s5 e8: 3 Minerals That Impact Mental Health

3 minerals that impact mental health

3 Minerals That Impact Mental Health

In this episode, we are continuing the topic of mental health from our previous episode with my mentor, Brendan Vermeire, and diving into how three specific minerals can impact our mental health: copper, zinc, and iron.  Since all of the minerals covered today have their own separate deep dives that go into all the nuance of their functions, testing, etc., you can also find bonus episodes for them inside patreon.com/hormonehealingrd when you join at the exclusive tier. This gives you access to ALL content I’ve ever shared on Patreon, where the $10 tier gives you access to what has been shared that month and every month moving forward.

Quick reminder, this podcast is for informational purposes only. Please talk with your healthcare provider before making any nutrition or lifestyle changes.

This episode covers:

  • Mental health during the postpartum period and excess copper
  • How to support excess copper
  • The connection between zinc deficiency and mental health conditions
  • Whether you should supplement with zinc
  • Iron deficiency and excess iron’s impact on our mental health
  • How to support optimal iron status

Master Your Minerals Course

Free Resources:

Free Healthy Period Starter Guide
Mineral Imbalance Quiz
Mineral Training
Thyroid Training
Feminine Periodical (monthly newsletter)


Listen Now

Apple Podcasts



Amanda Montalvo [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the Are You Menstrual Podcast, where we dive deep into all things women’s health to support you on your healing journey. I’m Amanda Montalvo functional and integrative dietitian, also known as the hormone healing Rd. If you enjoyed this podcast and you want to keep learning, check out the podcast Patreon, where I share a bonus episode with additional downloadable resources each week. You can go to Patreon.com forward slash Hormone Healing Rd or check out the link in the show notes. All right, in this episode, we are continuing the topic of mental health from our previous one, where I talked to my mentor, Brendan Bermeyer, on a more holistic approach to mental health versus what we’re typically told in the conventional medicine. Space is the main issue when it comes to mental health problems, just kind of keeping the whole person in mind. We talked a lot about neuroinflammation, so if any of that interests you and you haven’t listened yet, I definitely recommend checking it out. I thought that I would cover some minerals and how they can specifically impact mental health.

Amanda Montalvo [00:01:03]:

I also had a question about this in Patreon not too long ago. So I was like, well, this is perfect because we’re already on the topic. So I’m going to talk about three specific minerals that can influence our mental health status, and those are copper, zinc and iron. I have done deep dives on these minerals in the past, like copper. The copper deep dive, I think, is from season three. And then last season, season four, I covered zinc and iron very in depth, so I’m going to only be focusing on how they impact our mental health status. If you’re like, man, I really want to learn more about these specific minerals, go back to previous seasons and put the mineral name and then deep dive, and then you’ll be able to find the episode that gets really into everything that those minerals do and all that kind of stuff. I have also covered these already with bonus episodes inside Patreon, so it goes through all the different functions, how to test for these minerals, what high and low levels can mean on testing, supplementing with them, all those really important things.

Amanda Montalvo [00:02:08]:

And you can find those when you join Patreon.com Hormonehealingrd at the exclusive tier. And I just want to make it super clear because I don’t want anyone to join at the $10 tier and then be like, I don’t see these because they’re older. So when you join at the $10 tier, you get what I share this month and then every month moving forward. But at the $20 tier, you get everything I’ve ever shared on Patreon, and that’s when you would get access to the old bonuses. So just thought I would share that right in the beginning. We’re going to dive right in right now. But just a quick reminder that this podcast is for informational purposes only, so please make sure you talk with your healthcare provider before you make any nutrition, lifestyle or supplement changes. Okay, let’s start with copper.

Amanda Montalvo [00:02:51]:

This is probably the one I’m asked about the most in regards to mental health, especially copper toxicity or having like an excess of copper. And that is the one that can have a very profound impact on our mental health. I have a hard time calling it copper toxicity because I think a lot of the times there are other imbalances at play as well. So I typically will say like excess copper, because it doesn’t even have to be a toxic level of copper in order for it to have a negative impact on our mental health. Just like an excess of unbound copper, which is copper that’s not bound in its bioavailable form. So it’s just like free floating copper. We can’t really do anything with that. And so it tends to accumulate.

Amanda Montalvo [00:03:37]:

But specifically, when it comes to mental health and excess copper, the most research we have is around the postpartum period. So copper and ceruloplasmin, that bioavailable form of copper, that’s when copper is turned into a protein and we can actually use it. So ceruloplasmine, super important bioavailable copper, useful copper, these are both increased and elevated by estrogen levels. So this is why during pregnancy and as pregnancy progresses, copper and ceruloplasm, if you’re doing blood work on these minerals, you’re going to see them go up. And that is considered normal because your estrogen is going to increase during pregnancy. Right? So typical serum copper levels are going to be around like 90 to 115 micrograms prior to pregnancy. That’s going to be like an optimal amount, and that would be measuring it in your blood. They can reach a level of 260 micrograms once a woman is 40 weeks pregnant.

