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Nutritional Psychiatry: The Diet – Mental Health Treatment Connection

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The Diet – Mental Health Treatment Connection

You might find the saying, “You are what you eat” awkward, but there’s a lot of truth in it. Not only does a healthy diet positively affect our physical health, (I’m sure you’ve noticed that you feel a lot better when you eat healthy food), but it also has a positive impact on our mental health.

Indeed, when it comes to treating different health conditions, food can be your best friend or greatest enemy. Anyone that has reduced their arthritis symptoms or reversed their type 2 diabetes by adopting a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet or eliminating refined sugar from their diet can confirm this. So, it’s no wonder that food is very commonly referred to as medicine these days.

Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging field of research which focuses on the use of food to provide important nutrients as part of an alternative treatment for mental health conditions.

But, nutritional approaches for mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are not commonly accepted by mainstream medicine.

Instead, treatment approaches tend to be limited to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines that recommend taking antidepressants and therapies.

When it comes to antidepressants, it’s alarming that the use of antidepressants has more than doubled in the last years. And what’s more distressing is that more and more children and young people are using antidepressants.

According to Dr. David Healy, a professor of Psychiatry in Wales and internationally respected scientist and psychopharmacologist, the use of antidepressants does more harm than good.

Namely, at a global health conference in Aberdeen, Dr. Healy said that in 29 clinical trials of antidepressants – every single one didn’t produce any benefit. The use of antidepressants actually made children become suicidal and this wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been prescribed these drugs.

And when it comes to the effectiveness of the use of antidepressants in adults, antidepressants are believed to have unpleasant side effects and create dependency.

Nutritional Deficiencies and Poor Mental Health

A lot of mental health disorders are caused by inflammation in the brain. This inflammation starts in our gut and it’s related to a lack of nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, probiotics, fiber, minerals and vitamins which are all important for the optimum functioning of our bodies.

One study has revealed that food supplements, such as magnesium, zinc, vitamins B and D3, and omega 3, can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve people’s mood as well as the mental health of people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

So, for all those that haven’t responded to antidepressants or that can’t tolerate their side effects, nutritional approaches can offer hope for the future. The use of food supplements has the potential to greatly improve the mental well-being of all age groups.

And last but not least, it’s time for psychiatrists and GPs to take nutritional psychiatry seriously so that they know as much about its important role in mental health treatment as they do about physiology and anatomy.