One’s diet and one’s mental health could be very directly related. So much so, that instead of reaching for a prescription drug to “cure” depression, ADD, Bi-Polar Disorder and other mental manifestations, one might do well to take a closer look at what passes for nutrition in the 21st century.
For example, one prime offender found to contribute to hyperactive behavior in children is food dye. This is according to a study done in 2007 by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency.
These researchers discovered that hyperactive behavior by the 8 and 9 year olds studied increased with the addition of mixtures containing artificial coloring additives. Obviously, the solution here is easy. Don’t feed the kids foods or drinks with artificial food dyes added.
There are other nutritional factors. Depleted soils, chemically treated produce, and overly processed foods can affect the amount of nutrition actually gleaned from a meal. The brain is an organ, and has nutritional requirements like any other organ of the body.
In fact, according to the online site The Neuro Link – Neurotransmitters there are specific amino acids that our brains need in order to create transmitters. Unfortunately, these are often found lacking in the modern diet.
Phenylalanine and glutamine are two such amino acids. Phenylalanine is found in most fish, including cod, tuna, salmon and sardines. Other seafood contains healthy amount of this amino acid as well. And bacon, beef, turkey, liver and chicken are also rich in this nutrient. Dairy is another good source of phenylalanine. (Phenylalanine is also found in the artificial sweetener Aspartame, but in this case it is in a chemically altered form.)
Other important studies involve the effectiveness of fish oil in the diet of those experiencing mental illness. In this case, it is the Omega 3 fatty acids that are closely examined.
In Psychology Today online, psychiatrist Emily Deans notes “Omega 3 fatty acids play a huge role in brain health and neurocommunication.”
Dr. Joseph R. Hibbeln of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism makes this bold statement:
“The strongest evidence was found for managing major depressive symptoms, with the effect of omega-3s being at least as great, if not greater than, antidepressant medications.” He also adds, “… deficient intakes may increase risk for mental distress.”
In a Norwegian study of almost 22,000 people, it was proven that those who took cod liver oil on a regular basis were nearly 30% less likely to have depression than those who did not consume this nutrient. And the longer the cod liver oil was consumed, the less likely they were to have symptoms of depression.
Dr. Sarah M. Conklin, postdoctoral scholar in Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine of the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburg has reported that “The omega-3 fatty acids have widespread biological functions in the body including the brain. Our research has shown that individuals who have higher levels of these fats in their blood are less likely to report symptoms of depression. Similarly, those who have lower levels of these fats in their blood score higher on measures of impulsiveness.”
It is clear that there are ways to handle the symptoms of mental illness inexpensively and safely, without dangerous side effects. The mental health worker would be wise to read up on the studies his peers have done proving the worth of nutritional handlings versus dangerous antidepressants and other psycho pharmaceuticals.