What type of diets would you say are playing the biggest role in worsening mental health symptoms?
There’s very clear evidence that specific foods like refined sugar, refined flour, and the trans fats are the 3 major culprits. And they’re called pro-inflammatory foods. They are foods that cause a low-level fire in the system.
inflammation normally good -> too much sugar and other stuff -> 😦 -> underlies depression and anxiety,
Medication and long-term negative effect – PDF 1 / p6
We know that the pharmaceutical companies started promoting the myth — and it really is a myth, it’s never been proven — that depression is due to serotonin deficiency or serotonin uptake deficiency in the brain in 1988, when Prozac came out. And so there has been a very concerted effort to promote and revise all of these SSRIs and SNRIs.
And yet there’s excellent research that suggests they do not work. And when they do work, there’s some research supporting the fact that they’re really placebos working. – need look into it more before buying it fully
And yet we know there are significant side effects that are quite deleterious to our clients. So anytime we can find some alternative means — and you’re absolutely right, not only do clinicians not always have access and know about this, but I’ve had many patients that say, “Why didn’t I know this was an option?”
And so I think that’s where clinicians can even know what’s out there even if they’re not going to carry it out themselves knowing who to make referrals to. It’s going to be very beneficial to their practice.
We want to reduce the exposure to the trigger (to eat “bad things” excessively).
And then we also want to eat in certain ways that reduce our cravings for those substances. And that’s generally making sure we’re getting enough protein.
- Protein is so important for depression, really for all of the mental illnesses, because proteins contain what are called amino acids. And amino acids are the building blocks of our neurotransmitters in the brain, and that is what affects our mood and our focus
And healthy fats too
Avoid the so-called “safe” artificial stuff – like sweeteners – things like aspartame really exacerbate mood disorders. There’s quite a bit of research on exacerbation and bipolar. And so what I tell my clients is if you can’t pronounce it, do not eat it.
Raising the awareness of the connection between what we eat and how we feel
And it’s very common that people feel up and down during the day — their energy goes up, their energy goes down; their mood goes up, their mood goes down — and this is where I begin with people because they don’t realize that mood follows food. When we put food in — if it’s the right food, our energy goes up; we feel balanced and strong.
So just like in our work in therapy, it’s about awareness and helping people make connections between their behaviors and their feeling states and their relationships — kind of the whole gestalt.
I think the biggest inaccuracy is that there’s one right diet for everyone.
But the fact is, we are diverse peoples who evolved genetically and environmentally in very different locales in the world.
And we carry those genetics. No matter where we live in the world, we carry the genetics of our ancestors. And so understanding our own right diet for who we are is the most important step we can make and not listen to what the latest fads are, what other people, even physicians, are telling us to do – should i get a genetic test just in case….?
Why do so many people change their diet? Maybe it works for a while, but then they just — it fails, and they go back to their previous weight or mental health problems.
We’re all a mixture really from all over the world, and so we generally carry the mixture of our parents. That means that some of us need more protein and more fat. Some of us need more carbohydrates and less protein.
And so what happens is if we really need more protein and fat and less carbs, but we say, “Oh, fat’s bad for us, I’m going to not eat it,” the body rebels in time. And the mind does too, and it says, “No, I need more of this.” And so we’re really incongruent with what are our body needs.
That’s why I talk a lot about this idea of really getting in touch with what’s truly satisfying, what we really need to feel good. I believe, deep down, people know what truly nourishes them. They’ll benefit from just a little bit of information about the what and the why.
Where are we up to at the moment in that research on this?
Even now, the pharmaceutical companies are integrating vitamins into their formula because they know that the brain needs B vitamins, in particular B6, to synthesize our mood chemicals.
One is that the B vitamins, particularly B6 and B12, are very important for cognitive function. One of the major symptoms we see in elders, for example, is cognitive decline, and it’s often misdiagnosed as a dementia when in fact they’re really low in vitamin B12. It’s a very simple intervention that can improve their cognition, really all of us at any age.
The other big revolution that we have is about the second brain, the microbiome, the fact that our gut is really like a big garden in our body. Anyone who gardens knows that we’ve got to have the right mix of soil, we’ve got to add the right natural fertilizer, prepare it, and move it around before we add the seeds so the flowers can grow.
Our gut is like that; our intestines are like that. So, we know that if we feed our garden the right fertilizer, meaning the right food, not only flowers will grow but in the form of brain chemicals that make us happy. … But now we know that it’s really their gut that needs to be better nourished in order to nourish those anti-anxiety chemicals in the brain. We make more of those chemicals in our gut than in the brain.
What do you say are the top 5 nutrients or foods that really improve mental health and cognition?
So good-quality fats like even a good-quality leaf lard, butter, raw butter, olive oil, even sesame oil. They should be virgin oils.
But in addition, supplementing — we know the research shows that supplementing with anywhere from 2,000 to 9,000 milligrams of fish oil a day is very effective, not only for depression but for bipolar. And we’re using high-dose fish oil in the psychotic disorders as well.
Now just one caveat that’s so important to this whole field: we need to have a very healthy functioning liver in order to emulsify those oils. And so, the other complement to those fats is a lot of those bitter greens and the bitter greens like arugula, like dandelion.
We know the fatty fishes like salmon, raw nuts — not roasted nuts and not peanuts, but raw almonds — are one of the best foods for mental health. There is the Ayurvedic medicine has a saying, “10 almonds a day keeps the doctor away.”
So bone broth, a very important source of lysine which is anti-anxiety, we use it for panic attacks. Anything — certainly, I don’t want to leave out the fresh fruits and vegetables and a combination of raw and cooked. Those are among some of the best foods for our mental health.
Eggs are one of the best foods for mental health and for cognitive health. We’ve had a lot of myths about eggs not being good for you, but they are Mother Nature’s gift to the brain, especially good for maintaining memory, so 2 eggs a day at a minimum for mental health.
Everyone has an opinion about animal fats, and there are people who think vegan diets are best. What’s your perspective on that? I know you’re saying that there’s no one diet that works for all, but animal fats do seem to cop a bad rap.
Back in the 50s, they conducted very bad research suggesting that meat and fat and high cholesterol was the cause of heart disease, when in fact, now we know it’s actually refined carbohydrates that cause inflammation in the arteries that are the culprit. That myth has taken a long time to die, but the research bears this out quite clearly.
Now let’s remember that there’s this saying, “Asking people to change their diet is like asking them to change their religion.” Diet and food is almost like an ideology. We all have our opinions.
But let’s remember that saturated fats and fats in general are required to metabolize the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.
And let me just throw one little more thing into this discussion that will get people all aquiver: there is no such thing as a vegan diet in nature. And in traversing the world’s cultures, veganism is a construct that we’ve created. As an animal lover, I understand, I’ve been a vegan.
This can be the cause of many illnesses. In particular, I see this in many young people — because a lot of people of all ages — a lot of young people experiment, as well they should, with veganism and it can lead to very high levels of anxiety. That’s one of the signs if you’re not biologically meant to be a vegetarian. But just to put a fine point on that. All cultures of the world integrate at least some kind of animal protein into their diet.
How do you find out what is the combination of foods and nutrients that would work best for you?
So again, it’s awareness and how we feel and respond to our foods is the first step. The Food Mood Diary is the second step that I do.
But there are also very — We can do testing in the laboratory. So when I’m working with people, we traverse through the simplest step through the more complex as those needs accrue.
I can do hair analysis because how we excrete minerals in our hair reflects our endocrine system, which reflects our mineral levels. That’s a very complicated way to check that in the laboratory. There is also something called metabolic typing and metabolic testing through how we metabolize glucose.