Mental Illness affects one in five people in Australia. Although this is according to the 2018 statistics (the latest available), the numbers are substantially higher than the 2014 statistics.
Because there is a trend upward, it means we are doing something wrong. What is also alarming is the increase in prescription medications for anxiety and depression in June 2020. It was up by between 21% and 30%. This tells us that mental illness is increasing. Seventy percent of all prescriptions for mental illness are prescribed by GPs. Their knowledge of diet and lifestyle is, for the most part, limited.
We have known for nearly a decade that a state of ketosis can reduce and even cease epilepsy, so it’s not hard to move the goal post to changing the brain’s neurotransmitters with diet and lifestyle to combat mental illness and increase resilience in the population.
New science indicates that a healthy keto diet not only uses fat (ketones) as an energy source, but it has the ability to alter the metabolism of the brain by epigenetic (above the gene) regulators that can turn on various gene patterns, or enhance the expression of certain genes, that are neuroprotective and enhance the brain function.
One of those is histone deacetylase (HDAC) activity. The ketone body BHB, measured in the blood, functions as an inhibitor of HDAC – it’s anti-inflammatory in nature.
BHB also has the ability to silence glutamate. The ketones produced as a result of manipulation of the diet converts more of that hyper-excitatory neurotransmitter (glutamate) to GABA.
These findings give hope to the rescue of neurons, the enhancement of neuronal synaptic activity (communication between nerve cells), in not just epilepsy, but other brain issues such as mental health, autism, eating disorders, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
This information is not taught in medical school; you have to sort through the research in order to seek these new findings out. That’s my job – keeping abreast of food, nutrition and the critical role it plays in health and disease. Ultra-processed foods cause disease…there is no doubt about it. Real foods have the propensity to prevent disease as well as bring you back from disease to health.
The issue is that many people just want to take a pill. It’s easier, but eventually the pill will not work. Or it might take some time to work and more pills, or a different pill, will need to be taken. Due to our individualism, not all medications work on the same disease and all medications have side-effects.
It’s true that changing your diet is not easy, but it is rewarding. Rewarding because you have taken control of your own life and made the changes that are necessary in order to get well, both mentally and physically.
For decades, medicine for the treatment of both mental and physical illness has reigned, but now the science of manipulating the diet so the body and brain can de-inflame is coming up trump for chronic inflammatory diseases of the brain and body. Global inflammation is neuro inflammatory, so reducing inflammation will help inflammation on the brain and nervous system. Of course, we are all individuals; each will recover at their own pace depending on the antecedents of their life.
It’s not a quick overnight-fix. It’s a slow process of removing what’s causing the health issue and putting into place the diet and lifestyle factors that are the ingredients for a healthy mind and body.
What’s important to remember is that it is the choices you have made in the past that have gotten you to this position (not taking into account the effects of trauma) so when you make the changes and get better, you cannot go back to your old ways. These changes are for life, so that you can live the most extraordinary life possible. As my father says, “It’s not what happens to you in life that matters but how you handle it”. The healthier your brain and body are, the more you are able to cope with, and the more resilient you will become.
For a list of 10 steps to improve mental health and physical resilience, see my blog post here.
If you have severe depression, anxiety, an eating disorder or suicidal tendency, it’s important to work with a psychiatrist, cognitive behavioural therapist or other health professional of your choice.