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Nutritional Psychiatry

Last Updated on February 2, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Nutritional psychiatry can be transformational. Strategies include:  lab testing, optimizing the diet, and supplementation.

Alternative to Meds Center knows that nutritional psychiatry continues to transform the ways we think about improving mental health. For the better part of the last century, mainstream mental health treatment has been synonymous with drug-based therapy. Nutritional psychiatry brings about a welcome sea change with evidence-based results.1-13,20

nutritional psychiatry
Alternative to Meds Center has accumulated over 17 years of evidence of its successes, providing largely nutrition-based treatment programs, blended with holistic detox and tapering services, physical therapies, neurotoxin removal, neurotransmitter rehabilitation, colon hydrotherapy, IV + NAD therapy, and a wide range of counseling services. We are proud to offer independently reviewed published evidence on the success of our programs and invite public and professional scrutiny. We are the only inpatient facility we know of that does what we do. Nutritional psychiatry is an exciting field and we are happy to see this treatment modality garner growing mainstream acceptance every day. Please ask us for more information about our documented results and successes.
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Has Nutritional Psychiatry Made Medications Passe?

nutritional psychiatryNot at all. Medications fulfill important tasks in many treatments. Therapeutics that fight infections are a prime example of successfully treating diseases with the help of medications. What about “psychiatric” conditions? Do we have medicinal cures? Although prescription medications play a role in treatment, unfortunately, we do not have medicinal cures for mental syndromes and distress. However, a growing body of evidence shows that alternative treatments for psychiatric conditions have found their rightful place, based on the fact that they work, and they are without the liabilities associated with drug-based treatment, electric shock, or other extreme treatments. Drug-free treatment spans a wide horizon of treatment targets, including trauma-related, anxiety-related, and sleep-related issues, as well as disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and many other conditions.11-13

Diet and Schizophrenia

One example is the amazing success that adjusting the diet can have on chronic schizophrenia-like symptoms. Better results than antipsychotic medications? Some evidence leans toward the side of natural healing to help with symptoms of what is widely termed “schizophrenia.” And more good news, nutritionally based psychiatry can reduce or eliminate the long-term health consequences of staying on heavy neuroleptic drugs.4

New studies on macronutrients such as eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, (long-chain fatty acids) alpha-tocopherol, as well as magnesium and folic acid are showing positive effects due to their efficacy in reducing unwanted symptoms. Improvements in depression, sleep, anxiety, stress, mild cognitive decline, and other neuropsychiatric disorders are associated with these and other micronutrients.22-24

In many cases, nutritional treatments have demonstrated surprising efficacy, at times equal to or better than results attained through medication alone. And, unlike many medications, nutritional treatments do not bring about unwanted side effects such as those caused by drug therapies. Certainly, the human psyche consists of more than “meat and potatoes” and treatments to assist mental health remain a highly complex and many-faceted subject. Nonetheless, clinical observers offer much important insight as shown in the writings of health professionals concerning the connections between mood and food.1-6

The Transformative Power of Food

essential gut-brain connection in mental healthSome health professionals remain cautious or even skeptical of the power of nutrition. Nutrition is not the focus of training in the field of mental health. However, despite the complexities found in understanding and treating mental health afflictions, most health professionals would agree on the following:  fixing nutritional deficiencies, removing toxic elements of diet and environment, and providing a clean, well-planned diet can produce positive changes in mental health.

Truly, the clearest advantage is that these changes can be attained without suffering the side effects caused by prescription drugs.

For example, a diet that includes fermented food will assist the gut microbiome (gut bacteria) in breaking down and absorbing vital nutrients. You can find more information about the importance of a healthy gut microbiome detailed in “The Microbiome and Mental Health.” Protein is needed for building neurotransmitters. Some food allergies can result in inflammation and block the absorption of nutrients. Allergies can be tested for and addressed with diet rather than drug therapy, which would not address but would neglect the root of the problem. More transformative suggestions are discussed below.

