Evolutionary Psychiatry: nutrition and mental health

Update 4/8/12: Just a note about Emily Deans. Her information on diet and nutrition and how it can affect mental health amounts to a treasure trove. It’s an excellent source of information. She, however, still remains stubbornly attached to the primacy of medications and their use for long-term maintenance, even early on in someone’s illness (most clearly when it involves psychosis). This is unfortunate and disappointing. It seems that other than diet she is unaware of other methods to support and help heal those with psychosis or other serious mental distress which leaves her feeling that not using meds is dangerous and unethical. She also doesn’t seem particularly willing to entertain the thoughts of those of us who have experienced otherwise. Anyway…there are many other things besides diet that help people heal. As holistic beings we need to be aware of all of them to be meaningful healers as well as to heal ourselves.

See: How to empty psych beds everywhere: Open Dialogue, for an example. I often day dream of an infrastructure of care that utilized ALL the alternatives presented on this blog (and then some) thus bringing about real healing in the largest percentage of folks and greatly minimizing the need for neurotoxic drugs.

Here is the original post:

I’ve often shared Chris Kresser’s work on this blog. He now does podcasts (radio shows) with very interesting people these days. Emily Deans, a psychiatrist whom he interviews, too, has a fascinating blog, Evolutionary Psychiatry that supports dietary changes for mental health and total health in general (as the two cannot be separated). I’ve also linked to her blog a couple of times. It’s worth including her work in your regular reading.

I’ve experimented with diet extensively now for several years and Chris Kresser’s work along with other research has helped me through the maze of learning to eat for my needs over the years. Now, Emily Deans work, too, has been validating and continues to inform my own experience with diet and nutrition. It can be rather astonishing to someone who’s not considered it how much nutrition can effect our health both mental and physical.

It’s worth mentioning that for those of us who have been deeply harmed by long-term psychiatric drug use and their consequent withdrawal, healing can take a long time, and supporting our bodies with deep nutrition is pretty much essential to the healing process. I’d also say that the autonomic nervous dysfunction  some of us deal with as a result of psychiatric drug withdrawal is DAMAGE…and so diet (and whatever other complimentary methods we use) takes time (sometimes a lot of it) as we give our bodies the foundation it needs to heal.

It’s very difficult for most people to radically change their diet, but the fact is once people do it they wonder why the heck they took so long to make the changes. Once health improves it just looks like a total non-brainer from the other side. Some key foods do, though, seem to feed our addictive natures (literally) like gluten and casein, both, for example, trigger the opiate receptors. I went through a freaky opiate-like withdrawal when I stopped dairy. It really freaked me out! But boy did it also enlighten my understanding of the “psychological” power of food, it’s pretty damn biological too. (As a point of interest and a side note, I’ve discovered I’m fine with cultured goat milk products and do eat kefir and yogurt made with goat’s milk. This is why individual experimentation is essential. No one can discover these things without paying close attention to their own particular needs via a long term process of experimentation!)

You can listen to this podcast with Chris Kresser interviewing Emily Deans here:


Topics covered include:

●  The link between diet and Alzheimer’s

●  Can nutritional changes effect depression?

●  Does gastric bypass surgery lead to mental health issues?

●  Can gluten intolerance induce mental disorders?

●  What role does the “modern lifestyle” play in the increasing prevalence of mental health problems?

●  How does an individual’s mental state influence his/her biology?

●  Does iron deficiency anemia contribute to mental health problems?

There is also a good little conversation at the beginning about the misunderstanding about cholesterol and the heavy mis-use of statins.

Visit the original post on Chris Kresser’s blog where you can also download this podcast.

Emily Deans at Evolutionary Psychiatry.

A favorite post on Beyond Meds, which still gets a lot of traffic — written by Chris Kresser: The chemical imbalance myth

For more info on my own dietary adventures see here: Nutrition and Gut Health – it’s a continuing journey! I hope to write more on my own discoveries with diet and nutrition this year.

Just the other day I also posted a great video with commentary that talks about this sort of eating as well. It’s a very inspiring story of a woman with MS, a chronic illness, healing herself with diet: Minding Your Mitochondria: heal chronic illness with diet

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