Saturday, September 1, 2007

Nutrition and Mental Health

A blog I read faithfully each day---Mental Health Notes---has an interesting thing each Saturday---called Saturday Sanity. It is a bunch of links to different interesting sites. This week was equally inspiring. A couple of the links raised some points I wanted to address. I wanted to leave a comment, but it was getting a little long, so thought I would answer it here.

The Stanford Prison Experiment website is the home of (literally) the Standford University research during a 1971 experiment dealing with psychology and prison life. Apparently, they simulated prison life to dip their toes into the psychology of imprisonment. Interesting, but I’m also on the hunt for research done in real prison settings.
Dr Barry Groves has some good info about the effects of nutrition on the rates of suicide, depression and violence.

Suicide and violence
Depression is the main psychiatric illness that predisposes to suicide. The anti-cholesterol lobby would have us believe that the lower your cholesterol, the healthier you are. But a French study concluded that 'Both low serum cholesterol concentration and declining cholesterol concentration were associated with increased risk of death from suicide in men.' This confirmed many previous epidemiological and clinical studies which had described an association between lower blood cholesterol and increased suicide risk that is not entirely attributable to depression-related malnutrition and weight loss.
This only one of the many studies out there about how nutrition plays a major role in the escalation of mental health symptoms. Here are some more:

Cholesterol concentrations in violent and non-violent women suicide attempters.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Essential Fatty Acid Status as a Predictor of Future Suicide Risk

Increasing homicide rates and linoleic acid consumption among five western countries, 1961–2000

Low weight gain in infancy and suicide in adult life

Researchers are working on a brain implant that could prevent epileptic seizures. My question is once/if it’s successful and enters the world of medical treatment, would it also be effective for people with bipolar disorder? A popular BP treatment right now is Lamictal which is used for both people with bipolar disorder and people who suffer from epileptic seizures…interesting.
Lamictal is not the only anticonvulsant in use in the mental health field. Other anticonvulsants used for bipolar disorder include carbamazepine (Tegretol), gabapentin (Neurontin), valproic acid (Depakote, divalproex sodium) and topiramate (Topamax).

Since all these meds work so well for bipolar symptoms, it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to think alternate treatments for seizures would do wonders for bipolar also. The biggest thing is the Ketogenic Diet.
The ketogenic diet, which is very high in fats and low in carbohydrates, was first developed almost 80 years ago. It makes the body burn fat for energy instead of glucose. When carefully monitored by a medical team familiar with its use, the diet helps two out of three children who are tried on it and may prevent seizures completely in one out of three.
What the Diet Does

Normally, our bodies run on energy from glucose, which we get from food. We can't store large amounts of glucose, however. We only have about a 24-hour supply.

When a child has no food for 24 hours -- which is the way the diet begins, usually in a hospital -- he or she uses up all the stored glucose. With no more glucose to provide energy, the child's body begins to burn stored fat.

The ketogenic diet keeps this process going.

It forces the child's body to burn fat round the clock by keeping calories low and making fat products the primary food that the child is getting.

In fact, the diet gets most (80 percent) of its calories from fat. The rest comes from carbohydrates and protein.

Each meal has about four times as much fat as protein or carbohydrate. The amounts of food and liquid at each meal have to be carefully worked out and weighed for each person.
The ketogenic diet: 1997.

The ketogenic diet's current success rate, when properly executed, greatly exceeds that of the medications which have recently become available. Its side effects, both cognitive and allergic, appear fewer than most available medications. The ketogenic diet is also cheaper than most new anticonvulsants. Even though we now know that the diet works, we still do not know how it works. Nor do we know how most anticonvulsants work. The mechanism of action of the ketogenic diet appears to rely on a fundamental change in the brain's metabolism from that of a glucose-based energy substrate to a ketone-based substrate. This change is, in some fashion, critical to the maintenance of seizure threshold. Why should the source of the energy make a difference in seizure threshold? The change in seizure threshold appears to occur without affecting the brain's ability to carry out its normal complex functions. Could the brain's utilization of an energy substrate for seizure control be different from its utilization of energy for normal brain function?
There is some research into this as well. It really flies in the face of the typical recommended low fat low calorie high carb way of eating. Doesn't it strike you as kinda strange that mental illness diagnoses have increased dramatically over the years. Could nutrition play a big part in that?? I believe it does. The science is a long way from really changing peoples minds but it does not lie.

Ketogenic diet for the treatment of refractory epilepsy in children.

The ketogenic diet may have mood-stabilizing properties.

Ketogenic Diet & Bipolar Disorder

Effect of the ketogenic diet on the activity level of Wistar rats.

