As long as he can remember, he “somehow always wanted to die,” says Jeff from Northridge, California. As a teenager, he started smoking and drinking crystal meth. For years he wavered between periods of deep depression and manic heights. At the age of 43, he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist: bipolar disorder.
Today Jeff (he does not want to read his surname here) is stable, self-assured, downright lively – thanks to medication. But they also have side effects. Maybe he would not have to swallow so many pills if he would eat differently. New research suggests that proper nutrition can not only avert heart disease and diabetes; With it you can also prevent mental illness or even treat it.
Thus, according to some studies omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of schizophrenia; certain nutrient mixtures have helped alleviate anxiety in earthquake survivors. Mentally ill people would be open to treatment options without having to pay the unpleasant price that many medicines bring with them. Weight gain about and listlessness.
Although alternative medicine experts have been recommending certain nutrients for years, “Western medicine has simply ignored that for a long time,” says Eva Selhub, a GP in Boston and author of the book “Your Health Destiny.” Change has only begun since science has become increasingly interested in nutritional psychology. This refers to the nutritional mental health, in contrast to nutritional psychology, which in turn is about psychological influence on eating habits.
Diet change instead of just medications
Research plans were set up, the connections between food and mental well-being examined, research institutes founded. Holistic medical approaches are in vogue anyway. Patients want to be seen as people, not limited to individual symptoms. This fits in with the idea of influencing health through nutrition.
Jerome Sarris, Senior Research Associate at the Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, believes the traditional separation of body and soul is “paralyzing.” In a review published in the science magazine “The Lancet” he writes that nutrition is as important for psychiatry as it is for cardiology or gastroenterology.
He predicts today that therapists will in future not only ask about the mood of their patients, but also about their sleep, exercise and eating habits. They may prescribe diet or supplements rather than just medications.
At best, according to Sarris, such approaches would take at least ten years to become accepted in practice. With the necessary drugs already in place, donors would not be willing to fund nutrition research, says Julia Rucklidge, a professor of clinical psychology at Canterbury University.
Little research on nutritional supplementation
Even magazines were reluctant to publish such studies, in the belief that nobody cares. Nevertheless, 11 nutrition and mental health studies are funded by the National Institute for Mental Health or its holistic medicine spin-off. And a spokesman for the New England Journal of Medicine wrote in an e-mail that “a handful” of dietary supplements have appeared there.
Advocates say the time is ripe for new ways to treat mental illness. Although the development of medicines has led to a sharp decline in the number of deaths from heart disease and cancer. But in the US, 41,000 people still die every year, compared to around 10,000 in Germany. The number has been stagnant for around 15 years.
“Why do we continue to regard medication as a recognized, viable treatment option for people with severe mental illness?” Rucklidge asks.
More mentally ill because of sitting?
Scientists predict that as more and more people accept the sedentary Western lifestyle with its high-fat and high-sugar diet, the number of mental illnesses will continue to rise.
In fact, more and more new studies have confirmed that balanced nutrition contributes to precaution. A 2013 study published in “BMC Medicine” found that a modified Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing depression three years later.
Now researchers want to know if a change in diet can also be used to treat depression. This is helped by the recently launched SMILES study, where randomly selected participants change their diet and are then compared to a support group.
Folic acid for depression
Also supplements could bring relief. For example, research found a connection between vitamin D deficiency and twice the schizophrenia risk; There is also evidence that folic acid may act as an antidepressant.
Nutrient combinations that are more tailored to your physical needs could work even better. In a study of adults who were suffering from anxiety or stress after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, Rucklidge found that subjects taking a combination of nutrients experienced a severe decline in mental symptoms.
In addition, there are findings that point to the relationship between intestinal bacteria and brain health; Initial research shows that probiotics – good bacteria – can lift mood and thinking.
There are, of course, studies that found that participants given selected nutrients did not fare better than those treated with placebos (Rucklidge notes, including psychiatric unremarkable patients, which did not improve at all) ).
Connection of nutrition and psychiatry
And although nutrients have only weak side effects, they can harbor certain risks. In addition, healthy eating needs motivation – and mental disorders “deprive people of their willpower,” as Jeff says.
Nevertheless, Sarris and Rucklidge hope that the growing number of essays, organizations and conferences dealing with nutrition and psychiatry will make the subject last longer. “I’m confident,” says Rucklidge. “More and more often I can make people think: Maybe the madman from the university is right.”