How can a poor diet lead to mental illness?

I do not think a poor diet can cause mental illness but a poor diet can certainly exacerbate symptoms of mental illness including impulsive decisions, increased risk for developing addiction and increased cravings due to stimulating the opiate receptors with unhealthy foods and dopamine response that our body has when it consumes excessive sugar, fats, and salt


What is the link between nutrition and addiction?

A person with substance abuse is more likely to relapse when they are malnourished. This is why regular meals are important. Some research suggest drug and alcohol addiction causes a person to forget what it is like to be hungry and they may crave drugs instead of true hunger. The person should be encouraged therapeutically to think that they may be hungry when cravings become strong.  Opiate receptors are proteins found in the spinal cord, brain and gastrointestinal tract.   Drugs such as Morphine & Oxycontin bind to the receptors in the brain to reduce feelings of pain and also cause feelings of euphoria. Other drugs, alcohol and some foods like sugar and gluten stimulate the opiate receptors which increases the craving for the abused drugs and foods such as sugar and gluten.




If someone struggles with mental illness, what are some nutrition-based solutions?

  • Develop a meal and snack schedule and adhere to the routine daily. This will reduce cravings while keeping the body in a state of balance.
  • Aim to eat 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Preferably a ratio of one fruit to three vegetables. This keeps fiber intake at optimal levels, and provides vitamins and minerals in their most raw form.
  • Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of stable alkaline water (Aqua OH-) daily. This will promote optimal organ function, electrolyte balance, and reduce cravings.
  • Include a high quality source of protein, a heart healthy fat and fibrous carbohydrate at each meal. This is the most absorbable form of amino acids which have been shown to be critical in addiction and recovery.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful during recovery. A high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, B-complex, vitamin D, omega 3 fish oil, and a probiotic are all recommended to take daily with meals for optimal absorption [3]. More specific supplements and herbs can be recommended individually based on assessment and laboratory values.
  • Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
  • Reduce caffeine and stop smoking.
  • Seek help from counselors, therapist and/or support groups on a regular basis.
  • Stay away from processed foods and sugar, they both stimulate the opiate receptors and cause inflammation, which adversely affects most mental illnesses.