Nutrition and the gut-brain axis: yet another aspect of psychiatry that’s being neglected!
Updated: Aug 5
Because we have such vast knowledge in the field of medicine these days, it’s now impossible for one doctor to know everything about each individual organ.
This means that we have specialist doctors for each of the different body planes, organs, appendages, tissues, biological structures, cells, genes, sections and subsections!
Of course, I accept this, but what tends to happen is that each organ gets treated separately without taking its relationship to any of the others into account; even though each cell in our make-up is so intimately and inextricably linked to the next.
One area of medicine is particularly prone to look at its organ separately from the rest of the body, and that area (yes, you’ve guessed it), is psychiatry!
You are what you eat. Aren’t you?
It’s pretty obvious to me that what we ingest plays a big role in how our bodies and our minds function, so what we choose to eat, and drink must have a big effect on how we feel, think and react, in the different situations that we are exposed to in life.
Yet, once again, this is something that no psychiatrist has ever really mentioned to me in twenty years!
Nutrition seems to be being completely overlooked but isn’t it the very basis of everything? Surely it must be!
The only thing that I have been told by my latest (and hopefully, NO wait… definitely) LAST psychiatrist is that I should quit all stimulants and all suppressants.
This makes sense because the bipolar brain is so sensitive that you really must do everything in your power to get the hell off the rollercoaster for good!!
On top of this, stimulants and suppressants damage the mitochondria in the brain which are now thought to be so essential when it comes to brain function and stability of mood.
So that means no caffeine (tea, coffee, chocolate, and fizzy drinks) or any alcohol at all… AND DEFINITELY no recreational drugs!!
Cutting out the crap!
When I was first told this, I suppose I was quite sad that I would have to quit alcohol more than anything else, because I used to quite enjoy a drink, (in fact I was a bit of a ‘booze hound’ in my youth but I was really using it for self-medication purposes) - idiot!!!
However, I now don’t miss alcohol at all because I don’t want to lose another day of my life to a stinking hangover and risk relapse into brutal (and unsurvivable) depression, EVER again.
I accept and relinquish these drugs (because that’s what they are), and now see them as insignificant ‘sacrifices’ because my health is far more important to me than guzzling a few glasses of Chateau de Sours on a sunny day (hang on - that sounds quite nice) NO - stop it!
I also gave up smoking, later in my recovery, because I decided that I was sick of having to stimulate my stunted mind with bloody cigarettes, and I hated being a slave to the Marlboro Light.
This was surprisingly easy to do because once you realise that you want to live, you start to treat your body and mind with so much more respect, and you’ll do anything you can to retain the equilibrium of your bipolar brain. (That’s as long as you identify that bipolar disorder is not necessarily a ‘gift’ as some people will try to tell you!).
I do occasionally break the rules and have a decaf tea (which still contains caffeine). I’ve tried to explain this to my doctor – Dr Zamar I’m British I cannot survive without a cup of tea! It’s who I am! But everything else I stick to.
However, more recently, I’ve been looking into some of the other aspects of diet and nutrition and wondering if there’s anything else I can incorporate into this ‘perfect health’ or (as I mentioned recently) ‘holistic’ approach, that I now seem to be embarking on!
The only other supplement I take (on top of my high dose levothyroxine), is Omega 3 which I have been taking for about five years now. I take 1000mg per day with my meds every morning and I buy massive containers of it from Holland & Barrett which last me for months at a time.
Omega 3 has lots of different benefits and I will probably write a whole post on this in the future - because there’s far too much to say in just this one - but basically, it is a major ‘building block’ which plays an important role in sharpening mood and protecting your brain against cognitive decline: a very wise thing to supplement your diet with then!
You can also increase your intake of Omega 3 by eating fish, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, which I try to do as often as I can.
But what else can I do?
Apart from cutting out caffeine and alcohol, and supplementing with Omega three, I don’t really do much else, but recently a nutritionist and NLP practitioner reached out to me after reading this blog, and we had a very interesting chat over zoom the other day.
It’s made me start to consider my diet and its impact on my brain in a more considered and intelligent way....
I have now decided to split this post into two because it’s in danger of sprawling out of control!
Tomorrow, I will be adding some more technical information relating to what is known as the ‘gut-brain axis’ (click here for part 2), and including some suggestions for how we can all improve our diets - so be sure to check back in!
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,