Fatty acid tied to depression and inflammation

Metabolic syndrome in bipolar disorder: findings from the Bipolar Disorder Center for Pennsylvanians

Omega 3 fatty acids influence mood, impulsivity and personality, study indicates

Stanford University even wanted to do a full study on the effects of a ketogenic diet on humans with bipolar disorder. There is one out there done on rats that is promising. I personally follow a high fat, carb restricted way of eating. It has allowed me to decrease many of my psych meds this past year. It has also decreased my symptoms dramatically.

I would much rather work on controlling my symptoms with changes in my diet than taking in a whole bunch of medications. That along with therapy to rid me of learned coping behaviors is my treatment. There are many books out there dealing with food and mood. A new one is coming out this month. I've talked about it before. Here is the link to it once again---The Brain Trust Program.

Book Description
A leading neurosurgeon delivers a groundbreaking program for increasing brain function at any age.

The brain, like the muscles, heart, and other organs, is made of flesh and blood and requires proper care to maintain its optimum state of wellbeing. In this remarkable prescription for brain health, Dr. Larry McCleary reveals not only how to forestall the effects of aging but also how to improve brain function.

Taking a unique metabolic approach in his scientifically-based program of prevention and regeneration, Dr. McCleary shows readers how to:

- Assess their risk for memory loss and other cognitive impairment
- Incorporate a comprehensive regimen of a brain-building diet, brain-specific supplements, mental (and physical) exercise, and stress reduction techniques to enhance memory, acuity, and clarity - Personalize the three-part Brain Trust program for a more dynamic brain from childhood to age 100
- Avoid surprising and common lifestyle pitfalls that may unknowingly damage brain cells
- Relieve or greatly reduce migraines, hot flashes, and hearing loss
Editorial Review
"The Brain Trust Program provides everything you need to know to ensure optimal brain functioning for a lifetime!"
-Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, The Wisdom of Menopause, and Mother-Daughter Wisdom

"It isn't difficult to find people who are suffering from a wide range of debilitating neurological conditions such as migraine headaches, Alzheimer's disease, brain cancer, and worse these days. But leave it to a brain surgeon to figure out many of these can actually be treated and even reversed metabolically through some rather simple changes in the diet. Dr. Larry McCleary has figured out that controlling the amount of insulin production by consuming a healthy low-carb diet is indeed the most 'brain-friendly' way you could possibly eat. The Brain Trust Program he has developed from his many years of experience challenges people to think about the long-term impact of the high-carb foods they are eating not just on their waistline, but also on that gray matter between their ears! This book is guaranteed to shake up the status quo and quite literally turn traditional brain treatment on its head!"
-Jimmy Moore, author of Livin' La Vida Low-Carb

"One of the best books I've seen on the care and feeding of your brain! Dr. McCleary knows what he's talking about and even better, has a gift for communicating this important information!"
-Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, Board Certified Nutritionist, author, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth and The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth
I encourage everyone to get this book when it comes out. It is gonna be a real eye opener.

Many places can be found on the web that address nutriton in dealing with mental illness. Take a gander at these sites.

Alternative Mental Health

HRI Research Studies and Papers

Nutritional Healing of Perth, Australia (alternative medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins)

I refuse to blindly let anyone dictate my health. I am a huge advocate of proactive health care. You should make the decisions in your own life. As long as you are in the mind to be able to handle making those decisions. Don't just pop a pill and think everything will be hunky dory. You have to work at your health just like you have to work at other things in your life. Do your research, learn alternative ways to control your symptoms, thereby controlling your life.


Anonymous said...

You have to work at your health just like you have to work at other things in your life.

Ah, that is so true. So, so very true. That's what I'm hoping to achieve with our NAMI support group - teaching people that medicine isn't their only choice (which is, sadly, the predominant treatment in this area).

I'm going to look into that ketogenic diet and see how it fits with my vegetarian diet.

Anonymous said...

Modern medicine sees all mental illness deriving only from the brain - primarily from neurotransmitter imbalance and nothing else - the truth is that in many cases there is often an underlining physical cause (eg: infection, celiac disease, etc) and this is often never investigated, and so its no wonder today we are faced with the current tragedy that the Mentally ill die 25 years earlier, i mean look at these studies:
'An autopsy of 82 patients who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Gastritis was found in 50%, enteritis in 85% and colitis in 92%.' read more...
'99% certain of a genetic association between schizophrenia and coeliac disease' read more..
'Enterocolitis discovered in the majority of children with Autistic spectrum disorders'
for more see

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this!
A discussion of this new book 'The Brain Trust Program' ( ) has been started at the Books Forum now:
Hope it helps.