Is Nutritional Psychiatry The Future of Mental Health Treatment?

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on Mar 15, 2018

Is Nutritional Psychiatry The Future of Mental Health Treatment?

The link between poor mental health and nutritional deficiencies is well known, yet only now are psychiatrists learning the benefits

In the UK, we are very fortunate to have access to wide range of foodstuffs, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re a well-nourished nation. In fact, many of us are lacking the nutrients essential for good brain health, instead opting for a diet heavy in additives and sugar.

This, despite the knowledge that a lack of these essential nutrients can contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people experiencing anxiety and depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Why then, are nutritional approaches not yet prescribed as treatment?

Currently, treatment options are often limited to official NICE guidelines, which recommend talking therapies and medication, including antidepressants.

Antidepressant use has more than doubled since 2006. In 2016, England saw more than 64 million prescriptions issues for antidepressants, costing over £266m. While these are an effective option for many, the concern lies with the rising number of children and young people turning to antidepressants, a figure which has more than doubled since 2010.

Now though, professionals in the mental health industry are calling for their peers to support and research a new field of treatment: nutritional psychiatry.

Nutritional psychiatry is a growing discipline that focuses on the use of food and supplements to provide the vital nutrients and vitamins we need as part of an integrated or alternative mental health treatment.

I S T H I S T H E F U T U R E | really interesting ready by Joyce Cavaye for the @the.independent Having been a doctor for 10 years, a Psychiatrist for almost 8, this concept of food is medicine continues to fascinate me. Throughout my training as a Doctor, many will be surprised to learn that nutrition barely gets a look in on our medical school syllabus and even in my Psychiatry curriculum. Yes as doctors we are taught to acknowledge the impact lifestyle has on our physical and mental health and we are encouraged to give advice around 'eating a better diet, moving more' but the idea around nutritional Psychiatry is that we should be giving advice to our patients on specific foods to eat that have a targeted benefit.There are some amazing doctors and psychologists on Instagram doing inspiring work around the area of lifestyle medicine, @doctors_kitchen @thefoodmedic @gynaegeek @drzoewilliams @foodandpsych to name but a few. I certainly believe the role of lifestyle cannot be underestimated when it comes to our mental health. There is of course a role for talking therapies and medications but practicing good lifestyle measures alongside optimises these. #lifestyle #nutritionalpsychiatry #foodismedicine #foodisfuel #healthymind #mind #mindfulness #mentalhealth #mentalwellbeing #wellness #wellbeing #lifestyle #healthylifestyle #healthymindhealthybody #health #mentalhealthawareness #wednesday #wednesdaywisdom #humpday

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We know there are many different factors that contribute to mental health conditions, including inflammation in the brain. But attention is now turning to where the inflammation starts, and how we can prevent it from reaching our brain.

Starting in the gut, the inflammatory response is associated with a lack of nutrients, such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and vitamins and minerals that are essential to maintaining optimal functionality in our mind and bodies.

Not only that, but recent research has shown that food supplements including zinc, magnesium, omega 3 and vitamins B and D3 can help improve mood, relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve the mental capacity of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The emerging scientific evidence suggests that nutritional psychiatry should have a bigger role in mental health treatment. Traditionally, food and its association with disease has been excluded from medical education. This has resulted in many doctors lacking a proper understanding of the importance of nutrition.

But if we are to manage and treat the burden of poor mental health, the connection between food, inflammation and mental illness needs to be considered.

"The state of our mental health could depend on it."

Read the full article on The Conversation. Written by Joyce Cavaye, a senior lecturer in health, wellbeing and social care at The Open University.

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