Recently, I have been watching seminars by Julia Rucklidge (See https://www.facebook.com/healthcounseling/) and William Walsh, both PhD scientists doing research using micronutrients to treat mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Their research and that of others in the international community shows how high quality nutrition supplements are a key player on the treatment “playground”.
In my experience as a dietitian and psychotherapist, I have seen mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and Eating Disorders being treated with psychotropic medications combined with different types of counseling therapies, meal planning with macronutrients, nutrition therapy and other adjunct therapies. “Eating disorders are really more about the underlying psychosocial issues than the nutrition” we would and still say. I was trained as a dietitian to educate people on how to make dietary changes to manage their medical condition. But we overlooked the fact that the nutritional content of soil and therefore food it grows has changed over the years affecting the quality and quantity of our nutrient intake.
From these seminars and my functional nutrition training, I have learned that some of us have genes that express themselves in a certain way that may require a more personalized level of nutrient intake then outlined by the RDA to perform the same body functions.
So, for those people struggling with depression who don’t have the energy or inclination to plan, purchase or prepare meals, I wonder what’s happening to the metabolic reactions in their bodies if there is insufficient nutrient intake to support them? And what about those people struggling with anxiety and calming themselves with highly processed foods low in nutrients. With minimal essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids consumed, how are their metabolic functions going to be supported? Now lets add medications that compete for those same nutrients to the mix-we have even fewer nutrients available.
Individuals struggle with binge and compulsive eating along with depression and anxiety. Full of guilt, shame, and self loathing for years, they have come to believe they are weak and out of control and unworthy of their own efforts to try something new. What if there mental health and behaviors are connected to the lack of diversity in gut bacteria because of the quantities of highly processed foods eaten during binges? These foods allow the unhealthy gut bacteria to proliferate and release toxins that can damage the gut lining affecting digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. What if the lack of essential nutrients in this type of diet is disrupting metabolic and hormonal functions? We talk about the gut being the “second brain”- are we asking about GI symptoms during our nutrition intake while we are assessing their thoughts and feelings about food, weight and eating? You can see why they become frustrated and hopeless- no matter how hard they try to make dietary changes they continue to struggle with their weight.
So, why not test for underlying root causes like insufficient nutrient levels, low diversity of gut bacteria, inadequate digestive enzymes or poor detoxification like we explore a person’s developmental life story in psychotherapy or history of anti depressant and anti anxiety medication use. Based on the research presented, using high grade nutrition and probiotic supplements along with dietary changes to replete nutrient levels and improve diversity of gut bacteria can be another helpful tool to help with symptom management.