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Nutritional Psychiatry

Last Updated on May 9, 2022 by Carol Gillette

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

Nutritional Psychiatry Can Be Transformational

Alternative to Meds Center knows that nutritional psychiatry continues to transform the ways we think about improving mental health. Such a fundamental “sea change” in a subject as ancient as psychiatry must rely on evidence-based results observable today to become even more widely accepted.1-13

Alternative to Meds Center has accumulated over 15 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 disease. 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, and many other conditions.11-13 

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

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, based on more than “meat and potatoes” remains 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.2

The Transformative Power of Food

Some health professionals remain cautious or even skeptical of the power of nutrition. 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.

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 nglect the root of the problem. More transformative suggestions are discussed below. 

Fueling Mental Wellness

nutritional psychiatryClearly, 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.

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, 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. Clean foods, without pesticides, colorants, or other chemicals are best. 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

Some stellar examples of superfoods that can reduce symptoms of mental distress:

  • superfoods nutritionBlueberries:  high in Vit C, Vit K, Manganese, antioxidants, and many other nutrients that can reduce stress
  • Pomegranates:  copious amounts of antioxidants, the protective agents against free radicals that can damage brain cells, cause inflammation, etc.
  • Nuts, in general, are amazing superfoods. Rich in antioxidants, proteins, and vitamins, nuts also help maintain and restore gut health.
  • 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.7

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 mental wellness and can provide the super fuel needed for natural mental health.6

The Value of Testing in Nutritional Psychiatry

nutritional psychiatryTreatment 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 Also, some genetic factors may also be discovered that may potentially affect metabolism or produce other important influences on neurochemistry. By way of supplementation and dietary change, it is possible to mitigate certain genetic factors that can lead to improvements in overall mental health.9 Additionally, the presence of allergens is also informed through testing, leading to helpful nutrient regimens and other effective treatments.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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

5. Monica Myklebust, The Healing Foods Pyramid: An Integrative Nutrition Tool, EXPLORE, Volume 2, Issue 4, 2006, Pages 352-356, ISSN 1550-8307, [cited May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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 May 9]

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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Nutritional Psychiatry
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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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