Amanda Montalvo [00:04:38]:

So that’s like a very significant increase. Right. Obviously, depending on the person and their health status, nutrient status, what other imbalances they have going on. I’m thinking first, specifically, if someone enters pregnancy in an estrogen dominant state, then of course their copper could be more elevated going in, which would make it even higher during it. So after birth, it can take two to three months for those copper levels to go back down to the pre pregnancy levels of that 90 to 115. And this really high postpartum copper we’ve seen in different research that I always link in the show notes, has a role in postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. And copper definitely is not the only nutrient that’s going to impact mom’s mental health status postpartum. It’s much more complex than that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:05:33]:

Both high and low copper could negatively impact mom’s mental health. Postpartum low iron, high iron, which we’re going to talk about, and then low zinc and low magnesium have all been associated with an increased risk of postpartum depression. But what we’ve seen with copper specifically in postpartum is that those elevated levels increase, and especially in women that are dealing with postpartum depression. A few other notes on copper. When we have excess copper and iron, plus a zinc and magnes deficiency, this has actually been linked with a specific type of schizophrenia. So we went through the postpartum piece that’s like what I typically focus on with elevated copper. If I’m dealing with someone postpartum that is having mental health concerns, or if I’m typically we’re trying to prevent that, right? Typically we’re trying to work on this stuff pre pregnancy, during pregnancy, and to have a plan for that person postpartum with what they’re going to do if things start to go off the rails. But outside of the postpartum and pregnancy excess copper space, there is one condition.

Amanda Montalvo [00:06:43]:

It’s a type of schizophrenia called histopenia, which means, literally means low histamine and having too much copper and iron and having a zinc and magnesium deficiency. Those are the imbalances that are specifically related to that type of schizophrenia. And I’m just going to read a quote because I think it sums it up perfectly from a book that I know a lot of you are going to want to know anyway. It’s called mental and elemental nutrients. It’s by Carl C. Pfeiffer. He’s a PhD, MD, and also there’s many other contributors as well from the publications Committee of the Brain Biocenter. I will put that name, that title in the show notes as well, because that was a mouthful.

Amanda Montalvo [00:07:26]:

But from that book, which they talk a lot about excess copper and mental health, they specifically describe histopenia as the following. Histamine ace is a copper containing enzyme. And I did a whole episode on histamines. So if you’re like, I have histamine issues. Histamine 101 is the one you want to listen to. Histaminase is a copper containing enzyme and both histaminase and ceruloplasmin. Remember, that bioavailable form of copper can destroy histamine. So the enzyme and a bioavailable form of copper can destroy histamine.

Amanda Montalvo [00:08:02]:

Therefore, patients with high serum copper and cereuloplasmin have low levels of blood histamine. Histopenic schizophrenia responds to treatment, which rids the body of copper and builds up blood and tissue, histamine. So what they’re saying is that this specific type of schizophrenia is caused by low blood levels of histamine, and that excess copper and excess ceruloplasmin are main drivers of that. So when patients that had schizophrenia were treated with and they also tested their histamine levels and they were low, they were treated to get rid of copper and build up the histamine levels in their tissue. That’s what helped resolve their symptoms. So I’m going to link that study in the show notes and just like I know people are going to ask about zinc, we’re going to get into it. But yes, your zinc status can impact your copper status and vice versa. Having a zinc deficiency can exacerbate that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:05]:

So that’s why these specific patients, they had zinc and magnesium deficiencies, which can lead to copper and iron getting out of balance. But specifically, they were focusing on copper too low of histamines. It led to the specific type of schizophrenia and I just thought that was very interesting. So I thought I would share. And when I think about the zinc deficiency thing, I feel like people are like, yeah, just supplement with zinc and we’re going to talk about it. But most often we’re going to see this because someone has a long history of stress and gut issues because that’s really what’s going to deplete zinc. Having inflammation in the body is going to use up more zinc. Oftentimes that inflammation is coming from the gut and then stress, because a lot of us become deficient in magnesium through having this constant chronic state of high stress, which uses up magnesium and then it uses up zinc.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:56]:

So just something to keep in mind, because it’s not just like I know. It’s like the minerals can be polarizing and wanting to focus on excess copper in this specific type of schizophrenia or excess copper and postpartum depression. And, yes, it’s absolutely linked, but it’s like we have to look at how did this get out of balance in the first place? Right. Usually it’s because we have other deficiencies or maybe we’re taking certain supplements so we’ll talk about how to support excess copper. Because I think this is the big thing to understand. A lot of people will say, oh, just take zinc, because zinc can lower your absorption of copper in the gut. So that could potentially help reduce how much you’re getting from food, but it’s not necessarily going to change your copper levels in your body. And so there’s so much more to rebalancing high copper than just taking zinc.

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:52]:

I honestly don’t even include zinc in a protocol for that for most people, because zinc is so easy to get from food, number one. And then, number two, the reason that copper gets high is typically from having some sort of exposure. Maybe it’s something like hormonal birth control that typically raises copper levels in the body. Maybe someone has copper pipes and that copper is in leaching into all the water that they’re drinking. Or maybe they have the copper. IUD so we always want to think about is there a possible source that we’re being exposed to currently that we can work on? We also want to think about our other minerals, right? Especially our kind of like main first level minerals, which would be calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. These can all impact our copper status. In my master of minerals course, I always talk about like, you want to focus on these four minerals first.

