How sharp is your mind, how balanced is your mood, how consistent is your energy, how happy are you – and what, if anything, do these qualities have to do with what you eat?
There are some sobering stats which involved 37,000 people. Here are the proportion of people that reported suffering ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ from certain conditions:
- Become impatient quickly 82%
- Have low energy level 80%
- Energy is less than it used to be 76%
- Feel have too much to do 67%
- Become anxious or tense easily 64%
- Have PMS/PMT (women only) 63%
- Easily become angry 53%
- Suffer from depression 44%
- Have difficulty concentrating 43%
- Become nervous/hyperactive 38%
- Have poor memory/difficulty learning 32%
Does this sound like anyone you know? Does this sound like you? Welcome to the 21st century. Despite improvements in diet and better standards of living, the average person is exhausted, among other things. So, what’s going wrong?
Our minds and bodies have been shaped over millions of years of evolution. Diets have changed radically in the last 100 years, along with our environment. When you consider that the body and brain are made entirely from molecules derived from food, air, and water, and that simple molecules like alcohol can fundamentally affect the brain, isn’t it unlikely that changes in the diet and the environment have had no effect on our mental health?
I believe that most of us are not achieving our full potential for mental health, happiness, alertness and clarity because we are not achieving optimum nutrition for the mind. I also believe that significant proportion of mentally unwell people are suffering from a chemical imbalance brought on by years of poor nutrition and exposure to environmental pollutants.
As Einstein said, ‘the problems we have created cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.’ We need a new way of thinking about mental health that includes the role of nutrition and the chemical environment and how these affect the way we think and feel.
Mind and body are not separate
One of the most limiting concepts in the human sciences is the idea that the mind and the body are separate. Try asking an anatomist, a psychologist and a biochemist where the mind begins and the body ends. It is a stupid question, and yet that is exactly what modern science has done by separating psychology from anatomy and physiology.
But it’s not just the scientists who live by this false distinction. It’s us. When you’re having difficulty concentrating, when your mood is low, when you struggle to find a memory, do you consider that you may be poorly nourished? Why not? Every one of these states – your thinking, feeling, mental energy and focus – happens across a network of interconnecting brain cells, each one of which depends on an optimal supply of nutrients to work efficiently.
Optimum Nutrition and psychotherapy work wonders
Of course, as I’ve mentioned, improving our mental health isn’t only about nutrition. While some therapists may ignore the role of nutrition and the brain’s chemistry in how we think and feel, let’s not make the same mistake. I believe the solution to the mental health problems that plague our society lies in a combination of optimum nutrition and good psychological support, which includes having a place you can call home, being treated with respect and dignity, and counselling.
Certain kinds of counselling are highly effective for depression, for example, but far too infrequently prescribed or available. The combination of optimum nutrition and psychotherapy works wonders for a wide variety of mental health problems, from depression to schizophrenia – and may work better than drugs. Most of the psychiatrists that I have spoken to find that while drugs can be life-saving in the short term, they become unnecessary when people are receiving the right combination of nutrients and psychological support.
We need a radical new approach based on science
With mental health problems rising at such a pace, we need a new way of thinking about the state of our minds. As Marcel Proust said, ‘the real act of discovery consists, not finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.’ We need to wake up to the realisation that poor nutrition and chemical imbalances probably underlie the majority of mental health problems. While psychotherapy can make a positive change, you must also address deficiencies in essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and other key brain nutrients. We must think our way out of the box and get to grips with the fact that chemistry directly affects how we think and feel.
This means a new basis for both diagnosing and treating problems, and a new way of living and eating that supports our mental health, rather than eroding it. I believe we already have solutions to most forms of mental illness. We just have to look with new eyes.
We can now say with confidence that:
- Most people are achieving well below their full potential for intelligence, memory, concentration, emotional balance and happiness.
- The right combination of nutrients may work better than drugs, and without the side-effects.
- Psychotherapy (and other forms of therapy) works best if you’re optimally nourished.
- Most mental health problems can be relieved with the right nutrition together with the right psychological support and guidance.
Niki Vlachou-Puzzo is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist at Wildflower Health and Wellness – Learn more about her on her website and follow Niki on Instagram