The brain is a complex and incredible thing.
When you think about everything it does, from keeping us breathing to playing the piano to swimming laps to doing complex calculus to learning languages to inventing new electronics to falling in love...
it's easy to imagine why some things go wrong. Why the brain needs so many different nutrients to do all the different things it does. Why it uses an incredible amount of energy to do its job. Why it is so sensitive to changes in the environment.
Nutritional psychiatry and its sister, nutritional psychology, are the new realms of research and clinical practice that are looking into how we can support brain function and treat mental illness with nutrition.
We know that some diet patterns can help to improve symptoms of mental illness, and that while there are some stand-out foods and nutrients, a whole-diet approach seems to be the best approach.
We also know that nutritional deficiencies are common in the US population in general, but that they seem to be even more common in those with mental health challenges.
We also know that the microbiota-gut-brain axis plays a huge role in our mental and emotional wellbeing and resilience.
I believe nutritional psychiatry works best in combination with therapy, exercise, and in some cases, mental health medications that work together with nutritional approaches to treat the mental illness. Because mental illness is often multifactorial in cause, we also need to use multiple modalities to treat it. However, nutrition is an incredibly powerful tool that can benefit everyone working on their mental and emotional wellness.
Erica Golden, RDN