Amanda Montalvo [00:11:53]:

It’s really tempting to want to focus on high levels or low levels of all minerals. But if we don’t work on these first, it’s really hard to, one, improve how the body responds to stress. And a healthy stress response is crucial for making sure that copper is not elevated and that we’re using it properly. And then also because all those minerals interact and are synergistic with other minerals. And so if we can work on rebalancing those, that’s going to put us on the right track to getting copper in a good place. So supporting your macro minerals, removing the copper source, I would say if possible, sometimes we don’t have a specific source. Having really high calcium can affect copper status. It can increase it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:12:40]:

Certain supplements can increase it. Like vitamin D typically raises calcium and raises copper levels. So that’s something to consider. It can also lower them, but typically you’re going to see them elevated at some point and then considering like, can you remove the source? Now, I have a whole podcast in the copper ID, and I have had many clients with excess copper and many symptoms from it that also have the copper ID in, but they’re not necessarily ready to remove it right away. And sometimes it takes a while to get an appointment to remove it. I’ve had people, it took up to like six months. Not removing the source doesn’t mean you can’t work on your copper levels. And I just want to emphasize that because a lot of times people will be like, oh, well, I’m on birth control, or I have this copper ID, so there’s nothing I could do.

Amanda Montalvo [00:13:29]:

I’ve had clients that continue they want to continue taking the pill. Most of the copper ID, people don’t want to continue having it in because they’re already having other issues from it. But the pill, I definitely have had people stay on and it’s something where it’s like, okay, so then we’re just going to rebalance it as much as we can while you’re on it and take other are precautions. But understanding if there’s a source is important. And then the big piece, and I feel like people don’t focus on this one enough, is supporting your thyroid and adrenals. Because when it comes to making that protein ceruloplasm in that bioavailable form, we have to have well functioning adrenals and thyroid. We need enough T three, which is our active thyroid hormone, in order to make cereal plasmin. And a lot of the production of cerebral plasmin is happening in our adrenals.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:16]:

So if we are not getting, say, adequate levels of T three because we’re super stressed and that cortisol is blunting TSH, which tells your brain to make more thyroid hormone, then that’s going to make it difficult to rebalance copper. Sometimes we’re very depleted and we’re in that exhausted stage of stress and our thyroid is exhausted and that makes it very difficult to make adequate levels of ceruloplasmin. And so, yes, the food you’re eating is important. Getting enough vitamin A is so important because vitamin A is what helps load copper into ceruloplasmin. But if you aren’t focusing on thyroid and adrenals or don’t understand what your status is for those kind of glands in your body, you could get really frustrated with not seeing progress like not seeing copper levels come down, not seeing your symptoms improve. And a lot of times when it comes to working on thyroid adrenals, it’s basic nutrition and lifestyle things that are going to help people the most. Like eating enough is really important. Eating regularly, I often am going to see burnout for someone in their Adrenals and thyroid when they have a long history of restrictive eating dieting or just like unknowingly undereating.

Amanda Montalvo [00:15:39]:

A lot of women do that over exercising. Typically they’ve dealt with some chronic stress, so their body’s just very depleted. It just takes time. It doesn’t mean that you’re not ever going to rebalance it. But I would say it does take patience. And a lot of times with minerals, we want to replenish them. If we have a deficiency really quickly or maybe we have a high level that we want it to come down quickly. Our bodies typically don’t work that way.

Amanda Montalvo [00:16:05]:

And I always think, like, why do we need it to be so fast? Of course we have symptoms that we want to work on and we want to improve so we have a better quality of life. But my concern is like, what is the trade off, right? If you decide to take a supplement to increase a mineral because you want to increase it faster and have optimal levels, because XYZ reason, whatever your main concerns are or goals are, then you have to know that you could expect some imbalances in other minerals because minerals work together and they’re synergistic. It’s also like, it could still take a while. Magnesium can take like two years to replenish. Same thing with potassium. And people will often get frustrated, but their hair test doesn’t look better after like four months. And I’m like, it’s probably going to take a lot longer than that. Minerals are not fast, they take time because a lot of us are still making other changes, like making nutrition changes, making changes in our lifestyle.

Amanda Montalvo [00:17:06]:

It can take a while. How we’re living if you’re still living in a super high stress state, it’s going to be hard to replenish and rebalance minerals. So I always just like to say that because sometimes it’s like, what does it mean to support my thyroid and Adrenals? It typically means, like, the basics of eating enough, eating regularly. Everything I’ve gone through so far this season, I talked about how to eat for hormone health, blood sugar, talked about supporting digestion. We talked about managing stress and looking at your day to day and your lifestyle and how you’re living. And those are all the things that you need to support those. It’s not a specific supplement. A lot of the times it’s not even medication.

