The Promise of Nutritional Psychiatry

Julia Murphy, LMFT

Nutritional Psychiatry is an emerging field exploring the link between diet, brain function, and mental health. In simpler terms, it looks at how the food we eat impacts our emotional state. Current research data point to a healthy diet (ie: lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains) as prevention and treatment for depression, as well as adjunctive treatment for ADHD. Conversely, unhealthy diets (processed, fatty and sugary foods) are associated with mental health problems in children and adults across nations and cultures.

By now you’ve probably heard of the term “gut-brain” connection. Our bodies house a miraculous, intricate community of different, beneficial bacteria called the human biome. Healthy gut bacteria are responsible for nutritional absorption, as well as immune system support and modulation of the nervous system. What we eat impacts the health of the human biome, and, therefore, the health of our bodies and minds.

Dietary interventions at this early state of nutritional psychiatry research are recommended as complementary treatments that may alleviate mild depression and anxiety or help with ADHD. At this point, diet is not recommended as the anecdote to suicidal ideation or extreme mood issues, but the field holds a lot of promise for breakthroughs to come.

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