For quite a long time, we have been aware that our diet is a crucial part of our physical health. That it maneuvers whether we are protected against the diseases or led right into the middle of the health issues. However, we haven’t paid much attention to how food affects our mental health. Even though science has progressed greatly in the 21st century, there is still not a universal consensus on the effectiveness of psychiatric medications by mental health professionals. It becomes more problematic when many people complain about the unwanted side effects of medications. This situation with the current medication treatment paves the way for the search of new techniques with less side effects, and more effective outcomes. This is where nutritional psychiatry comes out.
Nutritional Psychiatry is an area aiming to treat individuals’ mental health through change in diet and use of supplements. Usually, the goal is to regulate the gut microbiome since huge amounts of happiness hormones like serotonin and dopamine are produced by gut microbiome, that is the bacteria living in our gut, itself.
The interventions include alternating unhealthy food choices with healthy options such as incorporating more vegetables, fruits, and unsaturated fat (e.g., olive oil) instead of macaroni, white bread, and junk food. But supplements of vitamins (i.e., vitamin D, C, B9, B12 etc.), minerals, fats (i.e., Omega-3) or Trytophan (responsible for serotonin production) can be prescribed depending on the patient’s need as well.
How does what we eat affects our mental health?
You probably have heard the phrase “You are what you eat”. This is in fact true. Well, we can even say here that “You feel according to what you eat”. What we eat transforms our body. When we nourish our bodies with healthy food, it protects us against developing mental problems in the face of stressful events and makes us more resilient against them. However, when we make poor choices of food like having too many sugary drinks or food high in fat and carbohydrates, we indirectly begin to harm our mental health. Nutrition deficiencies, change in gut microbiome (e.g., responsible for 90% of serotonin hormone), and increased inflammation in brain are some of the ways of how food affects our mental health.
The Wonders of Nutritional Psychiatry
Nutritional Psychiatry is found to have effective results for many mental problems. Research declared that use of Omega-3 reached a consensus by professionals as a treatment for depression among pregnant women, kids, and older adults as well as preventing its development for those who are susceptible to have. Likewise, another study showed that Omega-3 was deficient in young people with ADHD, Autism, and depression. Once their Omega-3 levels reached normal levels, they started to show improvement in their symptoms. However, this relationship between food and mental health disorders are not limited to ADHD or depression. Research also suggests that vitamin D may be responsible for the emergence of Schizophrenia and its related disorders.
Tips: What YOU can do
- Try to replace processed sweets with its natural or organic versions. Consider switching to fresh fruit juices. For snacks, do your option with fruits. Add cinnamon to your tea or food like porridge.
- Consume more healthier fat than unsaturated fat. You can get healthier fat from olive oil, unroasted nuts like walnuts and avocado.
- Make your plate colorful. Adding more vegetables and fruits to your plate in each meal is a good start for your health.
- Get at least 30 mins under the sunlight. 30 mins exposure to sun in the early morning or after 5 or 6 pm is a good time to get vitamin D.
Based on these studies, we can say that food has a role in both the development and the treatment of mental health issues.
Though we need more research for nutritional psychiatry to be accepted as a monotherapy as well as its total efficiency. If you are hooked by nutritional psychiatry and wonder whether it would be suitable for you, please refer to a professional first.
Remember a professional individually tailors each treatment and only s/he can plan the treatment for you to benefit the most. You can book an appointment here.
Eda Hayrula is an intern working under Willingness with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her interest in Psychology are gastrointestinal disorders, coping with stress, psychosomatic disorders, and trauma.
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