How food psychiatry approaches mental health with a focus on food
So far, most research has been done on the Mediterranean diet, with some studies showing that people who eat this way (think: cut out processed junk and increase fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, beans, legumes). , olive oil, fermented foods, and some meats) have a 30–50% lower risk of depression.
But many experts agree that they may not be one a diet optimal for mental health. A number of dietary approaches, as long as they include the right balance of brain-boosting nutrients (such as omega-3s, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, magnesium, and vitamin D), can help if your body can absorb them. Consult your doctor before deciding which diet is right for you.
To help her patients cover their nutritional bases, Ramsey directs them to nutrient-dense food groups that most Americans lack: leafy greens, bright “rainbow” vegetables, seafood, and fermented foods. From there, he will talk to patients about what foods in those categories they might like, and how to prepare them in a simple and joyful way. He and a colleague created it as a useful tool list of antidepressants1containing plant and animal foods (oysters, salmon, watercress and spinach to name a few) that contain the highest levels of nutrients that have been shown to help prevent or reduce depression.
Interestingly, although plant-based diets are often considered the holy grail, they may not actually be ideal for mental health. “There is some correlational evidence that people who don’t eat red meat or follow a vegetarian diet are at a much higher risk of depression,” says Ramsey. “It’s not popular information among the plant population, but I think it’s important to consider.”
But regardless, Ramsey believes his job as a psychiatric nutritionist is to help you “feed your brain” regardless of the specific diet you’re following—whether Whole30 or vegan. So if you like to go animal free, he will support you and make sure you are eating and eating in a way that supports mental health.
Other nutritional psychiatrists, such as Ede, take a slightly different approach. While she says the most important nutritional rule for mental health is to eat whole foods and avoid modern processed foods (namely refined carbohydrates and refined vegetable oils such as soybean and corn oil), she often suggests that patients experiment with cutting out grains, legumes and dairy products. the same.
“In general, I recommend what I call a ‘pre-agricultural whole food diet,’ consisting of whole plant and animal foods, as one of the best ways to meet the nutritional needs of the brain,” she says. While cutting out all grains and legumes may seem strange, she says these foods contain phytic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of important brain minerals like magnesium and zinc; and lectins, which can damage the intestinal lining and impair the immune system.
This approach is enough for most people, but sometimes Ede goes a step further with patients. “For people who are insulin resistant, I recommend a low-carb, or maybe even very low-carb, ketogenic version of this diet.”
A few years ago, Ede met a 40-year-old woman who had lifelong symptoms of procrastination, poor motivation, low energy, distraction, and disorganization that interfered with her work and home life. She was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Adderall, which definitely helped, but the benefits were uneven throughout the day and caused unpleasant side effects such as constipation.
She gradually eliminated grains, legumes, dairy, and most processed foods from her diet, which improved her mood and physical health, but did not affect her ADHD. But when she agreed to try the ketogenic diet this year, her symptoms began to improve within days. “She has since stopped taking Adderall and reports that she functions even better in ketosis than she did on Adderall, and without any side effects,” Ede says.
Again, this may not be the case for everyone, and it’s entirely possible that this woman was misdiagnosed. It is important to identify the root cause of ADHD, and sometimes patients are treated for ADHD when the real problem is anxiety. In general, ADHD cannot be effectively treated without medication, but anxiety is often more responsive to lifestyle changes such as diet.
The truth is that everyone body is slightly different, and the fact that there are slightly different approaches in the field of eating psychiatry is probably a really good sign.