Food for Thought

by Destinee Cushnie-Mason

Welcome to “Food for Thought,” a blog series designed to be exactly that! By delving into the intricate connection between gut health and mental well-being, this blog aims to stimulate your mind and your tastebuds and provoke thoughtful reflection on how nutrition influences mood. We aspire to equip you with valuable insights into taking charge of your gut health and empower you with practical dietary adjustments that can profoundly impact your mental wellness. Follow along weekly and savour the exploration!

7. Exploring Food as Medicine for Mental Illnesses

I did my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology and learnt about the range of medications in circulation for mental illnesses. There’s no doubt that a lot of these are incredible and make people’s lives liveable. This is amazing. But, as I’ve transitioned into Nutrition, I’ve learned how significantly diet and nutritional status can influence the onset and course of mental illnesses.

Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging and highly promising field that recognises this link. This weeks blog will give an overview of the field and it’s potential in the future. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a widely practiced branch of psychiatry yet so the purpose of this blog is to inform only.

So in scientific studies, there are always groups of people who respond really well to the drug or diet they’ve been given, those who stay the same and those who may not tolerate it well. The reason is often that we’re all so different. Finding the correct medication for each individual like depression, for example, can feel like trial and error until we finally get one that feels right. Nutritional psychiatry looks at some of the diet-related reasons in which we differ, such as certain essential nutrients we may be lacking, and carefully creates food or supplement recommendations based on these needs. Dietary deficiencies could be a big contributor to why so many of us now struggle with mental ill-health.

Some studies have shown that supplementation with certain minerals and vitamins including omega-3, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin D3, resulted in significant improvement to depression, anxiety and mental capacity. These are all essential for the normal functioning of the body and brain.

The gut is also on scientists’ radars. As we know, people with mental illnesses are more likely to have reduced gut diversity. Probiotics, the supplementation of beneficial bacteria, is still being explored to promote a healthy gut. Many of these studies have shown improvements in symptoms related to the severity of the condition, as well as sleep, cognitive function and in some studies, brain scans.

So we can see that the evidence is growing in favour of nutritional alterations in the treatment of mental illnesses. This may significantly benefit people in the future, whether in addition to traditional medications, or perhaps as an alternative one day. While this may be a long way off, I think it’s really positive that there’s a new avenue of mental healthcare on the horizon and that it provides a holistic and personalised approach to tackle the route cause. Please share your thoughts below – do you think food could ever be medicine?

This Post Has One Comment

  1. mandy Hodson

    Destinee thank you for such informative and inspiring blogs, I have really enjoyed reading these each week and it has certainly given me a lot to think about in relation to what I eat and how it affects my mood.

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