Fueling Mental Wellness

proper organic nutrition helps brain think betterClearly, we are more than our brains. However, the brain is a vital organ, which can become a burden if undernourished. On the other hand, much is to be gained in benefits if we can keep it fit and functioning well. As a society, we probably spend more time and effort thinking about the “health” of our automobiles than about our grey matter.

Without a doubt, the human body contains its own “pharmacy” of naturally produced “medicines.” In the most simple terms, if you give your body/brain the raw materials it needs, a person will feel better, think more clearly, have more energy, and sleep better, and these benefits can make the difference between cheerfulness and energy, versus depression, fatigue, stress, tension, etc.6

But, one has to know more about the needed fuel components. Testing will help discover the weak links, so these nutritional gaps can be corrected. A wide variety of clean foods, unprocessed or minimally processed, pesticide-free, and free from colorants, flavor enhancers, and chemical preservatives, are good choices. Supplements produced not synthetically but from whole foods, can increase the efficacy of natural, nutritional healing. Whole-food-derived raw materials are valuable. It may or may not be possible to eat a pound of raw walnuts daily, but it certainly could be approximated with tinctures, extracts, and the like. Research nutrition for your best food and supplement choices.5

Superfoods Pack a Much-Needed Nutritional Punch

Examples of superfoods that can bolster natural mental health include:
  • superfoods provide needed nutritionBlueberries are high in vitamins C and K, manganese, antioxidants, and many other nutrients that can reduce stress and are neuroprotective.17
  • Pomegranates:  contain copious amounts of antioxidants, which are protective agents against free radicals that can damage brain cells and cause inflammation. Studies show daily pomegranate consumption may slow the progression of cognitive deficits, and inflammation, and provides protection against the effects of aging.15,16
  • Nuts, in general, are amazing superfoods demonstrating therapeutic value against depressive symptoms. Rich in antioxidants, proteins, and vitamins, nuts also help maintain and restore gut health.14
  • Walnuts in particular are a great source of protection against telomere attrition. Telomeres are the pattern of DNA residing at the ends of chromosomes, which among other functions, regulate the cellular aging process. Good-length telomeres mean longevity. Walnuts provide the raw materials for the ample production of telomeres, as well as improved memory, learning, and motor coordination, and prevented or slowed the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other serious issues associated with aging.7,18

Currently, in the 21st century, we live in a “garden of Eden” with nearly unlimited food choices. Anyone can begin to learn which types of foods promote individual mental wellness and can provide the super fuel needed for one’s natural mental health.6

Micronutrients and Health of the Nervous System

Clearly, from the very young to the very old micronutrients are essential for building and maintaining a robust and orderly functioning nervous system in the human body. For example, there are many different components found in vitamin E but the one called alpha-tocopherol is the only one that is actively uptaken into the brain for purposes of protecting the membranes of nerve cells. That is an important function. Imagine the potential risks of losing this protection through malnutrition.

In cases of ADHD, some research has revealed a common association with iron deficiency. As is well-known, iron is responsible for oxygen transport and the synthesis of neurotransmitters and myelin throughout the brain and nervous system, we can see such potential impacts clearly.25

Testing is an invaluable tool in nutritional psychiatry as it provides a roadmap to recovery.

The Value of Testing in Nutritional Psychiatry

testing for heavy metals & nutritional deficienciesOf great importance, treatment planning at Alternative to Meds Center has always included testing for nutritional deficiencies. As well as taking a “snapshot” of one’s nutritional deficits, other tests demonstrate the presence of heavy metals and other toxic materials that can wreak havoc on one’s mental health.8

We’d like to share an enlightening quote from Dr. Stephen Genuis from way back in 2008. Dr. Genuis is a renowned Canadian professor and clinical researcher whose works have been published in the Lancet, the BMJ, and many other publications worldwide for decades. According to Dr. Genuis,

…the expanding public health problem of widespread toxicant exposure in the general population is a relatively new phenomenon that has spawned escalating concern. The emerging area of clinical care involving the assessment and management of accrued toxic substances such as heavy metals, pesticides, plasticizers and other endocrine disrupting or neurotoxic compounds has not been fully appreciated by the medical community and has yet to be incorporated into the clinical practice of many consultants or primary care practitioners.

