Of Depression and donuts

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depression foodThe impact of diet on mental health

Mental health is no longer a taboo subject. Not-for-profit organizations, employers, school boards, and health agencies are pushing mental health issues into the open.

The societal impact of mental health is undeniably massive. Unfortunately there is no easy therapeutic solution, and it is becoming clear that while helpful for many, pharmaceutical monotherapy is not sufficient, effective, or appropriate for everyone. Recognizing the complexity of their condition, those dealing with issues such as depression and anxiety are regularly exploring comprehensive treatment strategies beyond simple pharmacological intervention.

A quick visit with Dr. Google will uncover a massive body of information regarding pharmacotherapy; botanical medicines, vitamins, minerals, and self help books – all advertised to restore the buyer to a state of mental health bliss. While there are many credible and well-meaning sources for information online, there is an even larger collection of sales-pitchy, advertorial, profit driven, marketing-disguised-as-medical-information web sites. A good rule of thumb is that any resource with a “buy now” button at the bottom is likely more interested in your wallet than your wellness.

Rather than cite research about the effect of omega 3 fatty acids on depression (there is a lot) or the benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy on anxiety (it is substantial), it is perhaps most interesting to start the discussion on mental health where most health issues start – food!

The impact of the Mediterranean diet – a diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean meats and fish – on cardiovascular disease and diabetes is old news. But what about mental health? Does what you eat affect how you feel?

According to a recent review published in The Lancet Psychiatry by a group from the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry, what we eat is as important to mental health as it is to cardiovascular, endocrine, and gastroenterological health. Researchers argue that as evidence mounts correlating diet quality and micronutrient deficiencies to mental health issues, dietary intervention should be considered a primary determinant of both physical and mental health.

Coupled with the known beneficial impact of exercise on mental health – it is clear that living the healthy life not only optimizes physical well-being, but maximizes mental health too.

Eat well, move more and feel better!

Of course it isn’t always that simple. Adequate exercise and a great diet are not enough for everyone, but their importance as fundamentals to any mental health treatment plan is undeniable. Counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and appropriate targeted nutritional or pharmaceutical therapies are necessary in many individuals dealing with mental health issues.

Mental health issues are notoriously complex, and as such require complex, comprehensive solutions.

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