Amanda Montalvo [00:17:45]:

That’s just more of like a band aid because people aren’t addressing the other areas. So that’s what I mean when I say support thyroid and Adrenals. And it’s all because we need T three and we need Adrenals to be functioning properly to make that cerebral plasma, which is just copper that your body can use. The last area that I like to focus on is supporting your liver and bile. When we have excess copper, it’s typically going to be stored in the liver and the brain. Of course, if it’s stored in your brain, that’s going to probably cause some mental health issues, right? And if it’s getting stored in your liver, that can potentially cause issues with liver function. And typically, I would say our liver is probably mostly what’s impacted when it comes to high copper levels. But it kind of depends on how high, because I’ve definitely seen clients where their mental health is like they’re not postpartum, they just have very high copper and they feel like they’re going through manic episodes and I don’t know what’s going on.

Amanda Montalvo [00:18:44]:

And then we do a hair test and we see their copper is like through the roof. So I definitely think it has an impact there. We just don’t have enough research to kind of show the exact mechanism. But when I think of the liver, I think about how we make bile in the liver and that’s how we get rid of excess copper. So what typically happens is copper goes up, estrogen goes up, this thickens our bile, and then that makes it a lot harder for the bile to be released completely to not make gallstones. That can cause a lot of issues and it can impact digestion, absorption of food and copper and estrogen status. So supporting your liver, I did a whole lesson or whole episode on how to naturally detox. It’s all the basic foundational things.

Amanda Montalvo [00:19:32]:

And then bile is huge because we get rid of excess copper in our bile. Some ways that I like to specifically do that with people that have high copper. I love castor oil packs. I love utilizing milk thistle for people that tolerate it, that stimulates detox. I only do this to people that are already like, they’re eating enough. We’ve worked on, they’re getting outside, they’re getting movement, they’re sleeping pretty well, their sleep hygiene is good, stuff like that. If you do this and you don’t have the foundations in place, you may not notice a huge difference. So just like a little forewarning.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:05]:

But casserole packs and milk thistle, love those vitamin C, whole food version. If people can tolerate it, I love that. I usually do around like 200 milligrams, no more than 500, because that can cause copper dumping and that can lead to more of those mental health episodes and just like terrible symptoms, like estrogen, dominant type symptoms, more like Bloating, mood changes, PMS type stuff. I’ve even had some people get like night sweats and stuff. So don’t do too much vitamin C, but it can be really helpful. And then taurine, taurine and there’s tons of great research on how that can support bile production, but also it can help take copper and make it into ceruleoplasmin. So supporting your liver and bile is huge. Adrenals and thyroid huge.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:54]:

Trying to remove the source if you can, and not forgetting the basics, it can be really tempting to want to just jump right into all the fancy copper stuff. But if it’s your first hair test, your first time looking at your mineral status, you do want to focus on your calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium first. Thyroid health is essential for healthy hormones, digestion energy, and more. Our thyroid is so important because it sets the metabolic pace of our body, which controls how every single system functions. Whether you think you may have some thyroid dysfunction going on based on symptoms you may have or have a confirmed diagnosis, chances are you haven’t been given the best tools to address your thyroid health. I’ve been there. Thyroid is a big part of my health journey and something I’ve been optimizing for the last decade. I’m very passionate about this topic, which is why I created a free thyroid training that walks you through how to assess thyroid health.

Amanda Montalvo [00:21:50]:

All the labs I do cover blood work and what the optimal ranges are. I just want to say that I think we have to look beyond blood work when it comes to assessing our thyroid health. That’s why I also cover hair mineral testing, urine testing, and then basal body temperature, which is a measurement you can do at home to assess your thyroid health. I’ve had so many people reach out and say they can’t believe that this training is free. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I also cover nutrition tips for optimizing thyroid health. You can head to the link in the Show Notes or to my website, hormonehealingrd.com, to watch the training. There’s just so much lacking when it comes to helpful info on thyroid health, so I’m really hoping that this training helps you and fills that gap.

Amanda Montalvo [00:22:34]:

One other thing that can help. I don’t utilize it for everyone, but I do for a lot of people kind of depending on their health history. I just mostly have clients that have hormone concerns, so vitamin E is great for that, but it can also help optimize our copper levels. It can be an antagonist to copper, so we don’t want to overdo it. But it can be really great if someone has high copper, so that is copper and mental health mostly postpartum depression. Specifically. If someone has low histamine, it could lead to that histopenia type of schizophrenia. And then I just see that excess copper in a lot of clients lead to more of the really intense PMS estrodominant symptoms and sometimes like, manic episodes.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:14]:

So all the studies are linked in the Show Notes. All right. Zinc. So zinc deficiency is one that it’s associated with a lot of different mental health conditions. So it’s associated with depression, schizophrenic behavior, ADHD, behavioral problems in general, and anxiety. And research from the 1970s actually shows us that patients with schizophrenia as well as alcoholics had lower concentrations of zinc in their hippocampus. And this specific has it specifically has a role in learning and memory. So it’s greatly impacted by psychiatric disorders because it’s plastic, right? If you think of neuroplasticity, like how we’re changing the different neurons and pathways in our brain, hippocampus extremely plastic, and it can be changed very easily, which can be a good thing, but it can also be a very negative thing and how we should have higher concentrations of zinc there.

