Inositol Rich Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Some time ago, inositol was known as vitamin B8 and considered part of the B complex family of vitamins, but once it was discovered that the body could make a certain amount of its own inositol, it was no longer considered a true vitamin.
So now it’s a pseudo-vitamin, a neglected stepchild of the vitamin B complex family, but that doesn’t mean that inositol is without merit.
Like choline, inositol is found in high levels in lecithin. Pantothenic (B5), B6, folic acid and PABA all have a close working relationship with inositol.
Inositol aids the metabolism of fats and helps to reduce blood cholesterol. It combines with choline to prevent hardening of the arteries and protects the liver, heart, and kidneys. Inositol can be found in whole grains, citrus fruits, meats, nuts, vegetables and lecithin.
Inositol is found in large quantities in the brain, spinal cord nerves and cerebrospinal fluid. It is necessary for the growth and survival of bone marrow cells, eye membranes and the intestines. It is also vital for hair growth and may also help to prevent thinning of hair and baldness.
An inositol deficiency can cause constipation, eczema and abnormalities of the eyes as well as hair loss, high cholesterol, artery and heart disease. Caffeine can create a deficiency of inositol in the body.
Studies have shown that inositol can have an anti-anxiety activity similar to Valium which is pretty cool. Because inositol has a sedative like affect it can be used for insomnia. It has also been used in the treatment of liver problems, diabetic nerve pain, autism, for high cholesterol, testosterone, blood pressure and triglycerides.
Inositol is useful for those with high serum copper and low serum zinc, where these deficiencies can create anxiety until corrected. Inositol is a mood-enhancing nutrient that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Inositol works really well for women needing support with PMS, anxiety, binge eating and more. Let’s look into these…
Mental health benefits of Inositol
Neurotransmitters play a major role in our lives to support our mood, our ability to handle stress, our ability to learn and remember, to help us to sleep better, and much more. Inositol is required by all our major neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine to relay chemical messages – otherwise they just can’t work properly.
Because inositol is a natural anxiety reducing remedy, it has been shown to be useful for conditions such as agoraphobia, panic disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and has also been found useful for certain types of depression. (Not so good with Bi-polar depression)
Studies have shown that inositol can reduce panic and anxiety as effective as a commonly used anti-anxiety medication called fluvoxamine, but without any side effects. Inositol has also shown good results to help reduce bulimia.
It is also good for the prevention of lithium-induced psoriasis, which is a common side effect of lithium drug therapy. Lithium depletes the body of inositol which commonly leads to psoriasis. Inositol improves this skin condition but still gives the person the positive effects of the drug needed.
Inositol has also been discovered to reduce the common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) such as mood swings, depression and anxiety.
Even the more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) has been shown to reduce markedly with the use of inositol. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) caused by hormone imbalances has also been reported to be normalised with inositol by its effect on stabilising testosterone and insulin.
Weird Fact: the white powder that actors snort in movies is often inositol, used as a substitute for cocaine, and it probably helps to relax the actor at the same time. Bonus! 🙂
Factors that cause inositol levels to drop
Factors that can cause inositol levels to drop include smoking tobacco products, taking sulphur drugs, drinking caffeine and alcohol. That’s not good for those who smoke or drink alcohol or caffeine to relieve stress, depression, anxiety or to alter their mood.
Stress can also deplete inositol just like it depletes B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. Anything that creates extra urination can flush this water-soluble vitamin from our body.
Foods rich in inositol
There are numerous foods that contain inositol in small amounts, although no one food source contains significant amounts. Most of us consume about a gram a day from the foods we eat.
While there does not appear to be a recommended amount to consume daily (although around 500mg-1g is considered average) it makes sense to focus on foods that contain higher amounts of inositol to benefit from its healing and calming properties.
Inositol is also available as a supplement, with dosages varying depending on the condition. For example, for PCOS, 2g is often used and for panic disorder and depression, 12 to 18 grams per day is common. Also, because inositol is water-soluble, meaning it does not store in fat cells, excessive amounts are easily removed via urination. For advice on inositol supplementation see your health practitioner.
The foods listed below have higher amounts of inositol than other general foods we eat day to day.
- rice – brown, white, red or wild
- citrus fruits
- grass fed meats and poultry, wild caught fish
- liver, heart and brains (from pasture raised/organic animals)
- egg yolks
- green leafy vegetables
Before you commence your diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.