Nutrition and psychiatry - Your diet matters

There is a change coming in the way mainstream psychiatry works with mental illness. In March The Lancet published an article addressing the role of nutrition in mental health disorders. Not only did they state that ‘diet is as important to mental health as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology’ but the paper’s authors suggested that nutrient based supplementation has a crucial role to restoring mental health too.

The paper addresses the use of omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and in preventing psychosis. Other nutrients with positive effect include S-adenosyl methionine, zinc and B vitamins.

This is a big deal. I and many others working in this specialised field know the impact dietary changes, rectifying deficiencies and correcting metabolic issues can have on mental health. Managing anxiety and depressive disorders through nutritional medicine is not new. Neither is helping children with ADHD and autism in the same way. Some view these conditions as purely psychological disorders but we should not make the mistake of thinking that the brain is somehow unaffected by the biochemistry of the body. We should not fool ourselves that it is only external influences that cause anxiety and depression. I often find myself explaining to people how nutrition impacts on mental health and why it matters so much, for some people this is still an alien concept.

With the publication of the Lancet paper and further research on the microbiome looking at how gut health affects our mental well-being reveals a shift in mainstream thinking. This is the beginning of a new approach to working with mental health issues. In the meantime, during mental health awareness week perhaps use this as a time to highlight awareness of nutrition and how it can help support mental health.

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Written by Sarah Hanratty

Sarah is an experienced practitioner at the Brain Food Nutrition Clinic specialising in the link between digestion and physical and mental well-being.… Read more

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