Amanda Montalvo [00:24:12]:

But they found people with lower concentrations, they tended to have schizophrenia or they were alcoholics. So just thought that was interesting. That’s from that Elemental Nutrients book that I referenced before. The other cool thing with zinc is that zinc supplementation has been shown to improve the effectiveness of SSRIs, which is a very common medication that people with depression are prescribed. And I’ve talked about this with Brendan and kind of his thoughts around how these work, how these can potentially impact inflammation. They can reduce inflammation is what the research shows us. And so the question is, is it a neurotransmitter issue or is it a neuroinflammation issue? Since a lot of SSRIs we’re finding have a positive impact on inflammation, it makes sense that if someone adds zinc to that equation, which typically gets depleted if someone has inflammation, gut issues, stuff like that, that it would make them more effective because it could be helping to combat that inflammation even more. And inflammation other places in the body can lead to inflammation in the brain.

Amanda Montalvo [00:25:20]:

And that neuroinflammation is what is believed to be behind many, many mental health conditions. So I just thought that was really interesting. Zinc has also been shown to reduce postpartum depression. The tricky thing with this, though, and I linked to a study, they had, like the postpartum depression group, they had positive impacts with their depression, but they experienced negative side effects with their iron status. And that’s typically because when you supplement with zinc, it can lead to a lower absorption of iron, especially iron supplements. You never want to take them together. But zinc lowers that copper absorption in the gut, right? It can lower our copper status. And we need copper for healthy iron levels.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:03]:

I talk about this in great detail in the Iron Deep Dive podcast, but I’m also going to talk about it a little bit when I cover iron. But we need that bioavailable copper, that ceruloplasm for adequate iron status in the body. So if we’re taking a supplement of zinc and it’s lowering iron status, that’s just something to be considered. I think this could be avoided if they focused on food sources of zinc or if they had them take maybe eat beef liver once or twice a week with the zinc supplementation. Or if people wanted to opt for a beef liver supplement instead. I think that would help to offset some of the copper lowering that these people were probably getting from the zinc supplement. So I just thought that was really interesting. I mean, they had super positive impacts.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:52]:

I have a client that she’s in that postpartum season right now. She’s on an SNRI. And specifically, we talked about how are we going to prep you for postpartum? How can we make sure postpartum depression was her biggest concern. She felt really good during pregnancy, but you never know. And I was like, all right, let’s just have some zinc on hand in case you start to feel like things aren’t going as well as you’d like them to or you want the extra support. So we did like a whole food sink, like an oyster supplement, which also has copper in it. But if she were not open to that, then I would have done just a lower dose sink, maybe like 1520 milligrams, and then also had her increase her copper intake. But it’s just something where I feel like it’s a very low level intervention, and the research shows that it has a lot of positive benefits.

Amanda Montalvo [00:27:49]:

But of course, if someone has iron deficiency, and that’s the main health concern too, you want to be careful with that and focus on copper as well. So I think there’s many reasons that zinc impacts depression. A few of those are that it has a huge impact on our hormone status. I talked about this in the Zinc Deep Dive episode sex hormones, thyroid hormones. And these have a big impact on our moods, especially women. Low testosterone in men is linked with depression, which is really common with zinc deficiency. Men need more zinc than we do. And in women, zinc deficiency is linked with low progesterone, which is really common with PMDD and depression.

Amanda Montalvo [00:28:28]:

So zinc is very important. But I think there’s a big hormone component kind of depending on what someone has as part of their health history and their main concerns. Zinc also impacts our blood sugar, which can impact stress hormones, mineral status. If we have chronic stress and depletion, that throws off our nervous system and takes us out of that regulated state, and that state of Dysregulation could contribute to depression anxiety for someone. And then I also think about gut health, right? If someone has a history of gut issues and they also have mental health issues, then we want to think about they probably have a zinc deficiency. I would definitely test for that. Gut issues tend to lead to lower zinc levels because it increases the body’s requirement for zinc, and this can lead to a deficiency. And then, of course, our gut health can greatly impact our mental health via the gut brain axis.

Amanda Montalvo [00:29:18]:

So I think zinc also contributes as far as, like, inflammation and gut goes. The zinc deficiencies have also been linked with lower GABA levels in the brain. And this is a neurotransmitter that blocks specific signals that will reduce fear. Worry and stress. So the studies have shown that zinc supplementation has been shown to increase GABA levels, which could greatly improve someone’s symptoms, especially with anxiety and depression. Zinc is also linked to the release of specific neurotransmitters like serotonin. And dopamine these support feelings of happiness. So if we’re not having adequate zinc, then we could definitely be affected as far as these neurotransmitters go.

