Did you know you could prescribe diet changes or nutritional supplements to prevent or treat mental health problems?
If not, it’s worth examining the evidence around the gut-brain connection, and considering that nutritional deficiencies might be the underlying cause for patients already suffering from mental health problems. Nutrition has the potential to be a powerful preventative measure that can help your patients enjoy better mental health into the future.
In medical school, mental health tends to be dealt with as a separate speciality. All too often, the link between mind and body is not taken into account.
But the mind-body connection is important to acknowledge and understand.
We now know that there is a link between the gut microbiome and mental heath problems such as anxiety and depression.
Depression is now considered a chronic inflammatory disease of low-grade inflammation.
Patients may be at risk of developing mental health problems caused by a nutritional deficiency – something we could be correcting BEFORE they present with symptoms.
Good nutrition that supports both body and mind is a vital preventative public health strategy – and one that all healthcare professionals can apply.
How you (and your patients) can start to use nutrition to support better mental health
Bringing a Lifestyle Medicine approach to mental health treatment allows the patient to take an active role in their recovery.
As with many Lifestyle Medicine interventions, these are simple, but effective!
Supplements can be supportive, but can also sometimes create additional problems – especially if overused. Start by encouraging your patients to make dietary changes instead. (In some instances, some patients with restricted diets may need supplements.)
Diets rich in different fruits and vegetables, as well as fish oil (Omega 3), are known to reduce mental health burden and improve depression.
A Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds will improve microbial diversity and support physical and mental health.
Think about how you can explain, introduce and encourage these changes for your patients. Change can be challenging, but the effect of dietary changes can be profound.
If you’re interested in delving deeper into the evidence for the gut-brain connection and nutrition and mental health, we have a module on this in our flagship course, The Future of Healthcare is Lifestyle Medicine.
For more interesting reading on Lifestyle Psychiatry, you can also check out this blog on our website by Dr Charlotte Marriot, NHS Consultant Psychiatrist: Why Clinicians should use Lifestyle Psychiatry during the Pandemic.
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