Monday, February 27, 2012

Optimum Nutrition for the Mind

Module 5 arrived on Friday. I am studying again. The first book I picked up from the six in the box has quickly become my favourite. (The New) Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, by Patrick Holford. I have recently felt very drawn to exactly such topic, and am enthralled and hopeful with what I have learned thus far. A lot of this information is not new to me but it is brought together in a consise and clear way, backed up by a major amount of research and study. There really is hope for those suffering mental health issues.

Humans have never been under as much enormous adaptive stress. Are we coping well with the pace of life? In many cases the answer is No."Fatigue, anxiety, sleeping problems, mood swings, memory problems and the blues are the hallmarks of our age. ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and suicide are all on the increase." I intend to spend the next few weeks summarizing some very realistic solutions for you and for those you care deeply about. My prayer is that it is not only helpful but life changing!

"I believe the solution to the mental health problems that plague our society lies in a combination of optimum nutrition and good psychological support, which includes having a place you can call home, being treated with respect and dignity and counseling." (pg 8) Holford practices in the UK and has worked for many years with a team of psychiatrist who, he claims, find that while drugs can be lifesaving in the short term - they become unnecessary when people begin to receive the correct combinations of nutrients and psychological support. So what does this right combination of nutrients look like?

The book begins with Part one: Five Brain Foods.
1.Balance your GLUCOSE: The brain consumes more glucose than any other organ, but don't eat simple carbs and sugars - instead consume the complex carbs that take a while to be digested and release their energy steadily and gradually - wholegrains, lentils, beans, raw nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables
2. Essential FATS: keep your brain well and safely oiled - seeds and nuts again, coldwater carnivorous fish like herring, mackerel or wild salmon 2 -3 times a week - cut out fried and processed foods; supplement with filsh oils for omega 3's and borage oil and evening primrose oil for omega 6's.
3. Phospholipids: Memory molecules give oomph to the brain - lecitithin granules - one teaspoon per day sprinkled on your cereal in the morning (I have recently added this to my daily regiment! I will let you know how it goes!)
4. Amino Acids: The Brain's messengers - from proteins but if you are having mental health problems, supplement in adition with a free form amino acid
5. Intelligent Nutrients:vitamins and minerals that are in tune with your mind. Multiple studies have been done but one that I will highlight: They tested what would happen to school children if given an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals. Half were given an excellent supplement and the other half were on a placebo. After 8 months the non verbal IQs in those taking the supplements had risen by over 10 points. NO changes were seen in those on the placebos. The results are clear. Adults and children think faster and can concentrate for longer with an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals. In adition to 5-7 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily, supplementing with B's, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin C is vital.

In adition to these 5 areas - your homocysteine level is an indicator of how well your body is 'methylating' - faulty methylation (I am not going in to what it is here!) predicts depression, memory loss etc. Getting your homocysteine level checked at the doctors is recommended if you are suffering from mental health issues. If your homocysteine level is below 6 than it is not a concern, but if it is higher than 6 - especially higher than 10 he lists a number of temporary supplements as well - and then in 8 weeks get it checked again.

To sum up, receptors - the receiving stations in the brain - are made up of essential fats, phospoholipids and amino acids. Even the neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids. In order for amino acids to turn into neurotransmitters enzymes are needed and those enzymes must be nourished by specific vitamins and minerals.
It used to be thought that all the thinking and feeling is done in the brain - but now we know that the digestive system contains millions of neurons. The brain and the gut are in constant communication - every time you eat something the gut sends signals to the brain. This can work very well if the body is given what it needs. You truly are what you eat and absorb.


  1. Awesome! We are fearfully and wonderfully made! I look forward to more.

  2. Hey SJ,
    Got a good recommendation for what to take for fish oil?

  3. Thanks ladies! Anna - there are many choices for fish oils so I won't give a specific recommendation. You don't have to be AS careful as you do with Flax Seed Oil. You do want to purchase one rich in DHA and EPA's - Rosemary's in Welland carries this one (below) that I like because it lists that it has been tested for things like mercury and lead.