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Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine: Their Significance To Your Mental Health

Updated: Jun 8


Most of us are all too aware of the growing epidemic of chronic metal health conditions. Over the next four weeks I’d like to take you on a journey into the inner workings of the whole-body and how the interconnections link with our mental health. As we delve into the subject of mental health my hope is that you will gain a clearer understanding of the role nutrition and lifestyle play. Here is what you can expect to cover over the next four weeks: Week 1: The Importance of Our Gut Health in Relation to Our Mental Health

Week 2: The Role Inflammation and


Inflammatory Foods Play in Our Mental Well-being Week 3: The Endocrine System and its Connection With Mental Health Week 4: Holistic Methods to Take Charge of Your Mental Health

In today’s blog we will be touching upon society’s conditioned belief of mental health illness and its treatment. Concluding with laying the groundwork into the systematic biological approach that is not solely focused on brain imbalance, but rather the most current science-based approach to depression and mental health.

Societal Conceptions of Mental Health:

We’ve been taught to


believe that psychiatry has made huge progress towards the treatment of mental illness and that it is a ‘disease’ that stems from a brain imbalance where scientists and pharmaceutical companies have developed medications that fix these imbalances in the form of a “magic pill”.

  • Depression and mental health conditions are on the rise and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently the number one cause of disability. 1

This raises the question . . . if more people have access to treatment AND more people are taking antidepressants than ever before . . . shouldn’t there be a reduction in mental health conditions?



Current Approach to Mental Health Conditions:

  • Unlike other forms of medicine, psychiatry is very subjective - there is no testing (no blood analysis, urine samples, . . .) - it is solely based off the psychiatrists opinion.

  • Nowadays you can walk out of your general practitioners office with a prescription for an antidepressant.

  • 7% of these visits end with an antidepressant prescription. 2

Serotonin Myth: Brain Imbalance or Diet Unbalanced?

Serotonin is a neurotransmi


tter that is associated with mood. For most of us we’ve been taught and conditioned that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain and that it is likely a serotonin deficiency. The theory behind SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) is that they work by increasing the availability of serotonin to the brain. This theory has become so universally accepted that no-one bothers to question it. But, did you know that:

  • Over sixty years of research has never proven that the brain levels of serotonin or any other neurotransmitter are in short supply when depression or any mental illness develops. 3

  • You can’t measure brain serotonin - making it impossible to know how the brain is releasing and using serotonin or any other neurotransmitter.

  • Our brain manages over a hundred neurotransmitters, including fourteen different types of serotonin receptors - how can it be possible to hand pick one brain chemical as a cure-all for every individuals behavioral disorder?



Biological Approach:

Kelly Brogan in her book, A Mind of Your Own talks of mental health as “. . . a manifestation of all your body is experiencing and your minds interpretation of its own safety and power.” Concluding that by taking a whole-body approach to mental health not only will help heal the body, but will clear the mind.

Just What is Leaky Gut?

  • Leaky gut, is a digestive condition where bacteria and toxins leak through the walls of the di


gestive tract. Our gastrointestinal tract are all lined with epithelial cells. These cells work as a barrier controlling what enters our bloodstream and is potentially transported to our organs.

  • Our digestive track is where food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. The body uses two pathways to absorb nutrients from the digestive pathway - one moves through the epithelial cells and the other moves nutrients between the cells.

  • The connections between these cells are called tight junctions.

  • When these tight junctions become loose, undigested food particles, cellular debris, toxins, and bacteria get into our bloodstream.

  • These potential threats provoke our immune system and influence levels of inflammation.

  • Most threats come into contact within the gut - most of our immune system is in our gut.

  • There is now evidence that d


epression is an activation of the inflammatory response system.


Inflammation and the Brain:

While inflammation is a natural biological process, research has found that when inflammation becomes chronic it is the underlying source for depression and chronic disease. 4

  • Chemical messengers called cytokines deliver information between the brain and body when inflammation is occurring.

  • Elevated cytokines have been directly related to depression as well as a predictive measure of. 4

  • Once triggered these inflammatory messengers relay information to nerves like the vagus nerve which connects the brain and gut.

  • Inflammation may very well be the cause of depression rather than the response.



I hope this introductory blog has excited and encouraged you to open the gates of learning more about how our body works and its relationship to helping heal the mechanisms of mental health conditions. When we begin to understand how our body works as a collective system it begins to become clearer on the mechanisms of change we can control. Come back next week as we take a closer look at the importance of our gut health in relation to our mental health.



References:

  1. Mental disorders: Key facts. WHO.int. Published November 28 2019. Accessed November 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders.

  2. Brogan K MD, Loberg K. A Mind of Your Own. Thorsons. 2016.

  3. Whitaker R. Anatomy of an Epidemic. Broadway Books. 2015.

  4. Lee C, Giuliani F. The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue. Front Immunal. 2019; vol 10: 1696.10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696.


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