Amanda Montalvo [00:29:58]:

And finally, zinc helps evalate levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF in areas of the brain that control our emotions. So if zinc is low, then BDNF can also drop and then that will lead to a drop in our mood. So lots of different possible ways that zinc can affect mental health. This is a nutrient that Brendan talks about a lot on his instagram. And I just think there’s a lot of promising research and it’s one of those where it’s like we can really easily get it from food. So I think being a little bit more intentional with your food intake go a long way for people, which means it’s like a really low level intervention that it’s nice when you can see improvements and results without having to take a medication if possible. So let’s talk about lab testing for zinc because I know I’m going to get this question. You can test it via blood work or hair testing or both.

Amanda Montalvo [00:30:51]:

Up to you. Plasma zinc is going to be the best option for blood labs. So you want to make sure you specify plasma because if not, they’re going to test serum. It’s still not a perfect lab. There’s never a perfect lab, but it can show a deficiency. Plasma is going to be better than red blood cell zinc or RBC zinc. The thing is, it’s just difficult to determine if the level of zinc found in that plasma level or really any kind of blood measurement there is the zinc status or how it’s being distributed to the body. So the body’s routinely going to take zinc from one tissue and distribute it to another area that is in greater need.

Amanda Montalvo [00:31:33]:

So for example, let’s say we’re taking zinc from the skin tissue to the gut because our gut has inflammation and it needs it more. This is why someone can show normal zinc on their blood lab because they’re kind of seeing what’s being transferred, but they could see lower high on a hair test in a blood lab. The other thing to mention is it’s going to be one measurement in time, right? So I would always keep that in mind because sometimes we see a lab value and we freak out or we’re like, I can’t believe my levels are optimal. It’s hard with just if you have nothing to compare it to. But that’s why I like hair mineral testing because it looks at the last three months. It also shows how you’re using that mineral. So for example, if you have high zinc on a hair test, a lot of times people are like, this is why people don’t think that hair testing is an accurate view of zinc. But I’m like, I just don’t think they understand how to read the hair test.

Amanda Montalvo [00:32:35]:

So, like, high zinc on a hair test doesn’t always mean that you have too much. It can be a loss. And the way that you would know that for someone is, okay, you’d want to go through the list of, like, why is there zinc chi? Are they taking a supplement? No. Then that could be a loss. If they are using zinc based shampoos, usually it’s like a medicated shampoo or like a dandruff shampoo, even like the natural ones. Then that can elevate your zinc levels. So that wouldn’t be accurate. When it’s a loss, typically you’re going to see like, magnesium is probably low, heavy metals might be high because that’s going to use up more zinc.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:14]:

And then if you have more inflammation that’s going to use up more zinc, maybe you have an active infection or you were sick recently and you’re not supplementing or not using shampoos, anything like that, that have zinc, then it’s likely a loss. And that just means you’re using it up and then eventually it’s going to be lower, right? So that low zinc on a hair test, that’s going to indicate that there’s a current deficiency present. And you’re likely very depleted if it’s low and you’re not at a loss. So that’s just something to keep in mind. I’m often asked about like some people say that hair testing isn’t as accurate. Zinc is often one of the minerals that they refer to because it can be elevated when someone has blood work that says it’s low or normal. And that’s the reason why, because it can be a loss. Meaning the body is using it up.

Amanda Montalvo [00:34:04]:

And then one quick note is that with blood work, with zinc, whether it’s plasma or serum, it can be lower if there’s inflammation present. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a deficiency. It just means the body’s using it. So it’s tricky with labs. Obviously, you want to have an expert looking at them, reviewing them, comparing them to everything, or I teach you how to do that. My mastery minerals course. So the next question I know I’m going to get, do I need a zinc supplement? And like I mentioned, it’s one of the easier ones to get from food. So I typically am not supplementing or solely supplementing for someone unless it’s like a very specific illness, gut issue, pregnancy, postpartum period, something like that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:34:49]:

And I never do more than 20 to 30 milligrams of zinc for anyone. You can fix a deficiency with 20 to 30 milligrams, typically in six months. And again, I know people want things overnight. They want to take zinc for a month and have it be fixed. But I think it’s better to go slower because with zinc, remember, it can affect your copper status, which can affect your iron status. So there’s always going to be pros and cons to supplementing. You just have to figure out what makes the most sense for you by talking with your practitioner. I also love to know how much can someone realistically get from their diet, because that can lower the amount that you need.

Amanda Montalvo [00:35:27]:

So typically, if someone has a deficiency, you’re trying to get like three times the RDA. So the RDA for men is eleven milligrams. For women it’s eight. So then you’d want to get 33 milligrams for men, 24 milligrams for women. If you can get half from your diet, then you’re cutting that supplement in half, which means you’re going to have a reduction of other imbalances in the body, like copper, like iron. So I think you could do a mix of both. I think you could try to do whole food zinc, like oysters. But there’s so much zinc in beef.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:05]:

People are like, if I don’t like oysters, what should I eat? I’m like beef. Have some beef. It’s got so much zinc in it and it’s something that people are probably already eating anyway. One quick thing I want to note when it comes to supplementing with zinc is if you’re taking an iron supplement as well, you want to take it away from your zinc supplement. Because if you are taking 25 milligrams of iron or more, which is really common, I would say that’s around like the typical doses that people are going to use. If you take that at the same time as zinc, including zinc from food, then it can reduce your zinc absorption. And this is just like another one where sometimes it’s like, okay, but the pros of taking the iron outweigh the risk of lowering zinc, or maybe the pros of taking zinc outweigh the risk of lowering iron, it just kind of depends on the person. But I always like to mention that because I did that whole episode on supplements to reconsider.