~ Dr. Stephen Genuis, from his 2008 Journal of Neurotoxocology paper “Toxic causes of mental illness are overlooked” 19

We have witnessed the importance of determining what neurotoxic burden a person may be carrying. Additionally, some genetic factors may also be isolated that may potentially affect metabolism or produce other important influences on neurochemistry. And,making dietary changes, prescribing supplementation, and clearing out neurotoxic accumulations, can mitigate genetic and other factors that can lead to improvements in overall mental health.9 Additionally, the presence of allergens is also informed through testing, leading to helpful strategies including nutrient regimens, diet and lifestyle changes, and other effective treatments to reduce and eliminate unwanted symptoms.3,10

For More About Nutritional Psychiatry at Alternative to Meds Center

We invite you to contact us directly for more detailed information about the inpatient treatments the center offers. Alternative to Meds Center has been a leader in holistic mental health treatments for many years. We treat mental health issues including addiction in our world-class facility applying holistic and nutritional psychiatry as well as functional medicine in all of our treatment programs.


1. Owen L, Corfe B. The role of diet and nutrition on mental health and wellbeing. Proc Nutr Soc. 2017 Nov;76(4):425-426. doi: 10.1017/S0029665117001057. Epub 2017 Jul 14. PMID: 28707609. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

2. Ljungberg T, Bondza E, Lethin C. Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and DepressionInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(5):1616. Published 2020 Mar 2. doi:10.3390/ijerph17051616 [cited 2022 Sept 23]

3. Matsuoka Y, Hamazaki K. [Considering Mental Health from the Viewpoint of Diet: The Role and Possibilities of Nutritional Psychiatry]. Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi. 2016;118(12):880-894. Japanese. PMID: 30620820. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

4. Wils RS, et al., Antipsychotic medication and remission of psychotic symptoms 10 years after a first-episode psychosis Journal of Schizophrenia Research, Received 3 June 2016, Revised 16 October 2016, Accepted 19 October 2016, Available online 27 October 2016, Version of Record 27 March 2017. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

5. Monica Myklebust, The Healing Foods Pyramid: An Integrative Nutrition Tool, EXPLORE, Volume 2, Issue 4, 2006, Pages 352-356, ISSN 1550-8307, [cited 2022 Sept 23]

6. Firth J, Marx W, Dash S, et al. The Effects of Dietary Improvement on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials [published correction appears in Psychosom Med. 2020 Jun;82(5):536]. Psychosom Med. 2019;81(3):265-280. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000673 [cited 2022 Sept 23]

7. Freitas-Simoes T, Cofan M, Biasco M, Soberon N, et. al., “Walnut Consumption for Two Years and Leukocyte Telomere Attrition” NIMH, Nutrients MDPI [INTERNET] 2018 Dec 10 [cited 2022 Sept 23]

8. Orisakwe OE. The role of lead and cadmium in psychiatryN Am J Med Sci. 2014;6(8):370-376. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.139283 [cited 2022 Sept 23]

9. Stevens AJ, Rucklidge JJ, Kennedy MA. Epigenetics, nutrition and mental health. Is there a relationship? Nutr Neurosci. 2018 Nov;21(9):602-613. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1331524. Epub 2017 May 29. PMID: 28553986.[cited 2022 Sept 23]

10. Budu-Aggrey A, Joyce S, Davies NM, Paternoster L, Munafò MR, Brown SJ, Evans J, Sallis HM. Investigating the causal relationship between allergic disease and mental health. Clin Exp Allergy. 2021 Nov;51(11):1449-1458. doi: 10.1111/cea.14010. Epub 2021 Oct 5. PMID: 34611950. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

11. Adan RAH, van der Beek EM, Buitelaar JK, Cryan JF, Hebebrand J, Higgs S, Schellekens H, Dickson SL. Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eat. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019 Dec;29(12):1321-1332. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.10.011. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31735529. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

