden bowl full of yellow nutritional yeast, spoonful in background on wooden table.

5. Fatty acids


Out of all of the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA is the best one for stress. If you have a deficiency, then it will negatively impact your central nervous system. And as a result, it can impact your mood and mental health. If you want to combat stress, then making sure you have enough DHA is a really good idea.

DHA is highest in dietary sources like fish and fish oil. You can also find it in eggs, algae, and grass-fed beef. Learn more about the basics of omega 3s here.


What causes these deficiencies?

Imbalances in any of the things listed above can be problematic in many ways. They can impact not just your physical health, but your mental health as well. And they may be contributing to your symptoms of stress.

But how do you become deficient in the nutrients listed above? What causes a deficiency in the first place?

Here are some of the top reasons for a lack of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and others that are needed to support proper brain function:

  1. A diet full of refined carbs and sugar. Consuming grains, refined carbs, and sugar can all prevent you from absorbing vitamins and minerals like you should. This can lead to deficiencies.
  2. Experiencing high stress in general. If you are stressed out a lot, you'll have high levels of cortisol in the body. And high cortisol levels can deplete you of certain nutrients.
  3. Fat Storing Hormone resistance. When you have Fat Storing Hormone resistance, you won't be able to absorb your food well. So you will need to take in more of each nutrient to maintain healthy levels until you fix the underlying issues with Fat Storing Hormone function. Learn more about Fat Storing Hormone and nutritional deficiencies here.
  4. Lack of sunlight. Low exposure to the sun can create a vitamin D deficiency. And that can increase stress and increase your risk for depression (vitamin D has antidepressant qualities).

What is the solution to these problems? For starters, addressing any external circumstances that are causing you stress is a good place to start. Learn to manage your stress and practice stress-relieving techniques.

Further, take a vitamin D supplement if you aren't able to get enough sunlight. It is hard for most of us to get enough without the help of a supplement.

And finally, it is very important that you adjust your diet, especially if you are used to eating lots of carbohydrates and sugars. Making some simple changes to your diet can go a long way. The keto diet and intermittent fasting are both great ways to support your body in reducing stress.

Healthy ketogenic diet foods on wooden tray on wood table. Fish, avocados, greens, nuts, egg.


Keto and intermittent fasting can help

If you are not yet on the keto diet and doing intermittent fasting, it might be time to start.

These ways of eating are very useful for supporting stress and putting you in a state of calm. Ketones, the source of fuel your body uses on the keto diet, are actually really good at increasing calmness. And they can really help with stress.

My Healthy KetoTM eating plan helps you stay away from depleting foods like carbs and sugar, and it makes sure you get in plenty of nutrient-rich foods that boost your physical and mental health.

Give keto a try and see for yourself how great it makes you feel. Learn more about the basics of keto right here.



Beach at sunset, with words “stress free zone” written into the sand. No stress, stress relief.

If you have symptoms like restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, and tension, then you are likely feeling the effects of stress.

But contrary to what you might think, not all stress is due to external circumstances. Sometimes, your internal state can actually contribute to your stress levels.

If you are depleted of certain nutrients, then it might be making you stressed. Some of the top ones linked to stress, anxiety, and nervous symptoms include:

  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin D3.
  • Magnesium.
  • Zinc.
  • L-tyrosine.
  • L-theanine.
  • The fatty acid DHA.

A diet loaded with carbs and sugar could be to blame, as could Fat Storing Hormone resistance and lack of sunlight.

In order to get yourself back on track and feeling your best, it is important to correct these deficiencies. Eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods high in the things listed above. And if needed, take supplements or add in nutritional yeast to boost your levels.

And finally, consider the keto diet and intermittent fasting. These healthy patterns of eating can do wonders for your mood and mental state. They can help to promote a sense of calm while reducing the effects of stress.

If you want to learn more about the best (and worst) foods for stress, go here.

Could your stress be linked to an amino acid, fatty acid, mineral, or vitamin deficiency? Do you supplement your diet with any of those nutrients? Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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