Posted on March 5, 2019 at 2:15 pm
‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’
Wondering about the link between diet and mental health? Well, we all know that eating well, healthily and sensibly is a good idea. As a Psychiatrist and Functional Medicine practitioner, I take it one step further and believe that food can unlock the key towards a better mental and physical health. It makes us feel psychologically better and key nutrients in our food can treat and/or prevent mental health difficulties. Of course, this will be in conjunction with other key components of treatment such as therapy, medications etc.
‘I guess; it is easier said than done’ is what some patients tell me. It’s taking one step at a time of what feels manageable to you and then adding others over time. It can be overwhelming – taking the support and advice of a professional in the initial stages will be helpful. A range of vegetables and fruits in your diet will help provide phytonutrients, essential minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants which are all going to play a huge role in balancing a range of chemical imbalances such as serotonin levels. In addition, healthy oils, nuts and seeds will provide essential fatty acids, which again is very important for the brain. A good portion of healthy protein is also very important, such beans, pulses, eggs, chicken etc. Ideally, in the initial stages of treatment, a plant diet is very healing and helps with recovery. If there are suspicions of intolerances or allergies, then restricting some foods for a short period of time may be helpful to rebalance the gut. I am not a fan of ‘fad diets’ and I do not believe starvation is necessary, in fact the aim is abundance of the right types of foods. However, there may be role for short term (4 weeks or so) elimination diets to control inflammation. There will still be plenty to choose from, and there will be no restriction on these allowed foods. The usual recommendation is about 5 portions of fruits/vegetables, however, for treatment purposes, we recommend nearly 10 portions a day. Believe me, it is doable, and you will enjoy this new way of eating and living.