Nutrition and Brain Health
Diet is an important aspect of mental health and optimizing brain function. Registered Dieticians are licensed health professionals who have special training in many areas of human nutrition. Their skills can be applied to all aspects of mental health, including health promotion and disease prevention. Their education in the science of nutrition and evidence-based practices allows them to assess clinical and biochemical measures as well as the varied determinants of health that affect nutrition and to contribute those insights in a multidisciplinary framework of mental health care. Increasing understanding of the intersections between nutrition and mental health as well as the complex interactions between genes, diet, environment and lifestyle increasingly necessitate the feedback of Registered Dietitians as members of multidisciplinary teams that provide services across the continuum of mental health care.
Research continues to highlight the impressive relationship between gut bacteria levels and overall health. The Microbiome refers to the collection of micro-organisms (Approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms, most of them bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa) that exist in the human gastrointestinal tract and is now best thought of as a virtual organ of the body. These microbes affect how the body responds to hunger cues, stores fat, and balances glucose levels. They also produce crucial neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin and we know that Certain foods, like cruciferous vegetables, fermented foods, unsweetened yogurt, and high-fiber foods can have a dramatic effect on the levels of these microbes. It comes as no surprise that the food we eat is associated with our mood, behaviour and cognition and so our diet is an important aspect of optimizing brain function.
Dieticians consider a number of interrelated frameworks that explain the interactions between our diet and the function of our mind.
The link between nutrition and immunity also support the role of antioxidants in mental health. Recognition of immune system dysfunction in people with mental health conditions, particularly those with depression or schizophrenia, has led to different hypotheses for their pathogeneses, including infectious and autoimmune factors. Alternatively, dysfunction of the immune system may be secondary to the mental health condition process (i.e., altered neurotransmitter activity) or to long-term pharmacological treatment, or it may be a result of an unrecognized concurrent medical disorder. Repairing the central nervous system is facilitated by both cellular and humoral components of the immune system and adequate nutrition (i.e., vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) supports these processes. Some investigators have reported immunological involvement in conditions such as schizophrenia, somatization disorder, mania, depression, anxiety, and conversion disorder.