Nutrition now being considered in addressing mental health issues

Depression and anxiety are common forms of mental illness. In fact, 18% of mental illness disorders that are diagnosed each year are anxiety related. Now evidence is mounting that eating habits can correlate to mental health. If you eat healthy most of the time, you probably had a visit to a fast food joint that made you feel, lets say - not as sharp as you normally are. What happens to ones mental state if overall eating and drinking habits are poor all the time?

The World Journal of Psychiatry has TRUEed “Antidepressant Foods: An Evidence-based Nutrient Profiling System for Depression,” by Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, and Dr. Laura LaChance of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. It includes a nutrient-profile scale, which identifies the most nutrient-dense foods in relation to “the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders.”

Many of the foods recommend are rich in certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and potassium to name a few. These include food like dark leafy greens, wild salmon, nuts, beans and seeds.

One patient who suffered from depression was guided by her counselor to re-examine her dietary habits. Spices like turmeric and ginger became everyday staples. While her healthier diet didn't eliminate her depression completely, she was better able to deal with it, whereas before her depression was bad enough for her to miss work.

Besides eating habits, other factors such as gut health, sleep patterns, exercise are now being looked at in totality rather than just addressing symptoms and prescribing a drug with potential side effects. Medical professionals who look at these issues with a top down approach are not yet in the majority. One example was a person who was diagnosed with ADHD and given medication, which then caused a side effect of sleeplessness. Then a second medication was prescribed to help with sleep, so instead on 2 hours of sleep, it was 5 hours. In the meantime, the individual was drinking soda and sweet tea all day long and few if any vegetables.

How does tea play into the depression and mental health?

Some of the ingredients, like ginger and turmeric can already be found in numerous tea blends and is a good way to expose yourself to these herbs while hydrating throughout the day. But tea even on it's own has been shown to have positive effects on depression, a cited by some of these studies.

The one caveat is that anything with added sugars will negate the health benefits. This is why bottled tea or southern sweet tea can be as bad or even worse than soda. Even unsweetened bottled tea does not have as many active anti-oxidant compounds. So while tea alone cannot cure depression, drinking tea and eating well is probably going to make things better. It is encouraging that that studies like these will push diet and lifestyle factors further into the mainstream treatment. As always, use a qualified professional when diagnosing any illness or disease, preferably one that will incorporate nutrition into the diagnosis.