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How to Use Food to Maintain Mental Health

Updated on October 31, 2012

We've heard the expression, "you are what you eat," but is it also true of how we feel? The American diet is hurting our bodies and minds, and now we have a study from researches on Nutritional Therapies for Mental Disorders that suggests it further. Our lack of essential vitamins and fatty acids have starved our neurotransmitters for the proper nutrients and have given America a 26 percent rate of mental illness, while China remains at 4 percent. Arguably, it may be true that mental health in this country is diagnosed differently than China, but even so, a 22 percent difference does suggest that something is wrong with what we're eating.

Mental Illness is Biological, Chemical and Genetic

Although mental illness is a complex disorder that has many factors, according to researchers, nutritional deficits are high in sufferers. A healthy brain relies on the important nutrients of certain foods that increase "feel good" neurotransmitters that supply a good connection of nervous tissue and brain functions. Mental illness can be improved by providing the body with the right protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, fiber and antioxidants to improve the overall function of the brain.

Omega 3's From Cold Water Fish for Neurotransmitters


The Right Food for the Right Mood

Major depression is associated with loss of interest in usual activities, a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, and relentless thoughts of suicide. The neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, and GABA have long been known to be associated with depression. Since the American diet has declined in essential fatty acids from not eating fish, the incidence of depression has increased in proportion. A diet restored with Omega 3's, essential fatty acids and quality protein, can restore the nutrients needed by the brain to boost the mood and treat depression. In addition, a deficit in magnesium and the vitamin B's has also been associated with depression. Patients treated with B12 showed marked improvement in studies.

Berries Provide Complex Carbs for Neurotransmitters


Bipolar Disorder and Vitamin C

The American diet frequently does not include fresh fruits and vegetables, and that creates a disturbing 80 percent of the population with vitamin C deficiencies. People who suffer from Bipolar Disorder are very sensitive to chemicals, changes in their blood sugar chemistry and frequently are vitamin C deficient. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from sensitivities to chemicals that people with depressive/mania experience. Bipolar Disorder has been treated successfully with high dose of vitamin C and a restorative diet of fresh veggies and fruits.

Schizophrenia and Glycine

Schizophrenic patients are characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and an impaired thought process. Usually these symptoms appear during adolescence. Disturbances in amino acid metabolism have been found to be associated with schizophrenia. The ability to synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin has been implicated with the problem of erratic mood and thought process for sufferers of schizophrenia. Patients treated with glycine at high doses responded well with mood stabilization. Foods high in glycine are gelatin, lean meats, proteins and nuts.

Veggies Provide Fiber and Energy Stores


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by relentless thoughts of performing a ritualistic behavior to release anxiety or repress those thoughts. OCD has been treated successfully with antidepressant medications that improve the serotonin neurotransmitter. This fact supports that the disorder is a problem with the synthesis of serotonin. People given diets rich in lean proteins, essential fatty acids in cold water fish, and vitamin B's showed marked improvement in symptoms.

Mental Disorders and the Foods that Heal

Mental Disorder
Neurotransmitter Responsible
Foods that Heal
Major Depression
Serotonin, GABA, Dopamine, Noradrenaline
Omega's 3, Nuts, Cold Water Fish, Quality Meats and Poultry, vitamin B12
Bipolar Disorder
Dopamine, Serotonin and GABA
Fresh Fruits, Veggies, Taurine containing foods
Depletion of glycine: Nuts, Lean Meats and Pork
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Serotonin and Dopamine
Essential Fatty Acids in Fish, Nuts and Lean Meats and Poultry, Fresh Fruits and Veggies

What About Supplements?

Supplements have been mentioned with positive results in the study. Amoryn, a natural supplement had very positive results with disorders related to depression. In addition, St John's Wort provided better results than the standard medication Paxil for social anxiety disorder and depression. Supplements are also safer, with less side effects and potentially harmful complications of prescription medications. Although supplements are effective in treating some mental disorders as described in the study, a healthy diet in vitamins and nutrients is paramount to improving the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Ask your physician before making any medication changes or before adding a supplement.


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    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      thanks YogaKat, I really appreciate your support. My sketches are done with a pen on a drawing tablet and I use photoshop styles and brushes to give them some dimension and color. Sometimes it looks good, sometimes it looks really bad! I actually started out as an artist when I was young, but soon found I couldn't pay the bills and went into medicine. So, know I try to use it when it's appropriate. Take care and see you soon!

    • YogaKat profile image


      8 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      Thanks for this interesting and useful hub. Your interpretation and summation of the study "Natural Therapies for Mental Disorders" is well done. Reading through those studies to find information is tedious and time consuming. I LOVE your sketches. Did you scan your pencil drawings? Awesome artwork!

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Rajan, we truly are what we eat, and the holistic approach to our health is markedly related to our diets. Thanks for the supportive comments, it means a lot coming from you. Thanks for sharing it on facebook.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      8 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Deborah, we are what we eat and our health feelings are related to what we eat too. You did a great job of relating these factors to one another.

      Mental health is also very much dependent, in fact more, on getting the right nutrients in correct amounts for it to function at its optimum.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

      Sharing it on facebook.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Emma,I am so glad you found it interesting. A little, "food for thought," Lol.

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 

      8 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Really interesting information, eHealer. It's always good to look at our diets if there is a problem with our health. I've learned a lot here about foods linked to mood and mental health. Up and interesting.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you so much epigramman, your comments are so kind. The American diet is destroying our health and producing a country in depression. I agree, without our health, we have very little. Thanks again and see you soon at the hubs!

    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago

      ....I would urge every reader to visit your hallowed hubspace of valued learning and enlightenment for our health and well being. There is something for everyone here because let's face it - without our health - what good is the quality of life when we can take matters in our own hands and try to improve it - and through reading your informative this is definitely a step in the right direction - will share this hub at the hubpages Facebook group and also send you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time 11:25am and have a safe and happy Halloween.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Mhatter, your doctor sounds like a keeper. The pharma companies are very worried because people are learning about good nutrition vs. pills. I do not advocate anyone getting off their meds without their doctor's approval, but it's nice to know there are some smart one's out there.

    • eHealer profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Yes blissful writer, you are so right and it's been strongly suggested through research studies that we really are what we eat. Thanks for reading my hub and I am following you as well. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this. My doctor prefers B vitamin pills to foods.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      8 years ago

      Food definitely has an affect on mood. I try to eat healthy fats from pasture-raised beef and eggs, lots of B vitamins, and omega-3 from seafood. I feel that these are the ingredients that the brain needs for optimal function.


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