Modern society has normalized the growing presence of disorders among adults and teenagers in the U.S.
While genetics and lifestyle are often to blame by mainstream science, it's possible that a leading cause of psychiatric abnormalities could be something few might suspect in a first-world country: poor nutrition.
In the U.S. alone, 40 million adults are affected by anxiety, while another 17.3 million suffer from depression. Although it’s common for adults to get diagnosed with psychiatric abnormalities, it seems that a growing number of teens are experiencing the same disorders. ADHD affects 1 in 10 children. In 2018, it was found that 4% of adolescents suffered from anorexia.
But despite the variety of people who are experiencing some form of mental disruption, generally speaking, they’re all prescribed the same medications to ease their symptoms. When will it become the norm for psychiatrists to get to the root cause of the disorder instead of masking the symptoms with Big Pharma drugs?
The Rise of Malnutrition from Standard Diets
63% of the standard American diet consists of refined and processed meals. Americans have also been reported to eat out an average of 5.9 times a week. So, not only are most individuals eating foods full of sugar or seed oils void of nutrients, but they’re also not eating enough of the foods that can sustain and nourish their bodies to function optimally. It makes sense, then, why malnutrition could be tied to a chemical imbalance in the brain that shows as disorders.
Nature itself is the best physician.
Disorders are indeed caused by environmental stress and genetics, but it's been proven that plenty of individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder show lower levels of specific nutrients. Yet, we’re often given the same advice on mental health by mainstream news: eat healthily, exercise, balance work and play, practice self-care, go to therapy. While these activities may ease symptoms and promote temporary relaxation, the disorder will remain if the cause is a chemical imbalance that stems from a poor diet.
Below is a list of some vitamins and minerals that are shown to have links to disorders.
Nutrients That Ease Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
One of the key functions of magnesium is its role in hormone and neurotransmitter regulation which is necessary for optimizing your mood. Supplementing with this mineral also lowers cortisol, known as the primary stress hormone, which can help to promote relaxation. Magnesium also regulates the production of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter that plays a role in anxious behaviors), in turn giving the ability to reduce anxiety, stress, and restlessness caused by excess glutamate.
Foods that are high in magnesium:
Vitamin D for Depression
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is necessary for bone fortification, brain function, and cell growth. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin found that individuals with lower levels of vitamin D faced a 75% higher risk of depression. In another controlled trial by the University College Of Medical Sciences, subjects were given a 300,000IU dosage at the beginning of the antidepressant therapy and saw significant improvements after 12 weeks.
Sources of Vitamin D:
Fatty Fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines)
Cod Liver Oil
Fortified Dairy Products
Vitamin B12 for Bipolar Disorder, Depression, and Anorexia
40% of individuals in the U.S. are deficient in vitamin B12. Psychiatric disorders arise when low B12 levels are present, as the vitamin is a necessary component in hormone production like serotonin and dopamine. A study completed in 2016 showed that 65 out of 78 subjects who experienced psychiatric abnormalities showed improvement when supplementing orally with B12.
Foods that are high in Vitamin B12:
“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
Iron and ADHD
Iron is an important mineral that the body needs for proper development. Iron binds to hemoglobin (a protein found in the red blood cells), which carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency, or anemia, deregulates dopamine activity. A study from the Child and Adolescent Psychopathology Department in European Pediatric Hospital found that serum ferritin levels (the blood protein containing iron) were lower in the children who had ADHD. A diet with more iron can increase serum ferritin levels, decreasing ADHD symptoms.
Foods high in heme iron
Liver and Other Organs
Foods high in non-heme iron:
Dark Leafy Greens
Myo-Inositol (Vitamin B8) and OCD
Myo-inositol is a sugar found in the brain and tissues of mammals; it acts as a messenger that helps with nerve function and regulates hormones. Studies have demonstrated that a dosage of 18g of inositol per day improved the symptoms of individuals who had OCD.
Foods high in inositol:
Citrus Fruits (with the exception of lemons)
Dark Leafy Greens
Time and time again, supplements have been shown to help many individuals who have struggled with their symptoms of mental distress. However, I believe that if these supplements are only in addition to an already nutrient-deficient diet, symptoms may keep coming back due to pro-inflammatory foods. But with a diet of whole foods and mindfulness, in addition to reducing environmental stressors, you can properly nourish your mind and body to keep anxiety and depression at bay.
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