Experts Say Diet is an Essential Aspect in Mental Health
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Over 450 million people worldwide currently suffer from a mental health condition. With pharmaceuticals having achieved only limited success, experts believe the field of psychiatry may be reaching a crossroads.
In a report released earlier this week from the USDA and HHS, some essential changes in the US dietary guidelines were suggested by a panel of health experts. For the first time, this report includes a statement about how mental health may be impacted by nutrition. For example, the American Psychiatric Association classifies omega-3 fatty acids (found in Fish Oil) as part of a depression treatment protocol. Unfortunately, the panel concluded that the research was too limited to make any definite suggestions.
A Healthy Diet for A Healthy Brain
Experts in the psychiatry field are coming together to support a more integrative treatment approach – one that takes diet and nutrition into account. In a recent paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, a group of scientists from the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research make a strong point that diet is “as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.” The paper highlighted the role certain nutrients play in maintaining brain health, including Omega-3’s, Vitamin D, Zinc, Iron and Magnesium. The research team, spearheaded by Dr. Drew Ramsey, an integrative psychiatrist at Columbia University, cited several studies that support the mental health benefits of these nutrients. The average American diet tends to lack these nutrients, which may be a major factor in the rise of mental health problems in the US. For example, research has linked depression with low levels of B-Vitamins, and low Vitamin D levels during pregnancy have been shown to heighten a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia. This doesn’t always have to be the case though, as sometimes some people can suffer from depression for numerous reasons.
Using Food as Treatment for Psychiatric Conditions
Until now, treatment for psychiatric conditions has focused on a combination of pharmaceuticals and talk therapy. Diet is rarely taken into account, except by alternative practitioners. Including nutrition and diet in psychiatric treatment would open up a world of new options for both patients and practitioners – new interventions would offer lower-cost interventions, with far less of the negative side effects that occur so often with the use of pharmaceuticals. If you’ve been taking these “tried and tested” pharmaceutical medications to help manage your depression with no success, it might be time to start looking at alternative suggestions.
“Food should be the first line of defense because it’s a foundational treatment,” said Dr. Ramsey. “We really need to move away from thinking of things like diet and exercise as ‘complementary’ or ‘alternative.’ That’s really bad thinking that’s gotten psychiatry into trouble.” Mental health conditions are extremely complicated, and a variety of genetic, emotional, environmental, lifestyle and dietary factors are usually involved. But improving nutrition and integrating those essential nutrients that support the brain can only enhance overall mental health.
For a great nutrition protocol to boost your mood and mental health, check out The Food for Mood Diet by InVite Health Nutritionist and Radio Host, Dr. Millie Lytle, ND.