By Mark Hyman, MD. Experience Life
Our society is experiencing an epidemic of brain problems depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, attention-deficit disorder (or ADD), autism, and dementia, to name a few and yet almost no one is talking about it. Unlike obesity, which you can’t hide, psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety (as well as brain dysfunctions that fall on the lighter side of the broken-brain continuum, such as mood swings, anger or just feeling a bit anxious or depressed most of the time) are often suffered silently, hidden from view. Yet such problems touch nearly everyone, either personally or through family members and friends.
The numbers tell the story: An estimated 40 million people in the United States experience some sort of anxiety-related disorder. As many as 20 million suffer from depression. The use of antidepressants has tripled in the last decade.
Most psychiatrists and neurologists focus solely on their favorite organ, the brain, using medications and psychotherapy, and ignore the rest of the body. But what if the cure for many brain disorders lies outside the brain? What if mood, memory, attention and behavior problems, and most other brain diseases have their root cause in the rest of the body in treatable imbalances in the body’s key systems?
I’m not suggesting that nutrition is the only effective approach in treating mood and mental-health disorders. If the body is in balance and brain or mood problems still persist, then working with the psycho-emotional and spiritual dimensions of these problems through therapy, for example- is critical. And yet only about 10 percent of us are nutritionally, metabolically and biochemically balanced enough to fully benefit from psychotherapy. What’s more, years of psychoanalysis or therapy will not reverse the depression that comes from profound omega-3-fatty-acid deficiencies, a lack of vitamin B12, a low-functioning thyroid or chronic mercury toxicity.
The bottom line is that nutritional influences affect mood through the body, and they do so powerfully. So optimizing nutrition through mood-calming foods and supplemental nutrients is one of the most important factors in keeping your brain healthy and your mood steady.
In fact, when it comes to dealing with anxiety, moodiness, depression and memory problems, certain healthy foods including a wide array of fats, proteins, carbs and special nutrients help heal and comfort your brain in ways that no drug or other intervention can. And chances are good that you could benefit from eating a whole lot more of these foods more often.