12. Grosso G. Nutritional Psychiatry: How Diet Affects Brain through Gut Microbiota. Nutrients. 2021 Apr 14;13(4):1282. doi: 10.3390/nu13041282. PMID: 33919680; PMCID: PMC8070365. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

13. Malan-Muller S, Valles-Colomer M, Raes J, Lowry CA, Seedat S, Hemmings SMJ. The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: Implications for Anxiety- and Trauma-Related Disorders. OMICS. 2018 Feb;22(2):90-107. doi: 10.1089/omi.2017.0077. Epub 2017 Aug 2. PMID: 28767318. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

14. Fernández-Rodríguez R, Jiménez-López E, Garrido-Miguel M, Martínez-Ortega IA, Martínez-Vizcaíno V, Mesas AE. Does the evidence support a relationship between higher levels of nut consumption, lower risk of depression, and better mood state in the general population? A systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2022 Sep 5;80(10):2076-2088. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuac022. PMID: 35389470. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

15. Subash S, Braidy N, Essa MM, Zayana AB, Ragini V, Al-Adawi S, Al-Asmi A, Guillemin GJ. Long-term (15 mo) dietary supplementation with pomegranates from Oman attenuates cognitive and behavioral deficits in a transgenic mice model of Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrition. 2015 Jan;31(1):223-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.06.004. Epub 2014 Jun 25. PMID: 25441596. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

16. D’Amico D, Andreux PA, Valdés P, Singh A, Rinsch C, Auwerx J. Impact of the Natural Compound Urolithin A on Health, Disease, and Aging. Trends Mol Med. 2021 Jul;27(7):687-699. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2021.04.009. Epub 2021 May 21. PMID: 34030963. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

17. Zielińska-Nowak E, Cichon N, Saluk-Bijak J, Bijak M, Miller E. Nutritional Supplements and Neuroprotective Diets and Their Potential Clinical Significance in Post-Stroke Rehabilitation. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 5;13(8):2704. doi: 10.3390/nu13082704. PMID: 34444864; PMCID: PMC8399756. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

18. Chauhan A, Chauhan V. Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 20;12(2):550. doi: 10.3390/nu12020550. PMID: 32093220; PMCID: PMC7071526. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

19. Genuis SJ. Toxic causes of mental illness are overlooked. Neurotoxicology. 2008 Nov;29(6):1147-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2008.06.005. Epub 2008 Jun 24. PMID: 18621076. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

20. Jacka FN. Nutritional Psychiatry: Where to Next? EBioMedicine. 2017 Mar;17:24-29. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2017.02.020. Epub 2017 Feb 21. PMID: 28242200; PMCID: PMC5360575. [cited 2022 Sept 23]

21. Grajek M, Krupa-Kotara K, Białek-Dratwa A, Sobczyk K, Grot M, Kowalski O, Staśkiewicz W. Nutrition and mental health: A review of current knowledge about the impact of diet on mental health. Front Nutr. 2022 Aug 22;9:943998. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2022.943998. PMID: 36071944; PMCID: PMC9441951. [cited 2023 Jan 23]

22. Muscaritoli M. The Impact of Nutrients on Mental Health and Well-Being: Insights From the Literature. Front Nutr. 2021 Mar 8;8:656290. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.656290. PMID: 33763446; PMCID: PMC7982519. [cited 2023 Jan 23]

23. Russell FD, Bürgin-Maunder CS. Distinguishing health benefits of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids. Mar Drugs. 2012 Nov 13;10(11):2535-59. doi: 10.3390/md10112535. PMID: 23203276; PMCID: PMC3509534. [cited 2023 Jan 23]

24. Ruxton C. Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Nurs Stand. 2004 Aug 11-17;18(48):38-42. doi: 10.7748/ns2004. PMID: 15366399. [cited 2023 Jan 23]

25. Bourre JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006 Sep-Oct;10(5):377-85. PMID: 17066209. [cited 2023 June 13]

Originally Published Apr 21, 2020 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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