Mental Health and Nutrition
In a discussion with a colleague I had recently on the topic of mental health and mental illness, she asked me how much I know about the links between nutrition and mental health. Despite some general common sense ideas surrounding what I knew about managing mental health symptoms and a generally strong understanding of food and nutrition, I had to confess that I wasn't aware of the research on some of the specific links between the two.
My colleague pointed me in the direction of a very interesting podcast, that you can listen to here, hosted by Dr. Mark Hyman on the topic. Dr. Hyman is a Cleveland-based physician who focuses on wellness and nutrition issues through his Cleveland Clinic hospital. Dr. Hyman has served as both a health and nutrition advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as well-known megachurch evangelical pastor Rick Warren.
Dr. Mark Hyman primarily promotes something known as "Functional Medicine", an alternative form of medicine focusing on doctors creating individualized treatment plans for patients that focus on interactions that patient's gastrointestinal, immunal, and endocrine systems have with their specific environment. While studies critical of Functional Medicine have been published by journals such as Dr. David Gorski's Science-Based Medicine and the The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Dr. Hyman's work has been slowly integrated into clinics such as The Mayo Clinic and Georgetown University.
In the podcast, Dr. Hyman discusses the links between good nutrition and improved mental health with Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University in New York City. In September, Dr. Ramsey and colleague Dr. Laura R LaChance of the University of Toronto published perhaps the first peer-reviewed journal article of its scale showing positive correlative links between certain nutritious foods and supplements and improved mental wellness.
The conversation is a fascinating one, and I do recommend you check it out. While no one is claiming that nutrition alone will "cure" a debilitating mental illness, it has been proven that managing symptoms of these conditions can be made easier by nutrition, as well as other wellness techniques like body work, relaxation and breathing exercises, and physical activity.
If you, or anyone you know is struggling with a mental illness, please reach out to a friend, or call one of the hotlines below. Someone is here to listen.
The Canadian Suicide Prevention Service Crisis Hotline: 1-833-456-4566 (toll free, available 24/7)
More specific Canadian resources can be found at this page.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (US Only): 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) (toll free, available 24/7)
If you are outside of these countries, please check this page for a list of emergency numbers in your area.