There is an increasing body of research connecting nutrition to mental health.  Here are some of the nutritional recommendations resulting from that research.

Vitamin D is important for the brain, heart and circulation, immunity, bone, muscle, lung, joints, kidneys, and overall vitality.  It is also important for weight loss since low Vitamin D deactivates leptin, a brain hormone that signals satiation or fullness. If leptin doesn’t work, we don’t get the proper signal to stop eating. Proper levels of leptin decreases appetite. Many physicians are routinely measuring Vitamin D levels and offering supplementation as necessary. Good food sources for Vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, milk and shiitake mushrooms.

Our diet, which is supplemented with too many corn products, soy and vegetable oil, gives us too many Omega 6 oils and not enough Omega 3 oils. Omega 6s produce inflammation and Omega 3s reduce inflammation. We need a proper balance of Omega 3s and 6s in our diets which is 1:4 Omega 3 to Omega 6. The remedy for this imbalance is to check labels to avoid corn, soy and vegetable oils and supplement our diet with Omega 3 found in cold water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), nuts and flax seed. Omega 3 supplements can also be used to correct the Omega imbalance.  There is not an agreed upon recommendation for the amount of omega 3 to take. More information can be found at the following link or by consulting your physician.

Sucralose, otherwise known as Splenda, was originally made as a pesticide!  It works quite well as a pesticide and is used for that purpose in some farming communities.  Not surprisingly, Splenda will also kill off the healthy flora (microbes) in your gut and should be avoided. Stevia is a better no-calorie sweetener option.

There is a large body of evidence showing a connection between gut health and mental health. A gut with an abundance and diversity of microbes aids our overall health and mental health. Gut microbe abundance and diversity can be achieved by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchee, kombucha, and supplementation with probiotics.  Probiotics put the good microbes back into the gut. This is important since 90% of serotonin, the chemical involved in good mood, is located in the gut. Antibiotics also kill the good flora in the gut, which must then be replenished.  It is best to keep the gut balanced and working properly. A deficiency in diversity or number of gut microbes is related to several types of mental illness including anxiety, depression, autism and more. Read more about the mental health, gut health and diet see the following links:

Other general nutritional advice includes drinking ½ body weight in ounces of water, eating high quality foods (often organic) and clean protein (hormone free, free range, grass fed), eating smart carbs (low glycemic which are slow to convert to sugar in the body and high in fiber) and more fruits and vegetables for good antioxidants, the cancer fighters, and plenty of herbs and spices all of which have some healing properties in the body.

Finally, Dr. Amen, a psychiatrist and brain health expert, stresses that that mental health in this country has been negatively affected by our typical diet, which he refers to as SAD – an acronym for the Standard American Diet. He speculates that the rise in emotional disorders is likely due to the rise in food additives, preservatives and genetically modified organisms. As such, gluten, dairy, food additives and refined oils may be causative factors in many mental disorders. He suggests that we limit or remove them from our diets.

For more information on the connection between nutrition and mental health and suggestions on improving your nutrition, please go to the following links.

Submitted by Holly O. Houston, Ph.D., Director, Licensed Clinical Psychologist   January 2018