Amanda Montalvo [00:37:01]:

Can supplements do more harm than good? This is how, if we’re not being smart and understanding that, hey, yes, you can get zinc at any local store, CVS, anything like that, and you can get your hands on it and take it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to have consequences. Right? Okay. The last mineral that we’re going to cover in how it can affect mental health is iron. So both an iron deficiency and an excess of iron can have an impact on our mental health. When it comes to iron deficiency, typically these patients are going to have a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and psychotic disorders. A true iron deficiency is also going to contribute to fatigue, which is often a major complaint in people that are struggling with depression and then just kind of knowing that iron deficiency is so much more complex than just taking an iron supplement. I have those two iron deep dives. And in the first part, the part one, I really talk about our iron recycling system.

Amanda Montalvo [00:38:01]:

Our bodies all have an innate recycling system. And this is monitoring our iron levels. And it runs off of enzymes that require that cerebral plasma that bioavailable copper, vitamin A, magnesium. And this is why an iron deficiency can also be related to other nutrient deficiencies or supplementation like zinc, right? So we just always want to have a holistic kind of view of iron deficiency. And what this means when I say that, I mean we don’t just want to look at, okay, these are someone’s iron levels, right? They’re low, so they need to take a supplement we want to look at. Is there a lack of iron in the diet? Do they have enough copper and vitamin A in their diet? How’s their digestion and absorption of the food? Do they have enough stomach acid? What’s their gut health like? If someone has parasites and pathogens, those are going to feed off of iron, and our bodies are going to sequester that iron and try to hide it in order to protect us. And I see this a ton in practice where people have a long gut health history and their iron levels look low. But then if they take iron, all their symptoms get worse.

Amanda Montalvo [00:39:13]:

And then when we look deeper at their gut health and their immune system function, we’re seeing that they have a lot going on. The iron is probably making it worse because it’s exacerbating the parasites and pathogens. And so it’s really like a balancing act, but gut health is a big one. And then we want to think about supplements or is someone taking certain supplements that can cause low iron? On our labs, like zinc, we talked about calcium, magnesium oxide. I see a lot of magnesium oxide in practice. And most of the people taking it have a history or a concern with anemia. They’re often taking it for bowel movement support. And so we have to switch and find something else because it’s extremely common.

Amanda Montalvo [00:39:55]:

But that can lead to anemia as well. Someone’s cycle health history. Like, does someone have a history of really heavy periods? Do they have fibroids or polyps? All those things can lead to an excess of blood loss. And that is like the fastest way to lower iron status. And then finally, chronic inflammation. So chronic inflammation can impair how that recycling system that I was just talking about works. And so it just makes it difficult to get that iron that the body is storing in the tissues to keep your body safe. Because iron is inflammatory.

Amanda Montalvo [00:40:26]:

If it’s not bound to a protein, right? If it’s just free in the free form, it’s inflammatory. So we store it in the tissues. We use little proteins in the body to move it around so that it’s not inflammatory. But inflammation, unfortunately, can make it so that it’s not recycling. And being moved around and can make your blood levels look low. So that’s what I mean when I say like a holistic view of iron deficiency. We want to really have a better understanding of not just like, iron is low, we’re going to supplement. How can we really understand why is this person’s iron low? So I just thought that was interesting with iron deficiency.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:05]:

And while there’s definitely some links with iron deficiency and an increased risk of mental health disorders, there’s a lot more of a risk and like a more severe risk of mental health issues when it comes to iron overload. And we need so much more research on this. I linked to a bunch of studies. Some of them are small, some of them are case studies, but I still think they’re really important. And the main reason behind that is because they’re all related to patients that weren’t seeing results with other types of treatment. And then when they really quickly chelated iron or donated blood, they saw immediate reduction in their symptoms, which I just think is very profound and just really important to know. I also have a long history of clients with PCOS that have excess iron, and they also struggle with mental health, and it is one of the things that improves when we get their iron status in a good place. So all the studies that I’m talking about are listed in the show notes if you’re wanting to nerd out a little bit.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:06]:

But we definitely need more research on this. One case study that I want to go through is basically they were showing that a patient was presenting with bipolar disorder. They also found out through some blood work that he had hemochromatosis and that patient’s bipolar symptoms completely subsided after he got blood taken from a phlebotomist. And since that is the quickest way to lower iron, of course that makes sense that the symptoms subsided. This does not mean that everyone with bipolar disorder has iron overload. And I’m not saying that iron excess or deficiency is always going to play a role, just like copper and zinc are not always going to be playing a role. Sometimes I’m sure it’s probably all three, right? Because imbalances in one tend to go with the other. Since they’re all synergistic and antagonistic.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:56]:

It’s just really interesting to me that those symptoms completely subsided after getting blood taken, like something that they’d probably been struggling with for years. There is another one where they were talking about how iron overload can contribute to more severe psychiatric disorders. It was specifically related to patients that had psychiatric disorders and excess iron. They put them on an iron chelator and so that just binds to iron or moves it from the body for 22 weeks. So I thought this was interesting. I was like, man, why not just take their blood, right? That’s like a long time to be on an iron chelator. But it still during and after the 22 weeks, it resulted in significant clinical improvement in their symptoms. And again, these are people that weren’t responding to other treatments.

