What is Nutrition & Integrative Medicine for Mental Health?
Nutrition and Integrative Medicine for mental health refers to a whole-body approach that draws on interdisciplinary fields of practices, employing dietary interventions in understanding the role that diet has over physical and mental well-being. In collaborating across disciplines we develop an understanding of how what we ingest or are deficient in can affect gene expression and thus have epigenetic effects on mental well-being. This allows for active measures to alter those vulnerabilities, through collaboration with other health professionals and self-care methods. Emphasis is placed on the healing relationship between the therapist and client and empowering clients to take charge of their well-being.
Is Nutrition & Integrative Medicine for Mental Health for Me?
Nutrition & Integrative Medicine for Mental Health explores how nutritional deficiencies can impact one’s emotional well-being. For example, insufficient b-12 can lead to cognitive decline, and low levels of magnesium are linked to anxiety. Nutrition & Integrative Medicine for Mental Health is rooted in the mind-body connection and the understanding of how physical and emotional symptoms are always interconnected; thus the necessity of bringing the body into balance. This treatment intervention is less focused on symptoms and more focused on supporting the whole self while moving through the healing process. No client is the same and everyone’s needs are different. We are not treating disease, so we are going to support an individualized health and healing approach.
Nutrition & Integrative Medicine for Mental Health incorporates and examines a variety of components:
- Drug interactions: Many medications can cause nutrition decline or deficit and in turn affect mental well-being. For example, some antidepressants and antipsychotic medications cause metabolic syndrome and contribute to inflammatory processes. The inflammatory processes are linked to obesity and many auto-immune disorders or chronic illness.
- Chronic Illness: The pharmaceuticals used to treat them, often have mental and emotional repercussions. For example, Statins, a medication used to decrease cholesterol, depletes the body of coenzyme Q10 – an important naturally occurring vitamin-like substance required for the proper function of many organs and chemical reactions in the body. It helps provide energy to cells. Depletion of this nutrient has been linked to Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and heart conditions. There are a variety of medications that influence nutritional status and in turn physical and mental well being. Online databases are utilized to analyze this.
- Food Allergies and Sensitivities are also explored. For example, gluten has been studied and theorized regarding its link to depression and even its impact on psychosis.
- Infections & Toxicity in the environment or absorbed by the body in other ways may also impact mental wellness. For example, mold has been linked to cognitive decline.
Treatment Plans are Individualized and Holistic:
There is no one right course of treatment for anyone therefore it is important to understand the individual with a whole-person assessment.
Treatment may include:
- Exploring alternatives to pharmaceuticals and how to optimize nutrition.
- Considering Bio-individuality: we carry the genetic influence of how we evolved. The ratio of foods that are biochemically right for you based on genetics.
- Balancing biological rhythms is a core approach and always incorporated. When irregular, Circadian Rhythm (the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle) and Ultradian Rhythms (recurrent period or cycle repeated throughout a 24-hour day) disrupts cognitive function and the integration of right and left brain hemispheres.
- Incorporating wisdom of nature and how it provides us with means to bring about balance to our mind, body, and spirit, including Human and Animal relationships.
- Learning to use Culinary Medicine which is cooking for emotional and mental health. Clients are taught to understand the role of foods and are guided in adhering to and making these behavioral changes. We understand it is not enough to know what to do therefore working with a therapist can help connect clients with the motivation that will increase adherence.
- Developing a working understanding of the proper use of supplements. Taking supplements based on personal research may not be efficient for a specific person’s needs based on genetics and geographic area. It is also possible to combine medications or supplements in a way that results in adverse effects. It is important to question whether they are taking enough or what supplements are right for them.
- Initiating a supplement regimen to help reduce prescription medicines. Herbal supplements are also helpful in a variety of ways; assisting the enhancements of physical and emotional well-being.
- Incorporating detoxification processes such as eliminating sugar or caffeine etc.
- Understanding the role of hormones and having awareness of how they influence our well-being.
- Exercise – finding something that works for you and is enjoyable. Reestablishing a healthy relationship with physical movement rather than viewing it as an undesirable task. Movement is central to cognitive function and the modality is targeted toward the person’s preferences.
- Breathwork and meditation.
- Spirituality and metaphysical work can also be incorporated if a client desires.
At Awakened Path, we acknowledge that one of the most unrecognized factors in the development of mental health is the role of nutrition. As many understand it has substantial physiological consequences, but it is the mental impacts of nutrition that are gaining traction with additional research and heightening awareness around this topic. The link between diet and mental health is growing as the field of Nutritional Psychiatry/Psychology expands.
Our goal is not only to educate clients but to help them develop adherence strategies. In other words, not just learning how to do it, but tuning in to what is needed to carry out the changes. While these holistic interventions require more time to experience a shift, the change is usually in the absence of adverse side effects and more easily implemented over time. In other words, the slow incremental change allows the body to absorb the changes in a natural state which is potentially more sustainable long-term. Nature works slowly but more surely.
We are actively working on developing a program that will offer Nutrition & Integrative Medicine Counseling as an adjunct service in addition to psychotherapy. In the meantime, we incorporate the essence of these practices into regular treatment in a complementary way with conventional medicine.
Within the limitations of their scope of practice and training our therapists may educate clients to improve their rest/wake cycle and as a result improve their mood. They may utilize Evidence-based, Clinical interventions that incorporate Nutritional Therapies, Dietary & Culinary Medicine, and Integrative Medicine methods. Body-oriented Psychotherapy may also be incorporated. You may be referred to Functional Medicine doctors and other Holistic Practitioners. We maintain a commitment to explore not only systems but what is the latest research on what contributes to poor mental health beyond the psychological and potentially helping clients get off of pharmaceutical medications (under the proper supervision of a psychiatrist.)