Monday, June 23, 2008

You Are What You Eat

Naturalgal has been running a series on foods that are healthy and foods to avoid. Reading her work and talking with my psychiatrist the other day got me thinking...

I find it interesting that my psychiatrist has never asked me about my diet. Nor does he have any interest in which supplements I am taking. Now, admittedly I'm not taking anything exotic, but so many substances that are marketed as "supplements" have the potential to cause harm or interact with psych meds that I find it curious that he does not ask.

It strikes me that part of the reason most psychiatrists don't want to look too closely at diet is that the typical western diet is so bad for you that for most people, eating healthier would mean a huge lifestyle change. And let's face it, it's easier to get people to take a pill every day than it is to get them to change their habits.

But all of the brain chemicals involved in psychiatry's pet theory of chemical imbalance--namely the neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine--are made by the body from the materials it has at hand, meaning whatever has gone into the mouth recently. And so it makes sense to me (although I am not a biochemist or a nutritionist) that if you are giving your body junk for building blocks, the quality (and quantity) of the things it can make from those building blocks may not be optimal.

Looking at all the junk that's out there on the shelves at the grocery store, it amazes me that the average human lifespan keeps increasing. Our bodies are extremely resilient, and they'll keep running for a long time, even if we do fill them with crap. But damage is occurring whether we notice it or not.

Maybe if our bodies just balked and stop performing when we ate junk--like a car with a gas tank full of water--then we'd all be a lot more mindful about what we put in our mouths.

Writing Prompt: While our bodies need good food to run optimally, our minds/souls/spirits also need to be nourished. What things do you do to nourish your spirit and keep it healthy? Could you do more? Are there things you'd like to try but haven't? What things get in the way of nourishing yourself?

8 comments:

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
I once asked my psychiatrist (my most recent one) why they (as a group) weren't more interested in diet, exercise, and a realm of other important wellness activities. He said, "We're not taught about these things in medical school, so most people don't realize their importance."

Susan

Jazz said...

Susan--
I've heard that, too...even GPs in family practice are not taught much about nutrition. Which is pretty short-sighted, really, because good nutrition and exercise can prevent so many illnesses...and can go a long way to minimizing the impact of many other illnesses.

Gianna said...

It strikes me that part of the reason most psychiatrists don't want to look too closely at diet is that the typical western diet is so bad for you that for most people, eating healthier would mean a huge lifestyle change. And let's face it, it's easier to get people to take a pill every day than it is to get them to change their habits.

I imagine that is part of the problem and certainly since psychiatrists are most often "typical westerners," it's likely they eat crap too. They wouldn't even know how to begin to advise their patients on eating well.

That being said, yes, it is indeed hard to help people change their lifestyle and therefore their health---the travesty and crime, however, is that it is not made known that diet and nutrition in some cases can completely eradicate mental distress. I've seen it many times in my groups.

Someone with celiac disease for example (which is basically gluten intolerance) can be diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar. I know several people whose psychiatric symptoms disappeared upon cutting out gluten.

Then there is simply not having optimal levels of all sorts of nutrients that can effect sensitive people of all stripes.

Anyway...it boils down to informed consent. People should know that changing their lifestyle habits could help them more than a drug.

And it's criminal that this information is kept from people and poo pooed when it's brought up...

Most doctors simply don't believe that diet, nutrition, exercise, meditation etc---in combination or sometimes just one thing can be curative. Sometimes I just get beside myself with this stuff...I've seen so many people recover from horrible pasts in such a variety of ways that simply don't get mentioned in the psychiatrists office.

Gianna said...

I left out what I was getting at...people should be able to choose NOT to improve their lifestyle, but usually it's not even mentioned as a serious method of healing.

At best it's introduced as something that might be helpful but you really need drugs...so when the drugs make you worse you give up on the good stuff because you just think you're getting worse...

drugs should not be the first thing considered and they are almost always...it should be instead...are you willing to make some radical changes? we might be able to keep you off meds?

but that's not the way it goes...

Jazz said...

...are you willing to make some radical changes? We might be able to keep you off meds...

If only someone had said that to me, instead of me having to go through two years of hell before I decided I wasn't going to take it anymore...

naturalgal said...

Hi Jazz, thanks for for the link. Yes, isn't a shame doctors don't know about nutrition? Once at church potluck I was telling my husband about healthy food, we were standing behind and M.D. and my husband disagreed with one of my points and said he was going to ask the M.D. ahead of me because "they learned about nutrition in medical school." That man was an honest man and readily admitted that he had not learned much about nutrition.
It is a shame.

Most RN's have a better nutrition course in college than the MDs.

Jazz said...

It is a shame...think of the money that could be saved on health care if people were just made more aware of the things they can do to help themselves. Of course, there will always be a number of people who won't do these things, but you have to wonder how many people are doing the wrong things without even knowing it.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I fully agree about someone saying, "Are you willing to make radical changes, which could keep you off meds."

What's worse is that every time I suggested that something might help, they disagreed, and said, "There is no evidence that exercise (or nutrition, or stress reduction, or meditation etc.) makes a difference with this illness.

Not only were they wrong, but their negativity and lack of hope could have destroyed my spirit if I had let it.

Susan