“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be the food.”
FOOD AND MENTAL HEALTH
According to Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old traditional medical system of India, the first step in addressing health problems is to examine lifestyle factors, and the second, to address diet. Only then does one proceed to other treatments.
Poor nutrition and nutritional deficiencies are common and can have a significant impact on mood, anxiety, attention and concentration, energy, stress tolerance, irritability, and mind-body disorders such as irritable bowel, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue. Diet is the foundation of health and a priority in the treatment of mind health. Certain problems can be fully resolved through nutritional interventions.
Disordered eating, binging, and eating disorders can wreck havoc on the body, mind, and spirit of individuals and their families. Eating issues require a compassionate and comprehensive approach.
Food sensitivities can trigger a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. Identifying food sensitivities requires patience. Elimination diets are one approach to figuring out if you might have a food sensitivity.
Elimination diets involve the avoidance for several weeks of a suspect food. If the symptoms resolve, the food is then reintroduced, to test whether symptoms return. This process can take several weeks to several months. The targeted food depends on the individual, but can include dairy, wheat, gluten, eggs, corn, soy, refined sugar, food additives and colorings, and preservatives. Elimination diets can be life changing when a sensitivity is discovered.
Drastic changes in the American diet, and changes in food production and soil are contributing to nutritional deficiencies in the American population. Many Americans are “overfed and undernourished.”
There is growing research on the role of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies in mental illness, and on the effects of nutritional supplementation on mental illness.
Nutritional supplements are a tool in the treatment of psychological and physical problems in addition to improving the diet. Nutritional supplements can reduce the need for medications and improved the effect of medications. Dr. Lewis is board certified in Holistic and Integrative Medicine and can help you determine whether to use nutritional supplements and which supplements to use.Because of the changes in agriculture, food today contains fewer nutrients than a few decades ago.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET ALL THE NUTRIENTS FROM FOOD?
In a study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004, Davies evaluated the USDA nutrient content of 43 garden crops between 1950 and 1999 and found reliable declines for 6 nutrients (protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid), which the author ascribed to the changes in the cultivated varieties.
While the data on micronutrient deficiencies is inconsistent, multiple research studies suggest that many Americans consume less than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of certain nutrients, such as:
- Vitamins A and E
Based on the current research some of the possible nutrient deficiencies that play a role in mental health are:
- Low iron and ferritin levels in children with ADHD, and positive response with iron supplementation (documented by Eric Konofal)
- Zinc levels predict response to stimulant medication in children with ADHD and zinc supplementation was found to significantly reduce ADHD symptoms in certain studies (Arnold LE, Votolato NA, Kleykamp D, Baker GB, Bornstein RA. Does hair zinc predictamphetamine improvement of ADD/hyperactivity? Int J Neurosci. Jan 1990;50(1-2):103-107. 89. And Arnold LE, DiSilvestro RA. Zinc in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. Aug 2005;15(4):619-627.)
- Essential fatty acid deficiencies play a role in hyperactivity, conduct and social behavior in children ( Kirby A, Woodward A, Jackson S, Wang Y, Crawford MA. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigating the effects of omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8-10 years from a mainstream school population. Res Dev Disabil. May-Jun 2010;31(3):718-730.)
- And many others… see our blog for more information
How to Choose Nutritional Supplements
Since in the United States nutritional supplements are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration consumers need to be wise in choosing which supplements to use. Many supplement manufacturers follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and subject their products to various quality control tests, such as verification by United States Pharmacopeia (USP). In addition Consumer Lab conducts tests on supplements.
Look for the following symbols on supplements to help you choose high quality products:
In addition supplements and the raw materials should be tested for:
- Heavy Metal Screening
- Chemical Solvent Residue
- Microbiology Contaminants
- Herbicide and Pesticide Residues
- Peroxides and Anisidines
Herbs can be as powerful as medications for certain problems and can complement treatment with conventional approaches. Some of first medicines were plants and a large portion of the world population still relies on herbs for treatment and healing. Certain herbal treatments have a significant amount of research backing their use, while others have not been studied. Herbs such as St. John’s wort are a recognized treatment for depression and many herbs can aid in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and other conditions.