Amanda Montalvo [00:43:45]:

So I just think it’s really important to mention they didn’t mention if they had hemochromatosis like the genes or anything for it. And I did talk about that in detail in the Iron Deep Dive part two. So why would this excess iron, like, why does iron overload contribute so significantly to mental health disorders? I think that one of the main reasons is because iron impacts our microglial cells. And I learned all about microglia from Brendan that I interviewed in the last episode because I’m going through his functional mental health practitioner course and a lot of what he teaches and talks about is specifically how our microglia can express in different ways and are really what drives that cascade of neuroinflammation in the brain. So microglia, they are a type of glial cell located throughout the brain, the spinal cord, they’re about 10% to 15% of the cells found in the brain. So significant, right? Typically these microglia, they’re considered macrophage cells. So they’re acting like the first and main form of immune defense in the central nervous system and they regulate neuroinflammation. So if, say these cells are expressing in a more inflammatory way, then we’re going to get that whole cascade of events that comes along with neuroinflammation, which can have a huge impact not only on inflammation in the brain, but also neurotransmitters, how our specific dopamine serotonin levels are expressing and everything in the brain.

Amanda Montalvo [00:45:21]:

And when I was looking at research for iron overload, they talked a lot about Alzheimer’s, which I thought was interesting. Apparently these microglia cells, they can load iron so we can have this huge excess of iron load more into these cells and that this contributes even more for patients with Alzheimer’s. And unfortunately, they didn’t say in the studies if they had hemochromatosis. You don’t have to have that one specific gene for hemochromatosis. There’s a few and even if you have one of them, you’re at higher risk but also even supplementing with iron. Looking at your health history, PCOS very common to have iron overload. Other things can contribute. Women are much more likely to have it in the season of menopause because they’re no longer bleeding every month and getting rid of that iron, right? Women without a cycle are more likely to have it especially because bees still absorb a lot of iron in our guts.

Amanda Montalvo [00:46:18]:

But I just thought that was really interesting. And a lot of it does come back to these microglia cells which are really what they’re having a big impact on that neuroinflammation. And as soon as we have that neuroinflammation in the brain, it’s going to affect all the different areas, the function, our neurotransmitters immune system, all these things. And of course we have that gut brain access. It can affect our gut health and vice versa. So iron overload, I would say, is probably more severe as far as mental health symptoms. But it’s really interesting how quickly those symptoms can be resolved if you get rid of that excess iron. So all those studies are linked in the show notes.

Amanda Montalvo [00:47:02]:

How can we support optimal iron status? The biggest thing is we want to support bioavailable copper. So I talked about this in the beginning when I talked about copper and how we want to make sure that we are getting copper and vitamin A in our diet. Of course. But we also have to make sure that our adrenals are in a good place because our adrenals really give the signal to the liver to produce ceruloplasm. So liver health is important, and we need to have enough T three to make that ceruloplasmin. So we need enough copper and enough vitamin A, but we also need to have other well functioning glands to make it possible. So it’s not just about the food and it’s not just about the lifestyle. We really need it all to come together in order for this to optimize.

Amanda Montalvo [00:47:52]:

So if you guys want to learn more about those minerals and go into all the different nuances, definitely check out those deep dives. I linked them in the show notes, and then you can also find the bonus episodes where I go through case studies like Copper. I have a whole bonus episode on copper and how to rebalance high copper. I also have case studies for iron deficiency and iron overload, and then I have a whole kind of like, breakdown of zinc testing, supplements, things you want to consider and all that. So you can go to Patreon.com Hormonehealingrd. Just make sure you join at the exclusive tier because you get access to anything I’ve ever shared. And those bonus episodes are a little older. So I hope you guys enjoyed this episode.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:36]:

Next we’re going to be talking to Irene Lyon, which I truly am just so excited to share that episode with you guys. It was an amazing interview. It’ll be released inside Patreon first, so that’ll be another perk if you decide to join. But yeah, we’re going to talk all about the nervous system. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Are You Menstrual? Podcast. If you want to support my work, please leave a review and let me know how you like the episode. This lets me know what you guys want more of less of. I read every single one and I appreciate them more than you know.

Amanda Montalvo [00:49:11]:

If you want to keep learning, you can get access to the bonus episode and additional resources on Patreon.com Hormonehealingrd. I’d love to have you in there. Thanks again and I will see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

Created by
Hormone Healing RD