Could Nutrition Revolutionize Your Mental Health? These Studies Seem To Think So
POSTED ON July 11, 2016 BY Kat Gal
By Kat Gal
Mental health issues are on an alarming rise in the Western world. Chances are, you know someone with a mental health issue. You may be dealing with or are at the risk of developing one yourself.
It is not only depression, but all mental health issues, including anxiety, phobias, ADHD, eating disorders, OCD and so on – they are all on a rapid rise.
Traditionally, mental health issues are treated by pharmaceutical drugs and traditional therapy. And, despite the fact that more and more people are swallowing pills for their mental health issues, they are still on the rise. Instead of healing, people are developing further issues and needing more medication. Something seems to be off with this.
Could we be missing something? Is it possible that nutrition and lifestyle play a role in mental health treatment and prevention?
According to Dr. Julia Rucklidge, nutrition does play a huge role in our mental health. Poor nutrition seems to be one of the most significant, yet modifiable risk factors for mental illness.
Recognizing that – despite the continuous increase in the use of psychotropic medication – mental illnesses are on an increase instead of a decline, Rucklidge began studying the effects of nutrition. First she looked into the effectiveness of medications, finding that psychiatric medications often bring positive change in the short-term, butin the long run they either lose effectiveness or even lead to more serious mental health issues.
Turns out that those who stay on medication for long-term have a less likelihood of getting better or recovering than those who had reduced their dose and even eliminated it in the long run.
But what can we do better for long term healing?
A study published in a British journal studying micronutrients versus placebo in the treatment of ADHD in adults found that after only 8 weeks the micronutrient group experienced lessen symptoms in ADHD, twice as high remission of depression than the placebo group. After a year, those who kept up with the micronutrient regiment continued to improve and many completely healed from their ADHD. They either decreased or completely eliminated their ADHD medication in the process. Those who had stopped the micronutrient treatment had plateaued or declined after the initial 8 weeks.
This study used a higher than normal amount of micronutrients in the form of vitamins and other supplements. Similar studies have been done with vitamin therapy, finding extremely positive effects on bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, cognitive decline in elderly, autism and other mental health issues.
Since these studies had used high amounts of supplements, the question remains: can you prevent and heal mental illness with a whole foods diet alone?
The answer is unclear. There are still not enough scientific studies out there on the subject, yet case studies and personal experiences tend to indicate the positive and healing effects of diet alone without extreme amount of or any supplementation.
A healthy diet of whole, organic foods without processed ingredients and refined sugar that’s high in vegetables and fruits is definitely good for your mental health and will aid healing. Digestion is also a crucial factor. What goes in is not the most important part, what gets digested is. Taking probiotics and probiotic rich foods is therefore important for mental health as well.
Whether or not a healthy diet alone is enough will depend case by case. Some people may benefit from the kick-start of psychiatric medication in the long-term. Others will need high doses of vitamins, while many will improve with a whole foods diet alone.
Further studies and personal experimentation is necessary, but it is clear that nutrition plays a huge role in mental health, both in treatment and prevention. Other factors, like exercise, lifestyle choices, counseling and coaching are all important along with the right nutrition and supplementation. As always, it is best to work together with a holistic doctor, holistic nutritionist, a holistic minded counselor and other professionals you trust and resonate with.
You don’t have to live with your mental health illness forever. Your answer is out there and chances are, nutrition is part of your answer.
Have you experienced the mental health benefits of a healthy diet? Share your experiences in the comments below. As always, we’d love to hear from you.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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